March 29, 2010 by wcobserver
There you are: lazing in the recliner, gnawing on a buffalo wing, slurping a Bud, taking in the afternoon game and you hear the dogs go crazy: a car is coming up the drive. As you drag yourself out of your recliner to go to the door, you peer through the window to see two well-dressed men clutching tracts in their hand. Man, oh man, it’s the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
For an instant, you are tempted to turn off the TV and pretend that no one’s at home, but then you remind yourself, “The JW’s have margin.” You toss the wing back in the bucket, walk over to the door and ask them to come on in as you struggle to recall where you put your King James. The JW’s have margin.
Social scientists call it having a “social margin” when one is allowed a few less-pleasant habits (like interrupting a game) because they are well-known for having many more positive traits. Like loveable old Grandaddy Bill when he talks about WWII. Or, nice little old Grandma Gracie when she recalls the Depression. Those people went through something and a little patience with them is in order. So, you just sigh and open the door to the
Witnesses. The JW’s have a social margin and besides, they might want a beer, too.
After all, anyone familiar with German history knows that during Hitler’s era, both Catholics and Protestant churches pretty much tried to cut a deal with the Nazi regime. But in 1933, the Jehovah’s Witnesses openly refused to perform the Nazi salute, refused to hang swastikas, refused to vote, and refused to serve in the Nazi army. For their trouble, they were beaten, sent to prison, and decapitated.
One out of two German Jehovah’s Witnesses found themselves in a cattle car on the way to a concentration camp and an estimated 2,500-5,000 died, according to the Holocaust Museum’s accounts. It is all the more remarkable when we recall that at any time these prisoners could have walked out of the camps or off the executioner’s block if they would have just signed a piece of paper. Few did. That’s social margin.
Even the Nazi guards themselves had a grudging admiration for the Witnesses: SS Chief Heinrich Himmler often held up the “fanatical faith” of Jehovah’s Witnesses as an ideal for his own troops. If SS men only had had the same “unshakable faith” in the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler that the Witnesses had in Jehovah, he believed they would have been unstoppable.
As the noted psychologist and concentration camp survivor Bruno Bettelheim wrote, the Witnesses in the camps “were the only group of prisoners who never abused or mistreated other prisoners” and were “exemplary comrades, helpful, correct, dependable.” That’s social margin.
Professor William Kaplan at the University of Ottawa summed it up: “”The courage of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who endured repression and fought for what they believed, is a testament to the human spirit.”
So what the heck, slither out of that Barca-lounger and check out the latest issue of Awake! or The Watchtower. If the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not your cup of tea, well, maybe you should be going door-to-door. After all, spring is around the corner! That’s what we need: Catholics going door-to-door, Southern Baptists going door-to-door, Buddhists going door-to-door, Agnostics going door-to-door, Free Thinkers ringing your doorbell! It sure would get us out of our loungers and push us back into an active, vibrant community life, again.
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