Before I became educated and made my current career choice, I worked as a janitor.
One of the buildings I cleaned each week was rented on a time-share basis. On Monday nights the city council held their meetings there while the court house was undergoing a year-long renovation. On Wednesdays it served as a bingo hall for the VFW. And three times a week it became a Kingdom Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Witnesses wanted to clean the hall themselves, but the owner had a long-standing contract with the cleaning company I worked for.
On one particular Friday night, as I was vacuuming, in strolled a large Mexican family. They looked around for a bit, and then took seats in the front of the room. “I guess we’re early,” the father said. Evidently they were “interested ones” who had misunderstood the meeting days.
I decided to have a little fun.
“Not too early,” I said, switching off the vacuum. “We’re going to get started in just a minute.”
I wrapped up the cord and wheeled the vacuum into the closet. Then I introduced myself to them as brother McRoberts. I shook the father’s hand and he said, “I’m Martin, and this is my wife Marilyn, my mother Juanita, my brother Paulo, his kids Juan and Estevan, and our three kids: Julio, Roberta, and little Maria.”
I told them how pleased I was to meet them, and then I walked onto the platform and behind the podium.
“Where’s everyone else?” Martin asked.
“This is a special meeting just for newly interested people,” I explained. “We like to keep them small and informal so you can get all of your questions answered.”
“Oh,” he said, smiling over at his family.
“I’m going to give you the simplified explanation of the Truth,” I told them. “At the core of everything is something called the Ransom Sacrifice.
“To help you understand the simple logic and the great amount of loving kindness involved in the ransom sacrifice, let’s look at an analogy with all the spiritual stuff removed.
“Let’s say that you found out that a very long time ago there was an ancestor of yours named Alvin.”
“Like Alvin and the Chipmunks?” Julio asked, and was immediately “shushed” by his mother.
I gave him a smile and continued: “Now, Alvin wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer. In fact, he was an imbecile who didn’t know right from wrong. One day a beautiful nude woman named Evelyn gave Alvin a piece of fruit she had stolen, and he was dumb enough to eat it.
“The numb-nuts,” Paulo commented.
“Alvin, who was the son of a very rich man, had been brought up in the lap of luxury without a care in the world. But for his crime he was disinherited. All of his descendants (including you) have thereby lost out on the riches that should’ve been theirs, and ended up having to work for a living.
“But, a long time ago a loving king told your great-great-great-great grandfather that he could be re-inherited if he would only sacrifice some goats.”
“Goats?” Marilyn exclaimed while Roberta glanced all around the room, presumably searching for any goats that might be waiting in the wings.
“Yes, goats,” I answered emphatically. “So he proceeded to sacrifice some goats — well, a lot of goats in fact. Before long he was in debt to all the goat-herders for miles around, and he was in big trouble with the SPCA. But for some reason sacrificing goats didn’t help; he wasn’t re-inherited.
“The king felt bad that he’d given the guy a bum steer, so instead of having him sacrifice any more goats, he decided to sacrifice the prince: the king’s only son, Jessie.”
“Wait a minute,” Martin protested, “you mean to say the king killed his own son just so this guy could get his inheritance?”
“Yup, and that did the trick! So now all of Alvin’s descendants (including you) can be re-inherited as long as they declare their belief in this seemingly absurd story, and join the organization that is honoring the king and his son.
“Simple enough?” I asked.
“Simple, but stupid,” Martin mumbled.
“Why did he have to kill the prince?” Marilyn asked, “Why couldn’t he just give us our inheritance?”
“Well, you see, that was the law,” I explained.
“The law the king made?” Martin asked.
“Yes,” I replied.
“If he was king,” Martin said, “why didn’t he just change the law?”
“Good question!” I said.
“Or why did he make such a stupid law in the first place?” Juanita wondered aloud.
“An even Better question!” I said, and then continued: “But here is where the plot thickens, or rather where a sub-plot is introduced.
“It seems that Evelyn was a little touched in the head; not only did she steal the fruit, she also told Alvin that a talking serpent had told her to steal it!
“Now, we can understand Alvin believing her, with his limited mental abilities, but surprisingly, it seems the king also believed her, and got rather jealous over the idea that she and Alvin would listen to a talking animal rather than take heed of his royal personage. He felt unappreciated, and all in a huff he decided he’d let the serpent rule in his stead for a while so that people would miss him and want him back as king. So all this time we’ve had a serpent in charge (which explains why the world is in such a mess).”
“A serpent is in charge?” Marilyn asked, starting to look like she was frightened for the children, and trying to catch Martin’s eye as she tilted her head repeatedly towards the exit sign.
“Yes,” I affirmed, “a serpent is in charge.
“But, based on unhistorical dates, about a hundred years ago the prince ousted the serpent — hurling him down to Earth — and sat down on the throne himself (though no one noticed this except us.)”
“Wait a minute,” Martin interrupted, “I thought the prince was dead.”
“Yeah, the king sacrificed him,” Marilyn reminded us.
“That’s right,” I said, “and soon his rulership will be reestablished over all the Earth, and the serpent and his cohorts will be thrown into an abyss. Then the king will have been vindicated and his ego soothed as the prince’s armies slaughter everyone who hasn’t already submitted to his invisible rule!
“Of course you’ll all want to be on the winning side when that occurs! And what do you suppose is the only way to avoid getting your head chopped off or being pelted with boulders, or burned alive, or swallowed up by the Earth, or rotting where you stand? It’s by joining our organization before the prince’s armies are loosed upon the world!”
“How do we join?” Paulo asked, showing he hadn’t been listening too well. The others looked at him in consternation.
“Well, you have to learn the full story with the spirits thrown back into the mix, though essentially it doesn’t change anything except the names.
“Then you need to bring your entire family to our several meetings a week at the Kingdom Hall where we harbor pedophiles and where we rehash this story ad nauseam; start preaching it to total strangers; hand out our literature to everyone you see; answer 80 questions; be baptized; swear allegiance to our organization; learn an erroneous name for God, and practice using it in nearly every sentence of casual conversation in order to ‘keep it holy’; give up all your friends (and certain forms of sex); abandon any college plans you might’ve had for your kids; agree to never speak to them again if they ever decide to leave the organization; and sign documents forbidding life-saving medical treatment for all of your family!
“Any other questions?”
Little Maria raised her hand.
“Do we have to give up Christmas?”
“Oh, yes,” I said, smiling brightly, “along with Halloween, your birthdays, the Easter Bunny, and the tooth fairy!”
She began to cry, which set off two or three of the other children.
“Well, thanks so much,” Martin said as he gathered up his family and made a hasty retreat. As they were going out the door I heard Julio ask him, “Daddy, do we have to come back here?” To which I heard Martin reply something about hell freezing over.
I noticed he’d left his Watchtower behind in the seat. Being a conscientious janitor I took it and placed it in an appropriate spot.
Then I smiled, not because I had just “placed” a magazine, but because I had finally given a talk that really saved someone.
See also: The Whole Truth Story