A Peace Measure?
THE house-to-house ministry might be said to be the backbone of the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses. That it is very effective cannot be denied. Not only have their numbers in the United States seen an increase of some 50 per cent over the past three years but even in that Roman Catholic stronghold, the province of Quebec, Jehovah’s witnesses saw an increase of 17 per cent during 1952.
As to how the Catholic clergy feel about this house-to-house activity of the witnesses we learn from the Montreal Star, April 4, 1953, which quotes one Abbé Maheux, M.A., D.D., O.B.E., F.R.S., Laureat de l’Academie francaise. Under the heading of “A Peace Measure” this abbé tells of Paul’s concern for young Christianity as noted in his words to Titus: “There are people who must be blamed, those who upset all the members of families, by teaching that which must not be taught, and that for gain, a shameful thing.”
Applying this text (Titus 1:11) to our time the abbé says: “It is a matter of making converts and drawing profit from it. It is still seen today: doctrine peddling continues.” And objecting to the house-to-house activity he continues: “I would gladly suppress all the agents and door-to-door vendors who have become a plague to family homes. In the case of religion, of ideology, this peddling is infinitely more detestable and blamable. That we have a legally recognized temple; that we preach; that we invite the citizens by discreet advertising, well and good; freedom remains. But direct solicitation from door to door is, after all, a violation of the home, and that in the most sacred realm of the religious conscience.”
That the abbé is referring to the activity of Jehovah’s witnesses, although not mentioning them by name, is obvious, as they are the people in Quebec that ‘peddle doctrine from door to door’, to the ire of Catholic clergy. Can they be accused of preaching for selfish gain? What are the facts? True, they do leave books, containing from 300 to 400 pages each, with the people on a contribution of 50 cents; but, in view of publishing costs today, how much profit does that represent? Besides, they offer with each book to spend one hour a week for a year or more, helping the obtainer to understand it without the cost of another penny. How much profit is there in that? The facts are that even if Jehovah’s witnesses received the maximum contribution for every piece of literature placed, they would be receiving six cents in contribution for every hour they spend in preaching on the streets, from house to house and in the homes of the people. But they give much literature away free, so that the actual contributions received would be more like four cents per hour, and that does not even cover the cost of the literature. Could anything be more fantastic than to claim that Jehovah’s witnesses engage in their activity from profit motives?
Nor is that all. When people come to their Kingdom Halls, they are not asked to contribute, no collection plate is passed. Nothing is said about membership dues, for there are no membership rolls. They hear nothing about bazaars, bingo games, or other gambling devices for the purpose of raising money. There is no fee, stipulated or implied, for the performance of marriages, for baptismal or funeral services. Can other religious organizations say as much? Can Abbé Maheux’s church say as much?
As for the methods used by Jehovah’s witnesses. Is freedom to preach to be limited to “legally recognized temples”? Legally recognized by whom? By Roman Catholic political officials? Or does the abbé mean that freedom requires that one be not molested in his home by Christian ministers? If so, then he is finding fault not only with Jehovah’s witnesses but with their great and illustrious founder Christ Jesus and his immediate disciples, the apostles. Christ Jesus could not have thought calling at the homes of the people to be “infinitely more detestable and blamable” than hawking commercial wares, for the Scriptures contain more than 130 references to his preaching in the homes of the people.
And within a few days after Pentecost the apostles were busy, “every day they ceased not, in the temple and from house to house, to teach and to preach Christ Jesus.” And what about the apostle Paul? Years later, he was doing exactly the same thing, as he told the overseers of the congregation at Ephesus: “I have kept back nothing that was profitable to you, but have preached it to you, and taught you publicly, and from house to house.” (Acts 5:42; 20:20, Dy) Clearly, none of the apostles thought that they should limit their preaching to “legally recognized temples”.
In fact, the abbé ought to investigate his own church, for in the past year the Catholics in the diocese of San Diego engaged in a four-month house-to-house campaign, under the direction of Bishop Buddy. Our Sunday visitor, American Catholic weekly, told of the results: 95,000 non-Catholic homes had been called upon; some 5,000 Catholics reclaimed; and almost 2,000 non-Catholics “converted”, that is, enrolled in Catholic instruction classes. And we are told that this San Diego campaign “gives a striking demonstration of the effectiveness of lay workers in recruiting prospects”. Actually, the Catholics of San Diego are paying Jehovah’s witnesses a compliment by temporarily imitating their chief form of activity. And, Abbé Maheux, would it not be better to do that than to try to enforce “peace measures” such as banning house-to-house activity?
Every single follower of Christ Jesus is commissioned to go and “make disciples of people of all the nations”, and the prophetic command tells that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for the purpose of a witness”. Since Jehovah’s word cannot return to him unfulfilled, Jehovah’s witnesses will continue to preach in every possible effective manner regardless of the objections of opponents and their “peace measures” of ‘mischief framed by law’. (Ps. 94:20; Isa. 55:11; Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20, NW) That being so, let all opposers, such as Abbé Maheux, note Paul’s words: “For we can do nothing against the truth, but only for the truth.”—2 Cor. 13:8, NW.