Changed Thinking About Race
HOW great can a change in one’s thinking and personality be? The Bible speaks of ‘putting away the old personality which conforms to one’s former course of conduct’ and ‘putting on the new personality’ which is in accord with righteousness. (Eph. 4:22-24) Can this occur today?
Recently at a regional assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses a man from New Jersey related what had occurred in his case:
‘I was furious when my wife told me she was going to be taught the Bible by a colored woman who had come to our door in February of 1966. I just couldn’t see a colored person coming into my home.
‘During the study, I attempted to create distractions in order to discourage the study. Also I started to come home drunk on the night when the weekly study was held so as to further disrupt it. Over a period of three months my wife and I had a number of arguments about a colored minister of Jehovah’s witnesses coming into our home and teaching what I viewed as a “worthless religion.” I tried to tell my wife that there was no point in looking into religion, that all religions were looking out for themselves.
‘My experiences with religion had always been distasteful. When I was young and my mother was near death, the family priest was called. I’ll never forget his answer, “I’ll be there later.” But he never did show up. In my confusion in the years following this experience I became associated with an extreme right-wing political movement. I started collecting arms to protect myself and my country against the uprising that I thought I foresaw. My collection grew to nine handguns, a 30-caliber carbine, with a unit to make it automatic, and several shotguns. I even began to conduct handgun and rifle practice for my wife and children. We used homemade silhouettes of men with the vital organs outlined on the figures. I concluded that when the civil war that I foresaw actually broke out, our family would escape to the mountains and take by force anything that I thought we needed.
‘After my wife had studied the Bible with Jehovah’s witnesses for about three months, I moved the family into the country, ending the study. It was about this time that at work someone left a copy of the Watchtower magazine on the lunch table. I became enraged and demanded to know who had left it. A colored employee calmly replied that he had.
‘For about a year at various times I tried to argue with this Witness, but he always replied calmly, pointing to what the Bible had to say. Finally I began to notice that he was different from the other people with whom I worked. He would not take sides in political matters. He agreed that a war was coming but assured me that he was thinking of something quite different from what I had in mind. He said only the meek, who had God’s protection, would survive the war that was coming.
‘At home I spoke with my wife about some of the points the Witness had brought up at work. She told me that she liked to study the Bible with them because they were not prejudiced. By the end of another year I had started to read The Watchtower. The Witness working with me offered to study with me in the Bible, but I delayed deciding.
‘One day this colored Witness and a white companion of his visited me at home. It must have been some sight for them. Two walls in my living room were decorated with crossed rifles and bayonets. Religious pictures, crosses and images were also displayed.
‘After three months of regularly studying the Bible I began to make changes in my life. I disposed of my guns. My former friends thought I had gone crazy and stopped associating with me in my unarmed condition. The religious ornaments were removed from my living room. Within a year I was attending the meetings of Jehovah’s witnesses in the Kingdom Hall and even began sharing in the field ministry with them. Finally I was baptized, becoming an ordained minister myself.
‘Now, I’m happy to be conducting my own Bible study with my family, in addition to teaching the Bible to other families. I can definitely say that in my heart I am no longer a racist, but rather am completely at ease with my spiritual brothers of all races. I especially have great love for the two brothers who spent so much time to help me to the point where I can maintain a good relationship with Jehovah and with my family.’