Choice

I painted our front door recently. Exciting story, I know. Soon after I’d finished giving it the new coat of paint that it sorely needed, however, a seagull crapped on it. It was most unwelcome. This weekend, my doorstep was the scene of another brief but unwanted episode – only this latest one wasn’t amusing.

Two women and a young boy knocked on the door and I answered. The two women stepped back, shoved the little boy forward and nodded at him. “My name’s ***** and I’m a Jehovah’s Witness,” he stammered with all the self-assurance that you would expect an alcoholic announcing themselves on a TV drama to demonstrate.

The poor little thing could only have been four years old at the most. I looked at the two women and said: “Sorry, I’m going to have to stop you there – this isn’t for me.” They gave me a smile as if nothing was even slightly amiss about the whole situation, nodded and made as if to go.

This incensed me; I had to say something. “For the record, I don’t agree with using children to spread your messages,” I added. The smiles turned to frowns and, as I tried to shut the door, one of them tried to stop me from doing so.

Ignoring the other things I would ordinarily rant about here – the flagrant invasion of privacy, the arrogant assumption that I would suddenly find religious faith at the entrance to my house thanks to three strangers and the fact they tried to step uninvited into my home to stop me closing my own front door, in case you were wondering – I was absolutely appalled that they were making a child do the talking.

Presumably, one of the women was the boy’s mother. What an incredible abuse of his trust it was to make him do this. He had no idea of the strength of feeling people have about such things and had clearly been persuaded to do it.

When I declined the leaflet he tried to give me, he had a fearful look in his eyes. Whether or not any pressure had been put on him to shift x number of leaflets, he was worried that he was letting his Mum down. This was not his choice.

Indoctrination of this kind is beyond unfair. It’s robbing children of their childhoods and denying them any freedom of choice. They should be running around playing on a Saturday. Not being made to talk to strangers about a concept they don’t really understand.

It’s not about religion or even the attitudes and approaches of people who associate themselves with it. I respect other people’s beliefs and their rights to decide for themselves. Putting words into children’s mouths and placing them in the potential firing line of all kinds of people – and strangers at that; what kind of message does that send out? – who don’t want them on their doorstep is unacceptable.

I know this may sound strong, but I don’t really see much of a difference between parents making their children promote a religion and cult leaders preying on emotionally vulnerable adults. It’s manipulative and wrong.

I think that kids should have the freedom to decide things like this for themselves. I won’t even push Dylan and Xander into supporting the team I love.

Obviously, I’d be delighted if they do one day follow Spurs like me so I can take them to games, share in celebrations and dry their tears when we inevitably lose on penalties in semi-finals or see our latest hero naff off to Real Madrid. But who they support – if they even like football in the first place – is their choice.

That’s how it should be with other big life choices too.

Comments

  1. Sarah Miles

    I agree, this is awful. How you bring up your kids, their beliefs etc is ultimately up to the parent, but to subject a child the the tirade of abuse the JWs usually get in a doorstep is unacceptable. And you are right, at four you would barely understand the words let alone the concept of what you are saying. Was he supposed to answer questions too? Or was he there for the sympathy vote? Either way, using a child to realise your own needs is wrong. A bit like those child beauty pageants, now WHO is that for? Wrong, wrong, wrong.

    I did laugh about the seagull though….let’s hope it brings you luck. (Another ridiculous concept – it’s crap. In all senses of the word)

    1. Post
      Author
      Tom

      Thanks, Sarah. Yes, you have to wonder what was going through his mother’s head. Not a well-thought-out out decision by any stretch. Ah luck, yes… Think I’ve already blogged about the time a seagull crapped on me and the misfortune that ensued in the next hour!

  2. Jonathan

    I was really shocked to read about the sort of manipulative behaviour that you described in your post. I really do wonder what proportion of people who are doorstepped by Jehovah’s Witnesses end up even attending one of their events as a result, let alone becoming religious as a result.

    1. Post
      Author
      Tom

      Thanks, Jonathan. I often wonder that too; the success rate must be low, which makes it even more baffling.

  3. Liska @NewMumOnline

    Don’t get me started on Jehovah’s Witnesses. I spent last Summer being lied to by two of them. Both my bosses – one not so much! They are not allowed to lie,. yet throughout the administration, liquidation and redundancy, they did. Also, I had one at my door once, and she gave me a booklet. I read it and was disgusted by the contents, so I told her so, the next time she came round. She did not like it.

    As for your door, the Gallery theme at Sticky Fingers this week is door, so you should link up a pic of it if you have one.

    Liska xx

    1. Post
      Author
      Tom

      Thanks Liska – both for the comment and heads up about the gallery. My front door *may* still need attention, so I think I’ll use one of a really fancy one I took on holiday instead!

  4. S

    This is dreadful. We quite often get Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on our door and I can never get over just how rude and forceful they can be but to use a child. Appalling.

    1. Post
      Author
      Tom

      Yes, it’s awful. Still can’t believe they made the poor little thing do the talking for them.

  5. sarah

    I am really surprised, we have a few JW’s round here and ive never encountered a child?!! How crackers is that? But then ive never really understood what they think they will gain from knocking on stranger’s doors anyway!

    1. Post
      Author
      Tom

      Yes, I’ve never understood their logic – the hit rate must be low so I don’t understand why they persevere.

  6. Gina Caro

    Great post. I hate it when people knock on our door whether they are selling crap or trying to turn me to their religion. My home is my sanctuary and I like to keep it that way

  7. Mums do travel

    That’s outrageous! I pity that child, and completely agree with how you feel about what he’s being subjected to. Your point about football is interesting. My husband and son both support Arsenal (sorry!), and I wonder how my husband would have felt if our son had opted for another team. I think he would have accepted it – I’ll ask him!

  8. David/Oddlyactive

    Give me a child until the age of seven… That was the Jesuits, I think. They’re all at it in one form or another… As far as hit rates go with the JW’s isn’t there a ‘target’ they have to hit? I think there’s only room for so many in heaven and part of the entry requirement is converting X-number of heathens… Maybe that’s why they’ve indoctrinated their child so early, to give him a fighting chance? Or is that the Mormons? Anyhoo…

  9. brinabird and son

    What? I have to speak with my husband who is indoctrinating my son to love inter milan! I am raising my son catholic, he has been baptised and we try to go to church every Sunday. It’s a challenge keeping him occupied in Church but for me going to mass is a family celebration and that is why I do it but I know lots who would probably disagree with this. I’m not very comfortable selling my religion myself much less asking my son. It is a practice I have seen often here with Jehovah Witnesses and have had families on my doorstep too. Having a child spread there message is a bit crazy really. I’m not against people talking and sharing their religion but I’m sure there is a right time and place. Going to people’s door is something they do all over the world though and you would be surprised how many people in the Caribbean actually let these people in desperate to talk with someone. Sorry a rather long and convulted reply!

  10. The Fool

    Hmmm very odd, it’s one thing trying to ‘spread the word’ of your religion but getting a small child to do it? Did they expect you to crack once you saw a small child? Not good at all. Agree with your sentiment on choices.

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