Knock knock. Jehovah’s Witnesses calling.

October 7th, 2016

Lessons exchanged in cult seduction from masters of the art.

So, the Jehovah’s Witnesses came calling this morning. Not to my house, because I live in an industrial building where my neighbours are mostly sub-trades to the film industry, photographers and cabinet makers, but also include, quite visibly, a sex shop operated by an interesting ‘actor’ whose nom de guerre is Porno the Clown. No, today the Jehovahs came to my partner Ray’s door, in a much more respectable family neighborhood of Toronto. And anytime the Jehovahs come calling, the conversational drawbridge to movements is immediately lowered. So here’s what happened, and a couple of thoughts that subsequently arose:

Ray invited the two gentlemen in (as it was too cold to carry on a civilized conversation in the doorway), and proceeded to grill them about their intent, goals, and techniques until they eventually begged for reprieve. They were, they said, canvassing the area quite broadly, targeting no one in particular, their mission was to spread the word, and their story was lifted word for word from some book they kept referring to as the Bible. Having read many books on the skillful seducing techniques of cults in general, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular, I was quite disappointed in Ray’s account of the morning’s inquiries.  It turns out that although they were very enthusiastic, they were not well armed or trained, and their results were a bit lackluster. Ray then proceeded to regale the two missionaries with principles of movement building, backed up (of course) with examples from the Hey Harry vaults, until one of the two sheepishly interrupted to ask if he might take notes.

Upon further reflection, my focus kept coming back to two of our key learnings about building movements:  “Good content does not a compelling story make,” and “Barriers to entry create movements where quality of participation is as important as quantity.” These guys had Ray’s attention – hell, they were sitting in his living room. But they could not create a spin on the good book they were thumping that they could build a story around. Most everything new in the world has already been invented dozens of times. What makes it compelling and relevant every time it comes around is the context in which it appears or is presented. The second point was a little harder to get to, but it occurred to me that these gentlemen were so desperate for an audience that they were unlikely to make an impression, a conclusion that was backed up by the ease with which Ray was able to shift the agenda and the direction of the information flow.

Now sure, you might be saying that their just getting in the door in fact opened the door to an ongoing relationship, and that any foot in any door is a start. But is it really? Perhaps it was, when cities were full of disenfranchised and lonely people, looking for any form of community to fill the gaping spiritual hole in the their lives. But we have Twitter and Facebook now, so instead of being lonely alone, we can all be lonely together. Communing with strangers in the comfort of our own homes. Without having to make the trip to Kingdom Hall.

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