My ride to work takes me across the Manhattan Bridge, and right at the beginning I can see straight into the Jehovah’s Witness headquarters, this tan collection of buildings that takes up about four square blocks. In general I don’t pay much attention to them other than to wonder vaguely what goes on there (and, occasionally, what ungodly sum of money that property must be worth at this point) but a few days ago I heard that there were potentially going to be sold, so I decided to try and remember to look in the windows.
In college the Jehovah’s Witnesses used to come by my apartment on Saturday mornings at about 9am, which is not such an ideal time to proselytize in a college town, though I never pointed this out to them. The first time they knocked on my door I stumbled out of my room, thinking there must be some emergency, only to discover three cheerful looking ladies glancing around in bright sunlight, extremely eager to hand me pamphlets filled with colorful illustrations of Satan, Jesus, and mulicultural groupings of children. At this point I hadn’t yet begun that seemingly inevitable (but which is not in fact inevitable and actually very important, I think, to resist) hardening of adulthood wherein the things you once recognized as opinion you take as fact, so I engaged them in conversation. Did I think god existed? I wasn’t sure. I thought something existed, some sort of presence that imbued everything, but beyond that, how could they know that their interpretation of things was the only right one? In any case, as anyone familiar with Jehovah’s Witnesses might have been able to tell me, it was a full hour before they headed on to the next house.
All of this must have given them some hope for me, because the next Saturday and then the next, and even the one after that, they again stopped by my house at around 9am. By the end of it I was reduced to hiding behind the couch, hoping they couldn’t see me through the windows. I felt terrible about this, because they were very nice ladies, but talking to people with such firm beliefs means you just circle around the same ideas over and over again, which doesn’t make for very interesting conversation. And this, ultimately, was all I was after. My roommates and I kept their pamphlets around the house for the next few months, though, and occasionally discussed the strangeness of the fact that the people who dropped them off actually thought we were going to hell. I guess this is what kept them going on those Saturday mornings, though I suppose the preaching is probably also supposed to get them to heaven.
I was thinking about all this the next time I was riding past those Jehovah’s Witness buildings. And when I peered in through the windows I noticed something—the buildings were completely empty, with floors and floors of empty little cubes, each floor the same as the next. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in the airlifting-believers-to-heaven aspect of the Rapture. But still! All of a sudden it occurred to me that my life is so incredibly godless, and filled with so few churchgoers, that for all I know the Rapture could have already come and gone and I wouldn’t even know it. This was an odd thought, but also not all that disconcerting, because one of the many assumptions that I’ve come to take as fact in my adulthood is that the Rapture is never going to happen.