Yesterday, on a local talk radio station, a host I admire posed this conundrum to the audience: a relative of his inactive wife had given his contact information to his neighborhood congregation of the LDS church and two men (their new home teachers) came over to talk to them, but they don’t want to be contacted by church members; how should he proceed?
He politely hastened to add that the pair of visitors who had most recently come to his door were perfectly polite (though, apparently, some had been not quite so courteous in the past, unfortunately); nonetheless, they prefer not to have church members come visit them in their home. I heard a couple of callers give some decent advice on the subject (I wish I’d had time to hear the whole conversation), but it’s really a no-brainer: you politely but firmly ask not to be contacted, then take up the issue with the well-meaning relative.
I want to address another angle to this situation. A lot of people out there have had experiences similar to that of our talk show host friend, but fewer have been on the other side of these encounters. I’ve been on both sides, and I want people to understand where we’re coming from.
First of all, I hope everybody considers just how hard it is to approach the home of someone you don’t know, someone who may very well be hostile to you, and try to talk about religion. It can be terrifying. It takes courage and can only be motivated by a genuine gratitude to God and concern for the welfare of others. Remembering that might make more of these encounters more hospitable. That’s why my wife and I don’t close the door on Jehovah’s Witnesses: we may not agree with their doctrine, but at least they’re putting themselves out there doing hard, thankless work, trying to make the world a better place. It deserves respect.
Most people don’t like to be bothered by strangers when they’re at home, but don’t forget that those guys from the nearby church knocking on your door have lives, too. They have families waiting for them, they have jobs they’re tired from working at all day, and they have plenty of other, more comfortable things that they could be doing. But they’re giving up that time and comfort and risking instigating the occasional confrontation because someone out there could need them.