28 May 2007
The Pukekohe early commute 'bus to Auckland has a strange spiritual power. It appears to form its regulars into a kind of family. Once we actually had a 'bus Christmas barbecue, attended by two or three of our drivers as well as passengers. Well, I suppose this is not unusual. People thrown regularly together become a kind of community. And like every community, it recognises its members - and its non-members. You know what it's like. The new face shows up. There is a vague sort of stirring of the common mind that is the Body of the 'Bus. Is this just some casual dropper-in? Probably. Will he know better than to sit in one the reserved seats - the seat that each regular has long made his own, like the reserved pew in Church? Ah! There he is today, too. Hmm... This is the third time we have seen him. A kind of unspoken alertness now exists. Will this newcomer be assimilated into The Group, or will he hold himself aloof for weeks or even months, not knowing the Communion of the 'Bus. I know my duty. I am the Senior Member (not to mention Senior Citizen) of the 'bus. I have been riding the 'bus for 22 years now. It is my job first to begin to bring the new guy into the fold - like the pseudopod of the amoeba that makes first contact of the new object that will eventually be absorbed into the Communal Mind. Adam - for he is the latest arrival - is from the Philippines. He is a computer programmer so we can talk shop together a bit. He lives quite close to us in Pukekohe, with his wife and three children. He only arrived in New Zealand in March and is working on his application for Permanent Residence. And he is one of Jehovah's Witnesses. That I only learn after knowing him for some time. He sees me sitting with my breviary saying my morning prayers. He seems me make the sign of the Cross from time to time. He knows I am a Catholic. As he is a Filipino, I assume the same of him, that at least he was brought up Catholic, and though I have not seen him at Mass in Pukekohe, perhaps he is not practising, or he may go to the 10AM Mass instead of the 8AM - those with families often do. No. He asks me about my religion. And he tells me of his. Those of you who are not Jehovah's Witnesses will know the start of heart I feel when he asks if he can come over sometime to get to know us. Well, if any of you are JW's, you probably know as well :-) He does ask. Well, of course, what can I say? Certainly, we would be glad to have him over. Come Sunday morning, for morning tea. Bring your wife and children! So he did. Well, he only brought one child - his youngest, named (spelling unknown!) Madelle, maybe 7 or 8 years old, and his wife (again spelled by sound) Lovi. We had a pleasant time, but I must confess it is frustrating trying to discuss religion with Jehovah's Witnesses. They appear to have a few fixed parts of the Bible that are pins on which all hangs. These are interpreted literally. E.g. Ecclesiastes 9:5 says that the dead know nothing. This proves that there is no possibility of conscious life for the dead. Other Biblical texts which appear to point to something else - e.g. the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus - are metaphorical. So I cannot say we had much of a discussion. But I was intrigued to know how and why he had become a member of the Witnesses. There was much to his story, but my inference was the what fundamentally attracted him was the very loose morality he saw around him, and sometimes amongst Catholic friends - and the very real and laudable high moral standards of the Witnesses. And this ought to be both humbling for those of us who know of moral laxness within our own Christian communions (if we are Christian), and proper praise for what Jehovah's Witnesses have achieved, despite what I think a deplorable confusion regarding the truth of God that is their theology. I hope that Adam and his family and we will be able to get into some discussions of greater depth sometime. And I hope he will feel welcome in the Pukekohe Omnibus Society. Any of you should consider this an invitation to join.