I can’t say of my own knowledge that most Americans are annoyed by religious solicitors, but I know many people who are – including myself. Just this morning I received the attention of one such in a fashion that was new to me: a cold telephone call.
The phone’s display said “Private caller,” but I answered anyway. The woman on the other end identified herself as Sandy, “a neighbor from Rocky Point” – something I couldn’t confirm – and immediately asked “how you and your family have been doing during the pandemic.”
Harmless so far, I thought, and said “We’re all fine here.”
Sandy then asked, “Did the pandemic ever get you thinking about God’s plan and what He might have in mind for us?”
My hackles went up at once. I’m usually very busy during the day, which makes nearly every phone call an interruption of something I have in progress. It made me brusque.
“I’m a practicing Catholic, and I have no inclination to discuss religion with a stranger. Thank you.” I hung up at once.
It didn’t take me long to regret my behavior. The evil little dwarf who runs, fetches, carries, and delivers for my conscience immediately reminded me of the video below, which features magician and comedian Penn Jillette:
Unless she’s practicing a scam of some sort, Sandy is trying to do something for the people she calls. She’s probably part of a community of faith that seeks to provide spiritual comfort to those who answer. At least, I find it plausible, given the burdens of isolation and anomie the pandemic has imposed upon so many of us.
Religious solicitors, whether they appear at your doorstep, leave unsolicited pamphlets in your mailbox, call you on the phone, or write their messages in the sky above your house, are nearly always well-intentioned. Yet they get an awful lot of the sort of brusque dismissal I awarded to Sandy.
I think that, in the future, I’m going to try to be gentler with such persons. They’re doing what they regard as a public service, even if they cap their pitch with a request for a donation. Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses – it doesn’t matter. They think they have something to say that I need to hear for the sake of my immortal soul. I’ll still turn them away – I have a religion, it suits me well, and I have no desire to “trade up” – but I’m going to try to be courteous about it from now on, instead of shooing them away as if they were politicians.
Though I don’t think I’ll be changing my habit of answering the doorbell with a 12-gauge shotgun at port arms. A man has to be ready for anything these days, no?