Knocking, a 2006 PBS production, was shown on Compass tonight. And before what occurred to me also occurs to you, look at Jehovah’s Witnesses PBS Film KNOCKING Omits the Facts where the downside of the group is explored. I have to confess to not having been a fan of the group myself. That is why watching the documentary tonight has been so important. It hasn’t made it any more likely that I would ever want to be a JW — my ex-sister-in-law was one for a while many years ago — but it has altered my attitude.
Wikipedia summarises the documentary; it also gives useful notes on the two families we meet in the documentary.
Knocking is a 2006 documentary directed by Joel P. Engardio and Tom Shepard that focuses on the civil liberties fought for by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It primarily focuses on the stories of three Jehovah’s Witnesses, and how their lives illustrate three fundamental Witness teachings that have affected society at large in surprising ways: The refusal to participate in war, accept blood transfusions, and salute the flag.
It has been important to have been exposed to the two families in such depth and to see them in all their humanity. It is important to have been so well conducted past the prejudices and stereotypes. There are implications for all of us as we consider fundamentalisms in all faiths, because fundamentalism is not going to go away any time soon. In fact the more difficult the world seems, the more likely is fundamentalism to be attractive, and the more furiously fundamentalism is opposed the stronger its adherents are likely to become.
Towards the end a Rabbi made an excellent point — it appears near the beginning of the first YouTube below. The issue is not fundamentalism, because that will always be with us. The issue is what kind of fundamentalism. If it is one that does not engage in violence against those it opposes, then our civil liberties are strengthened rather than weakened by allowing it respect and a place. There is something to be said for that.
In the second YouTube cast and crew answer audience questions at screenings in Dallas and Austin, Texas.
I am still mulling over all this, but I am sure one result of that mulling may be a tone different from that I have sometimes adopted. Look, I still think fundamentalists get it wrong, so I will continue when I can to explain why I think that, but I will try to avoid stridency or unnecessary judgmentalism, or ill-informed generalisation. I should add this applies equally to any of the Abrahamic fundamentalisms in particular — Jewish/Christian/Muslim and offshoots of these. Hindu fundamentalism I see more as an extreme nationalism, but know much less about it than I do about the traditions from which I come. Clearly I will continue to oppose any totalitarian or illiberal themes in what fundamentalists might say at a political level.
But I am glad to have seen this episode of Compass tonight.
It has reinforced for me an aspect of the US Evangelical Manifesto which I definitely and unreservedly endorse, and it is as much a matter of tone as of content:
An Evangelical Manifesto addresses not only Evangelicals and other Christians but other American citizens and people of all other faiths in America, including those who say they have no faith. It therefore stands as an example of how different faith communities may address each other in public life, without any compromise of their own faith but with a clear commitment to the common good of the societies in which we all live together.
Those final clauses are ones we all need to apply in our dealing with one another, I feel.