While Diane had been undergoing her psychological assessment, and while Juan had been waiting unsuccessfully to visit her, Greg and Dave had been in at Hoyts, distributing tracts once again. Roger Seeker turned up after work, at 5:30pm on Friday. And he came prepared for a fight. Roger introduced himself to the two men, and quickly established that they were, in fact, part of the same group that Diane and Anna were from.
"Every time I come here there's someone new," he said. "How many of you are there?" Roger's voice was far from friendly.
"Six adults and one child," Dave answered.
"Yeah, yeah!" said Roger, making no effort to hide his skepticism. "That's not the way I hear it. You guys are in every capital city, as well as some country towns. Do you deny that?"
"I don't know about Hobart and Darwin, but there're four other groups that I know of," Dave confessed. "I thought you were just talking about us… I mean those of us here in Sydney. The others all have their own rules and leaders. We don't have any say over them, and they don't have any say over us."
"And what about country groups?"
"None that I know of," the older man replied. "But we travel a lot. We've hit just about every town in Australia with a population of 5,000 or more. The public gets the feeling we're bigger than we are because we're so active."
"It's great what six people can do when they stop working for money!" Greg put in. Roger saw no point in arguing about how big they were. He moved on to another topic. "Is it true that you kicked your wife out, and now you're living with two other women?" Roger asked Dave.
"Are you kidding?" said Dave with genuine surprise. "Where did you hear that?"
"Cult Alert. They have a report from an infiltrator that says your wife was kicked out about two weeks ago."
Dave and Greg looked at each other in dismay. Slowly shock changed to amusement as Dave worked out what had happened. "Joshua King!" he said to Greg. "He must be the infiltrator. It was two weeks ago when we sent Cherry down to Adelaide with Martha. It must be something in how we explained her absence that made him think we had kicked her out. And God only knows how he came up with the bit about me living with two other women."
Roger Seeker listened with interest.
"But we do live together," said Greg. "So technically you have been living with two other women… and their husbands as well!"
"Yeah, and now that Cherry's back, I'm living with three women!" The two laughed heartily. Dave turned back to Roger. "But I only share the same bedroom with one, and she's my wife. My first wife. My last wife. My only wife. Now that's the truth,, and I challenge Cult Alert to say otherwise."
He went on: "They get away with saying these sort of things, because their number one rule is never to listen to our side. Talk about us controlling members! They are the ones who are afraid to have people hear the other point of view."
"Could be they just made a mistake," said Roger, who could see the truth in what Dave had said. "Their real concern is to warn people away from dangerous teachings." Roger was defending the group, but he was not entirely happy with their approach to the truth either.
"They do a lot of work with people who have been trapped in Jehovah's Witnesses," he said. He watched to see if it would bring a reaction from the two men.
"Trapped?" asked Dave. "Are the JW's holding people prisoner these days?" He adjusted his tie while he waited for a reply.
"You know what I mean," said Roger. "They're trapped by the teachings."
"No, I don't know what you mean," insisted Dave. "Fill me in."
"Are you saying that you agree with Jehovah's Witnesses?" asked Roger.
"No. I didn't say that. I just asked you to explain your reference to people being trapped by them. Why is it that people assume any attempt to be fair to the JW's means we agree with them?"
"I didn't accuse you of anything," Roger replied. "I just asked a simple question. Do you agree with their teachings or not?"
"They've got a lot of different teachings, so I can't answer yes or no. But first, can you tell me someone whose theology is perfect?" asked Dave.
Roger thought for a moment. These people were doing it again. Screwing up his brain with their clever arguments. Maybe Cult Alert was right after all. "I'm not saying anyone is perfect," he said. "But Jehovah's Witness teachings are really off. Ask anyone."
Greg grinned as he waited for Dave's answer. He had been through this routine before. "So where do you draw the line between imperfect and really off?"
"They say Jesus isn't the Son of God. Wouldn't you say that was off?," Roger asked defiantly.
"Well first of all, they do teach that Jesus is the Son of God," Dave explained patiently. "But they also teach something about God the Father being greater than his Son. Is that really so bad?"
"I'm sure it's worse than that. I heard they don't believe Jesus is God at all."
"You heard that, did you?" asked Dave. "And did you ever take the time to listen to the Jehovah's Witnesses' side?"
"Well, no. We were told not to…"
"…not to listen to them," the three men finished together in unison.
"Since you're not allowed to hear them out, I'll help you a little," Dave said. "They teach that Jesus is a God. I don't see it the same way they do; but you can't honestly believe that the difference between believing Jesus is 'God' or believing that he is "a God" is God's ultimate dividing line between good and evil.
"See, traditional church teaching allows for slight differences between various Christians, and we say that the grace of God will cover for imperfections in our theology. So the case against groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses really has to be based on something more substantial than theological hair-splitting."
"On the other hand, if you want to know the real danger behind the JWs, I'll tell you it," Dave whispered conspiratorially, as he indicated with his finger for Roger to move his ear closer.
"What's that?" asked Roger coolly, trying to hide his curiosity.
"What do you mean faith?" he spat out.
Dave continued to explain. "When someone starts believing that God is real, no matter how they may happen to perceive him, they start doing things… strange things, in an effort to obey him. The JWs are out on the streets, knocking on doors, preaching wherever they go; and that frightens people who don't have real faith. So the lukewarm believers have to warn people to stay away from the JWs. They have to teach that they are dangerous. They have to call them a cult."
"That's what they're doing with us too," said Greg. "Tryin' to make you scared of us, so's you won't hear what we're sayin'."
Roger's problem was that he really listened to what people were saying. And now he could see the plausibility in what Dave had been saying. His aversion to Jehovah's Witnesses had always been something vague that he could not put his finger on. Now he was really rattled.
He had come to challenge the bin raiders on their theology, but Dave had more or less dismissed the entire topic on the basis of something as fundamental as faith. And the worst thing was that it was starting to make sense.
But if he took that approach, all of his most cherished impressions of Christianity could end up in total confusion.
There were certain churches that represented orthodoxy, and he wanted to stay a part of that circle of spiritual stability. As a Pentecostal, and especially as a member of a very minor Pentecostal denomination, he was regarded as being on the fringe of orthodoxy. But at least he was a part of it. No one had ever called his church a cult.
In common with the Anglicans and the Catholics and a lot of other very respectable churches, Roger believed that Jesus was the Son of God, that the Bible was the Word of God, that Christ died for his sins, that he was going to heaven when he died. In their various ways, they all practised some form of baptism, partook of communion, believed in the Trinity, recited the Apostles Creed and the Lord's Prayer. It was a nice safe club even if they did have trouble getting along with one another; and they unanimously called the club Christianity.
Now these wild, unkempt street people were suggesting that faith should be the only criteria… faith that evidenced itself in actions… strange actions, as Dave had put it. That couldn't be true. And yet if it wasn't, why wasn't it?
Roger confessed that Dave had given him a lot to think about, and then excused himself. The truth was that he was hoping some fresh air and some time away from this far out group of tract distributors would clear his head and bring him back to the way he used to think. He had been happy enough with his beliefs before they had come along. Certainly he could go back to being happy with his former beliefs once he got away from them.
"I think he's a sheep," Greg said to Dave as Roger was walking away. "I know he was arguing, but I could see it. He was hearing what you were saying. He's going to be one uncomfortable man 'til he sorts this whole thing out. I don't think he'll be happy 'til he does."