Just this last weekend, I woke up to a Jehovah’s Witness flyer on my front doorstep. Then, later, I found a second one at my back door. Apparently the Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t tell the different between a front door — with a mailbox, house number, porch and doorbell — and a back door that lacks these things, but the double whammy of Jehovah gave me ample time to consider this piece of tiny literature.
First off, the drawings remind me of the ones I saw in the religion textbooks I read back in Catholic school. That much I expect. However, whoever designed this flyer made the unfortunate decision of blending the hand-painted art — which, I’ll admit, is not terrible — with photos. Regardless of the fact that the photos depict poverty, epidemics and disasters, the combo is jarring to me mostly because the realness of the photos makes the hand-painted figures at the bottom look all the more unrealistic.
I’d imagine that the photos depicting the bad things are supposed to imply that the end is nigh and that now is the as good a time as any to fall in line with God — and not just any God, the holiday-hating Jehovah’s Witness God. We have all these things, happening currently — poverty, epidemics and disasters — and we have never had them at any other point in history, so clearly God is angrier with us now than he ever has been before. The odd thing about this implication is that two of the three photos are in black in white. Maybe no one has told the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but if you want to depict current events, it’s better to do so in color photography. (Maybe if you celebrated Christmas, you witnesses, somebody would have given you a color camera.)
Furthermore, there’s this Photoshopped arrow coming from beneath poverty, epidemics and disasters and pointing towards the afterlife — literally, just right of the lake. What the hell is this supposed to mean? Are you drawing a cause-and-effect equation? Do these bad things lead you to the afterlife? You know, because they will kill you? (Oh yes, and they will kill you — you specifically, sitting in your little chair, reading this now.) If so, shouldn’t they be good? The tip of the arrow is clearly being inserted in the middle of Jehovah’s Witness heaven, so if I logically read this image, I can only conclude that the badness is being inserted right into the heart of this fuzzy-wuzzy afterlife. There’s no way in hell I’m going there.
Look a bit more now. If you’ll notice, the Jehovah’s Witness version of heaven is pretty bland. I mean seriously — this is the afterlife we’re talking about. Literally, eternal bliss in a way that our stunted human minds can’t even conceive of. Knowledge, security and inner peace, all on the highest spiritual plane. And how do these people chose to depict it? A community farm in some warmer region of Canada. Humans, still looking like humans, still wearing clothes and still doing work. (I wonder if these were the clothes they all died in.) That’s the best they can do? What’s worse, the people working in the fields have these forced smiles on their faces that give me the willies. They look lobotomized. (Although there’s something to be said for lobotomies as a route to perfect bliss.) Personally, if I had to shovel turnips as part of my eternal reward for being a good Jehovah’s Witness and sacrificing Christmas and my birthday and all that, I’d be a little miffed. At some point, after I plucked my umpteenth turnip, I’d start thinking about Sisyphus and that crew and wonder if I somehow got directed to the wrong afterlife as a result of some angelic clerical error.
So there’s that. But look a little closer at what’s going on in this image. Look at exactly who is doing all the labor in the field. It ain’t white people. No, apparently the Jehovah’s Witness version of heaven has bright Hispanic couples and jolly African-American families doing all the manual labor. That’s a little fucked up. Sure, they seem happy about it, but I’ll bet the reality of their afterlife as turnip-pluckers hasn’t yet sunk in.
“But surely the white people are working too!” you tell me. Look again. Like, really closely. In fact, you might have to open in the image in its own window and view the full-size version in order to see this. The only clearly white people — two of them in fact — are merely standing by the sparkling lake next to a mountain lion. Because, you know, that’s what white people do when they die. They tend mountain lions. Don’t piss of the white people in heaven — they’ll sic their mountain lions on you.
The capper to all this madness is that the other side — you know, the one I didn’t scan — explains that the ultimate purpose of the flyer is to get the reader to go to a Jehovah’s Witness lecture. In Long Beach. And if the route to heaven is through Long Beach, I think we all might be better off going on the other way.