Guest / Limited Access /

Jehovah's Witnesses are America's favorite punch line, says Joel P. Engardio, co-producer of Knocking, a documentary on the 7 million-member sect, which, he says, spends 1.3 billion hours per year knocking on doors.

The film, which airs tonight on PBS's Independent Lens, begins with the sound of knocking, followed by a deep sigh. Is it the sound of apprehension? The dullness of routine? Weariness of the present evil age?

And then come the jokes—clips from The Simpsons and Letterman.

But Engardio is not joking. His mother converted when he was a child, and he has observed the Witnesses at close range, although he himself never became a member—he chose journalism over fundamentalism, he says.

Engardio helps viewers to get past the joke by following the stories of two men: one an aged survivor of the Holocaust and one a 20-something with a rare disease.

The young man, named Seth, has a rare genetic disorder that is attacking his liver. Eventually, he will need a liver transplant, and that is nearly impossible because Witnesses refuse blood transfusions. Baylor University Medical Center and Texas Medical Center both turn him down. Indeed, he can't get a donor organ through the usual channels. The committees that allocate organs for transplant won't assign him one because of the extremely low chances for a successful surgery.

Eventually, his father decides to become a live donor, and University of Southern California Hospital agrees to let him be the subject for an unproven and highly experimental "bloodless" surgical technique.

The old man is a Jew named Joseph. After surviving six concentration camps, he converted to the Witnesses, in part because he saw how their faith held up under the Nazis.

'Kind of like' a cult

Both ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Tags:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Current IssueI Overlooked the Rural Poor—Then Trump Came Along
Subscriber Access Only
I Overlooked the Rural Poor—Then Trump Came Along
This election has urban evangelicals paying more attention to the plight of small-town America.
Current IssueRacism Rejected
Subscriber Access Only Racism Rejected
A snapshot of Christian witness in the world (as it appeared in our September issue).
RecommendedBen-Hur
Ben-Hur
A new twist on the tale of the Christ.
TrendingWhy Most Pastors Aren’t Answering Your Phone Calls
Why Most Pastors Aren’t Answering Your Phone Calls
It's one the great mysteries of ministry. Why do pastors have such a bad reputation for answering or returning phone calls? Here are 9 reasons.
Editor's PickFearless Faith in a Time of Forgetting
Fearless Faith in a Time of Forgetting
Our culture can’t remember what makes Christianity good, but there's no reason to freak out.
Christianity Today
Fundamentalism and Freedom
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

May 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.