Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My own thoughts on Evangelizing

Wow. I posted a video yesterday that I thought was going to just be a throw away post. I wanted to show a Priest from a mainstream church who is specifically calling out against aggressive Christian tactics and actually calls them a jerks.

The big problem for Episcopalians as well as other Christians who are not fundamentalist nut jobs that think the world is only 6000 years old, is that they mostly mind their own business and do their own thing. Because of this their religion, and mine, is being usurped by hateful, anti-science, neo-conservative wind bags who actually know nothing of the Bible or Theology.

In the video he specifically calls for:

  • Not simply relying upon the clout of the church to transmit the message. 
  • Not being a jerk, Don't argue or fight with people
  • Show that you can be Christian and still be smart, non-judgemental, and not have hissyfits when people hold different view. 
  • Not tear people down in order to build yourself up
  • Let sharing your religion come out in a natural way
  • Most importantly, love the people you are sharing with
  • Continue to grow in the faith yourself. 
  • Make the church more hospitable to different types of people and different cultures by transforming the institutions. 
All this sounded pretty good to me.

Most commenter's felt differently. Some responses seemed to completely ignore the video and spirit of the post and just react to other types of Evangelizing (proselytizing really) that they are used to and which this video is in fact a rejection of. Others posted that evangelism is fine, but their automatic response is to ignore it completely or  play into it for a gas. 

My own feeling has always been that I appreciate it. Even the fundie, "do this or go to hell", types of Evangelizing. . I appreciate that someone, however misguided, is trying to do what they think is right and helpful. When I end with a polite rejection, or perhaps a counter point that they cannot answer and they reply "I will pray for you", I thank them. I mean it too. They are taking the time to pray for me, why would I be offended?

Also I have never felt that my own view is so perfect that I should ignore what other people are saying out of hand. I appreciate the education, even if it is just an education in the particular manner that you are wacky and intolerant.  Here is the interesting thing about tolerence: If you are only tolerant of those that are tolerant of you, than you are not tolerant at all. Know where I learned that? Sunday school. 

I want to thank people right now that have Evangelized to me. They took the time to talk to me about Buddhism, Thelema, Christianity, Gnosticism, Taoism, Ekankar, Anthroposophy, Vodou, Vortex Healing, Wicca, and a whole host of other things. You felt that your lives were being enriched by something that you knew about and I didn't and you wanted to share it with me. You shared your good news. I listened and perhaps I experimented with what you told me, and perhaps I didn't. Regardless of what i ended up doing with it, I appreciate you sharing the good news.


k. sequoia said...

I haven't watched the vid yet, but your comments I resonate strongly with.

Just this last week, I spent some time in the park with another mother (a tourist with her kids at our park) who was the kindest, sweetest woman. I became clear as we chatted that she was Mormon.

Towards the end of our time, she offered to help me with my kids to the car (note: I'm a witchy/mystic/shamanic/budding Buddhist). With tears in her eyes, she offered me a gift: the book of Mormon. I truly was touched, and how powerfully she conveyed its meaning to me.

I felt she deserved my honesty, and felt moved to offer what gift in return I could. I told her that I was not called to this path of Mormonism, but in spirit of her gift and her very kind nature that moved me so, I promised that I would read some of it in order to better understand. I meant it - it does not hurt me at all to expand my awareness of another's path. And I'll think of her, and her beautiful family.

Kim @ redhandferi

Anonymous said...

I figured that's what you'd get, and I'm not -- sadly -- surprised. There are a lot of bitter, angry people among my coreligionists, and I'm not particularly proud of them. When I was involved in a campus pagan organization, I proposed and got passed a bylaw forbidding the attacking of any religion, including Christianity, during our meetings. Otherwise, they'd simply turn into Christian-bashing sessions. And it's really not fair: evangelizing is literally "telling good news." If someone has good news, I would like to hear it, and if I disagree with its message, I'm free to do so. That's all. A few people have "evangelized" me rudely -- but the vast majority have been polite and when I told them I was very familiar with Christianity but had my own religion with which I was happy, they listened.

I think a lot of pagans like to feel outraged, and like the attention, and that's why you get a lot of this bitter talk. It's very disappointing to me.

WitchDoctorJoe said...

I'm a student of a Christian seminary. This has been very challenging for me at times, but equally rewarding. I have had teachers who scare me with the beliefs their teaching and teachers who have inspired me spiritually, even as a hard core Pagan.

I have seen the same differences within many religions, it's not the religion, it's the followers.

Last semester I took a required Christian ministry class, the text book was a purpose driven church by Rick Warren. It was awesome, and he really drilled the whole loving non Christians into the course work.

Like the video, he gives me hope for them. Thanks for the post. Blessed be.

Karmaghna said...

Personally, I feel much as you do. I would wager that all religions proselytize to varying degrees. Such an act is innocuous when done with tact and sensitivity. However,when the evangelical party (whichever religion they adhere to) enters an arena where they can forcibly censor the beliefs and activities of non-believers you find true evil.

Z. E. Accordino said...

When someone offers to pray for you, light a candle for you, etc, it can be a very touching gesture. I rarely refuse it and often thank the person graciously. But it can also be twisted into something condescending. Have you ever seen the movie "Saved!"? Hillary Faye is a master of this. So is my friend's great aunt.

I also find that proselytizing, when done out of the goodness of someone's heart, is no bother to me. But there's so many people that do it with a holier-than-thou attitude (probably what the priest in your video is speaking out against. I'm sorry, I haven't gotten around to watching it yet!). There are also some religions that say you *must* proselytize. I feel like a lot of those people are more interested in securing their own riches in the afterlife than saving my soul. I feel this is disingenuous behavior and it sometimes shows if the person is aggressive and demeaning in their interaction with you. It's very rare that I run into a genuine, nice person that wants to share their religion with me that isn't already a friend or acquaintance. The type who purposely seek out strangers or large crowds tend to make me wary. Especially the ones that tactlessly come out and say you're disgusting and unnatural and going to hell for being born the way you were.

OK, I watched the video now. Father Matthew seems like a pretty awesome guy. I really don't see why people had such a "hissy fit" about the video, but I guess one thing I've learned from trolling the pagan forums is that you'll find fundies in *any* religion or non-religion (atheist fundies give me a migraine).

nutty professor said...

"All religious truth is relative and its comprehension depends upon the maturity of the individual. that is why...the initiate does not interfere with another's right to his religious beliefs and does not attempt to dissuade him from his truth or even criticize him. In the innermost of his soul, the initiate will find only compassion for a fanatic or an atheist, without expressing it outwardly in any way. Therefore, allow everyone to hold firmly to that which he believes and that which makes him happy and content. If everyone would adhere to this principle and make it his own, there would be neither hatred nor religious discord. There would be no reason for differences of opinion and all philosophies or all religions would co-exist happily." -- Franz Bardon

Words of great wisdom from a master for every aspiring magician, and not to be overlooked. Understand that there are no short cuts.

Apuleius Platonicus said...

The problem is that the so-called "fundamentalists" really are that. They accurately embody the fundamental teachings of Christianity, and they also accurately represent what mainstream Christianity has believed and practiced for 2000 years.

In the past people who disagreed with the fundamentals of Christianity had little choice but to play along. Well they did have some other choices: the rack, the stake, the gallows ....

I cannot for the life of me understand, though, why people today, now that we have the freedom to do so, continue to associate themselves with Christianity while simultaneously claiming to distance themselves from what Christianity and Christians have always been all about.

Jason Miller, said...


We have gone down this road with you before and it leads no where.

Suffice to say that I completely disagree with your assessment, as do most Theologians. Modern Fundamentalist Christianity is actually a fairly new thing. It does not represent the view of most Protestants. It certainly does not represent the view of Catholics. It is even further from the view of the Eastern Church. You are talking about a VERY small but vocal minority.

Yes there are dark parts of Christian history, but that is going to happen with any movement of this size.

The reason that people still associate themselves with it is that it is at its heart a religion of radical love and forgiveness. For every dark deed that twisted people have used it to justify there are three more who have quietly been inspired to selflessness, charity, and brave deeds.

Norma said...

Interesting. The extreme hatred of evangelizing on the last post bothered me too, but for the most part I have developed a distaste for what I consider 'evangelizing.' Maybe, though, my idea of evangelizing has been skewed by fundamentalists.

Generally, I find that when I am approached out of context, in a non-religious setting, and pressed about religion (any religion), I dislike it. I am not rude, and I will simply say 'no thank you' to requests to come over and listen to a spiel though I like you accept prayers from anyone. (Why turn them down? It's all good.) OTOH, if *I* come to approach someone, show up at a location where it would be appropriate to talk about one's religion and practices, then this to me makes me an open person and serves as an invitation.

Does that make sense? I don't have a problem if there is a table and I can go up and take literature, or ask questions. Or if there is a church fair, and I can go by, and while I am there someone can ask me about my faith. I *do* have a problem with someone coming to my door for just about any reason -- from selling magazines to selling God -- or approaching me in a setting like my work, the grocery store, a party, etc. because I consider it rude. On the rare occasion when the conversation genuinely goes there, that's one thing. Forcing a convo to go there, or just plain bringing it up and not letting it go, is something else.

But then, I am not only being tolerant of those who are tolerant of me per se, because I dislike it when anyone of any faith forces a topic and presses on with people who are not interested.

Frater Serpentis et Aquila said...

This was an awesome post. Yes on all points. Nuff said.

yuzuru said...

"When I end with a polite rejection, or perhaps a counter point that they cannot answer and they reply "I will pray for you", I thank them. I mean it too. They are taking the time to pray for me, why would I be offended?"

I personally do not get offended but also will not thank them, because these kinds of "prayer" are for me curses, as there are no real love to god on these people, but a lot of hate. I don´t want them praying for me.

GR said...

I think part of the problem here is a level of insecurity in what individuals believe, and we can see this in both the vehement "anti-Christianity" reactions to your post as well as the obnoxious and malicious "evangelizing" that produced these reactions in the first place.


Apuleius Platonicus said...

Jason, this road might be less fruitless that you think.

I believe you are mistaken in claiming that "most theologians" agree with you. At any rate, many authoritative voices from within the Christian tradition are highly self-critical of Christianity's past and future on the matters of proselytizing, missionary work, coercive conversions, and religious tolerance.

In addition, throughout most of the history of Christianity, the very idea of religious toleration was either non-existent in Christian discourse, or at best relegated to the margins (and that only well into Christianity's second millennium of existence).

The Anglican tradition, in particular, has a very bloody history of intolerance (just ask the Puritans, the Catholics, etc). Not to mention the enthusiastic participation of Anglicans/Episcopalians in the coercive Christianization of sub-Saharan Africa that was part and parcel of the process of conquest and colonization.

WitchDoctorJoe said...

Power corrupts virtue, and the cross has dominated the world for hundreds of years. Condesetion has become a normal side effect of their faith. However it is not exclusive to Christianity but all humans. The most condescending human I've ever known was very anti Christian.

But it is how we deal with these issues that is more important. We must not let them become our issues. If we keep and carry them and the harm they cause, we're failing the true test. Ironicly, the best way to deal with evangelical scourge is by inculcating many of the axioms of their faith, love, tolerance and forgiveness.

But moreover this post was suppose to be about a positive aspect, one of their own telling them to stop it. If you can't see the forest through the trees here, then you may just be suffering from the same affliction, just from the opposite side.

Matt said...

@ Jay: I've been thinking about this yesterday and this morning. Perhaps I did evangelize a bit in private to you recently by way of explaining why a particular spiritual system was of benefit to me. I certainly wasn't trying to proselytize you - I don't think practices I presently engage in would necessarily benefit you, or others, the way I feel they helped me. Also, I did offer my criticisms of that same system in our correspondence.

One problem I have with proselytism, is that active active proponents of particular faiths generally don't (and are often temperamentally incapable of) providing balanced
views of the systems they're expounding.

Rufus Opus said...

@Witchoctor Joe: I think I know that most-condescending anti-Christian guy!

Honestly man, you've expressed eloquently how spiritual enlightened people seem to deal with the annoying people of other faiths. You've separated the belief system from the believers. It shows a great deal of personal strength, compassion, and insight that you can do that.

Things like that are really good indicators that I don't personally need to tell you about Jesus so you can overcome any feelings of guilt or inadequacy that might be keeping you from a personal relationship with God. You obviously have one already. No matter how "what I call God" chooses to manifest to you.