Evangelism - How I Hate It

Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Evangelism is defined by Wikipedia as "Evangelism is the Christian practice of preaching the Gospel of Jesus to both Christians (i.e., Orthodox and Catholics) and non-Christians." For my purposes, however, I would say this definition would apply to any religion that attempts to "convert the masses."

While I recognize that some individuals sincerely believe they're doing me a favor by evangelizing to me, I really, really, hate evangelism. It offends me deeply. Here's why.

In my view, it is the height of hubris to assume you have a corner on TRUTH. Unless God has spoken to you personally and left physical evidence of His passing, you have no evidence that what you believe on faith is fact. I don't disrespect your faith, as long as you recognize that faith is what it is. I expect the same courtesy in terms of my choice not to believe.

But that's not the evangelical way, is it? Instead they assume only they can save me from myself and my dirty, heathen ways.

Well, guess what? I'm a grown woman, and my failure to be "born again" has nothing to do with not hearing "the good news." I probably know the Bible and Christian dogma better than a lot of Christians, and I'm not convinced. It doesn't have anything to do with my not understanding the Bible, or the idea that Jesus died for my sins. I understand the mythology. I'm just not convinced. And that's okay. It doesn't take away from your faith, and the place your faith plays in your life. It just means your faith has no place in my life. Knocking on my door or cornering me at parties in order to convince me of the error of my ways is not going to make me change my mind; it's far more likely to get you a "no, thank you," followed by a threat of violence if you don't take the hint.

My most current egregious example of this occurred a little over a year ago. The company that cleans our house is owned by a Christian couple, and they tend to hire employees from the local Christian home-schooling community. The young woman who was assigned to our account was gracious, sincere, hardworking, and a Primitive Baptist.

Since she cleaned our house, she noticed one of my bookshelves which contains all my religious texts. I used to be a comparative religion major, and so have copies of texts from most of the major religions of the world, as well as textbooks and atheist texts. She never commented on them, but her God-related commentary increased the longer she worked here.

Well, her last day on the job, she decided it was time to "testify." She brought me a number of religious tracts, including such gems as "What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?" and "The Case for a Young Earth." Then she proceeded to tell me the "truth" about my evil, dirty ways. At first I was gracious about it, telling her that while I appreciated her concern, I was informed about my religious choices, and did not choose to worship as she did. Well, we can't let a little thing like lack of interest or growing anger interfere with our desire to "spread the word," now, can we? In the end, I had to speak somewhat sharply to get her to drop the subject. The entire event was irritating as hell, although those religious tracts did provide fodder for some pretty funny jokes.

We also get a lot of LDS folks knocking on our "no soliciting" sign, since South Denver has a large LDS population. When that happens, I point to the sign, and say "no, thank you." If they're obtuse enough to try and tell me that "they're not selling anything," then I let loose on them, which is fun for me, but not so great if you're them.

Note, however, that I don't hate evangelicals, I hate evangelism. The behavior, and the mindset that encourages it, is what offends me. There's also a huge distinction between unsolicited evangelism, and sharing your faith when asked.

The bottom line is that for me, religion and spirituality are a private matter. It's none of your damn business what I believe, and I don't need you to save me from myself.

23 comments:

Cindi in CO said...

Amen sister.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

We're concerned about your immortal soul becaue we're Christian, you know!!
Gag.
Followed closely by projectiles aimed at the offenders head.
And heaps o' scorn.
That's just how I roll.

Janiece Murphy said...

TMG, that's how I roll, too.

Because I'm not Christian, you know.

Nathan said...

My current tactic (which I enjoy immensely), is to let them babble for a moment. Then I hold up my hands, palms out until they quiet down. I let the silence go on for an uncomfortable moment.

Then I say, "I was raised in an observant Jewish home and I firmly believe that all of your beliefs are dead wrong...but I was polite enough not to ring your doorbell to tell you."

Janiece Murphy said...

Nathan, I really like that strategy. Giving them the old Smackdown without getting ugly.

I seem to recall a video of an evangelical atheist who went a-knockin' on doors...in Salt Lake City. I can't find it now, but I found it hilarious.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

I did have an occassion to end a conversation quickly. Whilst discussing work practices, a sub mentioned how he is Chrsitain and wanted to convert all of his welders. I just looked at him, said that he needed to not do that near me as I am Buddhist.
Forgive me universe, but it was the best I could come up with at the last moment. Then he went away.
Imagine that.

John the Scientist said...

There is a Jehovah's Witness group that keeps ringing our doorbell when I'm at work. They somehow saw the red decorations we have on our door and came knocking with Chinese language materials in hand. (We live far back frmo a pretty rural road). That creeped my wife the hell out. She also says the man (who stays in the car while the wife and daughters prosetylize) is like something out of "Deliverance". They come 2 or 3 times in a week, then disapper for a few months.

The next time they begin a call cycle, I'm going to work from home for a while. I'm going to black out a front tooth, put on a flannel shirt, raggedy jeans, and my Deere cap, (maybe with a wad of chaw if I can stand it)and I'm going to answer the door using my best Southern accent, with my personal life insurance policy in hand. The insurance coverage is courtesy of the Mossberg Insurance Agency, Policy # 500.

Janiece Murphy said...

TMG, is there anything worse that someone prostelyzng at work? Especially someone who has management responsibilities? It's like sexual harrassment, only worse. Religious harrassment!

John, may I suggest a stained wife-beater in lieu of the flannel shirt?

Hehe.

Shawn Powers said...

Believe it or not, I identify with the evangellicy right on most things. Heck, I'm a leader in a Baptist church. For me, however, not only does mainstream "evangelism" get me mad, it embarrasses me too. My peeps tend to be dorks. Irritating dorks at that. Irritating dorks that won't be listened to or taken seriously by anyone. Ugh.

Looking back in history, the big JC tended to put the smack down rather harshly on the religious folks. Bible time conservatives? Pharisees. Ouch.

You'll largely not find me preachin' the word on my blog, or in public much for that matter. It's just not how I roll. Which would actually make me largely not accepted in the evangelical community. But heck, they're seldom any fun anyway. ;)

Janiece Murphy said...

Shawn, you are indeed atypical when it comes to evangelicals. While I have no doubt you'd be delighted to share your experience with faith if asked, I sincerely appreciate the fact that you behave with respect towards those who don't share your beliefs.

I like that about you.

And you're right about your dorky peeps not being taken seriously by most folks. I can assure you, if I ever had a sincere interest in exploring Christian faith, I would call you first, and ignore the Outreach folks. Because if I sincerely want to learn about faith, then I want to converse with someone who lives by it, not with a self-righteous prig.

::dismounts soap box::

John the Scientist said...

"John, may I suggest a stained wife-beater in lieu of the flannel shirt? "

Don't own one, but I do own flannel.

I only score 40% on Jeff Foxworthy's "Check Your Neck" test. :-(

Jeri said...

Amen again.

My inlaws drive me crazy. My MIL told me a couple of months ago she didn't think she was a successful parent because her son doesn't attend church. (Martyr much?)

She also said that she'd just as soon her kids not go to church if they're not going to go to a fundamental, biblical one. (She'd like to be able to dictate our vote, too.)

So, I bite my tongue a *whole lot* when we're around them because I don't think I could stop myself when I got started.

And my beliefs are rather pantheist/social justice oriented - UU or UCC are a good fit, if I wanted to go to church.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jeri, unfortunately, we can't always pick our relatives. My Hot Sister Cindi and I have a few relatives who are waiting for the day when we will burn, burn, BURN for our lack of faith. Faith being defined as what they believe, of course.

I'm sure they'll be filled with glee when the day comes, disguised by much shaking of the heads and "tsk" noises.

Self-righteous assholes.

Cindi in CO said...

J., you are assuming that said relatives will even be informed of our passing.

Because if anything happens to you, (knock wood) I don't intend to call them. I mean, it's not like they would actually CARE anyway.

I see your self-righteous assholes, and raise you some sanctimonious shit-heads.

Vince said...

It's one thing to have someone ask you if you'd like to hear about something, and when told no, they respectfully withdraw. It's another to have someone keep coming back when you've made it clear you're not interested, like has happened with John.

Janiece, it's sad that you "have a few relatives who are waiting for the day when we will burn, burn, BURN for our lack of faith." And with this they expect you to give serious consideration to their religious point of view? I also agree that prostelyzing at work, especially by someone in a position of authority to someone under them, is harassment, and should be treated as such.

Among my friends my faith is no secret. But my friends run the gamut from atheist to agnostic to various flavors of Christianity to Buddhist. I have friendly acquaintances that are gay. I've had conversations with most of them about religion, some of them pretty wild. But they have been "conversations" - dialogs that all members participated in because they wanted to.

When asked, I have no problem explaining what I believe and why. But there is a reason it's called faith.

Vince said...

By the way Janiece, I love your phrase "Freeze-Dried Whack-a-Loon"!

Janiece Murphy said...

Vince, I can't take credit for the phrase - it came from The Sweet Potato Queens.

But I like it, too.

Cindi, I was actually thinking of some relatives a bit closer to home...

Cindi in CO said...

Oh.

I watched a documentary on gay choirs or something, and a transgendered person said something I've never forgotton.

"Never let a church come between you and God."

Amen.

mom in northern said...

An old friend from my collage days used to handle the "door to door" religious types by jumping out the door; get in their face by grabbing them by the shirt collar and demanding that they support mental health...

worked every time... :-)

Jeri said...

Any time I hear someone, church or private person, talking about "the lost" in relation to those who don't subscribe to their particular brand of religion, I am so out of there!

I actually managed to slog through the first of the "Left Behind" books - cause, hey, I like post-apocalyptic SF. Mistake! It was an evangelical screed, not a story... character and plot were nearly nonexistent.

John the Scientist said...

I left this passage in the comments on MWT's blog on a similar post. I thought Janiece woudl appreciate it. Besides, we Baptists have to laugh at ourselves, too. (Right Shawn?). The passage is from the book "I Am One of You Forever".

It’s set in the rural South around 1942. This passage takes place in Mr. Campbell’s store. Mr. Campbell suffers from a constant stream of condemnation from the Southern Baptists because he sells whisky in his store.

They weren’t about to hang back. If it wasn’t a scrawny jackleg preacher leaning on the greasy chopblock to sermonalize the hapless pudgy man, then it was some long-jawed deacon. If it wasn’t a deacon then it was a fierce-talking sister of the church, her gray hair pinned back, gray light glinting on her rimless spectacles. Not even the children gave him peace. Their parents had taught them to say, after paying for their Kool-Aid or peppermints, “Thank you kindly, Mr. Bound-for-Hell.”

He had a sense of irony and told my father that he’d come goddam near changing the name of his establishment to the Bound for Hell Grocery & Dry Goods and only backed off when he found out what it would cost to have his sign repainted.

And then Johnson Gibbs lost that baseball game Mr. Campbell got up against the True Light Rainbow Baptist Church. “That was a trial” he said. “There wasn’t one car on the road didn’t stop here for somebody to run in and tell me how I backed the wrong team because I ain’t sitting on the righthand side of Jesus.”

“I’d be more inclined to fault Johnson’s pitching” my father said.

“Suppose I’d been sitting on the sunny side of the Lord and we won that game. Where would that put them?” Mr Campbell said.

“Might have started a theological ruckus.”

“They can’t stand much more ruckus,” he said “There where the road starts up Turkey Cove is your Rainbow Baptist Church, and it’s a nice white wood church. You go on up the cove a piece and there’s a little old concrete block house which is your New Rainbow Baptist Church. A big chunk of them busted away in an argument over predestination. Another two miles is the True Light Rainbow Baptist Church, which starts off with a few concrete blocks and finishes up tar paper siding.”

“And if we’d won that baseball game?”

“They’d of had them another fight. You’d go up on the mountain and find a pup tent by the road. The One True Light Rainbow Reformed Holiness Baptist Church of the Curveball Jesus.”

“Too bad we didn’t win,” my father said. “I’d be curious to read the articles of faith of that one.”

MWT said...

Man, that passage is getting around...

John the Scientist said...

It's the best description of Southern Baptists I have ever seen in print.