The actual definition of Evangelism is to preach to others about the 4 gospels of the New Testament. No brainer right? But symbolically, this word has meant a lot of things to all of us. For those who are a part of evangelical Christian religions, it means “spreading the good word”.
For those who are not there, it means being annoyed by others trying to sell you on something. And for those who have been there and are no longer, well, I’m not going to pretend to know exactly what that means, I’ve not been there. But when I talk to many who have left, it seems like a really dark place, something that I can either guess is a pang of guilt for having done so in the past, mixed with a ton of anger that they feel that they were manipulated into such a life/lifestyle/belief. I may be very wrong, but it’s simply what I see watching from the outside.
I’m going to do some preaching to the choir here, but I hope that the reality of this is not lost on many.
I just ran a search on Google, just to seek out some 3rd party thoughts on why people are supposed to evangelize, and mostly from Christian focused sites, I found myself looking at some answers that made me really wonder. Let’s examine some:
Because Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the light. - So if I say that someone important I know says they are right simply because they are, this is enough? Hitler made a lot of promises too. I wonder how his body count compares with the crusades…
Some believe that we should follow God out of fear of him. - My time in the military tells me that when you hold a stick over someone’s head, they will only obey you for as long as you hold that stick over their head. Once you remove that stick, they often will do the opposite simply to spite the stick holder.
Because if you are not with me, you are against me. And those that don’t gather with me are scattered. - We call this polarization in the modern day. I always see this as a manipulation of others, not in any real “reason”.
Because of various promises of a positive afterlife. - So you are saying that if i advertise for you now, and get lots of people for your system, I get a place in heaven? I have found it amusingly interesting the connections with Christianity and Amway.
Because all of these people will go to hell if we don’t save them. - So you are now saying we need to take responsibility for others’ actions? What exactly are we saving them from? Hell? That thing that the church is cashing in on to keep people giving tithes?
Where in the bible is there a commandment that I should be giving 10% of what I own to the church? The funniest one, a Jehovah’s Witness actually taught me that there’s nowhere that tithing is actually dictated in the bible. Jesus did give a lesson on how much better it was for an old woman to give all she had to the temple than the rich to give part, but this was a totally different context.
I can continue these for a long time, these are some of the more “rational” answers I found... Some were simply a site where they listed tons of bible verses, where the first 10 answers might have had reference to the reason, and the rest were feel good brain chemical manipulating answers that had absolutely nothing to do with the reason.
There’s a long list of reasons people give, but what’s the real reason? To justify their own belief? Due to peer pressure? Some need of feeling they’ve done something good? Because their answer is correct, so everyone needs to believe it? Perhaps because they’ve had a horrible life until they “found” Jesus (he was lost?) and now they have a reason to live? I don’t fully understand it all myself.
You know the deal, we all do. If there are people that don’t, then they are not doing their jobs right.
So what’s the real failure of evangelism? Oh let us count the ways!
- Arguing to someone else based on a context that does not work for them is a formula for failure. Claiming something is a truth because the bible says it is so only works for those that believe the bible is truth. But you knew that.
- Telling people you have the answer to their problems is not a good way to make a good first impression. We are all taught from an early age that if something is too good to be true, it probably is bad.
- Claiming you are right and someone else is wrong is not a really good way to make friends. No one likes a know-it-all.
- Not respecting people’s lives and privacy is a big issue, and you will not get more converts by bothering people in ways that are intrusive.
- Hateful behavior to various groups will only piss everyone off. Trying to disguise hateful behavior with some bullshit justification that “I love you but not your behavior or beliefs” is a way to make your obvious bigotry socially acceptable on the surface with your peers. Luckily it does not work with others.
- Telling people they cannot do something because by your definition it’s bad. Usually based on #1 where that basis is in a book that has nothing to do with the person in front of you....
- Your religion says a lot of things, then does things that do not line up with what you say... evangelists keep getting caught doing naughty things behind the scenes. Practice what you preach in your everday life.
- Because most of what you say the other person really has no interest in. Your preaching was not asked for.
So all of this is familiar right?
So let me ask a strange question... Why the hell are atheists so busy trying to evangelize? And why the hell is it that every other time I see a debate involving atheism, an atheist is out there trying to use very similar tactics to bring people over to their “side”?
Because you are right and they are not? Where have I heard that before…
Because I know that once you let go of the false belief you will feel better and the world will open up for you… yep, not original. I’ve heard that one too…
I think I heard this in a post where someone was talking about their feelings on religion and suddenly got blasted for believing something. Wait, I thought religious persecution was something evangelists did?
I don’t want to blast everyone for their beliefs or lack thereof, but honestly, do you think that looking as idiotic as Christian EvangelistsTM is really going to do good for YOUR side of the argument? I’m not going to pick out all the reasons for this, it’s useless. But please, for the sake of all that is or is not holy, please try to do something far more effective? Why lower yourselves to their level? Even if you are right, or it’s different, no one that you are trying to convince will see it that way.
I will assert at this point that the only belief that really will do anyone any good, is one that a person comes to without being pressured, that they choose of their own free will. I might suggest starting with building common ground, finding ways to respect each other, learning to get along, find ways to help each other, and show the world that your way of life does work and is moral, without shoving it down anyone’s throat.
Show in your conversation that you can see the point of view of others, and genuinely care for something besides your personal crusade for whatever it is you crusade for. Especially if you have so much in common with each other. With all this technology, this world is getting smaller and smaller, and you DO have to share this world with everyone after all. Because honestly, we don’t need MORE evangelists out there. No matter what gospel.
-by Jeffrey C. Anthony
Student of life and author of plusfivegear.com
(Sheldon's note:) This post will be controversial, I know, but it arrived at a rather appropriate time. I have been hearing more complaints than usual lately from liberal Christians, fundamentalists, and even people in the "spiritual but not religious" category saying that atheists are getting too aggressive with religious people.
I'll leave that for you to decide whether or not that is true.
Jeffrey is a very liberal Christian, and one of my most loyal followers on Google +. If you are on Google +, add me to circles, it's the best way to keep up with the blog.