Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Proselytizers Embarrass Me

They do. They really, really do. They did when I was a Catholic. They did when I was sorta-Solitary-Wiccan. They do now that I'm a Christo-Pagan. While I suppose that their devotion to their faith is admirable in a way, the fact is, the way that so many of them believe that their right to free speech trumps other people's right not to be harassed is deeply embarrassing to me. After all, most of the ones I hear about happen to have something in common with roughly half of my spiritual identity, and it embarrasses and offends me that they're trampling over other people's right to believe (or not believe, of course) as they choose and using the cross as a means of convincing themselves of their own superiority. And should anyone actually choose to stand up to them, then the accusations of persecution and silencing come out! When the encounter doesn't go well, the logic seems to go something like this:
1. God tells me that I have to Spread The Gospel.
2. You don't believe what I do.
3. Therefore, I have to Spread The Gospel to you to Save Your Damned Soul.
4. No, you don't have a choice about whether or not you listen to me. I am God's Holy Messenger.
5. Don't tell me to go away, that's persecution! (Implied: freedom of speech only applies to me, not you.)
6. I have rights! You can't tell me that I can't spread God's word to you! You have to listen to me!
7. No, really, you have to listen to me!
8. *after final rejection* Come see the disregard that this little twit has for me and my rights and My Holy God! Help! Help! I'm being repressed!
I often wonder why these people do what they do, whether it's really for God's glory or their own. What do they tell themselves about what they're doing? Do they really think that they'll be able to annoy people into becoming Christians? Do they enjoy feeling like they're being oppressed by the fact that somebody didn't want to put up with their harassment? One somehow suspects that they should experience some real persecution before they start whining because their unrequested spiritual advice hasn't fallen on friendly ears. Only I wouldn't want that for them, because nobody deserves to be persecuted or oppressed, even for being a monumental asshole.

And then there's the perspective I have as a result of the Pagan elements of my faith. I struggle enough with balancing the Pagan and Christian beliefs that my heart, if not always my head, insists are compatible with each other. What I do not need is some stranger telling me that unless I become a devout and loudly Evangelical Christian, I'm going to go to Hell. You see, my faith does not hinge on whether or not it will get me out of eternal punishment; it tells me that I must have compassion for people. It tells me that I should do what I can, no matter how small the action may be, to make the world a better place. It tells me that I must have respect for the Earth and be kind to it. It does not tell me to feel self-satisfied at the prospect of being one of the Chosen Ones, whatever one might be chosen for. It does not tell me that I should pray loudly on the street corners so that everyone around can hear me. It does not tell me that anyone who disagrees with me is my enemy. It doesn't tell me that it's my job to tell everyone else—or even anyone else—what they should be believing and how they should be living.

It does not tell me that everyone has to believe the same things that I do in order to live a happy, fulfilling and moral life.

Proselytizers embarrass me because they embody many of the worst stereotypes of the Christian believer. Most of the ones I've met over the years have been rude, tactless people who, convinced of their own moral superiority, have decided that it's their right to tell other people how they ought to live. It's not about God, it's about them. It's about their conviction that they are God's Favoured Ones, so they are better than the rest of us mere mortals.

So, my militantly evangelical Siblings-Who-Deny-Our-Siblinghood-In-Christ-Because-I-Worship-A-Goddess-As-Well, be warned: if you want to share the Good News with me, I suppose that I can't stop you. But I will be moved to share the following Bible verse with you:
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your father in heaven.

So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

—Matthew 6:1-6

1 comment:

  1. Loved your 8 points of a biblical proselytizer! I can identify def. as I live in NYC and you see them in the streets (the worst ones are those who do so in your subway car, because you're trapped... for that reason alone I can see why New Yorkers wear big headphones or earbuds all the time there. It's psychological torture. I go to a very progressive UCC church and lead small groups. A year ago I was doing to 32-weeks overview course on the Bible and out-of-the-blue at the very start I got this loud biblical literalist in my group. Def. saw himself as the "Bible Answer Man"!!! Oy! The first 3 weeks were torture for me as leader, because every question I'd ask to the group (very open-ended questions, mind you), he'd immediately jump in with 'his right' answer! He also was sly as a fox in putting down other people's thoughts or opening contradicting my response to him. When I confronted him privately, he said he had a right to state "the facts" because his soul depended on it... and he didn't want to go to Hell... nor did he want anyone else - esp. new folks to the Bible there - to go to Hell (which they would, if they listened to me! (sigh) Ultimately, it took a minister of the church to tell him to tone down the rhetoric and listen to me as the facilitator or he'd be banned. From then on he 'played nicer' with all of us, as he clearly wanted to remain in the group... but it was a very taxing year for the rest of the group (and we still lost a few folks because of his dogmatic evangelical views.