Of late, there have been quite a number of rules/laws/guidelines – call it what you will – being put into effect that say “prosthelytizing” faith, as opposed to expressing it, is not to be allowed. This has popped up in the military, particularly the Army and Air Force, and caused quite a bit of consternation.
(It’s always been the case where I’ve worked, even though most of my co-workers have been fairly religious in all sorts of different faiths. But, no one tried to convert anyone else. We usually just compared notes.)
It seems that the people out there who do not want to be bothered saying “no” to the cold calling evangelization that goes on – and that goes for those of us who are religious as well as those who are not – just want to be left alone.
As someone who has answered the front door on more than one Easter Sunday to a porch full of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I have some sympathy for the sentiment. They usually come calling in the middle of dinner (and on Easter we generally have china and silver on the table), and just will not go away. I also find various enthusiastic “holy-rollers” to be a bit overbearing, especially when their deeds don’t match the words coming out of their mouths. That goes for people of my own brand of Christianity, too. I really don’t like it when my Church is called The Whore of Babylon to my face (especially when that creature was really Nero’s Rome). My protestant friends don’t care for Martin Luther and John Calvin to be lumped together, depending on which of the two they admire. And my Jewish friends really don’t want to hear much of anything about the Passion story. We all have our own convictions and we are sticking to them. So long as conversation can be civil and respectful, and no one tries to blow up anyone else, there really isn’t much complaining.
That there are people out there who want the idea that one should not force or push their religious convictions on other people enshrined in law, even in the military which is overwhelmingly Christian, should not be any great shock. People comfortable in their own lives don’t particularly want that disrupted. That every faith on the planet has provisions for evangelization and conversion should be understood by everyone, even atheists. For many sects of Christianity, it is a part of the practice of the faith. That there are humans on fire for their religion who do not recognize that they push disinterested parties away with their zeal, seems to be the real problem.
In other words, some individuals trying to convert other people to their persuasion don’t know when to say when.
What I am seeing on the more “conservative” sites in essays and comments is that this not so subtle request to lay off evangelizing when the subject is not interested, is a violation of our Freedom of Religion. It’s taken as if people are not to be allowed to practice or express a faith.
My question is, how so? Are we ladies suddenly forced to wear skinny jeans and skimpy tops that are plain and simply immodest to church? Are Orthodox Jewish and some Evangelical women told they must uncover their heads? Are Orthodox Jewish men told that they must remove their prayer shawls and yarmulkes? Are we required to stay in a job where we object to immoral direction or policies of the company or a superior? All of those parts of life are aspects of living a faith, particularly Christianity. I’ve never been told I must remove my Crucifix OR my Rosary bracelet, let alone my Scapular. I quit a job once partially over the overall policies violating my pro-life convictions. I dress as an expression of religion – modestly. None of this has been taken away.
Is it suddenly illegal to own a Bible and keep it at home? Is saying a Rosary while out for a walk illegal? Nowhere that I know of in this country. Are we now required to break any one of the Ten Commandments? More than a couple of the Ten Commandments are actually law in every state (see Thou shalt not kill and Thou shalt not steal), shopping on the Lord’s Day is optional, and it is considered bad form to dishonor one’s parents. Although track clubs and cyclists plot their routes past all sorts of churches on Sunday mornings. That’s just obnoxious, not illegal.
Are private business owners forbidden from hanging a Crucifix or Icon or some other religious article inside their stores or offices? At this time, no, at least where I live. I frequent three businesses that have a Crucifix at the cash register. One has caught flack for it, but they did not give in and no one notices anymore. Are homeowners told they cannot have a statue of St. Francis or Our Lady of Grace in their yards? Not even in my very liberal neighborhood.
Are we now required to respect other people and politely accept no for an answer? Always. And that’s the way it should be in a place where Freedom of Religion is the law.
Perhaps that is the crux of it. The zeal for evangelization – and it can be for environmentalism, feminism, marxism, any other ism – when forceful and relentless is a turn-off. We might call it being a missionary or witnessing, but when the person being pursued is not open to the message, sentiment turns to anger, and resentment builds resulting in the pushback we now see.
That’s what conservatives seem to be missing. We catch more converts both in religion and politics when we are happy in our lives and asked why, than by forcing our lifestyle on others. It’s the fly – honey – vinegar concept. Even Christ said to shake the dust from our sandals and move on if the message is not accepted. Why aggravate a group already looking for a fight by vociferously demonstrating their complaints? It serves no good purpose.
Prosthelytizing and expressing faith are not the same thing. We need to know the difference, and accept that not everyone shares our overt zeal for religion. That does not mean we cannot live religious lives, just don’t push it on other people. Save the fights for bigger things, like, the ObamaCare contraception mandate, which is a direct violation of Freedom of Religion that even non-religious people recognize.
The prosthelytizing argument is a losing one. Let it go.