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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Missionaries & Proselytizing

A close friend of ours is a famous hairdresser. He's bold, outspoken, witty, interesting...and straight. His book is always full and his referrals are word of mouth. He is continually on the move, juggling color, foils, trims, and perms. One day, a new client arrived that had been referred to him by another client. She sat in his chair and began to ask some prying questions. Was he married? No, but he's in a very committed relationship. Did he have kids? Yes, he said he did... Etc., etc., etc.

Now, these are the types of prying questions some people ask. The reasons they ask vary, but it's usually because they're either interested in trying to pursue a relationship with their 'victim', because they're simply nosy about something that isn't any of their business, or because they have a hidden agenda.

Knowing this, but choosing to not ask why she was prying (so he could stay removed from whatever angle she was coming from), he went off to the back room to mix the formula needed for her hair. When he came back, there was a Christian tract sitting on his work station.

Immediately seeing it, he smiled slightly but said nothing. He now understood that she had been trying to establish a commonality... reasons why he should become a born-again Christian. Noticing that he wasn't speaking, the client asked "Well are you?"

"Well is it?" asked my friend.

Confused, but unwilling to reliquish her pursuit, the client asked again, "Well are you?"

"Well is it?" my friend repeated.

"Is it what?" asked the slightly exasperated client.

"Is it any of your business?" asked my friend, calmly.

The client gasped "Well, I'm insulted!"

"And I'm offended," my friend said (honestly). "Do you really think that my personal beliefs have anything to do with you, or how well I can do your hair?"

"But you're so talented," she said, implying "you would be such an asset to our faith!"

"Look," began my friend. "Don't you think that I know all about Jesus? Don't you realize that when I drive to and from work every day I pass many, many churches? Don't you think that if I wanted to, I could stop in and ask them about what they believe? If I want to, then I will pursue it. When you sat down in my chair, I didn't ask you what you believe, did I? So how is that at all relevant to the relationship that we have as client and hairdressser?"

In the end, they agreed to part ways. He told her that obviously their business relationship wasn't going to be mutually satisfactory and she hasn't returned. The woman who had conspired with this 'missionary' also declared herself to be 'offended', and didn't return either.

Now, if I had to quantify what I believed, then I would say that I'm a born-again Christian. That means different things to different people, and none of us are exactly alike. But for all intensive purposes, let's use that term here. So, most people would think that I'd be on the side of the proselytizing women. But I'd like to tell those nosy people something that they may not have considered. My friend has a valid point. Do you really think that anyone in the United States of America (and most of the world, too!) hasn't heard the gospel? Do you truly think that inflicting your beliefs on others will 'save' anyone except the most needy and gullible?

As my friend points out, it is that type of person that keeps him away from religion. He feels that this type of rabid Christianity is mentally unhealthy. "Obviously," he says, "these types feel fulfilled only by the number of converts they are able to make." He also points out that they probably don't evaluate all their business relationships that way. "Do they walk into restaurants and refuse to eat there if the waitress or owners aren't of their religion?" he asks. "Do they only buy clothes from Christian proprietors?"

If you want quality converts, then you need to use quality means. Sometimes you don't need a battering ram to get in an open door. And sometimes, you need to keep your mouth shut.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great points! And very well said. You can tell your hairdresser friend that some of us are not quite so pushy and judgemental.

Saur♥Kraut said...

I appreciate it. He knows I put his story up in the blog, and he says to tell you 'thank you.'

Anonymous said...

Agreed, not ALL of us are pushy when it comes to our faith. True, as Christians we are suppose to spread the Good News. However, that should have been a casual conversation once your friend got to know the client better. And I do mean MUCH better. A person's faith is a very private thing as far as I'm concerned. Your friend did the right thing.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Well, some Christians believe that. But there are other interpretations of the Bible. There are some Christian sects/religions that believe that they should not proselytize because they believe in predestination.

Predestination is the belief that God has/had already picked out everyone who would be saved, just as he chose the Israelites as his chosen people. So, to preach the Bible to others is wasteful at best and cruel at worst, since someone who is predestined will discover the gospel anyway, and someone who is not will never be reached and will go to hell no matter what.

My personal belief is closer to yours, but the evidence for predestination is very strong as well.

United We Lay said...

If you want to spread the news, there are plenty of places where people haven't heard yet. Americans are very aware of Jesus and Christianity. They will come to you when they want to have a conversation, but it is intrusive for someone to ask about religious beliefs. If they want you to know, they'll tell you. I am a Buddhist, and I know all about Jesus. I don't have anything against Christians, but I don't necessarily agree with them. When I am curious, I ask. I have Chirstian friends who have been very helpful in answering my questions without telling me I'm wrong for not already knowing. A person's path to spirituality is a very personal and sacred thing. Every person needs to find their path, and everyone does it differently. Finding your faith is like finding your soul mate. Would you really want someone intruding in that?

BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

Being Jewish, it is difficult to understand this concept of proseltizing. In fact, we are only about 13 million in number, worldwide. You would think that we would solicit converts into our faith. Yet the Torah, discourages the solicitation of converts, but welcomes those who come freely.

As I am older, I can understand this stance on religion. Frankly, I am somewhat taken aback when people I do not know come knocking at my door, asking me personal questions about my faith.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Polanco,

Exactly. However, I would argue we don't even need to spread it into other parts of the world any more. At this point, most (if not all) of the world has heard it by now. To browbeat humanity with the message of the Bible is to become obnoxious.

And even Jesus is quoted in the Bible saying "But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near." Luke 10:10

Most theologians agree that Jesus isn't being spiteful here. He's saying that the missionary has done his duty and it's time to leave the entire situation behind. But what Jesus doesn't say is to stick around and keep repeating yourself.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Barbara,

How do you handle the 'door knockers'?

I used to consider it an interesting exercise to argue their beliefs using their own scriptures against them, but I eventually realized that it could be seen as spiteful (not helpful) and I also have better things to do with my time.

Another friend used to walk to the front door with a BB gun and start raving about going hunting. I wouldn't really recommend that, either.

bananarama said...

I'm catholic. We don't really believe in going door to door or handing out tracts, either. But then, we truthfully don't believe much at all. I know our priests and the pope say that we stand for a lot, and have hundreds of years of traditions. But for the most part they just are telling us to be nice, and if we do something wrong, we have to go sit in a booth and tell a total stranger something that is really only between God and us.

Tabasamu said...

Tell your friend that he obviously doesn't understand how closely religion and color are linked. Hasn't he heard of:

Protestant Purple
Morman Maroon
Lutheran Lemon
Catholic Cardinal
Baptist Aqua
Buddhist Saffron
Presbyterian Pink
Hindu Henna
Watchtower Watermelon

Maybe she thought she was going to get Agnostic Anything! ;o)

saurkraut said...

TC / Tabasamu

*ROFL* He loves it.

Bananarama

There are some excellent books on your denomination's true history if you'd ever like me to recommend any. In my opinion the best books about any organizations are usually written by outsiders with no agendas but the truth.

As for the concept of 'confession', the majority of scholars agree that it was merely an excellent tool for the Catholic church to blackmail and manipulate it's parishioners with. In modern times, they don't really use it that way, but it's hard to explain or do away with centuries of tradition behind it - so they leave the confessional in place.

United We Lay said...

Saur,
I stopped telling the knockers I was Buddhist. I had several problems when I did that. In VA, after we told some Mormans who came to the door that we had found religion, just a different one, they ame to the door every night. We eventually had to call the police and claim harassment. We refuse to hide from people who come to our door, but now we just tell them that we're not interested. My husband sometimes quotes the Bible, tells them we know all about it, and to please, leave us alone.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Polanco,

Scary that they got even more persistant when you told them you had a faith. That's like a woman who pursues a married man!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Incidentally, every one. My comments to Bananarama about Catholicism were in no way a slam against it. I respect Catholics who truly follow their faith and believe wholeheartedly in it. I simply believe in the truth, and examining all faiths from all angles.

Underground Logician said...

I have a few thoughts if you folks don't mind.

1. Bananarama: I am a convert to the Catholic Faith for reasons that the Faith is RICH in doctrine and tradition going back to the apostles. Sadly, many Catholics, especially those from the cradle, do not know their faith. Prior to my conversion, I was a Protestant minister who totally misunderstood the Catholic faith. For reasons that I can only sparsely comment, priests and catechists give the bare minimum teaching of the faith, when in fact, there is so much of the faith to learn, it would take an entire lifetime. If you are interested, we could chat about it some more. Your call.

2. Saurkraut: Great site by the way!
You have touched on a topic that is a ROYAL pet-peeve of mine. Why is it that people cannot communicate naturally as among friends? Why do they have to get sneaky when talking about Christ?

I am a dialoger; I believe in respecting the rights of others, including their right to know the truth and my own rights to respect as well and their freedom to say no. I think when a person has a topic to talk about, be it the Packers, for us in Wisconsin, or religion, introduce the topic and see if the person wants to talk about it. That simple. No techniques, no formulas, no "surveys" with the last question being "If you were to die tonight and stand before Jesus, and he were ask you why he should let you into heaven, how would you respond?" AAAARRRRRRRGGGH!

I had a Christian brother do that to me even though he know I was probably a Christian though I didn't attend his Church. I could have given the right hand of fellowship right across the face!

When I am with people who I think don't have an active faith, I'll tell them straight "I like to talk about things that matter, one of them being is my faith in Christ. I also know this can be an intensely personal topic, so is this a topic you'd like to discuss?" Or in any form that asks permission of the other person if this is something they would like to speak about. Invariably, they will, although it is usually how their sick of Christians dumping their faith on them. I let them talk and let them cull from me the information THEY think is pertinent. It's friends talking among friends within a framework of respect. If they say NO, then it is NO!

Thanks for your time, everyone!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Underground,

Beautiful, and fairly said. Thank you so very much for your contributions to this blog. I look forward to more interraction with you!

Liquidplastic said...

The nerve of some people!