A non-Christian on proselytization

As Easter approaches, Christians are making moves to proselytize

Perhaps the most powerful symbol in Christianity.

Growing up just outside of Chicago with two former-Christian and current atheist parents, it was far more common for me to encounter religious skepticism than devotion.

The greatest adjustment upon moving to North Dakota has been the exposure to Christianity. Most of my friends and classmates were raised Christian, predominantly Catholic, and with Easter fast approaching, I have seen individuals gearing up to proselytize.

For those who aren’t aware of proselytization, it is an attempt to try to convert someone from one religious opinion to another. As someone who happily identifies as an agnostic, this concept terrified me.

Certain on-campus groups were preparing to go to the dining centers to discuss religion with students, and I found myself feeling uncomfortable with the idea of someone entering a place of comfort and normality on campus with religion. However, several conversations with students and some research has changed my perspective.

See, my opinion on religion in this country has always been one of tolerance: “Believe in whatever religion you want, but don’t force others to believe the same way.” Yet, the Christian practice of proselytization, a practice outlined in the Bible (Matthew 28:18-20), goes directly against the concept of tolerance. Jesus expected his followers to go and, “Make disciples of all nations.”

It has become impossible for me to reconcile my firm beliefs in the importance of religious freedom with this idea that Christians should not go and perform an act they deem a command from Jesus, even if they do so in the NDSU dining centers. While this idea of conversion can come off as condescending and close-minded, I have to respect the fact that individuals who practice proselytization are essentially trying to protect me.

If I too were a Christian, and I believed my non-Christian friends and family were doomed, it would be inconsiderate of me to not at least try to convert them. Not allowing Christians the opportunity to proselytize is as much an infringement on their religious freedoms as is forcing an individual into a religion they do not wish to be a part of. Therefore, individuals who spout religious tolerance but do not allow Christians to proselytize are hypocritical. I say this after years of sharing similar beliefs.

However, some boundaries need to be established. There is a very big difference between approaching someone to talk about religion and standing outside Planned Parenthood screaming at women as they go to get cancer screenings.

Christians today are stereotyped as being incapable of allowing individuals with alternative viewpoints to live peacefully, and I am not convinced this is the case.

There are stories on the news of Christians being intolerant and forceful toward those with different lifestyles. It is easy for people, and has always been easy for me, to lump all Christians into a mass of ignorant individuals. However, most people who attempt to discuss Christianity with non-Christians do so from a place of concern.

To those individuals, like myself, who find the idea of being approached about religion extremely daunting, just remember it is a mandate of their religion meant to be helpful to you. Treat Christians with the same respect you would want them to show to individuals of differing faiths.

To those individuals attempting to proselytize, remember that a lot of people are uninterested and unwilling to convert, and that has to be OK too.

The beauty in this country comes from the ability of the people to deem what is acceptable. Modern Americans encourage religious tolerance, and that must be practiced by individuals of every spiritual learning. Forcing our opinions on others cannot be allowed, and that goes for Christians and people of every other faith.

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