Defense Dept. say proselytism is banned but evangelism is ok (and no one’s getting court martialed) ow.ly/kERmC
— ReligionNewsService (@RNS) May 3, 2013
Many moons ago, before I came to write for GetReligion, I was a devoted GetReligion reader. And I remember reader Will Linden used to comment something along the lines of:
I share, you evangelize, they proselytize.
Such wisdom in that line. I thought of this when I saw the tweet above.
Let’s look at the definitions of both terms.
1. Convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another.
2. Advocate or promote (a belief or course of action): “Davis wanted to proselytize his ideas”.
proselyte – convert
1. to preach the gospel to.
2. to convert to Christianity.
homilize, preachify, proclaim, proselytize, sermonize
So you can do one and not the other. You can convert but you can’t convert? Sounds confusing. Precisely what do the regulations say?
The Religion News Service piece mentioned above attempts to tamp down some Christian concern that erupted this week. And tamping down is good, in one sense, since there was bad information out there that suggested a policy change by the military. (If you want to get up to speed, you can do no better than this piece from The Tennessean, which lays out the current environment very well.)
Back to the RNS piece. Basically the military already has a regulation against proselytism but some anti-religion activists who are used as consultants by the military have been pushing the military to change how they enforce those regulations against people who “share” their religion.
So while the headlines of “sharing Jesus will totally get you court-martialed” were inaccurate, I’m not entirely sure that headlines definitively stating you won’t get court-martialed for sharing Jesus are on much stronger ground. At least from what I’m reading in the news stories.