What Non-Christians Want Christians to Know

What Non-Christians Want Christians to Know June 10, 2015


In researching for my book I’m OK – You’re Not: The Message We’re Sending Nonbelievers and Why We Should Stop (here) I posted a notice on Craigslist sites all over the country asking non-Christians to send me any short, personal statements they would like Christians to read.

“Specifically,” I wrote, “I’d like to hear how you feel about being on the receiving end of the efforts of Christian evangelicals to convert you. I want to be very clear that this is not a Christian-bashing book; it’s coming from a place that only means well for everyone. Thanks.”

Below are some of the over 300 emails that I received by the end of the day.

“The main thing that baffles and angers me about Christians is how they can understand so little about human nature that when, in their fervor to convert another person, they tell that person (as they inevitably do, in one way or another), ‘You’re bad, and wrong, and evil,’ they actually expect that person to agree with them. It pretty much guarantees that virtually the only people Christians can ever realistically hope to convert are those with tragically low self-esteem.”– E.S., Denver

“I feel that Christians have got it all wrong; it seems to me that they’ve created the very thing Jesus was against: Separatism.”– T. O., Denver

“I am often distressed at the way some Christians take as a given that Christians and Christianity define goodness. Many of we non-Christians make a practice of doing good; we, too, have a well-developed ethical system, and are devoted to making the world a better place. Christians hardly have a monopoly on what’s right, or good, or just.”– C.R., Seattle

“Christians seem to have lost their focus on Jesus’ core message: ‘Love the Lord your god with all your heart and with all your soul, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”– R.M., Tacoma

“I have no problem whatsoever with God or Jesus – only Christians. It’s been my experience that most Christians are belligerent, disdainful and pushy.” — D.B., Atlanta

“Whenever I’m approached by an evangelist – by a Christian missionary – I know I’m up against someone so obsessed and narrowly focused that it will do me absolutely no good to try and explain or share my own value system. I never want to be rude to them, of course, but never have any idea how to respond to their attempts to convert me; in short order, I inevitably find myself simply feeling embarrassed–first for them, and then for us both. I’m always grateful when such encounters conclude.”– K.C., Fresno

“I don’t know whether or not most of the Christians I come across think they’re acting and being like Jesus was – but if they do, they need to go back to their Bibles, and take a closer look at Jesus.” — L.B., Phoenix

“I grew up Jewish in a Southern Baptist town, where I was constantly being told that I killed Christ, ate Christian babies, and was going to hell. So I learned early that many Christians have – or sure seem to have – no love in their hearts at all. It also seems so odd to me that Christians think that if I don’t accept their message my ears and heart are closed, because it seems to me like they have excessively closed ears and hearts to anyone else’s spiritual message and experience. They seem to have no sense of the many ways in which God reaches out to everyone. As far as I’ve ever known, Christians are narrow in their sense of God, fairly fascistic in their thinking, and extremely egotistical in thinking God only approves of them.”– B.P., Houston

“I wish Christians would resist their aggressive impulses to morph others into Christians. Didn’t Jesus preach that we should all love one another?”– M.G., Shoreline, WA

“I’m frequently approached by Christians of many denominations who ask whether I’ve accepted Christ as my savior. When I have the patience, I politely tell them that I’m Jewish. This only makes them more aggressive; they then treat me like some poor lost waif in need of their particular brand of salvation. They almost act like salespeople working on commission: If they can save my soul, then they’re one rung closer to heaven. It’s demeaning. I always remain polite, but encounters like these only show disrespect and sometimes outright intolerance for my beliefs and my culture. In Judaism, we do not seek to convert people. That is because we accept that there are many paths to God, and believe that no one religion can lay sole claim to the truth or to God’s favor. Each person is free to find his or her own way. To Christians I would say: Practice your religion as you wish. There is no need to try and influence others. If your religion is a true one, people will come to it on their own.”– M.S., Honolulu

“When did it become that being a Christian meant being an intolerant, hateful bigot? I grew up learning the positive message of Christ: Do well and treat others with respect, and your reward will be in heaven. Somehow, for a seemingly large group of Christians, that notion has gone lost: It has turned into the thunders and lights of the wrath of God, and into condemning everyone who disagrees with them to burning in the flames of hell. Somehow, present-day Christians forgot about turning the other cheek, abandoned the notion of treating others like they would like to be treated themselves; they’ve become bent on preaching, judging, and selfishly attempting to save the souls of others by condemning them. What happen to love? To tolerance? To respect?” — S.P., Nashville

“There are about a million things I’d like to say to Christians, but here’s the first few that come to mind: Please respect my right to be the person I’ve chosen to become. Worship, pray and praise your God all you want–but please leave me, and my laws, and my city, and my school alone. Stop trying to make me, or my children, worship your god. Why do we all have to be Christians? Respect my beliefs; I guarantee they’re every bit as strong as yours. Mostly, please respect my free will. Let me choose if I want to marry someone of my own sex. Let me choose if I want to have an abortion or not. Let me choose to go to hell if that’s where you believe I’m going. I can honestly say that I’d rather go to hell than live the hypocritical life I see so many Christians living.”– D.B., Seattle

“I had a friend who was, as they say, reborn. During my breaks from college she invited me to her church, and I did go a couple of times. In a matter of a month, at least ten people at her church told me that I was going to hell. The ironic thing is that I do believe in God; I’ve just never found a church where I felt at ease. However, in their eyes, I was nothing but a sinner who needed to be saved. I stopped going to that church (which in the past four years has grown from a small to a mega-church), but in time, through my friend, have seen some of these people again. None of them ever fails to treat me exactly as they did four years ago. All I can say is this: Constantly telling someone they’re going to hell is not a good way to convert them.”– A.S., Chicago

“I am a former ‘born again’ Christian. It’s been my personal experience that Christians treat the poor poorly–much like the Pharisees did in the parable of the old woman with the two coins. I found the church to be political to a fault, and its individual members all too happy to judge and look down on others. As a Christian, my own fervor to witness was beyond healthy. My friends would come to me to vent and express emotions, and all I would do is preach to them. I was of no real comfort to them. I never tried to see anything from their perspective.”– J.S.W, Philadelphia

“Once Christians know I’m gay, the conversion talk usually stops. Instead, I become this sympathetic character who apparently isn’t worthy of the gift of Christ. From my childhood in a Baptist church, I recall the ‘loathe the sin, love the sinner’ talk, but as an adult I can’t say I’ve often found Christians practicing that attitude. Deep down, I’m always relieved to avoid disturbing “conversion” conversations with Christians; discussing one’s most intimate thoughts and personal beliefs isn’t something I enjoy doing with random strangers. But at the same time, I feel as though Christians make a value judgment about my soul on the spot, simply because I am gay. I don’t pretend to know the worth of a soul, nor the coming gifts to those who convert the masses, but I would guess converting the sinful homosexuals would merit a few brownie points. But I get the feeling that most Christians don’t think we’re worth the hassle.”– R.M., Houston

“Religion always seemed too personal for me to take advice about it from people I don’t know.”– D.P., Denver

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  • Andy Vloedman

    I guess the response is going to depend on the experience of “being evangelized” . In sharing my faith, which I consider evangelizing, I have tried to be guided by the passage in 1 Peter. “Always be prepared to to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do so with gentleness and respect…” As I’ve grown older more folks have asked me a variation of that question. Some were more interested than others in my response. None that I recall had a response like those above.

  • RonnyTX

    Good post John. And just want to cover this one part,for now.

    Specifically,” I wrote, “I’d like to hear how you feel about being on the receiving end of the efforts of Christian evangelicals to convert you.”
    Below is a sample of the over 300 emails I received in response.

    The nub of the matter to me,is that Christian evangelical types have been wrongly taught that they can convert anyone. They can’t. For it is only God,who can and does cause a person,to be born of God. And that God will do for all of us,at the time of God’s choosing. 🙂

  • Guy Norred

    I look forward to this.

    Anyway, I don’t think the answer to the question should, or even can, be “no”. That said, I don’t see sharing the faith as anything more than, well just being a Christian. We set our lamp on the lamp stand so that the light itself can do its work.

  • The key phrase there being when asked

  • Jan S Yoder

    So if I tell them I’m a hell-loving, gay, Christian-baby eatin’ polygamist, will they leave me alone? I grew up in a Mennonite community, and found the message of love for one another quite wonderful, and the message of being a sinner, not worthy, broken, etc, (still being spoken from the pulpit 2 years ago) to be so far from where I am and where I understand those around me to be that I went away from that faith, finding the message and people of Unity far closer to one espousing what I see as the underlying message of Christ. Even there I found politics, separation, alienation, and all things less than Christ-like (including within myself I might add). The missional aspect of Christianity, to my mind, has had some of the most disastrous effects on the people of this planet.

    Thank you John Shore for bringing this work forward – I for one appreciate it.

    (I’m not a hell-loving, gay, Christian-baby eatin’ polygamist, BTW. I’m actually on a spiritual path, hetero, perhaps poly-amourous, and try my best to bring out the best in myself and all those I meet. This does not include conversion, though I have been known to be fairly preachy about what I believe, many times, perhaps inadvertently, emulating the very sort of behavior I profess to abhor, that of trying to convince others of the rightness of my beliefs. Sigh. Still a work in progress…)

  • Nancy Crocker

    They aren’t trying to be lights. If they were being Christian lights then their quietly shining examples of their inner peace and joy might actually inspire some people to take them and their religion seriously.
    Instead, and despite what the Bible says about loudly praying in public, they are being loudspeakers. It’s no surprise that people cover their ears and turn away.

  • DM

    Or maybe it was because he shared in kindness and without any intent to ‘convert’ … that was my experience after 30+ years of running from the family who tried to convert me back to faith … It was the person who loved me anyway I was and walked along side that showed me a different path. 🙂

  • Andy

    Still a work in progress…

    I see no problem with that. It’s my opinion that we should always think of ourselves as a work in progress — if we aren’t looking for ways to improve, to adapt, to persevere, we’re basically regressing.

  • Jeff Preuss

    I am constantly amazed when I see my fellow Christians treat non-Christians in a combative manner, as if those who don’t convert are immediately belligerent. “So you REJECT Christ’s sacrifice for you??!?” “You DENY the gifts of your Creator?!??!”

    It’s not to say I’ve never encountered, say, an argumentative atheist, but seeing Christians openly angrily scoff at nonbelievers for…well, for not believing, it just makes me shake my head. They seem to believe that, as soon as someone reads the Bible, then WHAMMO! they’re bound to be swayed to believe. “How can you REJECT the TRUTH of the SCRIPTURES?!?!”

    Maybe it’s the someone maniacal “winning” souls mentality that contributes to this. That was everpresent in the Southern Baptist Church, last time I belonged to it. Has it changed in the ensuing 20 years?

  • Sheila Warner

    I grew up in a fundamentalist church. Hell and damnation dominated the preaching. Our pastor used to chide us this way: if you see a house on fire, you’d run to that house and start knocking on the door to get the people inside to come out to safety. When we know that hell is licking its flames at the souls of non-believers, why aren’t we doing everything we can to rescue them from hell? This mindset might explain the aggressive “witnessing” that happens to poor unsuspecting people. I have left organized religion altogether, because I don’t know of any church that doesn’t preach the “us” vs “them” theology.

  • Sheila Warner


  • Jackie Heaton

    Evangelizing in the workplace is never appropriate. You were hired to do your job, not spread the word. If by some miracle somebody IS interested go out to lunch or something Do on your own time and your own dime. Consider me a thoroughly exasperated former Methodist, barely hanging on as a Quaker.

  • Holly Baer

    I wish I had seen where you asked people for their perspectives on Craigslist. I recently wrote about my own frustration on my personal blog: http://hollybaer.com/2015/06/08/please-stop-trying-to-explain-why-people-leave-the-church/

  • lrfcowper

    Aha! You didn’t deny the baby-eating! We’ve caught you out! 😉

    I think if something is working for someone and making them happy, they’re always going to be a bit evangelistic about it, whether it’s religion or quitting smoking or a diet that’s working for them or their newest video game. And, yeah, it can be annoying, but passionate, happy people are gonna share. It’s just human nature.

    That’s a bit different than pinning down the poor mailroom kid you’ve never shared more than a dozen words with and witnessing to him because Great Commission!

    If something has positively affected your life and made you a kinder, more thoughtful, more generous, more forgiving person, people will notice. And they’ll ask.

  • Bill

    I had a gay friend (best friend in high school, but now passed on) who said to me “can someone be a Christian and still love?”. He had such negative experiences with Christians it was just a comment he made – not out of anger or hate – more like an observation. I had recently converted to Christianity and was stunned because what I was learning was “God is love” and Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself” are the two greatest commandments. There really does seem to be a dichotomy (if that;s the right word) between what Christianity is as a follower of Jesus – and what organized religion is. I don’t think organized Christianity is alone in this regard, but it’s more personal here in the USA, since it’s the dominant religion that people identify with – at least according to the polls..

    As the Twila Paris song says: “How did we ever wander so far and where do we go from here…?

  • BarbaraR

    I have worked alongside people who felt the need to share their faith at work. It got very, very tiresome very, very fast. The people they were evangelizing to always put on their frozen smile and were polite to their faces, then got the hell away from them as fast as possible. And if my doctor ever starts sharing his faith with me, much as I love him, I will find another doctor.

  • Guy Norred

    I am starting to wonder if they wonder why that WHAMMO doesn’t happen.

  • BarbaraR

    There’s a contingency plan for that. “The seed was planted.” Or, “Satan has him/her in his grasp.”

    Back when I was young and not too bright, I belonged to a conservative church that encouraged evangelizing. I remember one person saying that the Rapture would take place when every person who was meant to be saved actually was saved, so they were trying to hurry up the conversions as fast as possible.

  • Jan S Yoder

    Thanks for your response, Irfcowper! I especially like the maxim “,,,people will notice. And they’ll ask.” That alone is the extent, IMHO, that “witnessing” works for me. Witness by your actions, not your words.

  • Jan S Yoder

    Thanks Andy.

  • Liora51

    Last night I answered my door to find 3 elderly men who claimed to be reborn and wanted to share Jesus with me. I told them, politely the first time, that I didn’t care what they had to say and started to close the door. Finally the lead proselytizer asked my first name so he could pray for me. I declined the offer.

  • Barb

    Forgive me for gushing, but this is exactly why I love you, John. Love, love, love. I don’t always agree with you 100% but it’s edging up toward 99%. 🙂 Bless you for taking this on, and good luck. I’ve actually met the guy, and he’s got a good heart, but I left his way of thinking behind so long ago that I can no longer even remember how it felt. For me the “good news” (which I think is the meaning of the word “gospel”) has been getting away from the Evangelicalism of my youth, far far away.

  • RonnyTX

    Bill,the wandering away began around 2,000 years ago. It began with people in the various local churches and was when they started believing and following this or that preacher and that in the place of simply believing and following God/Jesus Christ. It’s been like that ever since,with the end result that I’ve read we now have 40,000 some odd denominations. And I’ve had experience with the above. Being in a denominational church that I was taught to believe,was the one and only true church. Us and those just like us,in belief and teaching. And of course,I once believed that,since I was brought up in such,from infancy. But over time,God brought me out of such and taught me better and for that,I am so grateful! 🙂

    Wish I’d known your friend and had got to talk to him before he passed on. For yes,I would of told him,there are Christians who do love. And the best part Bill,is that you will get to see your friend,in the next life. Well,we’ll all get to see each other,get to know each other and have all of eternity to do that. For God/Jesus Christ will see to that and bring such to pass and that for all of us! 🙂

  • I can only speak for myself, of course. But IMveryHO, it would be wrong of you, really, when you think about it, not to gush. But that could just be me.

  • Your feedback is skewed by your audience. If Al Mohler asked the same thing of his readers, he’d get 300 emails about how grateful they are about the person who evangelized to them, and how wonderful the person is.

    Evangelizing is like any other sales pitch (for lack of a better term); most people won’t buy the product, the salespeople can often be rude or obnoxious, but the people who buy it love the product are glad the person sold it to them. That success keeps the salesperson going to the next door.

  • You didn’t read the post. I didn’t ask my audience. I asked random, absolute strangers, via Craigslist, from all over the country. (And what I didn’t share in the post is that I included in that ask this: “I want to be very clear that this is not a Christian-bashing book; it’s coming from a place that only means well for everyone.”)

  • Your article states that you asked for nonchristian responses, so yes, your results were skewed. Craigslist is also tailored for urban customers , where unrequested social interaction is frowned upon moreso than in rural communities.

  • RosePhoenix

    I was reading my Bible and I came across a verse saying that people weren’t believing because “Satan has blinded them to the truth.” I immediately put it down…

  • Ellen H.

    I’m a life-long Episcopalian and have been approached by other Christians wanting to “convert” me. When I say thanks, I’m an Episcopalian, I get told I’m wrong, going to hell, am stupid, and several other really lovely things. This hasn’t happened just once. In my thoughts if you have to put other people or their beliefs down just to espouse your own, then there is a major problem. By the way I live in a rural community and have friends who have had similar experiences. If I wasn’t already a Christian, I would be totally turned off by those people.

  • Ellen H.

    I always enjoy what you write. I have had people come up to me, attempting to convert me. When I inform them that I’m an Episcopalian, I have been told I’m going to Hell, I go to the wrong church, f**-lover, and several other lovely things. If I wasn’t already a Christian, these people would make me not ever want to be one. I was always taught to treat people as I want to be treated, to help the less fortunate, and that I shouldn’t belittle a person or that person’s beliefs. I am always puzzled by the Christians that seem to enjoy being mean.

  • I understand where you’re coming from, and I’m not disputing that any of the unfortunate experiences you’ve had happen often. I’m just saying that an ex-Episcolapian who did convert would view the same experience very differently.

    Or to put it another way, you could compile a list of experiences from people who’ve never bought anything from a telemarketer and come to the conclusion that telemarketers should just stop calling people. But telemarketing works. A small but significant percentage of people do listen to the sales pitch and donate or buy whatever the telemarketers is selling. Evangelism might have a very low success rate, but when aggressive churches find their pews filled with brand new converts, they keep at it, and they tell other churches how they’ve succeeded, and those churches try the same sales pitch.

  • Jeff Preuss

    Just about an hour ago, I was told I will burn because I rejected Christ. How did I reject Christ? I’m gay. AIN’T IT FUN?

  • Ellen H.

    But wouldn’t be better if they just let people see what they had without being aggressive and perhaps attract more people? My church has gotten some new members because we have a free breakfast once a week. People came in and liked what they saw with absolutely no preaching of any kind. I work with a woman who teaches science but is a young earth creationist. If anyone just says well, I accept the theory of evolution, she just won’t let it go. I finally ended up telling her she was free to think whatever she wanted and that she needed to afford me the same respect. She said she couldn’t because I was wrong. Sadly, she is shunned by most of the faculty who for the most part are all Christians simply because she won’t stop going on and on about it.

  • Ellen H.

    I don’t understand why you’re replying to me. I did write what people have called me, but I really don’t care if someone is straight, gay, trans, bi, or whatever. I really don’t like the people that have problems with someone’s sexuality since it’s just a small part of who a person is.

  • Jeff Preuss

    I was responding to you, because I am also a Christian who has been told similar things to you, simply for being gay. It seems some who want to evangelize are so intent on fitting everyone else into their specific box.

    Sorry to confuse the conversation! 🙂

  • People tend to use the tactic that converted them. Churches that use the soft sell yield higher success rates but take longer to see results, and the new people are less likely to “stick” than those won over by a hard sell.

    And for what it’s worth, most Christians (even at the hardcore fundy churches known for the aggressive approach) don’t evangelize at all, and they don’t like the hard sell approach.

  • Ellen H.

    No, problem. 🙂

  • theprinterlady

    When I was a Christian (I no longer am), I tried to stick to the “When you are ASKED, give the reason for your hope” … I’m sure I didn’t do that perfectly, but I tried.

  • “Stop”?

  • Lark62

    I object to being treated as a mark. I’m not anyone’s project or responsibility. Compare it to trying to convince everyone you meet that what they need most is a gas grill. I know gas grills exist. If I wanted one, I’d get one. If I want one like yours I’ll ask you about it. Until then, I am quite capable of making my gas grill decision without any help from anyone else.

  • Lark62

    Do you see the problem with what you wrote – you are so certain that you have no room to respect anyone else.

    “And the best part Bill,is that you will get to see your friend,in the next life. ”

    Seriously? You _believe_ that we will see each other in the next life, but you have no evidence. Most of your fellow christians believe you will see other people get tortured.

    Me, I have concluded that based on a total lack of evidence there is no heaven or afterlife of any sort. This is it. Any good I want to do I have to do now.

    Yet you make this statement as unquestioned truth.

  • Lark62

    I have a guess about the urgency. Christians have great faith, but there really isn’t any evidence. If they can make someone else believe, then that bolsters their faith. Strength in numbers. See someone else believes it too. Ugh.

    It’s like making a major purchase. You think you picked the right brand and right model. But if someone else chooses the same item, it reinforces your decision.

  • Lookingup73

    I always was raised that you spread Christianity through your actions. Of course, that was more a Catholic teaching. Show me your Christian, don’t tell me. I love when people speak about their faith (of course, we know it is only Christians who push it at work). Gives me an opportunity to poke all sorts of holes in everything they believe. They usually fall back on “it is faith” in response to every rational question that challenges them. They soon realize to avoid me for conversations about it. I have gotten 2 folks to change their views on gay marriage and 1 person to leave their Church.

  • Lookingup73

    the most insulting thing people often say is “i’ll pray for you”. It is derogatory in every context.

  • I’ve been involved in Christianity all my life. What John is saying is spot on. I’ve had people stand in my office (I share it with two others) and say things, using common christian lingo, I find offensive and just plain old wrong. If I were to say what I really feel, things would go horribly south very quickly. I do what I can to extract myself, as soon as possible. I’ve had people tell me, that just because I don’t believe as they do, that I’m apostate, cursed and going to hell, by other Christians!

    In a way your analogy is apt, because to many Christians, conversions is a numbers game. They will throw out as many tracts, proseltyzing attempts, facebook memes, etc. as they can in hopes that one of them sticks. It’s lazy, rude and ineffective. Not once is the person/s they are seeking to convert ever really considered at any real value. Not once is the target looked at as already acceptable as far as God is concerned, just fine the way they are, not in need of your intervention, perfectly at peace with their faith beliefs. Instead the goal is…in all honesty is, bragging rights, the right to claim that you got so and so to recite the sinner’s prayer and start attending your church.

    Craigslist is not frowned upon in rural communities. Its a pretty widespread platform used by all walks of life to connect with others for a fairly widespread variety of reasons.

  • Telemarketing/evangelism has a terribly low success rate. To get a 1000 no’s for a short term yes…and when it comes to evangelism, much of it doesn’t stick anyway, just to fill a pew and claim a success rate is, again, not considering the target at all. The throw the gospel at the “unsaved” to see if it sticks approach is a terrible means, and why so many reject it outright.

  • There are also Agnostics, Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Wiccans, etc who do love, and do so beautifully. Christianity hardly has cornered the market on the concept.
    As for the afterlife scenario you suggest. Not everyone agrees with that set-up. Its not even universal amongst Christians. It is an idea that brings comfort to many, we cannot deny that, but for others, it has little relevence or meaning, their having set upon something completely difference.

  • Guy Norred

    But your life is incomplete if you don’t have this gas grill. 😉

  • VorJack

    I once spent a painful fifteen minutes listening to a conservative evangelical try to witness to a philosophically minded Buddhist. It didn’t go well. How do you soul-win a person who feels that the soul is an illusion?

    I sometimes find that people coming from the evangelical sub-culture are just not equipped to deal with people who do not share certain core beliefs. Faced with someone who rejects a couple of key parts of the Romans Road, they can do nothing but get very frustrated.

    Maybe that’s what is behind the neo-orthodox doctrine that all people have an internal witness of the truth of Jesus Christ. It’s more comforting to believe that some people are perverse and don’t listen than to believe that certain bedrock beliefs are not universally shared.

  • Fred the Barbarian

    Interesting concept. In this case, I bought the product, found out it was bullshit, and now need never waste a Sunday morning again.

  • I’m definitely more the sort of Christian who believes in witness by example. If the concept comes up, I don’t mind discussing my faith but I don’t try to work it into the conversation with an unreceptive audience.

    I also believe that the best reason to do the right thing is because it Is the right thing. The things the Bible says about how to treat people don’t come with escape clauses so I treat non-Christians the same as I treat Christians. How being mean-spirited and judgmental is supposed to help anything I have no idea but I don’t pretend to be an ally of Christian who act that way.

  • Jonathan Bernier

    I was recently “evangelized” by a couple of young Muslim students. They took a completely different tact to it then I find with most Christians. They came over to us and very politely asked if we had a few minutes to talk about Islam. It was made very obvious that if we had said “No, sorry,” they would have shook our hands and politely bade us farewell. It was the politeness that really differed from my experiences with Christian evangelists, who are typically in your face and won’t take “Not interested” for an answer. There was a genuine respect from these young men, and I did not for a moment think that they felt that they had it all figured out and that we were clueless and damned.

  • Frank Young

    One afternoon as I was outside with our daughter
    a local minister stopped by and asked me if I was saved. Since this was language that I did not use, I
    asked him what he meant by being saved.
    He replied that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior and thus he was
    assured of eternal life. I asked him how
    his behavior had changed as a result of his conversion. He replied that he did not drink, did no
    smoke, did not fornicate, and preached the Gospel. Now since I also did not drink, smoke or
    fornicate I felt that there might be some degree of understanding between
    us. So I asked him what other things the
    members of his church did as a result of being saved. I even suggested some possibilities – working
    to make the community a better place, working to eliminate injustice and discrimination,
    helping to make the schools better, helping the poor and the mentally disturbed
    deal with their problems, etc. His
    answer surprised me – he said that all of these matters were in God’s
    hands. In a rather crude attempt to trap
    him I asked about his attitude regarding war.
    I assumed that since he felt that preaching the Gospel to people was so
    important (after all, accepting it would guarantee eternal life!) he would
    object to participating in the killing of someone who might not yet be saved. But he replied that when the government
    called you to defend your family against an aggressor you had to do what was
    required. I could not resist pointing
    out that he was maintaining that all of the activities of making our community
    better were matters for God to handle without our help but it seemed that God
    needed help when killing was required.
    We parted – each somewhat amazed at the other.

  • Arbustin

    You _won’t_ burn if you don’t buy my gas grill.

  • Snooterpoot

    Preach the Gospel. If necessary use words.

  • Snooterpoot

    No, unforunately, it hasn’t. A Southern Baptist preacher gave an altar call at my aunt’s funeral! I found it both inappropriate and disgusting.

  • Snooterpoot

    I don’t understand why people need a rapture, or a hell, either. Isn’t loving god enough?

  • Snooterpoot

    I’ve found that Episcopal parishes eschew the us v. them theology. Not all of them do, of course, but I think most of them have left the fold of the Episcopal Church in the US and have affiliated with a hate filled version of the church with a Bishop who agrees with their bigotry. It’s really sad.

  • lymis

    I’ve never seen anything wrong at all with living your life in such a way that others ask, “What is it that you have that I don’t seem to, and how can I get it?”

    It’s incredibly rare for most of the people who are actively trying to evangelize the uninterested to come across as even being happy, much less having the Secret to Happiness.

  • lymis

    True, but human action can certainly put roadblocks in between God and other people by making even the concept of religion abhorrent to them.

  • Shiphrah99

    My doctor told me that my profound post-partum depression was because I didn’t have Jesus in my life. That I had an emergency C-section without anesthesia, a baby in NICU for a month, and no emotional support had nothing to do with it. Riiiiiight.

  • lymis

    I’d add that the louder you proclaim your own truth and condemn those who disagree, the safer you are from any perspective that might raise questions in your own mind.

    i can never help but feel that the people who evangelize the most strenuously are trying to convince themselves more than they are trying to convince me.

  • lymis

    I’m always struck by the twin facts that the majority of the people I’ve run across doing this take for granted that I have never read the Bible, when for the most part, I know it better than they seem to, and that they seem utterly flummoxed when I go “off script” and actually take what the Bible says seriously, even if I don’t always agree with it or with their interpretation of it.

    Even back when I identified as Christian, it never seemed to occur to them that I’d even given a moment’s thought to the central moral issues of my own life.

  • BarbaraR

    Oh, I saw that once too! I was appalled.

  • Snooterpoot

    I was in a comment thread on another blog with a back-and-forth with a Christian evangelical extremist. I finally got weary of being told I am doomed to eternal torment by her/his angry, malicious god and I told her/him (this particular commenter has been hanging around condemning people who believe differently under several different names after s/he gets banned) I was done, and, not to pray for me because I didn’t want any part of her/his merciless sadistic god.

    The response was, “too late. I already did!” It’s like the last round of whatever weapon they are using and they must fire it. It’s their way of asserting, once again, their superiority over people. It’s also bait when you’ve said you’re done with their nonsense. I don’t take it.

  • Snooterpoot

    A former Episcopalian would not have to convert since s/he is already a Christian. I think that sentence exposes your reason for commenting on this blog. You’re one of the people to whom John’s blog is addressed.

  • Linnea912

    Yikes, that’s so unprofessional, I don’t know where to start. I hope you’ve found another doctor.

  • Shiphrah99

    That was 32 years ago and we survived. Fortunately, the neonatologist insisted that we use a pediatrician rather than a family practitioner, and the pediatrician I chose semi-randomly turned out to be amazingly supportive. When I blubbered out my troubles to him, he dropped everything, got on the phone, and created a support system on the spot.

  • Linnea912

    I’d guess also that the whole “Rapture” thing has something to do with it. A lot of conservative evangelicals have fallen for this particular bit of pseudotheology, and so it makes them think they have to “win souls for Christ” NOW! Then you have those who engage in the whole “Jesus will return on such-and-such-date!” parlor game (and take themselves waaay too seriously) and it kind of starts to make sense.

  • Guy Norred

    This affects so much. Yes, have to save as many as possible as quickly as possible, but then it goes on to take away any interest temporal welfare–current or future. We don’t really have to improve things now because no one’s current needs matter compared to how they spend eternity, and we don’t have to worry about how the world is in the future because Jesus is going to come back and fix it all. It turns itself into a license to not care.

  • My reason for posting here is stated in my first post: the data John is accumulating is limited in scope and will therefore lead to false conclusions. I can’t think of an analogy better than telemarketers.

    The point is not that Episcopalians “have” to convert, it’s that some “do” convert, and those that do view the experience of being evangelized to differently. You can reverse the roles, too: people who leave evangelical churches for Episcopal churches due to peer pressure from their Episcopal friends are thankful that their friends convinced them. Those that don’t leave their evangelical church will be irritated that their Episcopal friends keep nagging them to jump ship.

  • Snooterpoot

    You can reverse the roles, too: people who leave evangelical churches for Episcopal churches due to peer pressure from their Episcopal friends are thankful that their friends convinced them.

    That statement is offensive. People switch from one Christian denomination (not convert) for any number of reasons. I have yet to meet any Episcopalian who moved to that denomination because of peer pressure.

    You are one arrogant son of a gun.

  • It happened to me. I didn’t stick with it because the church was a bit too cold, but for years my friends kept nagging me to give up on my evangelical church and join their church. I found out they don’t actually attend services, even though they’re members.

  • Barbara

    Good point. Sadly, as a non-believer who was raised in the Christian faith, I find I can understand the Christian’s point of view while the Christian cannot even begin to fathom mine.

  • There’s something very fundamentally wrong with Jesus Christ being viewed as nothing more than a grandiose toaster– some kind of commercial product to which salespeople must peddle to as many people as possible, reason or logic be damned.

  • >’if we aren’t looking for ways to improve, to adapt, to persevere, we’re basically regressing.’

    Not to make this overly political, but this– in a nutshell– is the core flaw that eats away and eliminates from the inside any extremist form of government (whether right-wing extremist, left-wing extremist, nutty Islamist, etc).

    Pure dogmatism isn’t just anti-reason; it’s anti-human.

  • Snooterpoot

    So, it happened to you. You are one person out of billions on this planet. You are one anecdotal incident. That’s lazy and immature thinking on your part, Christian.

  • If prayer did anything, nobody would ever have to tell anybody it was being done. The results would be abundantly clear without announcements. I don’t think Christians really think this stuff through very well.

  • Shiphrah99

    Au contraire! Craigslist is *very* popular here in very rural Maine!

  • MO

    I have two solidly atheist friends who routinely respond to my clothing, toiletry, food drive requests with huge bags of new goods. They have said to me, “We think what you believe is crazy, but we love what you do.”

    I am fine with that.

  • It’s a huge site, so of course it will have rural customers. But the demographics of Craiglist users is overwhelmingly young, white, upper-middle class, and urban.

  • Virginia Galloway

    I am a choir-singing, church-attending Christian with a couple of degrees in theology, and it’s probably very wrong of me to look at [no doubt well-meaning] evangelical types with a glint in my eye as I prepare to do battle with them because, from their perspective, I’m not the “right kind” of Christian. In that I do not endorse the selective enforcement of Levitical laws and believe that Jesus actually meant it when he said “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35), perhaps I’m not the “right kind” of Christian in their eyes, but I have a hunch that Jesus is okay with my particular practice.

  • maryinbama

    Do they give refunds?

  • Fred the Barbarian

    I would very much like to have the first 30 years of my life back.

  • KareninCA714

    I used to work with a doctor who tried to share his faith all the time. As the manager it was up to me to have numerous talks with him about why it was unprofessional and wrong. It didn’t stop him. And he felt he had to share with every patient also. It was exhausting dealing with him.

  • Linnea912

    “It turns itself into a license to not care.”

    This. Bingo. The “Rapture” BS has some extremely nasty implications for our world: in the area of environmental issues, for example, and also the Israel-Palestine mess.

  • reconstructorofworlds

    THE worst “mission trip” I went on in my life was to New York City in 2002. Not only did we just hand out tracts in the subway, they were the most offensive 9-11 reactionary crap ever. With pictures of the burning buildings and everything.

    I got to know a lot of good friends on that trip, so it wasn’t a total waste personally. But it was one of the early signs I was never going to fit in with the fundamentalist campus group. The church I grew up in (which has it’s own issues, but so does everyone) got mission trips much more right, at least to me. Fixing houses, feeding people, and giving kids fun things to do for a day is much more useful. Eating lunch with an old black homeless man at a soup kitchen in Nashville who just wanted to feel human for an hour was a far better conversation than “hey, do you know Jesus? Here, have a crappy piece of paper to litter the subway with.”

    (I am so glad that soup kitchen required its volunteers to eat with the people they served. It was terrifying…and eye opening. All the people I talked to were really nice.)

  • Jeff Reiman

    Of course, asking those who rejected the Gospel for their opinion about the experience will usually bring a negative response. I was evangelized by Christians and became a believer. Why did you limit your questions only to non-Christians? As I talk with unbelievers on the streets, I often ask how often they have been witnessed to by Christians. Very rarely. Maybe the reason more people aren’t being reached through Christians witnessing is because Christians aren’t witnessing that often.

  • de_la_Nae

    The point.
    Your head.

  • Robert McDealer

    I don’t think I have ever been “evangelized” but I have had long conversations with lots o Christians… I am just basically surprised at the lack of knowledge they have regarding their religion and churches… most southern baptists are unaware that their church was created solely to support slavery in southern states (likely the only church in history whose main function was to support the enslavement/oppression of one race of people); most christians are unaware that the bible was created because the roman emperor of the time (Constantine) orders; most christians seem to be unaware that Jesus was Jewish as were Mary, Joseph, etc.; When I have conversations with christians, I often find that I am educating them on their religion… which is a tad pathetic.