April 28, 2007

Calling Current and Former Evangelical Christians

Like most Americans, I was indoctrinated with Christianity during childhood. In my case, this was a progressive and fairly liberal form of Christianity that bore little resemblance to the fundamentalist or evangelical forms which currently seem so popular. As a result, I have a difficult time understanding the motivation of those who describe themselves as evangelical. In this post, I'd like to pose a few questions to those who currently or previously considered themselves as belonging to an evangelical form of Christianity.

To elaborate a bit on the background for the questions that will follow, I should point out that I had virtually no exposure to evangelical Christianity until approximately age 16. The Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Catholics I grew up with all shared a common perspective that religion was a private matter. At some level, I think we knew that arguing about differences among the various denominations would accomplish little besides hurt feelings. Religion was something we thought about at home and at church, but it had little relevance in the public sphere.

You can imagine my surprise when I finally begin to encounter evangelical Christians. They talked about religion constantly, prayed in public, and often reminded me of someone attempting to sell a product when they would discuss religion. It had never occurred to me that anyone would care as much as they appeared to about converting others. I suppose it is fair to say that I have remained somewhat puzzled about this through the present day.

So here are my questions for those of you who would currently or previously characterize yourself as evangelical Christians:
  1. What are evangelical Christians taught about the value of proselytizing?
  2. Is it fair to say that converting others to one's religion is an important goal for evangelical Christians?
  3. If so, what is the motivation for converting others to your religion? Are certain rewards promised, does it simply relate to believing that others would be better off as Christians, or is there some other motive?
  4. Do/did you ever feel any external pressure to convert others, or was this purely an intrinsic desire?
  5. Were you ever provided with any instruction or guidance about how to convert others?
Despite what I have heard from evangelical Christians and read by evangelical authors in my adult years, I'm not sure that I've been able to get clear answers to these questions. Perhaps I haven't been asking them correctly, but I'm trying to do so now.

Since this is obviously an atheist blog, I do not blame you for being skeptical of my intent in posing these questions. However, I am genuinely making an effort to understand something which I do not believe I understand very well. No traps, no ploys to use your responses against you, just an attempt to learn something on my part.