April 26, 2021

Christian Evangelism Indicates a Lack of Respect for Others

zierplaume flower

Christian evangelism is inherently arrogant. I do not mean that the person doing it necessarily comes across as arrogant; a skilled evangelist will manage to avoid this. What I mean is that evangelism itself is arrogant. After writing a recent post about how the existence of Christian missionaries indicates that many Christians do not respect others' religious beliefs, I found myself thinking about a conversation I had several years ago with an evangelical Christian who was trying to convert a Jewish friend of ours.

I confronted the Christian because I was mad over some disparaging comments he had made about our mutual friend. And because I was mad, I didn't express myself clearly or effectively. Instead of coming at it from the perspective that attempting to convert someone demonstrates a lack of respect for the person and their beliefs, I accused him of being a lousy friend and being insincere in claiming to value the other person at all. Not surprisingly, this led the Christian to become defensive, not helping either of us have a productive conversation.

That said, something productive did emerge from our conversation. As the Christian attempted to justify his conversion efforts, he focused on how the only reason he was seeking to convert our friend was that he valued him and was being a good friend.

If I didn't like him, I wouldn't care about his soul. I'd just leave him be. It is because I am his friend that I am trying to save him.
I realized that this might be accurate and that I had done a poor job of expressing the problem I had with this. This issue was that the Christian assumed he knew better, that he beliefs were correct and everyone else's were wrong. By aiming to convert our friend, it was clear that he had little respect for our friend's religious beliefs, worldview, values, etc. Our friend was happy, well-adjusted, successful, and certainly not in need of Jesus. If the Christian could learn to accept this, great! If not, it was hard to imagine the friendship surviving. Fortunately, this particular Christian was able to accept this and cease the conversion campaign.

Many of us have acquaintances we do not particularly respect, but I'm not sure we can reasonably call someone we don't respect a friend. Friendship seems to require some baseline level of mutual respect. If that isn't there, I'm not sure it deserves to be called a friendship. In this case, my Christian friend decided that maintaining friendships with some of us who were not Christian was worthwhile even if it meant ceasing all efforts to share his "good news" with us. He was mostly successful at this, and I definitely respected that.

Christian evangelism can and does get in the way of countless friendships. It doesn't have to, but it often does. And when it does, I think it often boils down to the lack of respect one party has for the other becoming insurmountable. After all, how many of us would choose to maintain a relationship with someone who was convinced we were headed for eternal torture at the hands of their god? How could someone who believed that truly respect us?