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I was proselytized today in the bodega trying to pick up a soda while doing laundry. It wasn't anthing all that offensive, so much as persistent. The man wouldn't take my assurances that I was a lifelong Christian, that I attended church every Sunday, or even my rattling off of the Nicene Creed as "proof" that he didn't need to continue (which he really didn't, on both doctrinal and just basic moral and courtesy levels).

It's a bit of a weird position. I think I've always enjoyed a kind of Christian privilege in that I looked and acted like the kind of person (for the area where I grew up) who you'd presume was Christian. I was "decent" (read: modest and respectful in my dress and behaviors), middle-class, often running around with my family or living in an area small enough people recognized me as having that connection. I was the kind of person who would go to church and almost certainly was "saved." But in the Bronx that doesn't really apply, and I'm running into people who think you need to evangelize people wherever you meet them, even if you only have thirty seconds and they're a stranger. And assurances that I'm a churchgoer doesn't cover it in these circles, I guess because of the fear that I'm a "Sunday Christian."

The truth is that I'm at a good place with religion. I went to church this morning but won't be going back because it wasn't a good fit spiritually. I know I believe in God, read my Bible regularly (on top of various commentators, popular and academic theology/philosophy), and I try my best to reflect how I understand Christianity in my beliefs and actions. It so happens that my life doesn't map well onto the kind of lifestyle that fits well into the rhythm of church life, but I go when I can to small groups and to church services. I don't feel so bad if I'm not in church anymore, nor do I feel a compulsion to believe the "right" or "popular" version of what Christians are supposed to believe. Basically, my test is would a God worthy of worship expect this of me, and I let my conscience and study be my guide there - and that includes "is it important I show up to this building at this time.

So I'm actually not just a Sunday Christian, I'm living out a relationship. It's just a less literalist, fundamentalist relationship with the divine than those people would have. Which they would know if they knew me, and at some level that's kind of the point.

It's weird to be in a place where being increasingly secular or at least "unchurched" makes me more in line with what the fundamentalists say they expect me to be. Really weird, actually. But also a bit insulting, as they seem to think they have the right to question my values without knowing the first thing about me. So I'm wondering: is there anyone who has more experience dealing with this, and if so, have you come across a response that actually stops the "conversation"?



( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 12th, 2015 11:56 pm (UTC)
I don't talk religion with people, or let them talk religion at me, really, and I think I must give off that vibe to anyone who might potential be so inclined, because no one hasn't happened it in a good long time, except the occasional missionary who knocks at my door and is quickly dismissed.
Apr. 12th, 2015 11:58 pm (UTC)
Did the Granada Sherlock link work for you?
Apr. 13th, 2015 12:07 am (UTC)
I honestly don't know that there IS an answer for some who just feel the need to "witness", regardless of whether the person they're speaking to is interested or not. My stock answer when someone comes up to me and starts that is "I'm glad that what you have fulfills you. However, my religion is a private matter between me and the Divine, not up for public discussion or debate. I'm certain that someone else will be much more needing of your witnessing, and I urge you to continue your search for that person. Thanks for respecting my wishes on this."

Then, of course, if they can't take the gracious and o-so-obvious hint, I simply turn my back and walk away from them without argument or disparaging word.

Hope this helps.
Apr. 13th, 2015 12:15 am (UTC)
I went to a small Non-denominational Evangelical college back in the seventies. It was more or less fundamentalist, but not in the rather over-heated way of today; back then religion and politics were not so entwined as they became only a few years later and evangelizing wasn't quite so aggressive as it's become these days.

Nevertheless, we were expected to do "ministries" for which we got credit. One of those was standing on street corners in downtown Miami, passing out pamphlets to strangers and prosetylyzing them. I was always very uncomfortable with it, was not very good at it, and was very glad when I was able to switch my "ministry" to helping with children's church in the small church I attended there.

I understand what you mean about people who won't leave it alone. I rarely encounter them in public. Occasionally a few of my customers can be a little aggressive, but if they don't quit after I assure them that I am indeed a born-again Christian, I can usually find a task to take me out of the conversation. If I'm lucky another customer will come along.

The there are the ones who come to the front door. I keep them on the other side of the screen door, and while I politely tell them I'm quite happy with my own church home I also don't make the dog stop barking, either.

Obviously my solutions won't work for you; your situations are quite different. One thing that does work for me sometimes is pulling out the theology, and using all the big words I learned in college. You have even more of an advantage along those lines than I do. It's probably not really nice, but I think in some cases it's justifiable as self defense.

Apr. 13th, 2015 12:55 am (UTC)
"fuck off", but I can't imagine you using that. :)

I really really REALLY do not like to be proselytized at, regardless of the religion. And I have very little respect for anyone who does it uninvited. If I'm feeling very polite, I say "no, thank you," or "not interested" and walk swiftly away. sometimes, "I don't want to talk to you."

but sometimes nothing but "fuck off" works.
Apr. 13th, 2015 01:01 am (UTC)
I think part of the problem (which I totally get) is your desire to reassure them that you *are* a Christian and you *are* saved. (I at least don't have that concern, since I'm not and I'm not.) But the thing is, I don't think they really care. When they say, "have you accepted Christ as your personal lord and saviour" or whatever, it's not a sincere question. What they are really saying is, "I'm about to spew a script at you, because I've been told I have to, and I can't go home until I've done this a certain number of times." They don't care at all about *you* or what you believe -- they are just racking up numbers.

It's like telling the guy handing out pizza coupons on the corner that you can't digest cheese. He doesn't care. He just needs to get rid of all his coupons.

Maybe that's an ungenerous reading, but my sense is that you will *never* adequately convince these people you are saved. They aren't really even listening to you.

Edited at 2015-04-13 01:02 am (UTC)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )



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