Is proselytizing good or bad?

source: The spectrum, July 13, 2014  http://www.thespectrum.com/story/opinion/columnists/2014/07/13/proselytizing-good-bad/12611245/

Garey BeardenWriters Group

 

Proselytizing: The active seeking of converts to a particular religion or sect.

This activity is the cause of much strife in the world today, and has been for many, many years. All sects of Christianity that I know of are engaged in this evangelical activity in some way. Many of them combine their work of conversion with some sort of charity.



Disasters provide evangelicals with many opportunities for proselytization. Hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and wars create huge numbers of homeless, injured and displaced people, many of whom have lost everything but the clothes on their backs to these disasters, including the lives of family members. The very old and the very young are especially vulnerable to disasters. So there is also a grieving process involved.

Some proselytizers don't use disasters as a pretext for their activities. Many Christian churches have missionary programs and send trained people around the country and world seeking converts. In fact, Christian churches are famous in the world for their mission programs and have been for a very long time. American Christian churches, for example, have long had a sort of love affair with the Middle East and Asia since before the United States became a nation.

In the 1700s, many so-called societies were formed and dedicated mainly to converting Muslims to Christianity. They collected money and built schools and hospitals in Arab countries, especially Egypt. And, of course, part of the curricula in the schools was religious.

While the people of these places no doubt appreciated the doctors and hospitals, they were then, and remain today, deeply resentful of the proselytizing that accompanied the education. So resentful in fact, that during the past 350 or so years, a large number of Christian missionaries have been robbed, assaulted and murdered for their efforts. Yet they continue trying to make converts in countries where apostasy is punished with death.

I might be mistaken, but I do not see people from other religions engaging in this process. Unlike Western Christians who beam radio and television signals into places too dangerous for missionaries, the Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or even Muslims do not engage in proselytization. That is not to say they would refuse a convert; of course, they would welcome them.

Perhaps we would be better served if Western Christians ceased these activities in places where they are not welcome. Not every nation or society is as open to different ideas as we are here in the United States.

Garey L. Bearden is a resident of Milford.

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