Rule #1: Don’t evangelize.
Ever, really. But if you know what’s good for you, you definitely don’t want to try evangelizing to someone because of their identity. It’s like touching the top of the stove; you know what the result is going to be. Now, we might politely hear you out and ask a few questions to feign respect so you can walk away with a false sense of validation. We also might respond with questions that challenge your faith, we might insist on disagreeing with your claims, and we will most likely not express gratitude to you for trying to force your delusional beliefs upon us. I’m just saying, you probably won’t be satisfied with the results.
That’s because evangelism, in general, is offensive. It’s trying to force beliefs and assumptions upon another through the use of guilt and shame. It doesn’t matter what your motivation is, as admirable as your belief might be to try to save souls. The effect is always condescending.
And let me just point out that atheists do not similarly evangelize. We reason. We encourage critical thinking, skepticism, and scientific literacy. Our effort is to liberate a person from narrow thinking, not by telling them what to think, but showing them how to think better. As an added bonus, promoting atheism often involves helping people think more highly about the life they live (this is all there is!—celebrate it!), as opposed to belittling them and offering our point of view as the only cold comfort.
I just want to preempt any readers from trying to draw a comparison. Promoting atheism is not evangelism.
I could just leave it at that, but maybe you want a little bit more detail about how exactly evangelism can be offensive. I have the perfect example to work from.
As you may recall, a few weeks ago I talked about the long road to coming out as an atheist. I shared my college admissions essay, which demonstrated I’d clearly moved away from religion, but not yet from belief. I wanted to demonstrate how atheism is something that’s always present, but sometimes it’s a long process to disassemble the wall of indoctrination that blocks it off. I also wanted to show that coming out as an atheist can happen quite naturally, and doesn’t necessarily require some form of abuse or crisis to rock a person’s faith.
Well, a character named Shelonda decided to take it upon herself to evangelize on my post. You can read the full comment here. Now, it is tempting to be completely snarky as I respond to this comment. Even if I try my best, it might still come off as a bit snarky. But I hope my response to Shelonda helps elucidate the obnoxiously annoying proclivities of evangelism in a way that better promotes your understanding. Let’s begin.
Hello, I listened to your story and realized that you probably need to find it within yourself to find out who Jesus really is because it sounds as though you are trying to find a belief where you do not have to compromise your homosexuality or things you do not want to compromise.
Well, thank you for “listening.” I appreciate that you took the time to read my blog post and are trying to understand where I’m coming from. It sounds like maybe you have some more questions for me.
Oh, wait. Nope. Sorry. I got my hopes up there. It took only 10 words for you to start telling me what’s wrong with me and what I’m trying to do.
Thing 1 that’s wrong with me: I’ve denied myself the opportunity to find out who Jesus really was. Nope. I actually know more than I care to know about Jesus as it is. He seemed like generally a good guy, except when he was promoting slavery, duping people into believing in him (with “miracles”), and leading a cult around challenging the government without any really good arguments as to why. (No wonder the teabaggers are a fan.)
Thing 2 that’s wrong with me: I’m trying to find a belief. Nope. If you’ve read any of my blog, you should know I’m a pretty committed nonbeliever. I have no interest in nor respect for belief. I am very at peace with my worldview.
Thing 3 that’s wrong with me: The fact that I’m gay is something I need to reconcile. Nope. I’m not trying to compromise my homosexuality with anything. I love being gay, to be honest. I just wish it didn’t make it so hard to meet a mate is all. Nothing you can do about the numbers though.
So, we’re one sentence in and you’ve already ignored what I’ve told you about my atheism, forced your belief in Jesus upon me, and condescended my homosexuality as something I need to compromise. Can you see, at this point, how I’m not inclined to care what you have to say, Shelonda? You’ve already indicated that you don’t really have any respect for who I am; you only care about convincing me (shaming me) to be like you.
You seem to be a very confused and damaged by some sort of molestation or other demonic influence that is not really who you are.
Thing 4 that’s wrong with me: I’m confused. Nope.
Thing 5 that’s wrong with me: I’m damaged. Nope.
Thing 6 that’s wrong with me: I’ve been molested or cursed by some demonic influence. Nope.
And honestly, I find this kind of assumption particularly offensive. What she (I’m guessing Shelonda is a woman?) is basically saying is that she thinks I am so out of whack that something awful must have happened to me. Like, how could I be this messed up? It couldn’t even happen naturally.
The sad thing is: some people are susceptible to this kind of language. “Wait, maybe I am confused. Maybe something is wrong with me.” No! Evangelists are frighteningly confident in their faith, but they know nothing of what they speak. Their goal is to break you. To dominate you. To crush your spirit and fill the void with their delusions.
Shelonda, how closed minded do you have to be to not be able to appreciate the diversity around you? How indoctrinated do you have to be to assume me damaged because you’re unwilling to actually consider anything I say about myself?
Instead of building up a website to find answers about your identity from others, ask Jesus to come in to your heart with sincerety and he is the only one that can provide that hole in your heart for the answers since he created you.
Maybe this was Shelonda’s first time on my website? I don’t know.
Thing 7 that’s wrong with me: I’m trying to find answers from others. Nope. That’s not really the point of this blog. To a certain extent, the point is the absolute opposite: to help others better understand me. Or rather, to help ME better understand ME through the process of my own writing. Of course, I want to get some challenging conversations going. I want to hear new points of view. I want to commune with others who think similarly to me and have new insights to offer. I want to hear from people who think quite differently from me so I can better understand where they’re coming from. Shelonda, unfortunately, your comment is showing not to warrant that kind of respect.
Thing 8 that’s wrong with me: I didn’t ask Jesus to come into my heart (or I didn’t ask sincerely enough). Actually, did you read about the part where I claimed for many years that I had a relationship with Jesus? The Bible study? The prayer? And then I realized I was talking to nobody and wasting my time depending on a delusion instead of having confidence in myself? I did ask Jesus to come into my heart, and my heart grew when I stopped asking.
Thing 9 that’s wrong with me: There’s a hole in my heart. Wait, if Jesus created me, why did he create me with a hole in my heart? That seems like poor design! I better see a cardiologist, stat! Or does Shelonda mean that I’m dispassionate, incapable of love, totally selfish, and devoted only to my own causes? If that’s what she means, I guess she’s kind of right. (Oops, some snark crept in, but it was at my own expense, so that’s okay, right?)
To say that you live your life for you and the people in this world is like taking a knife and stabbing yourself because the world cares nothing about you, but Jesus does and you will never be able to meet the expectations of the world or yourself.
Thing 10 that’s wrong with me: I’m not cynical enough, so I ought to commit suicide. Wait, what? It’s not that I think the world revolves around me (I’d be on fire!), but is it so wrong to be optimistic about people? Is the key to happiness thinking that everyone in the world is a misanthrope? And the fact that I have hope for mankind means I should be depressed and end my life? Yikes. I want nothing to do with that. Excuse me for following the golden rule.
Thing 11 that’s wrong with me: I’ll never be able to meet anyone’s expectations, including my own. Wow, Shelonda, you are just ripping into my psyche here. If the world expects me to follow Jesus, then I guess the world will be disappointed. I’m actually quite proud of the fact I don’t follow Jesus, so I’m already meeting my own expectations. I’m going to keep trying to do right by the world, but the world’s going to get from me what the world gets from me.
Look in the mirror how many times have you dissapointed yourself?
Hey! I’ve lost a noticeable amount of weight lately! Give me some credit.
Thing 12 that’s wrong with me: I don’t look good in the mirror. 🙁
By the way, have you ever checked your own spelling and disappointed yourself? (Damn, there’s that snark again. Sorry!)
Take it from someone that Jesus has delivered from self and people. When you come to love yourself, you will realize even in your confusion, Jesus was there all along waiting on you just to seek him.
So, if I’m talking to Shelonda, does that mean I’m talking directly to Jesus? Because Jesus has delivered Shelonda. So who’s Shelonda? I’m only getting confused because of the words you’re using!
Thing 13 that’s wrong with me: I don’t love myself. Wellllll, without going into too much detail, I can pretty much assure you that I do. Take my word for it. And if we ever meet, we can shake on it.
Thing 14 that’s wrong with me: Thing 4 and Thing 8 combined. I’m confused and not seeking Jesus! I’m not really confused, but I’ll try to rectify this one right here and now. This is a public blog and it comes up in search results. Jesus, if you’re out there, please respond. I’m getting the sense you’re pretty full of yourself, so I’m sure you Google your own name like all the time. If you see this post, drop me a line, would you? It’d be great to hear from you.
Invest in a King James Bible(living translation) and begin to read and pray for change and for him to reveal the reason that you are here so you can began fulfilling your purpose instead of being blindsided by that which feels good to you, but is not good for you.
You couldn’t go one long paragraph without bringing my money into this, could you, Shelonda? I have two Bibles in my house already, but both are Catholic, so they’re probably not good enough for you, are they? King James gave his translators specific instructions in the 17th century, so I’m sure he knew exactly how to properly translate those ancient texts. It also seems that the living translation is a new version of the Bible that isn’t even the same as the KJV. So, you want me to read two different Bibles that are different than the two different Bibles I already have? It seems fishy that with the thousands of editions and translations out there, you know exactly which one(s) I should read.
Thing 15 that’s wrong with me: I need to pray for change.
Thing 16 that’s wrong with me: I don’t know the reason I’m here.
Thing 17 that’s wrong with me: I’m not fulfilling my purpose.
Thing 18 that’s wrong with me: I’m blindsided by things that feel good.
Thing 19 that’s wrong with me: The things I think are good for me are not good for me.
Zackford how many times have you awaken
Thing 20 that’s wrong with me: I’m not capable of finish
Shelonda, thank you for commenting on my blog. You have provided an excellent case study for how offensive and rude evangelism can be. Perhaps if you spent some time outside of your Bible-reading and started considering other points of view, you wouldn’t come off as so obnoxiously selfish and narrow-minded.