The ‘Loving Attempts’ to Convert Us

5 04 2008

While reading on The Wild Hunt today, I noticed that Jason Pitzl-Waters brings up an interesting topic. I have been discussing elsewhere the calmness that witchcraft brings me; not least in the fact that I am not called upon to either convert others to my way of thinking nor required to engage in theological disputation. The pact is simply between me and my Deities.

Rabbi Yehiel E. Poupko, Judaic Scholar at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago discusses his dislike of the aim stated by the Christianity Today editor, Stan Guthrie, to call for a new push by Christians to undertake the conversion of all Jews to Christianity forthwith, using what he terms ‘loving’ and ‘respectful’ attempts.

I’m not sure I have words to express what this brings up in me, but I’m going to try.

Elementarily, there is nothing loving nor respectful in attempting to encroach upon another person by seeking to change their view of their religion. Never mind that Jews are born Jewish; it’s not a lifestyle choice, it’s a way of life as well as a religious conviction.

Were it another religion in the frame, it would make little difference. By seeking to convert someone, you are at one stroke denying the right of the person to choose, denying their vocation, denying that their essential humanity is on a par with yours. In short, you are saying that they don’t know what they’re doing. But that you do.

And who the hell died and made Christians the guardians of the world’s one true way? A young, historically ambivalent religion, piggybacked as it is on the weight and gravitas of thousands of years of Judaism, ruthlessly promoted by the Romans, by the missionaries, by British Colonialism, and now by the mindless, inexorable, blindly multiplying clap-happy weight of the Christian Right?

I seek actively to avoid discussing my religious convictions with people unless they have expressly asked me, or have come here to read what I have to say; I consider the information intensely personal and I would be mortified if I thought something I had said had influenced a person to act a certain way in this regard – morally, it would make me responsible for them.

It is not given to mortals to guide other mortals to the gods. It is not our job on this earth. It is certainly not our job to do so under the guise of feeding, watering and educating those who have nothing, as so many Christian organisations do. Blatant, unrepentant arrogance and cultural hegemonising.

I’m not keen on any form of witness, on any form of proselytising, of any form of mission to convert. It seems utterly wrong. In Christianity, ‘no-one comes to the Father except through Me’ does not me ‘me’ the worshipper. It means ‘Me’ – Jesus. And there’s plenty of people out there who can read and make up their own minds. Including the Jews. Who we must assume, have largely made their choice already!

Ronald Hutton talks in ‘Triumph of the Moon’ about our ‘post-Christian’ society. Balance is certainly required. I can’t pretend to be anti-Christian – the precepts are good, and I was brought up in the faith and regard it fondly but not with outright reverence. I do, however, freely admit that I am anti-evangelical. I actively want interfaith discussion, where every faith can dispute respectfully and learn about each other’s beliefs. But I agree with Rabbi Poupko when he says that ‘mutual sacred rejection’ is required.

We must have the strength to see the strength in other faiths, without surrendering what is unique, special, irreplaceable in ours. We must be prepared to learn from other faiths what is similar to our own, to realise that perhaps, we are not so widely divergent as we would like to assume. But nowhere, nowhere in this bargain do we get floor-time to pitch our manifesto. That would subvert the entire process of learning through faith, and would largely make the efforts meaningless.

 

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14 responses

6 04 2008
Crystal

Well said dear! And know that you are not alone. I too was raised in the Christian faith, and I too hate the evangelizing that so many of the individual churches “require”. I was shunned by my “peers” in the congregation for refusing to join in with the “door to door sales pitch” … one of the many reasons I left.

6 04 2008
The Green Witch

Yikes, you were actually sent out to knock doors and try to get new converts? That’s only a step away from targets and end of year prizes for the most new skins nailed to the wall!! Terrifying, and irritating, in equal measure! The small minded, petty part of me (which is fairly substantial, lol) wonders what would happen if we rose up and implemented the First Amendment with as much vigour as the Christian Right. Might be fun!

6 04 2008
The Shepton Witch

It is fear and insecurity that prevents a belief system being open to frank and fruitful discussion of similarities and differences, of being able to talk about common ground and areas where there are none. Let’s face it, when was the last time you were doorstepped by a Hindu? They are secure in their beliefs and happy to discuss them, though only if asked – I’ll bet we could have an intelligent discussion with most world faiths.

Christianity is in decline – because of this one part of their constituency has become apathetic and the other part are recruiting furiously to try to stop the rot. We have to see it for what it is; the beginnings of the death throes of Christianity. That doesn’t make it any more palatable, but at least understandable. I suspect that most Jews aren’t terribly worried or bothered by the Guthrie statement – they are secure in their beliefs and Stan isn’t Adolf.

6 04 2008
fox

I am very much the “I’ll stay in my little corner, you stay in yours” type of person, so I am easily upset and irritated when someone steps into my little corner trying to force me into theirs, or rather try to expand their corner to overtake mine is how it really feels. This goes for anyone, not just Christians. I have the same reaction to Wiccan and Pagan practitioners who spout the idea that their version is the one and only way to practice those beliefs. (Sorry, tangent there!)

7 04 2008
beweaver

“And who the hell died and made Christians the guardians of the world’s one true way?”

hahahahahahahahaha. OMG. Depends on who you ask I suspect. The fundies might say Christ Died. hahahaha Busted a gut over here.

But I agree. I despise proselytizing. Another form of bigotry.

8 04 2008
Crystal

Yes GW, the entire “youth group” was asked to knock on doors in our neighborhoods to gain converts … and this was 30 years ago!

SW, you’d be entertained by my father. Though he used to be a staunch Conservative Christian, he has since done a lit of thinking on hos own and has come to the conclusion that keeping folks in the dark and spoon feeding them their “faith” isn’t the way to go. In the last 10 or 12 years, he’s been asked to leave 4 different churches, just for advocating that the adult members think for themselves … and he’s enjoying telling folks that he’s officially a heretic!

Fox, I’m the same way. Though I’m probably no where near as nice as you are about it. LOL We have a doormat that a fried got me that says “We love our vacuum, We’ve found God, and we gave at the office. Thanks” (yes, she’s Christian) … and then there is the “No Solicitors” plaque posted above the doorbell. I usually point to one or the other when the evangelists come calling, though many of them try to convince me as to why it doesn’t apply to them. Maybe I should just hang a large pentacle on the door … think that would scare them off?

8 04 2008
The Green Witch

SW – I agree – people only really fight this way if they’re cornered. I hope Jews generally aren’t worried by this, but it appears that it has caused waves in certain areas.

Fox – Encroachment upon personal space in any way feels like a personal attack – particularly if it’s regarding something you hold dear. Can’t say I feel any different to you, despite my efforts to ‘not care’ when epople do this, it still irritates!

beweaver – bigotry. So it is! Glad I got a laugh over my comment – I might not have phrased it quite that way had I been less annoyed! 🙂

Crystal – I think that if a little more independent thought went into the process, more people might question the drivel they learn and spout so readily. Haha, hang a pentacle? I suspect they’d view it as a challenge!!

8 04 2008
The Shepton Witch

LOL, I don’t know why, but people never ring on my doorbell. Our village is regularly visited by Jehova’s Witnesses with whom I’d happily engage in conversation (not that they’d enjoy it so much I suspect), but they never come knocking and there’s not a pentacle in sight… 😀

8 04 2008
The Green Witch

Never ring on ours either! I’ve noticed ‘very serious’ pairs of young, smartly dressed men going into the sheltered housing opposite. I’m assuming they’re Jehovah’s and not rent collectors or somesuch…. but nary a tap on our door. Actually, I think that’s probably a good thing! 😉

26 04 2008
Melissa

I came across your blog through another blog link. I hope it’s okay. I’ll first say that I am a Christian. I can only imagine what is going through your mind right now! I would like to say that I agree in large part to what you are saying. I feel that a better “evangelical” approach would be to live the way we say we believe we should live (which I admit most of “us” don’t), and if someone is attracted to us, then we have the opportunity to share. I detest door-to-door approaches and avoid those that come to mine. The above style is the way I try to live out my faith. I do know others who don’t and I still love them! I understand your disdain for the over-zealous sharers! I would ask that you give them a little grace and try to understand that they are simply excited about their faith and want to share it. If you have friends/family that are trying to “lovingly convert” you, take it as a complement that they want you to be a part of something that is such a big part of their lives. If there are strange people coming up to you and telling you to convert and why, or are being pushy and telling you all sorts of “fire & brimstone” terminology, then I am truly sorry. It is a method that most of my Christian friends & I do not hold in any high regard. Please don’t hold it against us all. There are some of us who are genuinely interested in learning more about what others believe (not for the purpose of converting), and many who are fearful. I’m currently trying to learn more about your faith, and I hope I can ask questions from you. I’m not interested in telling you about mine as it seems you already have that knowledge. I’ll start going through some of your archives, but if you have a better jumping off point, please guide me! I’ll admit that I have no real knowledge of it (mostly what I’m sure is just presuppositions made from folklore, tv, etc.). If you have other references, that may also be helpful. I appreciate your help.

26 04 2008
The Green Witch

My dear Melissa, I am glad you’re here! Thank you for being so honest.

I wish I could believe that it’s excitement that causes most Christians to proselytise, but I know from experience that it isn’t. Friends / family who are (and they are) attempting to convert me are concerned only with the fact that they feel they will not see me again after I die… as I will be burning someplace, where they will not be. In any case, there must be some limit to what is shared, to what is demanded.. I am hugely enthusiastic about my faith, but restrain meself!! 🙂

I have no argument with Christianity at large – as you know, I was once Christian, and I view the pure tenets of the faith with respect and acknowledge that Jesus had many right things to say.

I would be most happy to answer any questions that I could for you – please ask and I’ll do my best. I’d suggest a good read – Marian Green’s ‘A Witch Alone’ as a starting point.

Come back and see us – It would be good to see you.

26 04 2008
Mereth

Hello Melissa – it’s delightful to ‘meet’ someone who is genuinely interested for the sake of knowing.

I don’t think there are many people who follow this path who would argue that the teachings of Jesus were good and a great guide to living well. Sadly, it’s what happened after that has caused a bit of a problem. “Suffer little children to come unto me…” has been turned into a sausage factory of ‘believe this or burn’ and it’s a shame. That doesn’t devalue his teaching, but is a reflection of the hierarchy and power base of the organised church and what it will do to hold on to influence and power.

Anyway, sorry, didn’t mean to have a rant – ask what you like as I know TGW will be happy to answer.

28 04 2008
Melissa

Thanks for the warm welcome! My husband has said that Christianity would be better if it weren’t for Christians! I seem to remember Jesus being most angry with the leaders of the organized church of his day, not the people he taught. I think power in many forms corrupts, and unfortunately, I think it’s done that in the Christian circles as well. Anyway, I’ll start with your recommendation and go from there!

28 04 2008
The Green Witch

I agree with you, Melissa, when you say power corrupts. One of the strong feelings I have about witchcraft is that it should not seek to become any more organised and official than it is. At the moment, it’s a loose convocation of people, all learning and searching, in fellowship; but there’s no real sense of ‘us vs them’ or a team of people all saved and going on together.

We need the uncertainty and the mental effort to decide our path to keep us on the right track. Certainty about spiritual matters can be taken too far; and the power invested in organised religion is usually misused one way or another.

One thing my wider view has taught me is that there is nothing much unique about Christianity’s teachings – the pure and clear messages are similar to those of many world faiths. Only the personalities are different. This comforts me. We all need to keep trying to be better to our fellow man and ourselves. Only then will the truth come out.

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