A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Illogical Evangelism Contributes To Death

A focus on evangelism makes no sense.  I have written before about evangelism killing the church (here for example) but it is more than just a bad idea, it also strikes me as illogical.  Either a person believes in something or they don’t.  Belief (as in belief in the existence of God) is something based on evidence or lack of evidence.  It is not a moral choice.  This blog explains in greater detail the point I am trying to make.  Here is a quote which summarizes some of what the author has to say: 
My disbelief is not a choice.
It is a conclusion.
I could not choose to believe in Christianity again because nobody actually chooses to believe anything. Belief springs forth; it cannot be compelled either way.
If I had a good reason to believe in any religion’s claims, then I’d believe.
But I don’t have a good reason to believe.
Instead of giving me a good reason to believe, way too many Christians denigrate my disbelief as some kind of petulant choice I made, like some recalcitrant toddler who didn’t want to wear anything but her Batman costume to daycare that morning.
In so doing, these Christians show their true colors and make me feel more certain of my conclusion.

An argument could be made evangelism is an attempt to give non-believers compelling evidence which would cause belief to spring forth.  But usually a compelling argument involves speaking, listening, sharing information, listening to counter-arguments, responding and so on.   In regards to other topics besides religion this is called a conversation.  But when it comes to religion we call it evangelism and things like passion and strategy seem to be the focus rather than information and we get to blame a flaw in the other person if our arguments fail.  

Perhaps this seems harsh, and perhaps it is, but I am trying to drive home what I think is an important point.   Think of how much emphasis the Christian church puts upon evangelism.  It is seen as the church’s purpose and the basis by which we are all either saved or damned.  This is problematic theologically as it describes a god who condemns people based on something which is not a choice and is reliant on the quality of arguments given by others.  But of even more concern is the impact this has on the world.  The Christian church is full of good people trying very hard to do the right things.  When the epitome of what is right is evangelism, good people judge others based upon a choice which isn’t a choice and spend their time, energy and money on evangelism.  Think of all the good which could be done if all this energy was invested in feeding people, working for justice, finding solutions to environmental, political and social problems, and so on. Instead conversations within the church often seem to imply helping others is not worth doing unless we can convert someone, increase church attendance or advertise for Jesus in the process.

Recently my heart has been aching for some local families who are grieving children.  Unfortunately these families are not unique.  Around the world, children, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers die from preventable diseases and poverty related afflictions.   In addition to unpreventable tragedies, people are literally dying of injustice.  The idea of the Christian church turning its back on even one such person in favor of evangelism is unacceptable.  The reality of the church turning its back on millions ought to shake us to our core.  

Belief is not a choice.  The beliefs on which we choose to base our actions are a choice.  I choose to  attempt to live my life based upon the belief each child, mother, father, brother and sister matters.  If someone thinks this is not following Jesus and evangelism is...well I'll have to be shown a great deal of evidence before I’ll believe it.     

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