Tuesday, July 20, 2010

So Where is the Blind Spot?

So, Jason posts on the some form of gentle evangelism. From my point of view, being the target of an evangelical is an insult. The only reason I can think of to seek to convert a person from a religion or spiritual path is if you view the path they are on to be inferior, false, bankrupt or harmful. I am seriously asking you, dear reader, to point out the flaw in that logic. Does an evangelist, be he kind or over the top, ever say to himself the target's spiritual life is good but try to get him to give it up anyway? Please help me on this one.

Why do I ask?

First, I'm tired of this topic. I have to reconcile what I view as Christian arrogance. I seek unity with all. You can't do that while having an extreme emotional reaction against any religion or maybe you can.  If there was a religion that kicked puppies every Tuesday night, would I view my opposition to that a spiritual flaw? Probably not.

Secondly, I'm reading through some famed Rosicrucian texts, Fama Fraternitatis and Confessio Fraternitatis, which can be found here. I've only read the first one. To me, it smacks of the same evangelical bend as any other form of Christianity. In Fama Fraternitatis, we discover a story of a dead man that had all the answers who goes out into the world to "correct" the "errors" of the learned. Once he was laughed out of various countries, he formed his own cloister. Of course, this story is told to us by people that never met him.

I don't know about you but as I grow spiritually the less I feel capable of correcting anyone else's errors not more. I don't view anyone else's blind spots as greater than my own. I don't go around telling people I am more spiritually evolved or at a higher rank than them. I don't feel I have all the answers. Heck, I have very few.

So, I am supposed to believe that someone enlightened does this? Maybe that is the problem. Christ did it. Buddha taught as well. Yet, I feel both of those are fundamentally different than evangelizing. Maybe because those folks had cosmic gnosis. Being Christ is much different than telling me about Christ two thousand years later. I really don't believe that cosmic gnosis is the common state of being for humans. Maybe that is the problem. Maybe every other human being is enlightened, except me. However, a look around me demonstrates that to be a dubious proposition.

Maybe I am so stuck on evangelicals that I may have the wrong interpretation of Fama as it never uses the word evangelize.

I am looking back trying to recall any trauma some evangelical inflicted upon me. I can recall some high school ostracism from some Christians that felt the music I loved was "evil". Yet, that hardly warrants the level of anger I have towards Christians that tell me I deserve to be far away from God because I don't believe as they do. Have I been so conditioned to believe them that my emotional reaction is a cover for fear that they really are right? I have no doubt evangelicals use fear to gain converts "Know Jesus its Hell without Him" is a fear tactic. Have they succeeded in getting part of me to believe it and my reaction to that is hostility?

I have no idea what is going on here but I'm pretty tired of it.

Edit: Maybe it is pride. Maybe it is simply ego to feel the emotional sting of insult even when it is logically there? 


Anonymous said...

They genuinely and honestly believe they have good news to share with you. Now, you might think they're wrong -- but why do you automatically cast that in terms like "I deserve to be separated from God"? Those are *your* interpretations. Not to say there aren't those who wouldn't say that -- there might be. But the video Jason posted was specifically someone who doesn't say that, and wouldn't say that.

Do you feel offended if people tell you they really enjoy mystery novels, and maybe you should read some? Or they like classical music, and here's some Beethoven they burned for you? If not, why do you feel offended by people who say they have found spiritual fulfillment in this religion and they want to share that with you?

I just don't understand why it's so offensive to you. It seems like a real hot button with you, and I don't know why.

simon said...

Im with you on the evangelical part of religion. I hate it and hated it when I was doing it. Those that are condescending and haughty making judgments can kiss my ass. They are no better than the pharisees that they preach about. Others have just wanted to share about spirituality and make sure I have mine, and that Im fine with. But those that are born again and preach how we are all sinners give me the get the hell away feeling faster than a chick with crabs. Some need this framework and Im all for the evangelists finding those to help them cope with this life. But if im searching out my own demons and trying to battle them with my friends, it gives me the right to say "no thanks, Im good."

Peregrin said...

Care Fr POS,

thank you for this post.

Just a quick word on the Fama. One esoteric method of looking at the Fama (and scripture) is to view it as speaking directly to ourselves and soley about ourselves, not the mundane outer world around us.

So CRC refers to the intiated, "higher" aspect of ourselves (the name CRC is important here). The correction of the learned is this aspect undoing the learned and second hand 'wisdom' we acquire from our society, education, media etc and then replacing it with authentic personal/higher wisdom.

I have found this approach very useful.

Thanks :)

Ron said...


When I couldn't find a good fit in any Christian denomination and became Pagan, I was amazed at the amount of anger and intolerance toward Christians among people who prided themselves on tolerance and diversity. Maybe its due to some emotional trauma while being Christian, maybe its because of the "burning times" myth, maybe its something else. I'm sure it would be a good research project for the academic community to undertake.

But, I think this might be a larger issue in the US than Pagans and Christians. We have become increasingly polarized and intolerant of others beliefs and views; religious, political, or otherwise. We don't just disagree with each other, we are growing to hate one another. Many friendships have ended and a lot of enemies made.

This is something we better fix if we are to remain a free and civil society.

The Scribbler said...

You definitely have issues.

I think part of the problem seems to be that you can't soften up on your understanding of the word "evangelize." "Spreading the good news" is a normal behavior for anyone who believes something, anything, is beneficial. For seven years I was a fanatical aikidoist. I never lost the opportunity to promote the art of aikido, because I LOVED IT! It made me feel great and was as much fun as sex. Now that it's been many years since I retired from aikido, I'll less likely to enthuse to friends and strangers about it, but if I do identify someone who has the type of personality and lifestyle that would benefit from it, I don't hesitate to suggest they try it out.

Perhaps there's the difference. I am older and wiser now, so I don't advocate anything shotgun style. i only suggest things to people who I think would be receptive to it. I have suggested to a few people that they check out AMORC, and have recruited a few members in my time. But I'd never bring it up unless I clearly saw that they were looking for something like that in their lives. I also occasionally talk to people who might be receptive to the idea of placing their children in Waldorf school. But, again, I'm very careful to look for the signs that tell me they might be the right type of person.

I can't stand ignorant bible-thumping fundamentalists. But I really think the fact that you can't see the difference between that and the gentle advocacy of one's religion promoted by the video Jason embedded in his blog show that you... well... have issues.

simon said...

I didnt read Jasons latest post before the last comment. I thought it was only the video post. His stance does make sense according to how he operates though. For his spirit offerings, he gives to those who even might be upset with him. I dont know if it is a way to appease or possibly turn the other cheek,maybe just being kind... any of the ways, it works for him.

Robert said...

@pomomagic wrote: They genuinely and honestly believe they have good news to share with you. Now, you might think they're wrong -- but why do you automatically cast that in terms like "I deserve to be separated from God"?

Robert: isn't that what Christian's believe? There is ONE WAY to "GOD" and that at best those that aren't Christian are further removed from "God"? At worst that belief turns into burning in hell for eternity. Isn't believing something on that continuum simply part of Christianity?

Robert said...

@Peregin, I will reread it with that in mind. Thanks.

Robert said...

""Spreading the good news" is a normal behavior for anyone who believes something, anything, is beneficial."

really? GD work has been great for me, I don't assume that it is great for anyone else. HD has been very helpful for me, I don't advocate anyone else calling upon It. I have no idea if it is right for them.

Jason Miller, said...

You ask where your blind spot is.

Short answer is that you are allowing Born Again Protestant Fundamentalism and their hateful spew to stand in for Christianity over all.

I realize that those are the people who have the bumper stickers and the talk shows. They are not the majority. They do not stand for 76% of all Americans that are Christian. They do not stand for most protestant. They definitely do not stand for Catholics. They stand even less for Eastern Orthodoxy. The whole point of the video was to stand for this silent majority.

In fact now that I have seen it a few more times I am pretty sure that the primary point of the video was not to evangelize to non-christians at all but to talk to Christians who are dedicated but looking for places to practice a liberal, science friendly, and non aggressive faith. Also to preach to those who pay lip service to being Christian and who may benefit from being more serious about it.

You should really look at some interfaith dialogging that is going on.

For myself Christianity is about what it offers to me in terms of connection to a God who is both immanent and divine as well as a theology of radical love and forgiveness. It is not about protection from a hell. You would be surprised how many people agree.

Norma said...

I've been puzzling with this on my own blog, and in comments over on Jason's too. Hrm. Here is what I have come up with, maybe it is relevant to you but maybe not (in this as in all things Your Mileage May Vary).

First, I am pretty conviced that my definition of "evangelism" has become skewed by fundamentalists. To me evangelism is effectively forcing talk about their god and not letting it go. It may or may not have anything to do with talk of how the other person needs to be saved but it is intrusive.

Second, to me evangelism involves them coming to me, often out of context. I do not want to hear about your god - ANY god -- in the laundromat, grocery store, at work, when you show up at my doorstep, etc. If you have an information table or a session where I can come to hear your good news but am not compelled to do so and don't have to try to escape you, we're good. I'm fine with you wanting to convert people -- some people may want to be converted and then it's a date!

Third, I am getting better at letting other pepole think of me w hat they will. I mean, I take care of my business and am a responsible adult and hold up my end of promises made and all of that. But I'm getting better at realizing that, in some cases, what someone thinks about me isn't even about me -- it's about them. When someone thinks I am damned or going to hell or whatever, I put it in this category and I don't get offended or hurt. I *do* get angered and offended if they harrass me about it, the same way I would with any harrassment but that is not because the content of what they are saying is upsetting me.

WHen someone starts going on about Jesus but not actively trying to preach or convert me, I think that it must be very comforting to them and helpful to them and good for them, and that it's ok if they don't get me and I ignore it. My facebook is a weird mishmash of voodoo priest/esses, alchemists, mages, charismatic Christians, and agnostics, and I treat the inevitable "praise HIM" and Bible verse posts as not my thing but I would not unfriend someone for them. They're in their 'own electronic living room,' thus not meeting my evangelising rule, I'm choosing to be there, and I can find some value to people I don't share all beliefs with. I treat the extreme religious goings-on the same way I treat people who use their FBs to sell Amway or Pampered Chef or whatever: benign skimming.

The Scribbler said...

Now you are being deliberately contrary. You are not proving anything by taking things you have good reasons to keep private and saying you don't see why they should be shared. Apples and oranges. Cheap rhetorical trick. I could also come up with a list of "good" things that discretion will keep me from talking about to other people. Doesn't affect my argument in the least.

But we're not talking about those things. Yes, it is perfectly normal to want to share things with others if you think they are beneficial. That store that opened down the street where you've been getting good bargains lately? Don't tell me you won't mention it to anyone. A really good and easy recipe for something delicious and nutritious? Not going to spread the "good news" to anyone? Anyone?

And again: this whole discussion started with a video of a kind, charming Episcopalian priest who was trying to get the point across to his flock that when you talk about your religion, you should be gentle, tactful, and loving. I fail to see what's wrong with that. If every religious person in the world could live by those rules, it would be a much better world. That goes for radical Moslems, too.

Lavanah said...

Wow, Robert. I agree with you regarding the idea of being preached at by Fundies-I really don't like the idea of being a "Jesus brownie point" which is more of the feeling I get, rather than Patricks more sanguine view. But your anger is pretty overwhelming.

Anonymous said...

That is not at all what Christians say. That's what some Christians say, but I could literally fill an auditorium with Christians who would never, ever suggest that you're going to hell because you don't share their religion (including one Methodist minister who doesn't believe *anyone* goes to Hell and one degreed theologian who would argue convincingly that there is no hell).