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Belligerent Deliverance

                Why is it that so many Christians find it necessary to foist their faith upon the world?

                While walking through the halls at school, drinking coffee at the mall, driving to the movie theater, and sitting at home watching TV, I find myself assaulted by religious propaganda. In a more perfect world, I wouldn’t mind this too much. After all, I do live in America, the land of freedom. Freedom of religion, of the press, and, intertwined in all of the moral mire, freedom of speech. These freedoms allow citizens to perceive themselves as equals (or not, if they so choose; they have that right as well), a vision I support wholeheartedly.

                What bothers me is the fact that there are those who use these freedoms to pointlessly and offensively beleaguer those of a different faith, committing what is essentially theological assault in an (often misguided) attempt to convert a perceived “heathen.” The vast majority of the religious materiel I see is Christian in nature. I have never seen a Muslim wearing a T-Shirt asking “what would Allah do?”, and I have never seen a Seven-Pointed-Wheel (a symbol of Buddhism) affixed to the back of a car. I have never seen a red-in-the-face Sikh pounding his fist, rabidly attempting to convert a cornered audience. I have witnessed many Christians exhibiting such behavior.

                My question is this: why do so many (fortunately not all, but too many by far) Christians find this sensationalism necessary? There are many, Christians and Non-Christians alike, who find the display arrogant and rude. Is there no quiet way to live your faith?

                Publicly announcing one’s faith is a right protected by law and nature; a simple announcement of one’s own beliefs is not a problem. There is, however, a difference between a brief proclamation and an extended religious force-feeding.  I commend those Christians who lead a Christian life without demanding that all others do the same; my complaint is that there is too little evidence of such Christians, and too much sensationalistic fanaticism in the Christian ranks.  I find this zealotry offensive, distasteful, and thoroughly unpersuasive.

                It is true, certainly, that there are those Christians who are not so militant in their witnessing, and that this religious belligerence is not entirely rooted in the Christian ranks. Never let it be said that intolerance is not a universal trait among religions; on the contrary, nearly all organized religions attack others in one way or another. It is simply unfortunate that Christianity makes such attacks so frequently and so loudly.

                An example of this sensationalism is the “What Would Jesus Do?” fashion-plate. This question does little more than create a new, material and fashionable bond between members of a faith that should already be strong enough to stand on the spiritual, not-always-fashionable bonds that history has created. WWJD is merely a form of preaching to the choir, and often alienates those not already singing. Finally, WWJD makes no move toward persuading Non-Christians to convert; the question is likely only to offend.

                Even more offensive is the fact that many Christians see no problem with pounding a Bible at the drop of a hat. I have seen zealots leap into an impromptu sermon simply because they have discovered that a student seated nearby is not of their faith. Such actions are religious attacks, whether the speaker means well or not.

                Today, there are many examples of Christian belligerence. According to an AP wire article, “Witches seek to halt Baptist-flavored Halloween production,” the First Baptist Church of Dunbar, in West Virginia, puts on a presentation each Halloween that is, in essence, little more than a disguised sermon. It uses a public park—government property—to preach that sermon, thereby violating the United States Constitution by validating a single religion—Christianity—above others. This is only one example of the sort of public religious assault that Christians so often commit across the world. According to Arab columnist Ray Hanania, “the term ‘Christian Evangelism’ has become synonymous with the worst of Western immorality.” This accusation was made in conjunction with the release of the news that the murder of a homosexual was followed by Christian-led demonstrations that applauded the killing and called homosexuals “fodder for Satan.” This kind of behavior by many Christians has become almost commonplace in the world today, numbing many to the militant nature of today’s evangelism. Jerry Falwell is well known as the leader of the “Moral Majority,” a now-defunct organization of extreme conservatives dedicated to making the world a place of higher morality. Falwell’s preferred methods? Censorship, anti-Semitism, and the ramming of Christian doctrine down the throats of American children. It is unfortunate that Falwell’s hateful means have spread to many others in the Christian ranks, if to a lesser degree; my experience has left me with no doubt that there are all too many Christians who harbor a desire to “save” all others by destroying all other systems of faith, no matter how long-held or sensible.

Historically (the Crusades, The Inquisition, the Ku Klux Klan, et cetera ad nauseam), Christianity has been a belligerent force in the religious community. I see no reason for that image to continue when there is a very simple way to end it. Put away the bracelets and the little fish (or at the very least stop trying to shove them down others’ throats); if a man must preach his faith, there are more peaceful and agreeable ways to do it. After all, the reddening, bombastic speaker may draw a large crowd, but he is more likely to disgust and revile than he who peaceably and confidently puts forth his views.

 

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Copyright ©1999, 2000 Adam Rutledge