Public evangelism may be doing more harm to religion than good

If you have used public transport for any sizeable amount of time in Lagos then ‘the tale of the evangelising Christian’ is certainly not new to you. You have experienced it, most of us have.

The self-assigned task has the lone goal of what polite Christian society term, “winning a soul for Christ.” It is this polite language that Twitter user @IfeKiisha used to describe an encounter she had where she said she preached the gospel to her Uber driver who is a Muslim but listened attentively. She added gleefully how glad she is that she sowed the seed of doubt in his heart. 

The now-viral tweet has roused a conversation about evangelism that has been long overdue.

When does it cross the line from a healthy back and forth between two people of different religious backgrounds to a crass invasion of privacy that has the potential to offend and further divide us along religious lines?

The consensus by a sizeable majority is; at the point of an imbalance of power.

Under whatever circumstance, public evangelism can be a nuisance even to the believing. A thousand and one accounts by people who have been in that situation about how they felt going through that, are all the proof that this otherwise seemingly harmless act may be doing more harm than good.

It gets worse when the audience has little choice, like a hail cab driver whose livelihood to a great extent depends on the goodwill of their customers or a subordinate at work.

Twitter user @Venessa_Abee puts it simply, maybe a little dramatically, “[You] held a man hostage in his own car today.”

A driver offering his service for his customer’s money and positive rating is very likely to listen regardless of how uncomfortable they feel. And while, as some enthused Christian opined, he could have politely asked her to stop or even ended the trip, this removes all the variables not in the know of readers, like – that that could be his first decent trip or he desperately needed a 5-star rating to improve his chances of getting more jobs.

With over 8000 quoted replies and more than 2500 comments from across the globe, an impressive majority of which point out all the ways in which evangelism of this nature – nay of whatever nature without the express consent of its audience, is wrong, hopefully the OP learned something.

It takes intellectual modesty to accept that no matter how passionately one feels about their faith, it is only of great value to them and that people of other faiths feel just as strongly about their faith; so it would be rude to approach them with the message, “my religion is the truth, you are going to hell if you don’t believe in it.”

Intellectual modesty however, is exactly what many devout believers lack and this is apparent in many of the responses in the comments citing the superior nature of Christian truth and how Christians have a responsibility to call others to Christ, but no need to learn about the religions of those others. 

Comments of this nature are duly countered by rational believers. 

Hopefully, this overdue conversation has pulled a religious person or two into the light of intellectual modesty which breeds the emotional intelligence necessary to truly respect the religious boundaries of believers of other faiths. Hail cab drivers and public commuters alike.

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