Welcome to my new series where I wonder if some concepts and technologies are now obsolete thanks to our new paradigms and technologies. Today’s topic – evangelism.
Short term readers of my blog will think I only write about Linux and technology. Long term readers will know that I’m a Christian. I was brought up (what the media refers to as) an evangelical. Specifically, I was brought up as a Baptist. My entire church life though high school involved being told how we had to spread the Word of God. Indeed, if you believe in the divinity of Jesus and the infallibility of The Bible, it even says in the Gospels that Jesus commanded his followers to spread the “Good News”. And so they became the first missionaries.
I think, however, that evangelism is now obsolete. Why? The point of evangelism is not simply to “spread” the Word of God because that is an easy task on its own. After all, how hard is it to spread information? But the real point is to create converts to The One True Religion. (All caps for satirical reasons) What I’d like to know are the true numbers behind how many people have ever been converted to Christianity because someone came and told them about Jesus. Everyone I know (myself included) finds this annoying. It goes against all we know about human psychology. If someone comes out of the blue and tells you that you’re completely wrong on some topic are you going to a) change to their point of view or b) become defensive.
But even if we move away from the conversion aspect for just a moment, there’s the fact that technology has made the need to Spread The Word by sending people all over the world an obsolete act. Except for the few people who exist in the middle of nowhere, like the Amazon, everyone has access to the Internet. Anyone, anywhere, who has a true curiosity about Jesus the Christ can just google Him. Sure, there’ll be some websites full of garbage, but there should also be sites out there that tell the Christian point of view. Churches and other organizations can band together and create an omnibus website and then buy up tons of ad space on Google and get people direct to that site if they want to know about Jesus and Christianity.
Back to conversion. I’m willing to bet that an overwhelming majority of conversions to Christianity come from someone who decides to find out what this Jesus-guy is all about and then asks someone they think might know about it.
So, I think that instead of sending missionaries all over the world, there should just be one Christian website that tell people everything they need to know about Jesus and the Christian faith. It can have text, videos, explanations of the Bible in many different languages. Then there can be a link to someone they can email about God. And if they want to know even more, there can be a skype number. Finally, if they truly desire a human being, there can be a link to request a missionary’s presence. I think a requested missionary would find things a lot better than one who just came barging in. I think this properly leverages technology and efficiency and is a recognition that there really isn’t a person out there who hasn’t heard of Jesus or can’t ask around or look on the net to find out about Him. Beyond that, all you can do is wait for people to be ready. I’m a firm believer that a coerced conversion is a sham and does more hard to the cause than good.
2 responses to “Is it Obsolete? Evangelism”
Ah, a hit close to home.
I, too, was raised Baptist. But it was more the border-line Jesus-camp whooping-and-snake-handling type. I have rejected that, and all organized religion, by now. Yet I’m still agnostic when it comes to the existence of God.
When I hear “evangelism”, I think of a virus. An Ohrwurm, a function whose only job is to create more functions. A psychological rabbit-script. All to make the church more powerful.
In the end, I decided on a few things. I decided that I’d rather risk Hell than walk around my whole life believing myself to be holier than other people. I remember every other sermon in Baptist school was about how everybody but me was going to Hell, because I was in the one and only true church. And then after I shopped around, I found out that all the other churches say the same. Then I checked out Islam, the arch-nemesis of Christianity. Big deal, there’s one prophet’s difference. After those centuries of transcription by the elite monks who handed the many gospels down, something’s lost in translation.
No, screw the afterlife. When it comes, I’ll take what I’m dealt, and deserve it. If there is a God who gave us life, He meant us to live it – beautifully. If He gave us brains, then He meant for us to use them – including to use science. If He gave us this earth, then He wants us to treat it with respect. If He gave us free will, then He wanted us to use it to make the right decisions right here in this life. If He created all of us, then He meant for us to respect all of His creations – even the gays and the Jews and the Islams and the people who hate you and the bastard that killed your love. Not “what’s in it for me”, but “what’s the best thing for the human race”? If whatever God would be would punish me for thinking this way, then that’s His problem, not mine.
That concept of “sham conversions” kind of colors my idea of Free Software, too. A forced conversion to FOSS is a sham conversion, only made to make FOSS more powerful. And if FOSS becomes about nothing but gaining power for power’s sake, then it will become just as evil as That Other Technology. If Linux or Christianity is truly good and pure, then it should win the whole world without conversion. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t deserve to. We just do what we know is right. Not what we think is right, but what we can logically prove to be the right thing to do.
So, why doesn’t the human race unanimously do what is right? That bugs me. We people seem to suck at doing anything unanimously. That’s one thing that scares me about God; if there is one, it looks like we were set up to fail.
If there isn’t one, then I can hope for evolution. Thousands of years from now, a human race that’s solved all its problems. That is my Heaven, even if I’m too stone dead to enjoy it. I’ve decided that that’s what I want on my tombstone: a name, a date, and the question: “Is the human race civilized yet?” Carve it deep and bold in the granite. I want to still be asking that question 10,000 years from now.
I fear not, but I hope to have not offended. What else can I offer but the truth as it looks to me today?
You always surprise me with which posts you reply to. I think it’s funny how many parallels there are between the FOSS movement and Evangelical Religions. There’s always a conflict between getting the message out and alienating potential users. I know a lot of people who reject FOSS (or religion) simply on the basis that they don’t like being preached to.