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Author Topic: Prosletyzing  (Read 1995 times)
Passing Through a Screen Door
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« Reply #25 on: June 01, 2012, 12:43:32 am »
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As I noted in another thread, one of the pastors at my church (co-lead pastor with her husband) was raised Buddhist (and converted her sister as well.) Now is it "OK" for her to convert? I doubt many would disagree, particularly not in the US and would just say things like "Well yeah we have freedom of religion, etc." But to hold someone in a remote Asian village to a different standard than someone in an immigrant family in the US seems pretty inane to me, then you have more borderline cases, what about someone in a Chinatown community for example, or a Buddhist in a Koreatown one, would it be somehow more acceptable if they were evangalized by Korean Christians instead of white ones? So as Mikado noted, creating a standard where basically it's more acceptable for some people to convert than others creates hordes of issues and is pretty restrictive on the same people it's supposedly trying to protect.

One could also make a good case that someone from an immigrant family converting (since that's being considered the more "acceptable" type of conversion) is more "culturally destructive" than someone in an area where that remains the predominant culture, but since I don't even care about that premise to begin with I wouldn't consider it worth.
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« Reply #26 on: June 01, 2012, 01:02:11 am »
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Well, obviously it's culturally destructive insofar as the people doing the evangelization are attacking elements of the culture. That is what I was referring to, and why the history of Christian missionization in non-Western countries has often been, shall we say, less than conducive to Christian charity. It's not a problem inherent to proselytization at all; it's a problem with the attitude taken towards groups of the proselytized. It's perfectly possible to convert a person or group of people and leave their collective memory and history more or less intact; it just requires sensitivity, tact, and possibly creativity with regards to what was there before--including, yes, syncretism at least on the level of popular piety. (Keep in mind I'm also from a family that identifies strongly with a diaspora.)
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« Reply #27 on: June 01, 2012, 02:19:46 am »
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You cant really have freedom of the religion in any meaningful sense if you dont allow prosletyzing. It is a central element in both Christianity and Islam that you should try to convert "heathens".

But it can be problematic in some contexts. Especially small tribes of nature people, whose entire culture is based around spiritual belief systems. Personally I would also be negative to missionary activities in places like Tibet, Bhutan etc.

I think other monotheists are "fair game" for Christian missionaries and Hindus as well. Given the extremely long histoy of Christianity in India you cant really call it a foreign religion.

Christian missionaries in India usually do target tribes who believe in animism and living with nature. At least their success rate is high there.
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« Reply #28 on: June 02, 2012, 10:18:33 am »
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I consider proselytizing somewhat creepy but am fine with it so long as the targets of their efforts are respected (e.g. not coerced, harassed, or ignored when they say "no" or ask to be left alone).
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« Reply #29 on: June 11, 2012, 12:36:26 am »
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For a good example of how this can be quite positive when invading on "local culture", consider that illegal evangelists in Iran have made it so that many people in the younger generation are closeted Christians, it's spreading exponentially amongst the youth, and subsequently weakening the regime.
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« Reply #30 on: June 11, 2012, 01:39:24 am »
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For a good example of how this can be quite positive when invading on "local culture", consider that illegal evangelists in Iran have made it so that many people in the younger generation are closeted Christians, it's spreading exponentially amongst the youth, and subsequently weakening the regime.

That's indeed a good example. Of course it's easy to argue vehemently about universals when your particulars are as comfortable as ours are here safely ensconced in America.
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« Reply #31 on: June 11, 2012, 03:19:33 am »
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For a good example of how this can be quite positive when invading on "local culture", consider that illegal evangelists in Iran have made it so that many people in the younger generation are closeted Christians, it's spreading exponentially amongst the youth, and subsequently weakening the regime.

That's indeed a good example. Of course it's easy to argue vehemently about universals when your particulars are as comfortable as ours are here safely ensconced in America.

It would be a good example if what BRTD described was actually happening. While there may be covert conversions to Christianity, there is nothing to suggest that they comprise more than 0.5-1% of the population. There is no evidence for ‘exponential’ growth. The only people claiming that are those who happen to be the ones prosletyzing! Indeed amongst Iranian’s I’ve know, there is probably a significantly higher number of closet atheists; people who don’t have a faith at all, but have to publically claim that they do.
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« Reply #32 on: June 11, 2012, 12:27:41 pm »
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Have you ever lived in Iran? If not then the Iranians you know must be ex-pats and thus not representative of the situation in Iran.
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« Reply #33 on: June 11, 2012, 01:13:39 pm »
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Have you ever lived in Iran? If not then the Iranians you know must be ex-pats and thus not representative of the situation in Iran.

Given that you made the claim I might ask you the same thing.
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« Reply #34 on: June 11, 2012, 05:43:47 pm »
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And what happens when the majority of the host society, including those who don't like the particular regime in power, doesn't like missionaries? Even the Dalai Lama tells his people (without ever telling westerners) to support the Chinese government cracking down on covert missionaries. Is the will of the people more important or is a rather nebulous "right" more important?
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« Reply #35 on: June 11, 2012, 05:50:31 pm »
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Have you ever lived in Iran? If not then the Iranians you know must be ex-pats and thus not representative of the situation in Iran.

Given that you made the claim I might ask you the same thing.

http://www.elam.com/articles/The-Church-In-Iran/

Remember that "exponential" doesn't mean a large percentage if it starts out small. But if as estimated in 1979 there were only 500 Christians in Iran that converted from Islam, and even if it's only 0.5-1% of the population today, in a country of 79 million, that's a huge growth.

And what happens when the majority of the host society, including those who don't like the particular regime in power, doesn't like missionaries? Even the Dalai Lama tells his people (without ever telling westerners) to support the Chinese government cracking down on covert missionaries. Is the will of the people more important or is a rather nebulous "right" more important?

Then they don't convert. I have no intention of ever becoming a Mormon or Jehova's Witness, but I don't need to ban them from doorknocking or visiting me to ensure this doesn't happen.
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« Reply #36 on: June 11, 2012, 06:24:22 pm »
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Then they don't convert. I have no intention of ever becoming a Mormon or Jehova's Witness, but I don't need to ban them from doorknocking or visiting me to ensure this doesn't happen.
But if their presence leads to communal tension (especially in countries with a history of religious violence), then banning them could be justified on public safety grounds in a democratic society. Doorknocking around a suburban subdivision is harmless. In parts of India and Africa, these missionaries loudly denigrate the existing beliefs as idolatry which can only lead to eternal damnation. Then they erect a church and demand villagers to attend or fear the wrath of God. And because the often rich, white missionaries are already seen by locals to be more powerful, there's little they could do to refuse them. This creates a power differential which doesn't exist when a Mormon knocks on a door in suburbia.

And besides, municipalities do have the right to ban door to door salespeople on the grounds they're a public nuisance. A Do Not Call registry prohibits telemarketers from selling things over the phone. Why isn't it constitutional to prohibit people from doing the same thing to sell something nebulous? Starting this year, Switzerland has effectively banned Mormon missionaries. This has of course prompted protests by Utah politicians, but what else can they do? Demonize the oppressive Swiss dictatorship?

Finally I'll address the analogy with western hipsters converting to Buddhism. The difference here is that:
1) no power differential between the western hipster and the sangha exists
2) Buddhism doesn't theoretically or practically lead to a disrespect of an existing culture
3) the western hipsters are not converting because a pushy lama accosted them on the street
4) Sanghas aren't being used as agents of Thai, Japanese, Chinese, or Vietnamese foreign policy

If a religious organization wants to provide a service in a community without the intent (explicit or implied) to evangelize to locals, there's no reason to oppose that. But in practice the line is rather fine.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2012, 06:27:42 pm by EternalCynic »Logged

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« Reply #37 on: June 12, 2012, 05:05:54 am »
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Have you ever lived in Iran? If not then the Iranians you know must be ex-pats and thus not representative of the situation in Iran.

Given that you made the claim I might ask you the same thing.

http://www.elam.com/articles/The-Church-In-Iran/

Remember that "exponential" doesn't mean a large percentage if it starts out small. But if as estimated in 1979 there were only 500 Christians in Iran that converted from Islam, and even if it's only 0.5-1% of the population today, in a country of 79 million, that's a huge growth.

And what happens when the majority of the host society, including those who don't like the particular regime in power, doesn't like missionaries? Even the Dalai Lama tells his people (without ever telling westerners) to support the Chinese government cracking down on covert missionaries. Is the will of the people more important or is a rather nebulous "right" more important?

Then they don't convert. I have no intention of ever becoming a Mormon or Jehova's Witness, but I don't need to ban them from doorknocking or visiting me to ensure this doesn't happen.

I’m just challenging the assertions that you make. Linking to a biased source whose facts can be easily checked doesn’t help.

For example, you are required in Iran to register as one of a number of religions; atheist and agnostic Iranians are not recognised by the government. So we are able to estimate the number of Christians, but not necessarily the numbers of those who hold no faith. Christian churches existed prior to the revolution particularly in Armenian minorities which were Christianised centuries ago. Their population is about a quarter of a million. The idea that there might only have been ‘500 Christians’ prior to 1979 is ludicrous. The size of the Protestant Christian community is estimated at just 10,000. Many may practice in secret of course, but the idea that they run into six or seven figures and undermine the regime is wishful thinking. There is no evidence that their growth is exponential.

You also ignore the history of Iran and the practices of Shia Islam in particular and make the common mistake of equating Islam as practiced by the people with the Islamic regime. Why would people who oppose the regime dispense with their faith given that until 1979 their faith was compatible with a modern, increasingly secular capitalist economy? Those who are anti-regime are also devout Muslims.
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« Reply #38 on: June 12, 2012, 11:11:52 am »
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I'm referring to Christians from a Muslim background, aka converts, not the Armenian ones who were already there, who of course have mostly already left. There are far more of those than there was in 1979, and even if one can't legally register as an atheist/agnostic one can't legally change their registration from Muslim to Christian either making both quite difficult to register. I should point out that any surge in growth is very well likely tied to the regime's existence. It should surprise no one that the regime turns people off to Islam and makes them far more likely to turn to any alternative offered. So basically saying we should just respect "local cultures" or whatever is basically appeasing the regime.

As for "Why would people who oppose the regime dispense with their faith given that until 1979 their faith was compatible with a modern, increasingly secular capitalist economy?", they don't necessarily have to, I just wish they would. Of course I'd prefer that they oppose the regime and not then support the regime and not.
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« Reply #39 on: June 12, 2012, 01:57:35 pm »
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You also ignore the history of Iran and the practices of Shia Islam in particular and make the common mistake of equating Islam as practiced by the people with the Islamic regime. Why would people who oppose the regime dispense with their faith given that until 1979 their faith was compatible with a modern, increasingly secular capitalist economy? Those who are anti-regime are also devout Muslims.

Iran has one of the lowest rates of mosque attendance in the Islamic World. Mosques were packed before the Islamic revolution, but emptied out as people began to sour on the regime, and as religious life became increasingly politicized. Islamic clerics, who were treated with utmost respect before and during the revolution, are now subject to private - and sometimes even open - mockery and hostility.

Really, this speaks more to the failure of the Iranian model than it does to any diminution of Islam in society. What's happening here is that Islam has become tied to an increasingly unpopular, oppressive regime, rather than the leading force in opposition to one, as it was during the Shah's time.
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« Reply #40 on: June 12, 2012, 02:55:24 pm »
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Not to mention the fact that the Ayatollahs can accuse their opponents of being puppets of the Zionists and American Imperialists and therefore easier crack down on any dissent. It's much harder to do so when their opponents are even culturally Muslim atheists.
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