Ten days ago, I wrote a blog post about looking for and deciding on a Christian church to join. Shortly after that, a Jewish friend of mine thanked me and told me that what I had written answered a lot of questions that he had but didn’t quite know how to put into words. Since that time, he suggested another topic for a blog post. He asked this question:
“Why is it that religions (not all) feel that they need to convert people, to save people, assume that they are the ONLY answer?”
First, I would say that generally, it isn’t religions but the people who believe in that particular religion that should be our focus. My gut reaction is that there are probably as many different answers as people on the planet. But here I go, wading into the fray.
People are people. Some religious types aren’t particularly interested in any other person’s religious beliefs, worshiping attendance, or eternal salvation. Frankly, they may not even be much interested in their own. They may be nominally religious because there is some outside pressure to attend a church or synagogue or to hold particular views, whatever.
There are also plenty of people who because of some difficulty in their life cling to religion. They say that there are no atheists in foxholes. Someone might become religious because someone they loved died. They may be isolated or have experienced hardships associated with illness, poverty, divorce, abuse, custody, or indeed any number of other things. Perhaps they cling to a particular religion for comfort, for solace to their aching hearts. They may have been raised in a specific religion, but they have returned to it later in life because they have found comfort in their faith, and they want others to experience that comfort.
I would also say, that Biblical religions, particularly Judaism and Christianity, are closely linked and have scriptural writings which might encourage someone to worship in a particular church or synagogue. Reading those writings might cause them to dare to believe that God exists. My parents raised us to know the tenants of the Old and New Testaments of scripture. We learned the ten commandments handed down to Moses. We said prayers before every meal. We were taken to church every week. As a little girl, I remember being read Old and New Testament Bible stories before going to sleep at night.
As a teenager, I remember one particular Sunday when I didn’t want to go to church. The night before I had been out late with my boyfriend celebrating New Year’s Eve. I wanted to stay home and sleep. My parents said it wasn’t up for negotiation. They made it clear: if I was awake enough to celebrate New Year’s Eve to all hours, I was awake enough to go to church. To church, I went. My parents weren’t shallow or ignorant people. They also weren’t pushovers. On this point, they didn’t negotiate with their 19-year-old. While living under their roof, Church attendance was not an option.
Back to the question about why some people of particular religions try to convert or save someone. As irritating as this may sound, it may be because they care about you. They may be concerned about some perceived lack in your life that they want to address because they are concerned for you. That isn’t to say that they are right. People frequently assume all kinds of wrong or misguided things about others. But still, the impetus might be genuine love and concern for someone.
I have all kinds of friends whose adult children are living with someone to whom they aren’t married. I find this always interesting as many of those children grew up in Christian homes. My parents didn’t succeed in preventing me from doing stupid things, some very wrong things, and even some dangerous stuff, but they did succeed in teaching me something about Christianity. My husband Ron, reading over my shoulder, just said: “me too.”
We are to put the best construction on our neighbor’s actions. Because of that, I would say that the final answer I would give to my friend is “because they care about you.”
Back when I was thinking I would convert to Judaism, this was one thing (of many) that really appealed to me about the Jews, that they never proselytized. I always felt that if someone tried to convince you of what you should believe, what good was it? One needs to figure that out for oneself. No such thing as a Jewish missionary… if you want to convert to Judaism, that is your decision only & much study is required to do so. A friend of mine once told me about a Jewish friend of hers who finally asked her to please stop trying to tell her about Jesus & about being “saved”. I totally understood that… I always resist whenever anyone tries to “convert” or “save” me. I can decide for myself what to believe. Although I try to be polite and welcoming to them, I do tend to regard the Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to your door a bit of a nuisance. My 2¢… D M R