November 05, 2004

Proselytization and persuasion

The aforementioned controversy at UW over Campus Crusade's "I Agree With . . ." campaign, along with some recent remarks on Christian Conservative raised another side issue in my mind.

In the comments on a recent post, "Yochanan," a Jew, said that he found Christian evangelism of Jews "quite disturbing." Similarly, some UW students are apparently quite offended at seeing "I agree with Byron" chalked all over the campus sidewalks.

Religion is an important part of a person's self-identity, so I can understand why people would be uncomfortable with proselytizing. So here's the question: Why should religious proselytization be treated differently from other kinds of persuasion?

I don't especially like Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my door. The reason I don't like them is not because they are Jehovah's Witnesses, it's because they are intrusive and pushy. I also don't especially like the newspaper calling at dinnertime to sell subscriptions, for the same reason.

Gay Pride Day parades and anti-war demonstrations are inarguably more disruptive than Christian evangelism. Yet, ironically, it is the latter that is condemned as an imposition of beliefs upon others, while the former are embraced as free expression in an open society. There is a double standard.