I’ve recently been involved in a dialogue with some Evangelical Christian folks. The results have been interesting.
As is often the case, the encounters began with an approach in an attempt to “save” me. This sort of thing used to really bother me. Eventually I came to realize that, unlike some lesser species (such as TV evangelists), most Evangelicals–those worthy of the name–are simply trying to do me a favor. They believe in their hearts that my soul is doomed, and they want to help. Viewed that way, it’s hard to remain insulted or angry. Annoyed is a different matter.
Buddhists don’t proselytize, and most of us accept the idea that it is wrong to attack someone’s belief system. When one takes the risk of dismantling the structure that supports another emotionally, it is cruelty of the highest order to have nothing the person will be able to digest as a replacement. Effective conversions occur over long periods, gently, and it is not my business to make them happen.
My usual response to such advances is to decline as politely as possible under the circumstances, and to do so firmly enough that it sticks. Given the desire to treat others with lovingkindness, that can be a tricky process. Continue reading