Several weeks ago, I wrote a post about how non-Christians perceive Christians. The article was based on an interchange with one non-Christian lady on this blog. I was surprised at the number of responses, including those from a number of non-Christians. I am grateful for all who responded.
A few Christians were concerned that I might be compromising my beliefs and convictions by writing the post. To the contrary, I still hold firmly to the exclusivity of the gospel and the mandate to evangelize. But, while I am convicted about the never-changing message of the gospel, I am concerned how we messengers sometimes treat others who don't believe as we do.
For now, I have provided four examples of what non-Christians are asking of Christians. They were all comments at different points on my blog. Each section represents a different non-Christian.
Demonstrate Respect and the Interest of Others
I can certainly understand that it might be very uncomfortable for you to witness – as a technique for attracting potential followers, it seems very forced and artificial, and it renders any attempt to express real friendship towards the recipient seem insincere and not a little sinister.
I'm an atheist, so you may be tempted to disregard my views. However, I've been on the receiving end of numerous attempts to witness, and I've never felt that any of the people who made these attempts had my interests at heart, or would offer me the basic respect of considering the possibility, however faint, that I'd put genuine thought into my position; that I might be sincere in my lack of belief.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of your prey – I suspect that you'll become better people for making the effort.
Don't Condescend and Discriminate
First I want to thank you for posting this, for being forthcoming and for all the encouraging comments.
I use the moniker darb because I live in the heart of the Bible belt and am concerned about repercussions of being a public atheist. We are, after all, the most reviled groups in America, even behind Muslims. I am concerned about hiring bias. I am concerned about downsizing bias. I am concerned about my children being ostracized or bullied. I am concerned because I have seen it happen.
It is SO refreshing to hear the accepting attitudes I hear in these comments. I only wish I could be assured that these were majority attitudes amongst Christians. I wish that good folks like you would speak out against those who would discriminate against me. I wish I could be myself without fearing proselytizing, condescension or worse. After all, we are all just humans trying to make our way in this uncertain world.
Really Care about the Non-Christian and Show It
This is very much how I tend to perceive approaches from would-be witnesses. I've read several posts in which people (believers) have expressed the desire to witness through 'show' rather than 'tell' and I'd personally have a lot more respect for someone whose life expressed the spirit of their religious belief as opposed to attempting to fill that quota. The Christians I've remembered with fondness were those who actually cared about other people; the ones who appeared to express the legalistic, judgmental and relentless and cultish urge to convert were, honestly, kind of a pain in the -. Not people I respected or would want know.
As a non-Christian, I have to say that 90% of these comments continue to back up the point from the article. Most of them talk about "waiting to develop a relationship before witnessing" or something of the sort. There are over 20 major religions in the world, never mind the number of smaller subsets. Has it ever just occurred to Christians that we just don't believe the same thing you do? That we don't think you're right? That we don't, at any point, want your prayers or your opinions on how we should think? If Christians are going to be so narrow minded that they are only going to have relationships with people that think the same thing they do, or think that they are better than people that don't agree with them, why would we want to have a relationship? If you can't look past my religious preferences (or lack thereof) and see me as a PERSON, I'll just hang out with my open minded, non-preachy friends.
Demonstrate Compassion and Respect
Here's a bright idea: STOP PRESSURING OTHERS TO JOIN YOUR RELIGION. If someone doesn't want to join your church, that doesn't make them a jerk. They're entitled to their own beliefs, just like you're entitled to yours. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but if you really want the rest of the world to accept you, then you need to accept the rest of the world. Stop focusing on how many souls you can save and start focusing on being a good person. And by 'good person', I mean being compassionate and generous, not paraphrasing a book written three thousand years ago on a street corner.
I don't hate Christians, but because of the way I've been treated in the past, I'm wary of them. If you want to be respected, then do some respecting in return.