Conversion Aversion

May 7th, 2013

Remaining even keel while being evangelized.

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It happened again. I was sitting there minding my own business when somebody tried to convert me. Maybe I look like someone who needs to be saved or changed over to a particular type of religion. Maybe I have “LOST” tattooed on my forehead, but I don’t think so.

When my daughter walked into her doctor’s appointment, the couple across from me said, “She’s so beautiful, you must be a proud papa.”

Not wanting to be rude and say something like, “I am very proud of her, but not because of her physical attributes,” I just thanked them instead and went back to trying to figure out what the obscure cartoons in The New Yorker magazine meant.

The couple was older than me, not significantly so, but a good 10 years maybe. They asked where we were from, what high school she went to and then BAM, what church do we attend? I’ve dealt with this on many, many occasions in my life. People who adhere to a certain strain of religion consider it their right and duty to make others aware of their particular leanings. More to the point, they want me — whom they’ve just barely met — to attend their congregation even if it’s in another county.

I don’t pretend for a minute that they care about my soul or saw some sort of yearning, heathenistic look on my face. They just wanted me to join their singular, select sect. I explained that I was a spiritual wanderer and didn’t adhere to any one specific set of guidelines. Oh yes, they agreed, they found churches to be too limiting. Then they went on to explain how their church was nothing like all the others.

I kept trying to look away and decipher page after page of New Yorker sketches, but it was no use. The onslaught kept coming. The couple told me how one of their mothers attended this one church after she converted from Islam to Christianity in the old country. Then she prayed with this young man who would be perfect for her daughter and on and on.

My daughter’s appointment didn’t last too long and other people kept coming into the office, but they kept it up, assuming that their path toward the holy was the best way. I should really be saved by their proselytizing. The word “relentless” comes to mind.

Politeness now had flown out the windowless office. I reasoned that if they were going to be that pushy, I could ignore them and not make any response or eye contact. What business was it of theirs how I felt about the divine? I have conversations like that with people I know and love, not strangers whose only goal is to ram their philosophy down my esophagus.

With dozens of major world religions and hundreds of offshoots from them, the billions of people on this planet practice faith in a myriad of ways, or not at all. I am continually perplexed at how those few adherents of any one way of thinking try to force those around them to share their belief structure.

This is not a new phenomenon. We’ve all faced this sort of in-your-face religiosity. There are times when it doesn’t bother me and I let it slide. Other times I’m offended by the audacity of people who think they know what’s better for me than I do. I subscribe to the live and let live philosophy. And you should too. Let me tell you about my way of …

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