Christian evangelism by any means?
Growing up in a Pentecostal church, I was always taught to be cautious of other religions. “Don’t be misled by the enemy,” my Sunday School teachers ominously warned.
In high school, I read a number of books on cults and the dangers of other religions. I was taught in church how to pick a weak point from another man’s theology and hold fast to it until he relented. “He will try to change the subject or side step the answer,” they cautioned, “but don’t let him trick you. Keep your focus on the weaknesses and the lies of his faith will crumble!”
But when I met people from other religions, even when they came to my front door, I found that I did not want to destroy their beliefs. I had no desire to make them look like fools. I wanted to understand the person in front of me, but the Doctrine of Holy Argumentation always won out inside of me. I could not look my fellow Christians in the face, knowing I had chances to prove other religions false and did not take them.
In the article, “Secret War: Protecting Yourself, Your Family and Your Community from Missionaries,” writer Saraji Umm Zaid warns faithful Muslims of the dangers of Christian evangelism.
Zaid identifies a “new” kind of evangelism called contextualization, where Christians pretend to be something that they are not. “The contextualized evangelist specializes in lies and half truths,” she explains. “He pretends to be something he is not, and this involves a web of lies.”
“Contextualization” refers to Christians who attempt to assimilate cultural and religious practices of a people group in hopes to appeal to their worldviews and convert them to Christianity. While this method may seem far more respectful and honorable than the Western-centric missionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries, it is not without flaws or potential backlash. As Said writes, such “pretending” is “completely antithetical to our belief system.”
As I read the article, I see so many sins that I am guilty of. One brief statement struck me: "A contextualized evangelist is going to try as hard as he or she can to keep you locked in debate… You should keep in mind that this endless debating and confusion is the goal of pretty much any missionary."
Is that the goal of Christians? To add confusion? To hold people captive to "endless debating?"
But I know we do it. Many of us are taught such methods for use with Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims - even Catholics! Instead of the voices of truth, we become the voices of bewilderment and disorder. Said’s article leads me to ask myself: as a Christian, what is my highest command regarding other humans? If it is to love people, then will I communicate love by embodying the kind of evangelism spoken of so distrustfully in this Muslim article? Am I to confuse those of other faiths? Or is it better to lovingly represent a Truth beyond reason and religion? For there is nothing reasonable about love and nothing religious about relationship.
God help me if my friendships and acquaintances are simply marketing strategies to sell more Jesus.
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