When I was in grade school I hated when we were supposed to sell stuff. My parents hated it too. I hated the way I felt like I was manipulating people into buying overpriced things they didn’t need. I hated feeling like a failure because I didn’t sell enough cheese and sausages. I hate when people try and sell me stuff too – I don’t like to feel manipulated, and I don’t like the guilty feeling when I’ve obviously disappointed someone. When I see people selling things aggressively, I try and avoid them.
Last night I was downtown, and somebody tried to sell me Christianity. Which is a nice enough thing to be offering, but you see, I already have one. I don’t mean to sound arrogant here – I know that I am not the perfect Christian by any means. But this person made me feel uncomfortable immediately with her aggressive style and the way she didn’t give up. And she also made me feel looked down upon, as though she was better than me because she was proselytizing on the street, while I was looking for a fun place to hang out with my friends for a few hours. Even though I answered all her questions in the affirmative (yes I have a church home, yes I have a personal realitionship with Jesus), she still yelled something derogatory after us about “walking away from other Christians.” We avoided that corner after that.
The encounter bothered me, and continues to bother me. I was so turned off by these people who were trying to invite people to their church and share their faith. Even though I am already predisposed to like Christianity, even though I have a home church already. And part of it, I’m sure, was that I knew this girl wasn’t going to get what she wanted out of me. Maybe I should have challenged her to a Bible Knowledge contest or something. But really I just wanted to spend some time with my friends and not be bothered. And the thing that really bothers me about the whole situation is that if MY reaction was so negative, what must it be like for the people they were actually targeting? Is “street witnessing” really an effective witness at all? Can you hand out invitations to religion on a street corner like invitations to try a new restaurant? It seems to me that Christianity is about a lot more than anything you can commodify and advertise one evening on the street. But if Christians are behaving like this, how are other people to know that it isn’t?