I was hurriedly walking to a meeting across my campus about a week ago when a young man stopped me and asked, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Without waiting for me to respond, he asked, “What church do you go to?” When I told him I don’t go to church, he then asked why. I really didn’t have time to engage with him and told him I was late for a meeting, which was true. He didn’t relent. I then told him I wasn’t religious and excused myself. He tried asking me another question, ignoring that I was late for a meeting. I then insisted that I had to go and finally just walked away.
That interaction stuck with me for a couple of reasons. First, it only occurred to me after the fact that he was probably not a student at my university. Since it’s a private university, he should not have been there evangelizing. Second, it dawned on me that what he was doing was disrespectful and that I was far nicer to him than I should have been. To that end, I’ve been reflecting on the interaction and how I should respond in the future. Perhaps I’m becoming that “old grumpy guy,” but I’m actually getting tired of being nice to people who are so disrespectful of other people’s beliefs that they try to convert them to their own.*
To that end, I started to consider questions that I might ask someone who is proselytizing the next time they accost me or knock on my door. I thought sharing these might help others who think similarly about this issue. And, if you have suggestions, please drop them in the comments and, if I like them, I’ll add them to my list.
- Why don’t you respect other people?
- Why don’t you respect me?
- Why don’t you respect my beliefs?
- Why do you think everyone needs to believe what you do?
- Why do you think everyone needs to be just like you?
- How insecure do you have to be in order to want everyone to be just like you?
- Why are you opposed to diverse worldviews?
- Why do you think you’re better than me?
Here’s my suggestion: Memorize one of these so you have it on hand and ready to use.
* Full disclosure: I was a missionary in Costa Rica from 1996 to 1998 when I was still a member of the LDS Church. While I learned a lot as a result of that experience, I deeply regret now having spent so much time trying to persuade other people to believe what I then believed. Evangelism is really disrespectful of others.