Well, nothing like having “part 1″ of a post and then following that up with the second portion roughly three weeks later—particularly when I said I’d follow up in a couple days. *sigh*
Anyway, back in mid-December I posted about an issue that irritates me: How a lot of people get riled at Christians because they believe their way is the only way, even though most faiths are guilty of the same conceit.
Well, my follow-up is a related topic that was itching at the back of my head from a post—well, actually, the comments to a post—at the blog Losing My Religion in which someone named Yaelbatsarah was railing about how Christian evangelists break up homes and marriages. The original point of the post was sort of a support and encouragement from the blog author SocietyVs (with a call out to his readers for assistance) for two women whose husbands had been sucked in by a “prophet” calling himself a Christian and claiming to speak to Jesus directly and presenting his personal letters as a new gospel. (That’s what I recall. This post was months ago, so I’m somewhat sketchy). The wives were disturbed because their husbands were so into this cult that they were neglecting their families. It was an unhealthy thing, as these guys were pretty much fawning over their “prophet” and disregarding their marriages and the actual Word of God.
Here are some snippets I had copy-pasted from Yaelbatsarah that stuck me, as he (I’m assuming maleness based on memory…if Yael is a woman, my very sincere and extensive apologies) basically found at least a twinge of bitter humor and righteous payback somehow in the way we were worrying about what this “prophet” (whom we were referring to as Speedothy, as his name is Timothy and his nickname Speedy…yeah, a prophet named Speedy…) was doing to these two marriages. He seemed to think we were hypocritical in bemoaning the fate of these two women’s marriages because according to him, evangelist Christians who are mainstream supposedly do the same thing. Here are some of Yael’s comments:
What about today? Do you target husbands or wives from other religions for evangelism? What do you think happens within their homes if you do? Is it only a problem when the shoe is on the other foot? BTW, my utmost sympathies are with the two women involved here, yet I have to wonder, my people, my children, are targeted for evangelism all the time. Do we have their sympathies?
I think Speedothy is totally wrong in what he is doing, however, if you go around teaching your gospel with no regard for the home lives you may be disrupting, than you are no different.
All through history followers of Paul have attempted to convince Jews OUR sacred texts mean something other than what we have read and have been taught AND that we Jews should instead follow the teachings from Paul’s letters. The similarity in these cases is quite glaring. The difference is only as I said, with the shoe on the other foot all of the sudden this is a problem, but when it is YOU doing it to other people its not a problem at all! How convenient! Don’t you think if I asked Speedothy he would also rationalize his taking people away from Christianity, claiming his is true Christianity, just as many Christians rationalize taking Jews away from Torah, by claiming their view is the true Torah? Don’t get me wrong, I think Speedothy has gone off the deep end, but I don’t see how what he’s doing is any different than what was done by Paul 2000 years ago nor what is done by many Christians today.
For the record, here’s part of a response I made to Yaelbatsarah, though I never got a reply to it as far as I recall:
In principle, I see where Yaelbatsarah is going in trying to spin parallels between was was done some 2,000 years ago that sometimes pit spouses and families against each other with regard to faith and saying that it’s hypocritical for us to assume Speedy is any different, worse or better…but there are some important points to note:
Paul seemed to prefer NOT to be having married men out there on the trail preaching the gospel and leaving their families behind. He wrote that he would rather someone be celibate and devoted to spreading the good news. Better, he said, to be married and not to sin in the flesh, but best to not have sex (or marriage) to muddle things up at all. It didn’t seem to be his goal or desire to pit one spouse against another. In fact, Christian spouses were urged to stay WITH their spouses even if they didn’t themselves also convert. Speedy seems to be saying choose me over your wife.
These are snapshots, and I hope they aren’t too out of context. That post and its comments were very long and covered a lot of territory beyond the marriage issue. But some of the things Yael said really pissed me off, to be honest.
I mean, why the venom? I suspect that either he has had a personal experience of someone close to him converting, or knows one or more people who have. He seems to have an attitude that evangelism has personally wronged him and his fellow Jews and who knows who else.
So, if it’s OK to blast evangelists for this, does that mean that when someone from a Christian family converts to Judaism to marry the person he or she loves, then the Christian family has the right to demonize the fiance as some sort of religious seducer who has set out to destroy their family or has let “love” get in the way of doing the right thing by “leaving their child alone”?
And why, pray tell, does this have to tear a marriage or a family apart? If one spouse becomes Christian and the other one doesn’t feel the same way, we are not told in the Bible to browbeat that other spouse and cram Jesus down their throat. In fact, Paul writes in First Corinthians, chapter 7 (verses 12-16):
But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?
Also, I just don’t get where Yael’s sense that evangelists are preying on relationships comes from. It almost seems like he suggests that Christian evangelists often target one spouse to get to both or to get to a whole family. I’m not saying that it can’t happen; of course it could. But by and large, evangelism is about sharing the Gospel and leaving the non-believer to make their own decision, ask questions, etc. Evangelism is about presenting Jesus as an option, not trying to seduce or trick people into it.
And Yael is clear that he thinks Christian evangelists are insensitive to marriages. Well, seeing as how we believe the only trustworthy path to salvation is through Jesus, it would be pretty damn insensitive of us not to tell others about that path. We can’t make anyone walk it, but we are supposed to point to it and say, “You really should take that road. I’m just sayin’…”
It’s not about insensitivity. I think that an average evangelist would much rather reach out to both people in a marriage at the same time and share with them equally. Well, our contacts and friendships in life don’t always work that way. A good evangelist will share when and where he or she can, without pressure, and that might mean reaching out to just one person in a marriage. Is the evangelist supposed to say, “Well, gee, the other spouse might not like Christianity. Oh well, I guess I don’t mind if I pass on the opportunity to help this spouse save his/her soul. I’ll just assume they wouldn’t care anyway.”
I’m sure there are more than a few husbands out there with very old-fashioned values who didn’t like “nosy broads” telling their wives about being liberated and equal and shit. Does that make those women wrong for wanting to empower women they saw as being held down? In the end, it’s the choice of a spouse what to do in a case like this and the choice of the other spouse how to handle it.
To demonize evangelism itself as destructive to marriages and families—whether Christian evangelism or some other faith’s—is simply ignorant and wrong.