A lot of people have been talking about evangelism this last while - it started with a fairly harmless post by Jason and then it kinda took off from there. Gordon makes an interesting observation too. I got thinking about how I feel about being evangelised at - be it by reborn Christians, Scientologists, Hare Krishnas or any other people who feel they might have some good news they want to blast at me. Something struck me about the evangelising of these people - and it is something that both endears their efforts and annoys the crap out of me.
The more fanatical forms of evangelising are rarely about the soul of the person that the efforts are directed at. The focus, really, is on the one who is doing the evangelising.
And with that remark I mean to say - that people who go and stand on street corners with a megaphone and bible are not there because they care about the souls of the passers-by, or because they think they will catch any that way. No, this kind of evangelism is much closer to a kind of subversive act directed against what they perceived to be a corrupt hegemony. It is part protest, part performative devotion. They know they are pissing off people and making fools of themselves and that is the whole point. It is the very ordeal and the shaming in the eyes of the hegemony that becomes the quintessential expression of faith and commitment to their conception of the divine. It could quite plausibly be compared to a mystical ordeal rite of some sort. And for that I respect these people. They are really going out on a limb and scrambling their own social conditioning, and in that scrambling I think they are trying to find illumination and transcendence. I find that admirable, I really do.
What then irritates me is that this is all about them. And while they are screaming about my soul and damnation and whatnot they don't care all that much about my soul - it is their soul that is seeking salvation through what they believe is this act of radical, if irritating, devotion. And this is all happening at another's expense in some sense. People at the receiving end of this are props in their self-orchestrated psycho-spiritual drama.
Naturally this is talking about the more radical and annoying forms of evangelising and not the more subtle forms that we all engage in with our own blogs, words and actions on a daily basis.