Saturday, November 14, 2009

shilling for god

god is a many petaled flower and each petal is essential to the whole

Proselytizers came to my door last week.  It’s surprising how often this happens here at the country house.  I’m used to it happening occasionally in the city, but here in small town Texas, it’s like preaching to the choir.  I mean every small town in Texas is so religious the churches almost outnumber the residents.  Every small town in Texas IS the choir.  Except for the occasional heathen in their midst.  Like me.  

I’m against the whole idea of proselytizing.  I think it is an arrogant behavior, one that shows no respect for the variety of life, ideas, cultures, ways of being, ways of seeing.     

I have no problem with religions welcoming seekers who come to them.  It’s the ones who go out in the world armed with self-righteousness, the ones who see you as lost to the grace of god because you believe or worship differently that I find repugnant.  Especially the ones that offer aid only so long as they can count on collecting your soul.

I was raised a christian, I raised my children jewish, I am currently a heathen.  I define a heathen as someone who is without religion.  That does not exclude a belief system that may or may not include a ‘creator’ or a spiritual outlook and practice or an acceptance of a ‘higher power’.  I do not equate religion with knowing god.

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing my pecan meditation, just starting really, when I looked up to see these two young men crossing the vacant half acre from the street, making a beeline for me.  As soon as we make eye contact, they hail me.

“Good morning!” he says.  

“Hello”, I return with a faint smile and a small movement of the hand.  I can see immediately that they are proselytizers by the way they are dressed and the fact that they are carrying written material.  I don’t like proselytizing but I do like to engage them in conversation when I have the time.  Or I guess you chould say, I like to challenge them.  

After some preliminary niceties, he asks “Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew what god wanted us to do?”

Can’t argue with that so I agreed, “Yes it would.”

“Do you think that god has sent prophets to us to tell us what he wants?” he asks.

“Oh yes”, I say, “there have been many prophets in the past, now today, and will be in the future.  Many paths, one destination, all beloved”

I kept on in this manner, agreeing while disagreeing until he finally got around to presenting his agenda, his prophet, his church.  I told him I didn’t do religion, that I had a personal relationship with the deity, that I didn’t find it particularly difficult to know how god wanted me to behave.  He tried again and that is when I politely told him that I disagreed and would like to get on with my meditation and my day.

Last week another pair stopped by.  Husband went out to engage the ladies.  I was busy trying to get the house buttoned down for our three days in the city.

“The end times are near”, she says.

“No they’re not”, he says.  “Dates have come and gone even within your own religion, and the world is still here.”

“The signs have never been so numerous, famine never so severe” she replies.

“No, they’re not,” he says, “The world has never been so prosperous or abundant, the only reason there is famine is for political reasons.  People have never had so much, been so healthy, lived so long.”  Food is grown in abundance and shipped all over the globe.  

Armageddon is not a concept we have ever entertained.  I’m sure we humans will probably do ourselves in sooner rather than later because we are so destructive in nature.  And by destructive, I don’t mean evil.  Eventually we will pass and the next great thing will come along just as we replaced the dominant life forms before us.  But the world destroyed during a battle between good and evil, the righteous being raised up to heaven in bodily form, all who do not accept their version of the almighty laid waste and condemned?  A horror tale to scare us into submission.

I used to agree with them about Armageddon, that yes it had already happened, the world that those soothsayers knew is gone, their way of life destroyed, the people scattered to the winds.

I don’t like proselytizing but I will talk to them, challenge them, hopefully even make them think and maybe question or at the very least become more open minded about the nature of the godhead and it’s capacity for love and acceptance of all.  But I would never go to their door, their home, their country and assume they need saving because their beliefs were different than mine.


  1. oh ellen - there are so many like yourself and myself who have been through this experience countless times. i live how i live and have a strong sense of the sacred. my work is to bring my knowing into action. that's all. religion - well some aspects of religion - take something immediate and intimate away from the sacred. i know about love - the love that connects all and everything. religion - well some aspects of religion - put that knowledge through a filter - a conditional filter. so i am glad that i have the opportunity to work my way through all of this in a way that works for me. thanks for sharing this piece. steven

  2. I have a long driveway which no one comes down. Luckily, I usually can see if 'they' are coming. If I do answer the door, which I don't always do, I ask what they want. Tell them I'm a vacationing catholic ... which normally stops them ... while we all look at each other. I tell them to have a nice day while I close the door.

    I've never had a problem with religious people. I just don't want them to push it off on someone else.

    Let me guess what you are by your actions ...

    One time someone came to the door, I told them I was busy. That didn't stop them. I told them .. ok, come on in ... you can wash the floor & you can entertain the baby. They didn't come in ... LOL

  3. Ellen - that was my problem with missions in Zambia. I had no trouble at all with the ministries that helped the local churches, or taught the Zambians to be better farmers, or provided a music ministry, or a safe place for college students to interact. These were good ministries for people who didn't have many other good alternatives. But sitting down & talking about the "Roman Road" with a person at a revival? WAY outside my comfort zone... Even as a fairly conservative young person I didn't buy that the Bible was the inerrant Word of God - made it hard to use it as a road to salvation in my book. And what IS salvation anyway? Soapbox for another day!

  4. I'm with you, welcome people to your church, by all means. But to approach people's homes soliciting doesn't quite work.

  5. 'I don't do religion' - I loved that line. Well, I'm a Catholic, a practising one at that, but I practise it from my love for God - no, I am a Christian because of my love for God. If I'm just 'doing religion' then, it's all wrong. I would have not problem witnessing about my faith if someone wanted me to, but I'd rather like to 'spread the message' by leading such a good life that someone would want to share what I have. And I might as well tell you, I'm nowhere near there right now!

    Lovely post Ellen!

  6. I came from a religion that assumes all its youngfolk will do the door-to-door bit; it's one of the reasons I now refer to it as "came" instead of "am in." I was incredibly fortunate in having parents who encouraged me to think for myself and if I chose to espouse their religion, great. If not, that was fine, too. I didn't realize how rare and precious that was until I got out in the wide world.

    I gotta admit, my policy for dealing with any kind of door-to-door-er isn't quite as tolerant as yours. I figure if someone's OK with invading my privacy, I'm not gonna change their minds. So they ring the doorbell, I open it, say, "I'm sorry but I don't do door-to-door ANYthing. Thank you." And close the door. It's worked so far.

  7. You are NOT a heathen, (I looked it up). They have customs and religion of their own. I used to think I was a pagan, but they have their own deal too. You're just all the synonyms for strange, Merriam-Webster said so and that rocks. xoxo. I loved this post, thanks.

  8. Lead by example. Your life is your testimony. I like it.

  9. I'm with you. I feel imposed and invaded when these "religious" people push themselves on others.

  10. I'm with you Ellen. I can't abide with people coming to my door to preach. In fact, I'm not crazy about the words religion and church. Can't we come up with something more creative and universal? Good post.

  11. Even in this little tiny town, the same people come to our door. I'm polite, but close the door with a "Do not disturb" sign, please. I think it is worng to go door to door much like a salesman. I don't think that was what was intended...especially spouting doom and gloom! Well said!

  12. Such a difference between spiritual and being religious.

    I'm actually pretty fascinated by the commonalities between religions, the principles upon which they are based, even when the leaders seem to see theirs as the only one.

    I don't understand proselytizing, though. Don't see the benefit, other than perhaps furthering the education of the proselytizer. Like having big kids tutor little kids as a way to strengthen the big kids knowledge. But I can't really imagine that proselytizing as a recruiting tool has a great success.

    Really great post, Ellen. I can totally see you engaging the visitors and and ultimately hearing a "We'll get back to you on that." It's pretty hard to beat dogma with rationality. but sounds like you're giving it a go!

  13. Ellen--
    Just ran across this post. You might find it interesting!

  14. Whoa, super deep. Super delish.

    I used to have the LDS chicas visit me regularly here at Casa Hice. I liked them. They were young and sweet and they came quietly and politely, so of course, I let them in and we'd chat a long time. They brought me my very own copy of the Book of Mormon which I did try to read and absorb, but it wasn't for me. I try to be open-minded that way. But mostly, I just liked the girls. They invited me to their temple many times and I just smiled and thanked them. No freaking way buzzing around in my mind, but they didn't need to hear my thoughts. I just liked them. Then after awhile, I started avoiding them. Because, after all, they were on a crusade to nail down my faith and readjust it to the Mormon-y Latter Day Saints way. I couldn't let them do that! What would my little Filipino Jehova's Wittnesses think? Yes, I entertained those sweet ladies too. They weren't quiet so obvious in their soul-snacking.

    I'm Christian and I know that God wants us to evangelize - but I choose to evangelize by living a clean life. A life that says I'm a believer. I try to be kind and loving and generous. I don't think I need to talk the talk a lot, I just need to walk the walk. And I never ever cram my beliefs down anyone's throat. What's the point in that? If someone is curious and wants to know something, I'll do my best to share what I know. But there is a very very fine line between sharing and chasing away.

    Love your post Ellen. You crazy Texan you.

  15. Hi Ellen, me again. I didn't have time to write this yesterday. But I grew up as one of Jehovah's Witnesses and for many years would have been one of those proselytizing, irritating people at your door. But I had a terrible secret and an awful inner conflict - I hated it!!! There was not one door that I ever approached happily. I did it to obey god, the religion, the community and my mother's wishes.
    I finally made my escape from the sect when it came time to 'force' my firstborn to go door-to-door and offer the magazines when she was little. I refused to make my child do what I so hated.

    So while they are annoying, know that some really are embarrassed to be bothering you and would rather be anywhere but at your door.

    We have a lovely family of J.W.s that live across the street from us. And every time I see them leave with their big bags full of church literature to go bang on peoples' doors I think WOOO HOOOO, I am free - and so are my children!!!

  16. Thank you all for your comments. To be honest I was a little nervous about posting this because I didn't want to offend. While religion is not for me, I am glad for those that find peace and solace in it. Apparently, I'm not a heathen after all according to Verily, and here I thought I finally had a label for myself. My own personal expression is drawn from different paths all around the world. Mostly, I try to walk in beauty.

  17. Oh god, that's the oldest trick in the book, to lead with a question that everyone will say yes to.

    A friend of mine did the following, when religious folk knocked on my door, despite the signs that say not to. She asked them if God had sent them, and they said yes. So she whipped out her cell phone and pretended to call the Almighty. She goes, "God? Hey babe, it's Anna. I'm over at Shay's. Uh huh. Hey listen, did you send these people at the door? Really? Wow. Okay then. Laters."

    "He says He's never heard of you. Bye now." And she shut the door. Then she turned around and leaned back against the door, slowly sliding down into a helpless puddle of laughter.

  18. You are more patient than I am. I just can't engage in any conversation as it annoys me too much. Some things just aren't open to argument and that includes the proselytisers.

  19. I can understand if ones religion suggests proselytizing, It is after all part of their belief. I can readily understand from experience just how invasive that can come across. I've had many conversations - most of which have left me feeling frustrated or angry. So I stopped entertaining callers. Now i just say "I'm Jewish." It's the truth and for some reason they wish me a nice day, turn around and leave.

  20. I am so in agreement with you - I never know how to deal with those who believe everyone should agree with them. Unlike you I am not gracious and just tell them I have my own relationship to God and they don't have to waste their time on me.

    Of course it isn't just within religions that there are prosletizers, oh no. There are folks out there who will insist they know how EVERYONE should live, eat, work, sleep, exercise, how EVERYONE should dress, speak, behave.

    Variety is the spice of life, people! Or as you said (more eloquently)

    Many paths, one destination, all beloved

    Oh yeah!

  21. We don't get many proselytizers at the manor, but when we do, WT really enjoys a good heated debate with them. I, on the other hand don't answer the door.

    I totally agree with the concept that spirituality has nothing to do with organized religion.

  22. Ugh...a big fat pet hate of mine :) Like how here, in India, the Christians came to "save the heathens" who were into "cult acts" and "idol worship." Holy Mary Mother of God, if only they knew....

  23. "armed with self-righteousness" is about as bad as it gets.

  24. I could not agree with you more. Only you have way more patience than I do.


I opened my big mouth, now it's your turn.