Pope Francis recently gave a speech on his Top 10 tips for bringing greater joy to one’s life. Among the list are
–Live and let live.
–Be giving of yourself to others
–Proceed calmly in life
–A healthy sense of leisure, including backing off materialism, and making sure to turn off the TV during dinner.
–Sundays are holidays to be spent with family
And others, most of which are bland enough to elicit little response. Typical self-help stuff.
However, he also threw in number nine,
“Don’t proselytize; respect others’ beliefs. “We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyzes: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytizing,”
Sorry, but that’s weird.
“Proselytize” has become a bad word, but it really isn’t. In fact, most of your life is spent proselytizing or being proselytized.
Here is an official definition of this word:
“To induce someone to convert to one’s own religious faith.
To induce someone to join one’s own political party or to espouse one’s doctrine.
To convert (a person) from one belief, doctrine, cause, or faith to another.”
Just the other day I was with a group of people eating breakfast and I popped open a Pop Tart. Three different people lectured me on Pop Tarts, which, in the end, is fine–more for me, baby.
People are proselytizing all the time. Now, yes, it would be nice if a guy could eat a Pop Tart without a dissertation on grams of fat. If that’s what the pope means, I fully agree.
But he’s not, he specifically said he’s talking about religious proselytizing. He even went so far as to say “the worst thing of all is religious proselytism.”
Really? Religious proselytizing is the “worst thing?” Worse than child rape? Worse than mass murder? Worse than my attempts to spell “proselytizing” consistently in this post? (Spell check came through on this one)
Seems to me, one of the major points of being a Christian is to “convert (a person) from one belief, doctrine, cause, or faith to another.“
Now granted, personal testimony of a life well lived is huge. Never underestimate the role of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God that “converts the soul.”
But to say that the Church should avoid talk that tries to “persuade” people is just ridiculous.
It is, in fact, arguable that lack of proselytizing has led to so much apathy in the Church, leading to much unhappiness. Try doing a little more to persuade others of Christ and joy in life might increase.
But hey, I’m not infallible, so what do I know? No use trying to proselytize the pope, I imagine.
“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men“