An Atheist teaches evangelism skills
Top Ten Tips For Evangelizing (From An Atheist).
1. Be Like Jesus: Hang With The Sinners and Judge The Judgers
2. Form Genuine Relationships With People, Don’t Treat Them As Projects.
3. Actions Speak Louder Than Words.
4. When Talking About Religious and Philosophical Matters, Ask More Questions And Do Less Preaching.
5. Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice or Judgments. Support People and Wait For Them To Ask For Your Input If They Want It.
6. Appreciate That Nominal Christians Are Still Christians.
7. Don’t Try To Force Others Into Christian Participation.
8. Understand Atheists and Embrace The Opportunity Confrontational Atheists Afford You.
9. Respect Other Religions Even As You Evangelize Their Members.
10. Love Your Enemies, Not Just Your Tribe.
The most admirable part of the story of Jesus, even to an atheist like me that thinks that both Christians and non-Christians give Jesus an overblown reputation, is the way that the Gospels portray him as a morally condemnatory preacher who focused his sermons against those who abused their wealth and religious power, rather than against those demonized already by his religion, while he spent his time hanging out with the outcasts loathed by his community. From his use of a hated Samaritan as a role model in his story about what kind of love God most demands of us, to his reputation for hanging out with the hated tax collectors and the prostitutes who were held in so much contempt, to his endless attacks on the rich and on the self-righteous religious leaders, the Jesus of the Gospels is a role model of how to simultaneously have strong opinions about morality without being a judgmental and alienating person.
We do not have stories in which Jesus rails against the tax collectors and prostitutes. We do not have stories of him sitting around with them haranguing them about how they must change their lives. Yes, we have the moment where he tells the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more” but the crux of that story is his heroic effort to save her from a bloodthirsty mob of self-righteous people. We live in a society that has more than filled up its quota of Evangelical Christian Pharisees organizing contempt and condemnation for the sinners. We have plenty of highly visible Evangelical Christians invested in saying “sin no more”. They should be vastly outnumbered by Christians who stand up to them and say, “let ye who is without sin, cast the first stone”. We should have many more Christians who leave it to Jesus, presumably the only one with a right to judge on Christian doctrine, to be the one to tell the sinner to “sin no more”. The end of that story was not that those equally guilty of sin as the woman put down their stones and then stood in a circle chastising her and telling her not to sin lest next time she gets stoned for real. The end of that story was that the fellow sinners shut up and meted out no penalties nor condemnations. And Jesus alone dealt with the issue of her sin.
From an outsider’s (and former insider’s) perspective, nothing is more corrosive right now to the church than your obsession with being acknowledged, with being powerful, and withdrawing tribal lines. It is killing your ability to spread the Gospel. Too many in the church are placing whatever creates a hard distinction from “the world” at the center of Christian identity instead of a spirit of love. Hard right-wing politics over gays and abortion are now becoming definitive of Christian identity rather than the belief in the Gospel. When I was a believer, I know we weren’t like this. Most of our time was consumed with loving Jesus and each other, not hating anybody–even if what the media paid primary attention to was our political stances. But I hear in the rhetoric of too many Christians a strange attitude that turns opposition to recognizing the validity of gay relationships into the ultimate test of orthodoxy. There is little biblical justification for overblowing the importance of this, especially as you show little desire in forcing remarriages of divorced people (Jesus was actually unequivocally against divorces when there’s been no adultery) or in living by the book of Leviticus in any of a hundred ways. It looks self-serving when the ethical views the church is most insistent upon are those that the older leaders of the church are least affected by. The church is sneering at young people’s sexual experimentation in a way that serves the monogamously married elders, it sneers at gays in a way that does little to challenge the heterosexual majority.
Rather than loving your (perceived) enemies, you are claiming persecution every time you are asked to treat them equally and civilly under the law and in polite society. You are looking for ways to have antagonisms with feminists, with gays, with those who cry out against hundreds of years of systemic racial injustice, with atheists who plead for a secular government that doesn’t favour your religion. Rather than learning to appreciate those who force you to mature in your faith and learning to respect their admirable traits even in the midst of adversity, you’re participating in the politics of resentment and zero-sum games.
You are becoming known for your preferences for only people like you, for your unwillingness to so much as accommodating others different from you without crying persecution, and for your petty intolerance of the poor, the weak, the feminine, and all the marginalized in our society.
You publicly identify whole groups of people as your enemies and wage legal and social war against them and their dignity. You leverage your considerable power with closed-mindedness against everyone who lives in a way outside traditional boxes. And, all the while, you cry persecution when you’re not able to impose the ethics that only your faith justifies on those who don’t share your faith.
If you want to effectively give the Gospel, you must repent and start loving your enemies as Jesus commanded, before you lose all credibility outside of the tribal boundary markers you are so fiercely asserting and defending.
A lot of the Atheists out there are more rabidly doctrinaire then many members of the Evangelical right — and just as annoying. But this guy, I could easily like…
He doesn’t get the Gospel nearly as well as he thinks he does — but his grasp of evangelism is easily twice as good as anything I ever got anywhere else. Really, what he is calling, Evangelism,” is nothing more than his grasp of how to love and be decent to others — which so much of the Church has lost.
So worth the read!