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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Campus evangelists overstep their bounds

Throughout the first week back at school, there were myriad mild but persistent irritants that we all encountered as we made our way across campus—the ineffable heat, the pedestrians who don’t understand that the bike lanes are meant for bikes, the struggle of locating classrooms, etc. However, the real winners of the “mild but persistent irritant” competition were the people who spent the week shoving their religion down your throat and their flyers in your face.

It seemed impossible to make it from one end of campus to the other without a minimum of one person accosting you and handing you a flyer or giving you a mini-speech regarding some religious—almost always Christian—group or event.

Now, the simple solution for avoiding this issue would be to merely turn down the flyer or mini-speech if you are not interested. But it is not that easy; many worry that saying no seems rude. They just accept the flyer and (if they’re really unlucky) the proselytizing spiel. This situation is detrimental to both parties—the passerby ends up wasting their time and often has their personal space invaded by the overly-ingratiating evangelist, and the evangelist ends up feeling as if they have successfully recruited someone, giving them a false sense of accomplishment.

At the crux of this rampant issue is the audacious assumption that all individuals are either unhappy with their current belief system, in the market for a new belief system or desire a Christian belief system. Sure, some students welcome information about becoming more religiously involved. But students who are really searching for a new religion will naturally gravitate towards one that interests them, which very well may be Christianity, or that of other campus proselytizers. Being accosted by a stranger who is trying to lure you into becoming or staying involved in Christianity, however, is likely only going to be a turn-off for many people.

Advertising is one thing. The vast majority of clubs, both secular and non-secular, advertise and attempt to entice new members. But there is a way to advertise without handing out hundreds of wasteful paper flyers (the bulk of which get tossed in the nearest trash can) and without giving mini-speeches. A tent on the UA Mall with a banner would suffice, as those who are interested will approach the tent, request more information, and likely become involved in the organization. Conversely, those who are not interested may continue on their way, sans violation of their time, space, and current belief system.

These proselytizers are clearly taught not to take no for an answer, as I discovered while sitting outside doing homework on University Boulevard. A man with a stack of fliers advertising a Tucson church’s college involvement program offered me a paper, to which I politely said, “No, thank you.” Instead of leaving me to continue with my work, he persisted, telling me how the program was “great fun” and I should “just come try it out once” because I would “love it.”

It is undeniable that many college students are interested in trying out a new religion, or even just staying involved in their current one. But it is the responsibility of the interested to seek out the religious organization—not vice versa. This is true of all clubs, not just religious ones. If I wanted to join a sustainability club, a tutoring club, an engineering club, or student government, I would seek that opportunity out by either approaching that tent, looking the group up on the Internet, or speaking to an affiliated person.

Proselytizing is not a part of many successful secular and non-secular clubs’ practices, so why must it be such a prevalent aspect of certain Christian clubs? There are enough obstacles to dodge on this campus’s crazy sidewalks, and I think we’d all be a little more relaxed if over-enthused evangelists weren’t one of them. 

Follow Talya Jaffe on Twitter.

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