Originally posted on March 11, 2013.
“Let’s go talk to the street preachers!” Drew teased this past weekend. I raised my eyebrow and glanced over at him, trying not to roll my eyes.
Muslim, Jewish or Christian, street evangelists in Toronto share the same goal: to convert you. Certain groups loudly berate (female) strangers they think are too scantily clad. A handful are mentally ill, arguing with people who aren’t really there or exhibiting disorganized thought patterns if you listen to what they have to say. Others are quite friendly and knowledgable, especially if you can get them to discuss something other than religion.
After a year or two of living here I began avoiding all of them because people aren’t projects. It’s just as inappropriate to yell at strangers that they’re all going to hell as it is to take advantage of an existing friendship to push the issue.
Evangelism isn’t just a religious phenomenon, though. I’ve seen people use forms of friendship evangelism to convince others to:
- Eat certain foods
- Avoid other foods
- Lose weight
- Gain weight
- Own a car
- Use public transit
- Get pregnant
- Raise your kid my way
- Switch to reusable shopping bags*
- Vote only for candidates from party X
Regardless of whether those around them actually needed advice or had any intention of considering unsolicited input.
Do some of these urges come from a good place? Yes. Wanting other people to experience the same joy you do from a certain experience or decision is completely understandable but adults are responsible for their own lives.
Attempting to transform a friendship into a situation in which one person knows best for another taints every interaction. Am I asking about your latest doctor’s visit because I’m genuinely concerned or because I want you to buy megadoses of a particular vitamin that is sure to fix your incurable disease? Are you wondering for whom I voted in the last provincial election because you are thinking about voting for someone new or so you can make sure I’m not a Pauper?
It comes down to this: debating differences of opinion is healthy. By all means question the why and what of other people’s ideas and identity’s but condensing another human being to where they stand on one issue and then trying to “fix” that part of them doesn’t build trust. It erodes it.
*Yes, I have actually seen so-called grown ups get snippy about this one.