One day I ‘d love to be stopped on the street by someone who says, “I don’t know whether or not there is a god. What do you think?” or “God loves everyone and all of us will end up in heaven eventually,” or even “Hello! my name is…”
It’s easier to find the motivation to spread the Good News, I’d imagine, if one genuinely believes that those who don’t convert are destined to be tortured eternally in the afterlife and that the world as we know it could end at any moment.
There generally isn’t the same sense of urgency or fear for those of us who do not share these beliefs. Of course Theists who believe in hell are going to set up informational booths about Allah or Jehovah outside of my local mall every summer or stand on the corner preaching and giving away rosaries, Jack Chick tracts, or English translations of the Koran to the people walking by.
While I highly value treating everyone with kindness, respect, and courtesy, I have no interest in becoming Muslim, Christian or anything else but many street evangelists don’t seem to know how to respect personal boundaries or get to know me as an individual before they share the cure for what (they believe) ails me. If we could become friends first, if we could help one another move and bring over homemade chicken soup when the other person’s entire family catches the flu a week before Christmas, if we could laugh, grieve, and dream together then at some point I would become interested in talking about God, religion and what, if anything, lies beyond this world with them.
If only street evangelism was about asking open-ended questions, not inoculating strangers with one’s version of the truth. If only there were as many Buddhist, Taoist, Atheist, Universalist, Deist, Agnostic and other types of evangelists I’ve yet to meet sharing what they suspect may be the truth as there were hellfire-and-brimstone street preachers.