Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stop Thinking of Them as People

atheism, atheist, witness, evangelism, testimony, proselytizing, work, scripture,bible, jesus, ray, comfort
Unless you're new here (hi! stay a while), you know I find Ray Comfort endlessly disturbing. It's the combination of his smarmy self righteousness, his willful stupidity, and the fact that he is the evangelical's evangelist. Seriously, go to a christian message board and ask how to proselytize (you should call it "witnessing"), and 10 out of the 10 replies you receive will all reference the Way of the Master and Living Waters- Ray Comfort.

Which is what makes ideas like the one below so disturbing- lots of people are taking this advice. Lots of people see this as good advice.

How should I witness to my coworkers? short answer? you shouldn't. you're getting paid to work, for one thing. for another, it can lead your employer into legal trouble.

When we interact with people on a daily basis, we have many opportunities for sharing our faith. tell me about it. First, be sure you are respectful to your employer and set a good example in your work ethic by working "as to the Lord" (Colossians 3:23).When others around you grumble and complain, if you have a calm, forgiving, steadfast spirit, it will make an impression. probably as that guy that doesn't like to play along, and would rather kiss ass instead*, but whatever. As you respond in a Christ-like way to angry coworkers ummm . . . unsaved coworkers are naturally angry or something? crabby atheist stereotype? i dunno. and stressful circumstances, people will see a difference in your life.

Always be friendly and courteous, and show genuine interest in your coworkers’ lives. Invite them out to lunch to get better acquainted. Share their joys and sorrows by congratulating them in their good times and offering to pray for them in their bad times.

this is where the advice gets bad. Think about this for a second. If a coworker of mine showed this kind of interest in me, I would assume (a) they had a sexual interest in me, or (b) they wanted to be my friend. Not that I want my coworkers to constantly be fantasizing about me, but I would be horribly offended at this tactic. Think about it. Ray Comfort is encouraging people to treat other human beings not as people, but as marks. As targets. As means to an end.

Would this be acceptable if the product being sold were Amway rather than salvation? Beyond that, should people really need this kind of primer on how to relate to other people? Atheists are just like theists, guys. We have feelings, hopes, dreams, disappointments. We feel joy and pain, love and rejection, and you shouldn't need to be told to congratulate me in good times and comfort me in bad**. If you do need to be told that, well, I don't know what help I can offer you.

Be sure you do pray for them, then follow up by asking them about the situation you prayed for. Well, yeah, followup on people's problems does show you're interested.They will be moved by your concern. No more so than anyone else's sincere concern. If coworkers are discussing what they did during the previous weekend, you can share your excitement about attending church services or a special church event. and become that guy we never talk about off time with. Ask others if they have any plans for celebrating Christmas or Easter sweet Salvador Dali, I've worked with these people; be nonjudgmental of their answer, but be ready (if asked) to explain why you celebrate as you do. nobody is going to ask. we live in a country dominated by christians, we all know why you're celebrating that way. unless you're a Jehovah's Witness, in which case we think you're a freak show.

Displaying a favorite Scripture or a devotional calendar, or reading your Bible during lunchtime, may prompt others to inquire about your faith. it would prompt me to avoid you, but you can try that Bringing home-baked goods or leaving a small gift with a note on a coworker’s desk can sometimes have a greater impact than a thousand eloquent sermons. not when the price of that cookie is a really annoying spiel. We can show our faith by our works. Others may not like a tree of self righteousness, but they cannot help but like its fruit. I can. Pray for opportunities to share the gospel, being careful not to infringe on your boss’s time. "For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men." (1 Peter 2:15)

Of course Ray couldn't avoid a chance to call atheists "fools".

*tell me you've never felt that way about a coworker that won't join in the occasional bash-the-boss session. it's called a "bonding experience", people.

**A sincerely offered "I'll pray for you" in response to something bad in my life is not offensive to me. I understand the intent behind it and appreciate that you are thinking of me, and you care.


  1. "being careful not to infringe on your boss’s time" but your co-worker's time is completely fair game.

    I can't believe you take the time to read these things. I for one don't do it anymore because I eventually can't resist the impulse to punch the screen. Even with the 20 screen bulk purchase discount it can get pretty expensive after a while. True story*

    Super J.

    *(is not)

  2. I think my boss is starting to doubt my "angry client punched my screen" excuse. How often in one week can that happen?

  3. I have loved the comparison of this kind of witnessing to Amway since I read it over on Slactivist. Beautiful.
    When I want to convey that I'll be praying for something I usually tell people I'll be thinking good thoughts for them. It's neutral and while I don't care if people tell me they are praying for me, I know people who really get offended, so it gets the point across without upsetting people.

  4. Don't forget. He's not just talking about witnessing to Atheists. He's talking about Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, JW's, Agnostics, pagans, deists... ad nauseum.

  5. I think the slacktivist figured out that about 0.5% of the population would actually go in the rapture.

    i usually say "thinking of you" or "hoping for you". it's neutral, and i don't pray anyway. but i don't get offended at a very sincere "praying for you".

  6. I work in an office full of Catholics (Ash Wendsday is kind of funny), and we have a strict "no conversion" rule. Because there are people who aren't Catholic or Christian here, and while people are open about their faith it is not cool to try to convert people. One guy actually tried at X-mas and was talked to by the owner about making people uncomfortable. If only every office followed that rule!

  7. I sometimes wish Ra didn't think Catholics were evil and deserving of hell because I would quote St. Francis of Assisi to him.

    "It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."

    "No one is to be called an enemy, all are your benefactors, and no one does you harm. You have no enemy except yourselves."

    "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

    "Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance."

  8. Good old Frank- I knew I like him for a reason.

    Our office is tame, too. Most of the partners are Reform Jews, the one is Catholic, and nobody risks talking religion in a law office, anyway.

  9. I live in the Bible Belt, in the fucking buckle, it is assumed you go to church. Like another atheist said that moved down here recently, one of the first questions they ask here is "Which church do you attend?"

    No proselytizing or evangelizing is done because they assume everyone is already christian.

  10. Beamstalk: St. Francis of Assisi sounds wonderful, I'll have to read more of what he said!

  11. True story:

    I lived in Texas for a while, during my agnostic/don't want to admit i'm atheist phase, and I would make up names of churches when people asked me that. One time, I made up the name of the church that the questioner attended.

    Epic lie fail.

  12. Back in my Christian days, I took a course at church called "Becoming a Contagious Christian." The companion book had the same title. At least twice in the book and during the lectures, the author and the class leader used the expression "Hold their feet to the fire." I didn't finish the course because of that. All I could think of was Torquemada. He was pretty "contagious" too, from what I've heard.

    [within 5 years I was free of religion, and I think that course and just those 6 little words had a lot to do with getting me there.]

  13. those dirty theiving Christians!

    now they are stealing your COOKIES!!!

    (well, the cookie idea!)

    gods, is nothing sacred to those people?


  14. "hold their feet to the fire"?! How does that not remind one of Torquemada? (Well, I suppose if one has not heard of Torquemada . . . maybe this explains the fundy opposition to education.)

    On a related note, I really hate expressions that invoke violence when referring to inherently, or what should be inherently, nonviolent situations. Hmmmm . . . this may be a post.

  15. Hey, I know that guy that Ray-Ray is talking about.

    He's annoying. Also, it's shit like this that makes me feel slightly less bad about my days running outreach. My advice was always, "Actually care about people, then worry about the evangelism thing."

    Funny story: it was actually caring about people that often led me to ditch the evangelism thing...

  16. See, we always find out why you're not supposed to do the things Ray Ray tells you not to: they lead to defaithing. So, add "caring" to reading, thinking, interacting, listening to music, and learning about science.

  17. I used to have a Mormon friend, and he had a big fat picture of a creepy and overly enthusiastic Jesus next to the TV. Every time we played GoldenEye on his N64 I'd get totally distracted by it. If I was uncomfortable with his dodgy faith without him even having mentioned it, imagine how much worse it would have been if he'd been 'witnessing'.


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