Warning: This post contains Christian propaganda! (wink)
There is a quote that is commonly attributed to Voltaire that I have always found meaningful:
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
I like this. A lot. But it is pretty difficult for me to practice that when faced with certain conservatives or other people that I REALLY disagree with. But if I want to be able to practice free speech, I have to encourage and allow others to do so as well.
I went home last night and thought more about Margalit's post. As Ricky Ricardo might put it, I feel that Christians may have a "lot of splaining to do." In the Lutheran Confession, we pray: "We have sinned against You in thought, word and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. We have not loved You with our whole heart, we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves." This may be a good starting point when talking to people of other beliefs. Note that this confession does not say "Christian neighbors."
Margalit is right. Christians are charged with going out and spreading the Good News. I thought about that last night and I would like to take you on an imaginary journey with me to the time right after the death of Christ. Let's imagine for a moment that we are travelling with Thomas. (of "doubting" fame) Thomas is travelling around telling people about Jesus. Let's say he stops at a local well for some water. He introduces himself to the other travelers at the well and reveals that he is a disciple of Jesus. The other travelers haven't heard about Jesus and they listen politely. Then, one of the travelers says, "It's been nice chatting with you, Thomas, but I'm just not buying what you are selling."
Now, Thomas could have responded, "Well, that's fine but I want you to know that you are going to hell. You will be thrown into the fiery pit where you will suffer for all time and get poked by devils with pitchforks. If you aren't with me, then you are against me!" That's the way a lot of Christians respond to non-believers. Right?
But, somehow, I think Thomas would have said something like, "Okay. But I really believe this and I'm going to keep talking about it. If you want to learn more, you know where to find me."
The thing about faith is that you can't FORCE someone to believe. And I don't think you should want someone to embrace a belief out of fear. If we as Christians truly believe that God is love and we want to spread a message of inclusiveness, I think we can share our faith without judgment or anger or any of the other negative things that Christians sometimes do. Some people in this life may be receptive to what we have to say. They may ask questions and try to learn more. And others may not be interested. And that's okay. We are charged with loving our neighbors as ourselves. No matter what.