According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, proselytize is defined as, “to induce someone to convert to one’s faith.” Now that I’ve established what it means to proselytize, I’m going to detail my thoughts on whether this is an acceptable activity. In my ordinary high school experience, religion is some thing which should not be discussed excepting two situations. 1) You are forced by a teacher to address the topic or 2) To make the claim that “It’s OK if you’re religious, just don’t force it on other people.” Clearly, proselytizing is not something that one should be doing.
On the other hand, how can I not? I’m caught in a peculiar double-bind: those who proselytize are criticized as fanatics, those who don’t are considered hypocrites because if you have the secret to eternal life you jolly well aren’t going to keep it a secret from the rest of humanity. Upon reflection, however, proselytizing isn’t really fanatical. It’s just an explicit form of something everyone does implicitly. It’s making some one agree with your worldview. Phrased like that, attempting to proselytize is a good thing. It leads to deeper discussions about what we as individuals and as a culture hold to be valuable. If we aren’t having these debates, it’s hard for us to experience personal and intellectual growth. Still, Faith is a funny thing. It is by definition (again, apologies to my English teachers), something that goes beyond reason, so having logical discussions about worldviews isn’t something one would immediately connect to proselytizing. However, logic can only take you so far, and I think that even for the most rational person, our deepest held beliefs about the world are shaped by experience and emotion. This is another way that proselytizing is a more explicit form of philosophical discussions.
On a more personal level, I currently think that I can’t truly proselytize. It’s only God that has the ability to cause someone to be a Christian, all I can do is sow the seeds. Something that I struggle with is the willingness to sow those seeds. However, after having worked out some of my thoughts in this post, I think I’ll be more comfortable doing that in the future.