Support the Café

Search our Site

Evangelism by force

Evangelism by force

The Feast Day of St. Boniface

640px-Saint_Boniface_by_Cornelis_Bloemaert.jpgAt the beginning of his highly successful missionary career in Hesse, St. Boniface chopped down the Sacred Oak of Geismar, a giant tree sacred to the god Thor. Allegedly it fell after only four blows and broke into four pieces, because it was rotten.

This is one of those treasured old stories that makes me a bit ashamed to be a Christian. As a student of the psyche I know how important sacred trees are in the nourishment of the soul. Without them something in us withers. We are diminished.

Somehow our forebears in the faith often had the idea that it was all right to come into a foreign domain, set up shop and destroy the local culture and religion. It is the same mentality that in the U.S. in more recent times had us removing Arapaho children from their homes and placing them in boarding schools, where the children were not allowed to speak their own language or follow their ancient ways. What destructive arrogance!

I have to admit to vacillating between being mystified and being horrified by all the stories of saints in which Christianity was delivered to the “heathen” by force. Wasn’t one of the temptations Jesus resisted in the wilderness taking charge of the world and holding dominion over it?

Granted, I didn’t live in the times or places in which our holy men and women wreaked such devastation, and I am from a much different culture. This leaves me somewhat unable to judge what happened. But at the very least it is not right to unequivocally celebrate the destruction of artifacts from other people’s religions.

As I write this my conscience is asserting itself and reminding me that I can get quite caught up in the role of Crusader myself. When I am just certain that I am right about something, I often don’t listen well to other points of view. In fact I can get downright underhanded when it comes to having things work out my way. Again, what destructive arrogance!

It is confusing and frightening to contemplate how to proclaim the news about repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name to all nations (Luke 24:47) in this age. There are so many cultures, ethnicities and faiths, and each deserves our respect. And this at a time when we are just learning that our fall-back position – ensconcing ourselves in a church, making it lively and inviting, and hoping that people will come for the experience and stay – is proving untenable.

What should we do? At the very least, we need to gather together in churches and dioceses and address the questions surrounding evangelism. Perhaps God will guide us into a new understanding.

Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café