Member Rara Avis
Explain, why you're a Christian or don't bother contributing.
Brad, your last post confuses me. YOU haven't explained why you're a Christian, and one might even guess that not everyone in this thread IS a Christian. Besides, since when should that be a criteria for contributing to a discussion?
Don't use your strength here? I'm unclear (again) what that means, but my immediate reaction would be, "Why not?"
If you wanted to discuss writers instead of evangelists, I suspect we would end up talking mostly about the good ones. Not the ninety percent (at least!) who get it all wrong. I'm not suggesting we can't learn from bad writers, because we can. I AM saying that bad writers shouldn't be representative of the craft. Human endeavors are defined not by the majority, but by the accomplished.
What can we learn from the ones doing it poorly?
Proselytizing isn't limited to religion, but is a facet of human nature, and exists largely because most of us unconsciously assign our own expectations and assumptions to others. I want to be healthy and live a long life, so I figure you do, too. That's an assumption. If I believe that red meat leads to an unhealthy life, I might just try to point that out to you. Especially if I believe it strongly. Especially if I care what happens to you. Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with that, nor do I think it would do me much good to try to change it. It's far too deeply ingrained in who and what we are.
HOW I go about pointing it out to you, however, is another matter entirely. If Joe in the next cubicle eats lunch with you every day and harps every time you order a burger, that's probably going to get pretty irritating. If Joe swings by at the end of the day to tell you how good he still feels after that big plate of soy salad, it's probably going to get pretty irritating. If Joe buys you a pork chop for your next birthday, that's likely going to be about the last straw.
But does Joe represent the entire health industry?
If you actually wanted to find out more about the effects of red beef on the human digestive system, do you think you'd ask Joe about it? There is still no conclusive evidence, and you are NOT going to find an unbiased source, but I nonetheless suspect you would look to a doctor, a nutritionist, an athlete you respect, or just about anybody EXCEPT Joe.
Let's reverse the situation a minute.
If you believed red beef was dangerous, would you feed it to your kids? If you believed marijuana too often led to drug exploration, would you introduce it to your little brother? If you believed vitamin C and beta-carotene could prolong useful life, would you give your mom a bottle of vitamins on her sixtieth birthday? If you believed reading could extend personal horizons, would you make sure your children saw you with a book occasionally or would you sit in front of the television all night?
Now, why would you do any less for a friend? Or even a stranger?
EVERY SINGLE TIME we try to help another human being, that help is predicated on our assumptions and our beliefs in what is good or bad. I would certainly agree that we should more closely examine our beliefs before we hoist them on others, but I doubt that's really the big problem. The big problem, I think, is that almost no one ever examines their assumptions. You cannot assume that because you want to lead a long and boring live, everyone else does, too. You cannot assume that because you want to learn more sophisticated writing techniques, everyone else does, too (or that they should want to, which is just a different kind of assumption).
Unless someone has explicitly asked for your help, the chances are somewhere between excellent to damned sure that your assumptions about what they want are NOT going to valid. (You're probably wrong even if they do ask, but at least the odds aren't quite so badly skewed against you.)
In the short term, your ability to spread your beliefs can be based on several things, including social power (parents and kids, as one example) and even - once in a great while - merit. In the long term, however, your success is going to depend on correctly accessing motivations. Those who are unable to do this reasonably well are just going to irritate the dickens out of us. They are going to harp and harp on things we don't care about, little realizing they should instead be finding out what we DO care about. I don't think that necessarily means their beliefs are wrong. Maybe red meat really does clog arteries and other less mentionable orifices. But I don't want to hear about that while I'm eating a nice rare steak.
It really doesn't matter whether Joe is preaching to you about red meat, about monogamous relationships, about using the word "soul" in a poem, or about Christianity. If he does it poorly, with no reference to your own agenda, it's going to be irritating. That almost goes without saying. The real question, I submit, is whether your reaction would be different if it was done correctly.
Put another way, would you have the same beef with Mother Theresa or Martin Luther King?