Monday, June 20, 2011

My Missionary Position.

I don't like missionaries.

Firstly, I distrust anyone who thinks their belief system or values are the ONLY CORRECT option. People who pontificate on the merits of their moral code, are often motivated by doubt. The fervency that someone exhibits while trying to convert me to their belief system (be it centered around organized religion, politics, parenting philosophies, or the value of reality television shows), is generally in proportion to the doubt they have about the validity of their choices.

Personally, I find nothing more compelling than someone who says, "Here's what I believe, I am not bothered if you have a dissenting opinion."

Secondly, missionary work (be it domestic or international) is contrary to everything I learned in my university anthropology classes. Societies are holistic. Imposing a belief system that developed in another cultural context undermines the very fabric of a society and leads to ruination. As proof of this I offer up the entire history of Canada since initial contact between Europeans and First Nations.

Thirdly, I do not come from a religious tradition that values this behavior. Say what you will about the failings of the Catholic church (and there are MANY), but we don't do this shit anymore. Let's hear it for the Second Vatican Council! Nuns get to go out in public! No more Latin services! Catholic clergy in developing countries now focus upon social justice not religious conversion!

And lastly: missionaries are doing normal Christians a great disservice. Yes, it all comes down to bad public relations. Many people (ie, my children) have their initial and primary exposure to Christianity when people come knocking at the door with tracts and sermons and offers of prayer.

Only recently did I realize (to my horror) that Klaxon and Zarf think ALL Christians want to convince people to -- in the words of my 7 year old -- "buy their religion." Such was the case, on Saturday morning. Mr Wrath and I were sitting on the chesterfield drinking coffee and chatting, when he jumped up and ran out of the room.

"What the --" I said,

"Missionaries. Coming up the driveway!" he yelled. Well, maybe not yelled as our house is rather small and he was standing in the windowless safety of the hallway to the bedrooms, three meters from me.

"Are you sure?"

"Two antiseptically clean, white guys in dark suits. Who else could it be?"

"Crap!" I said, scuttling out of the room in a most undignified pose, hoping that the missionaries (who were now standing on the stoop) couldn't discern my silhouette through the thin cotton curtain hanging over the front door window.

From the kitchen, Klaxon yelled in a too-loud voice, "OH, MAN! CHRISTIANS! AGAIN?! WHY?!"

Yes. YES, INDEED. WHY ARE THE CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES AT OUR DOOR!? AGAIN! ON A SATURDAY! It was bad enough when they'd drop by occasionally on the weekdays. I was fine with opening the door, exchanging pleasantries, then declining their tracts with, "We're Catholics -- all our salvation needs are currently being met," or "Thanks, but I'm already so full of the holy spirit, I can't read one more single bible verse or hear one more sermon without busting out of my temple garments."

But now that the missionaries are dropping by on weekends, I'm done opening the door. It's the first, and the easiest way of rehabilitating my sons' incorrect ideas about Christians (By the way, I totally own up to doing my kids a disservice by not openly discussing the many different ways people live and practice their faiths. I'll work on that, too.).  Rather than resort to hiding in the hallway, I'm going to post a sign on the front door. But I'm undecided about the text. Tell me which option you prefer:

Option A.

No Unsolicited Callers.

Option B.

Unsolicited Callers -- you are not welcome.

Option C.

No salespeople or religious canvassers. 
Thank you.

Option D.

No Soliciting.
No Religious Queries.

These three are very common and quite direct.  But they're rather dry. So I've come up with a two more that are just as succinct, but with a bit more humour:

Option E.
No Cold Callers.
We don't buy goods or services
or gods at the door.

Option F.
STOP!
No Sales.
No Surveys.
No Canvassing.
No Cold Calls.
No Offers of Eternal Salvation.
NO EXCEPTIONS.

Which do you prefer?

(Disclaimer: I'm not sure a sign will work, but I'm willing to give it a go.)

10 comments:

  1. I like the last one. And my understanding is that the sign *will* work, unless you've got some real crazies in your neighbourhood.

    You know what else works? Answering the door nude. Seriously. Friend of mine lived in a heavily-canvassed neighbourhood & one morning while very hungover, he blundered to answer the doorbell without realizing he'd slept naked. The clean-cut young gentlemen didn't even offer him a tract - just said he was obviously very busy and they wouldn't bother him. They never came back.

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  2. I'm also skeptical that a sign will work but I think it's definitely worth a try. I vote option F. Seriously. I think you have to be specific, otherwise they won't identify the sign as applying to them. Also, there's a bit of ambiguity around the word caller. I know it also means people calling at the door, but that's kind of an old-fashioned usage.

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  3. Signs do work. I've had one for years: a very tacky, hand written one to add to the crazy wild eyed lady with dogs image.

    http://i66.photobucket.com/albums/h244/hmsindefatigable/IMG_2864.jpg

    I scribbled it fast one day when we were interrupted once again during lessons. Grab an index card from the flashcard prep pile & a sharpie & presto - instant door ringer repellent.

    Then I add the sticky whenever elections are happening because I LOVE talking to politicos!

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  4. I vote for option F...nothing tops it for me than when the Fed Ex delivery guy chastised me for giving Papoosie Girl a bottle (I was holding her in my arms while opening the door) maybe you can add a section about opinions are not welcome either?

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  5. I like the last one. A bit of humour never hurt a good sign :)

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  6. I think option C would be most effective - but F is most amusing!

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  7. I like that last one! I put a No Solicitors sign on our house in Omaha and it worked, as far as I know. We had no one knocking on our door...not even scouts. Which was okay with me. I can buy my popcorn and cookies from familiar scouts and my programs aren't interrupted!

    I actually am grateful for your post here. You've put into words stuff that hasn't been right with me for several years (and led to a lot of self-examination...why I am so uncomfortable with evangelism? What's wrong with me?) I'm so the person who would say 'this is my opinion, it's cool with me if we don't agree'.

    "Imposing a belief system that developed in another cultural context undermines the very fabric of a society and leads to ruination." If I could memorize that phrase (I'd totally give you credit) I could describe my own feelings of discomfort.

    Nicely done Nan. Though your title had me thinking the post was about something else altogether. Hee.

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  8. I actually put a stop to the visiting missionaries a couple of years ago. I told them that I wanted them off my list, I was never ever ever going to join them or listen to them, and they weren't welcome on my property. Seems to have taken care of it. They haven't been back.

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  9. Want to hear something funny? We used to have Jehovah's Witnesses on our street almost twice a month and I was getting so tired of smiling politely while they tried to sell me their religion. Then, one day, a nicely dressed older man came and tried to hand me a pamphlet about how to protect your children from the evils of peer pressure in school, and I said, "oh, I don't need that, we homeschool!" He said, "OH!!! God Bless You, how wonderful!" and I have NEVER had another religious person ring my bell. I think it's funny that he assumed that, as a homeschooler, I must be "saved", but I'm not complaining! ; )

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  10. My sister once got caught on the other side of a clear sliding door when missionaries came calling - so she pretended to be deaf and blind.

    I think I did a post once on how I find nothing so terrifying and off-putting in a person as Absolute Certainty. Now I have to consider that in light of what you're saying, which I think is the opposite, about religious fanatics and Purveyors of Salvation. I'm just sick to death of people coming to my door to sell me ANYTHING. It's my house - I have the right to not be shilled to in it. I could start not answering the door like I often don't answer the phone, but that would make me even more creepy and hermit-like.

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