Exploring frustrations with religious conviction

Exploring frustrations with religious conviction

Halle Steingass

Contributing Writer

hesteingass@goshen.edu

Halle Steingass processes her reaction to the Gideon International outreach on campus this week.  Photo contributed by Halle Steingass.

Halle Steingass processes her reaction to the Gideon International outreach on campus this week.
Photo contributed by Halle Steingass.

I am frustrated. Without much more than a glance, a wall has been assembled, and I feel its heaviness looming over me.

I stare at the signs of Gideon’s International displaying a suave military personnel, pamphlets stacked side-by-side and miniature versions of the New Testament in the hands of an older duo.

I do not see any interaction between students and this pair, but instead this pair blocking off a part of the first floor connector. Before I let this frustration dictate my actions, I sit there and think: why does it bother me so much that these people are here?

Why am I cringing as they pass out the New Testament to students walking past? They are not hurting anyone. Their purpose is not to cause a ruckus. And yet, something is eating at me, distracting me from my work.

So to deal with my frustration, I write this article, almost as a form of prayer.

To start off, I must respect their beliefs, for they are as true to them as my own beliefs are to me.

I also recognize my inability to have dialogue with them in a healthy, discussion-based interaction, thus hindering my own experience to see their idea of truth. I am fully aware of this, and regret not taking that action.

I also am aware that these people only stirred up my frustration, instead of sparking it. That being said, my frustration stems from a fight that has gone on for many years of my life, and I am only recently beginning to be able to articulate this.

As a woman who is considering furthering her education in theological studies, I struggle when I encounter Christian groups who decide that the most effective way of spreading the Gospel is by passing out Bibles.

In some sense, it feels as though there is this imposition that people must know the Word to know God, or even to be good stewards of this world.

I am sorry that in a place of diverse religious and nonreligious backgrounds, students have to contend with proselytizers who may bring a sense of discomfort.

In this regard, I write this article not to belittle the Christian faith, but in hopes of exploring a more welcoming way of sharing the good news of love, regardless of a deity or not.

I would plead that instead of quickly handing out New Testaments that are nearly impossible to read, we might come to community without an agenda or expectation.

I pray that we, and myself included, listen to, instead of talk over one another, work with, instead of against, and create a loving space with mindful and coexisting relationships that might be more fulfilling and rewarding to this life together.

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