More subtle forms of manipulation are usually preferred. The effective evangelist learns to take advantage of vulnerabilities: fears, guilt, youth, the need for community, propensities to deeply want certain things to be true, and the felt need for certainty.
This, I think, explains some of the mystery of the negative connotations attached to “proselytize,” and why some feel the need to repeatedly affirm their lack of shame towards the gospel.
That form of “evangelization” is not unlike what some Muslims do in real life. For example:
If King Alfred the Great of England refused to use a…shall we say, compulsory…form of evangelism on his vanquished Viking foe Guthrum we likely would have never had a Great Britain, or America…at least as we know it.
Instead of brutally murdering his foe (as Guthrum did to vanquished Anglo-Saxon Kings) Alfred gave him the option of converting to Christianity and becoming his Godson in the faith. Guthrum complied, received Baptism and was given the Christian name Aethelstan. Alfred allowed him to return to his side of England and rule.
We can be cynical and say that this was foolish of Alfred and opportunistic of Guthrum. But what does history bear out? Guthrum was forevermore known as Aethelstan, even when he returned to the Danes, whom he subsequently Christianized. He later had an opportunity to join another viking force in invading Alfred’s Wessex, but refused, remaining loyal to his godfather and by all accounts, his God.
So modern historians might scorn Alfred’s “evangelistic method.” But maybe we should consider why history looks more fondly on brutal murderers than those who trusted in God enough to offer salvation even to the most grievous of national enemies.
There’s a difference between sparing a conquered enemy by allowing him to convert, and, say, invading a neighboring country and forcing them to convert. Not only that, but in the context of a pluralistic society such as America, there is simply no equivalent (that I can think of) to the situation you’re describing. Should one CEO who buys out another CEO’s company only allow him to stay on as VP if he converts to Christianity? Or should Christians only vote for “Christian” Presidents in the hope that they will have some kind of “christianizing” effect on our society? These sorts of things strike me as problematic.
Hmmm…I would phrase things a little differently. Yes, I will only vote for a Christian in the primary, but they are usually gone by the general election so I’m left trying to pick who will do the most good and least evil. Why is it such a shock that a Christian would want a Christian to be President? I know it’s not uber-hip and you might think of me as a moral majority type, but that simply isn’t the case.
I guess what I was trying to get at is that people come to believe in Jesus in all sorts of ways.
And like Anglo-Saxon England wasn’t pluralistic?
This reminds me of the whole, Constantine ruined Christianity argument. It just isn’t historically accurate.
So should evangelism look like this today? Well, not for the majority of us. But then again, the majority of people weren’t forcing people to believe in Jesus in the times of Alfred or Constantine either.
So should our President? Well, that would be better than apologizing to Islamic terrorists for rudely forcing them to blow us up, but I don’t see him converting anytime soon.