Persuasion, indoctrination, conversion

*THIS ONE is officially Post #200! (This was the warm-up.)*

When it comes to matters of faith, belief, and morality, I’m in favor of open dialogue. I think discussion can lead to persuasion – or at least understanding – much more effectively than lectures. I think tyranny of ideas and indoctrination by force may change behaviors, but not minds or hearts – as Fountains of Wayne put it, “they can tell me what to do, but they can’t tell me what to feel” – and that’s where true conversion has to happen.

Here’s a little story (courtesy of my sister) that illustrates the pitfalls of trying to push your beliefs on someone who might not be entirely receptive:

A priest, a Pentecostal preacher, and a rabbi all served as chaplains to
the students of Northern Michigan University in Marquette. They would
get together two or three times a week for coffee and to talk shop.

One day, someone made the comment that preaching to people isn’t really
all that hard. A real challenge would be to preach to an animal–maybe
even a bear. One thing led to another, and they decided to do an
experiment. They would all go out into the woods, find a bear, preach to
it, and attempt to convert it.

Seven days later, they all came together to discuss their experience.

Father Flannery, who had his arm in a sling, was on crutches, and had
various bandages on his body and limbs, went first. “Well,” he said, “I
went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him, I began to
read to him from the Catechism. Well, that bear wanted nothing to do
with me and began to slap me around. So I quickly grabbed my holy water,
sprinkled him, and he became as gentle as a lamb. The bishop is coming
out next week to give him first communion and confirmation.”

Reverend Billy Bob spoke up next. He was in a wheelchair, had one arm
and both legs in casts, and had an IV drip. In his best
fire-and-brimstone oratory, he claimed, “WELL, brothers, you KNOW that
we don’t sprinkle! I went out and I FOUND me a bear. And then I began to
read to my bear from God’s HOLY WORD! But that bear wanted nothing to do
with me. So I took HOLD of him, and we began to wrestle. We wrestled
down one hill, UP another and DOWN another until we came to a creek. So
I quickly DUNKED him and BAPTIZED his hairy soul, and just like you
said, he became as gentle as a lamb. We spent the rest of the day
praising Jesus.”

The priest and the reverend both looked down at the rabbi, who was lying
in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IVs and
monitors running in and out of him. He was in really bad shape.
The Rabbi looked up and said, “Looking back on it, circumcision may not
have been the best way to start.”

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