May I Walk With You? By Invitation Only

November 25, 2019

Daniel Fachting, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist, Lay Minister at Our Lady of Hope Parish in Clare, and Chancellor for Knights of Columbus Council #3029. He can be reached at fachtingcounseling1@gmail.com

In my counseling practice I often hear horror stories about people who have been traumatized by being proselytized. In a recent article in the Catholic Times from the Diocese of Columbus the author made a clear distinction between evangelizing and proselytizing. While both ideas have as their goal to bring people to Jesus, evangelism brings people to Christ by invitation, while proselytizing brings people to Christ through fear and coercion. I hear many stories of people who reject belief in Jesus and the Church, because they accepted Jesus under duress. “Believe and love Jesus or burn for an eternity in hell!” No wonder so many people reject Christ!

Evangelizing is about love, respect and acceptance, when bringing people to Christ. Proselyting is about fear, scaring the hell out of people, and causing great psychological damage. It is traumatizing. One way to explain the difference is to understand the difference between sexual intercourse between married people who genuinely love one another and forced sexual contact. Love by its very nature must be freely given. If there is any fear or coercion, then it is not love. Forced sexual contact, on the other hand, is done with the understanding that if the victim does not give in they will die. Forcing people to accept Jesus is like forced sexual contact.

Evangelizing has no room for force. Just as you cannot force some one to love you, you cannot force some one to accept Jesus. The love of God is unconditional and eternal. God loves us and his spirit lives in us, not because we are good, or wonderful, or loveable, but because loving is what God does. God does not love us because we accept him, but he loves us from eternity as we are. I have often heard people say that if you don’t follow the Ten Commandments or the rules of the Church that God won’t like you. Such language only intimidates and coerces people. When intimidation and coercion are present it is not loving, but traumatizing.

As Christians we believe that Jesus wants us to experience his love and to love him freely. When force is used, the trauma it creates results in a tension between naturally being drawn to Christ and the fear of drawing close to him. The tension between the two can become so great that the whole idea of union with Christ is completely abandoned. To use any force or coercion to bring someone to Christ may ruin their chances of experiencing God’s love.

In our desire to bring people to Christ, to share the joy and peace of knowing and loving Jesus and living in communion with the Church, there can be no fearmongering, coercion, intimidation, or scaring the hell out of people. Accepting Christ is, “By Invitation, Only”.

“May the Lord bless and keep you. May he let his face shine upon you and give you his peace.”





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