Missionary work versus religious correctness

July 7, 2005 | 21 comments
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When the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake were being announced, I remember how in our priesthood meetings in Provo exciting plans were forged to turn the event into a massive missionary opportunity: we would fill the streets with members passing out copies of the Book of Mormon and taking referrals. Indeed the Lord blessed us with this matchless occasion! The prophecy was being fulfilled that kings and queens would come to Zion!

But soon another message came from Church headquarters, as a result of the mounting criticism that the Church was turning the Olympics into a Mormon showcase. We quickly abandoned original intentions and drastically scaled down the rhetoric. Indeed, religious correctness required that we would just be friendly hosts and that precisely our non-proselytizing would be the hallmark of our maturity into the mainstream.

I use the term “religious correctness” in the same sense as “political correctness”: you do not say or do things that would offend, exclude or marginalize individuals, whatever their differences or behavior. You do not impose your norms and values on others but respect their social and cultural realm. Religious correctness would therefore mean that it is simply unbecoming to try to convert others.

These past decades have seen various illustrations of this tendency.

I refer to Rosalynde’s post on the Indian Placement Program, and the many interesting comments it raised related to missionary work. Overall, it was felt, the IPP was well meant to help Indian children, to provide them with a better education and to give them opportunities, which they would never have had otherwise. The drawback was the cultural alienation. It was pointed out that an unavowed, but certainly not avoided purpose of the IPP, was to convert Lamanites to Mormonism. Comments to the post confirmed a shared feeling that any program meant to help Indians should not destroy their religious and cultural heritage.

This religious correctness has become a worldwide phenomenon. In former communist countries the Orthodox Church strongly resents missionary work by the “new religions” that could finally enter their territory in the 1990s. Their patriarchs point the finger at what they see as the unethical behavior of foreigners, backed by big money and modern media, to proselytize their flock, while they themselves are slowly recovering from decades of persecution. In several of these countries the governments have acted to limit missionary work by “outsiders” because, indeed, it is viewed as an assault on their historical and national idiosyncrasy.

In Islam, abhorrence of conversion to another religion is deeply rooted in the culture and even in the law of Islamic countries. It is ridda or apostasy. True, related traditions and penalties differ from period to period and from place to place, but the overall understanding is that abandoning Islam for another religion is treason. In their desire to be in good terms with Islam, Mormon leaders have given explicit directives to not try to convert Muslims. The same restriction applies to Israel. I understand that permission to build the BYU Jerusalem Center was dependent on the Church’s pledge not to proselytize Jews in Israel. We abide by the rule of religious correctness.

It even extends to the hereafter. From the Jewish side came pressure to halt proxy baptisms of Holocaust victims and other deceased Jews. The church complied and had to act repeatedly this past decade to meet the terms when complaints continued. We were reminded names for temple work are only accepted if a direct descendant submits them or if consent is given from the closest living relative. However, the next hurdle is obvious. A great-great-great-grandfather can have an offspring of hundreds of descendants, all equally related to this ancestor. If one of the descendants converts to Mormonism, he or she is entitled to send in the name for temple work. But other descendants may strongly object, as I have already witnessed in Belgium. When such pressure mounts on the public forum, will we be obliged to comply for the sake of good relations?

The past decades have seen an immense increase in the awareness of and respect for cultural identity. The concept of the multicultural society is based on mutual esteem for each other’s system of belief, world vision, customs… Such a society requires that we do not view our set of values, our God and our organized religion as more valuable than those of others, let alone impose them. Many now look back with contempt on the Christian missionaries who, for centuries, tried to destroy the so-called “pagan” cultures in Africa, the America’s, Asia, enforcing, sometimes with violent means, their own faith and their way of worshipping. Nowadays the restoration of aspects of those “pagan” cultures is considered both an expiation of Christian wrongdoings and a tribute to the native values.

Globalization and the relativization of “unique truth” have also reinforced the oddity of missionary work. Religions have come to be viewed as social and cultural phenomena, tied to regions and populations, and less as exclusive transcendent roads to God and eternal life. In that sense, it is believed, one should not disturb the social and cultural fabric of fellow men. Indeed, in many cultures, conversions create commotion. Often they will severely disturb social relations, break up shared traditions with family and friends, isolate members in their professional environment, and alienate them from worship in their ancestral religion. Over several decades I have seen this over and over again with our converts, and then it only concerns Belgium, a West-European nation with a Christian background. It is not hard to imagine the breach conversion causes in non-Christian cultures. Moreover, joining the Mormon Church is not simply adhering to “another Church”. It is often viewed as abandoning the mainstream for a bizarre cult in America’s Rocky Mountains.

But if we need to show respect for our fellowmen’s heritage, how does that affect our understanding of missionary work when we address ourselves to people who are clearly tied to a centuries old religious and cultural background?

The Church has been trying to find an answer to this problem of acculturation and new identity, the most notable being the message that we are not taking away anything of the good a person has, but only adding more good to it. It’s an understandable diplomatic move which can indeed apply to the personal social and moral values a person has. But conversion to Mormonism does deeply affect the original social, cultural and religious heritage. It is always perceived, with few exceptions, as a breach with that heritage, if not by the converts themselves, certainly by their environment.

So, how do we reconcile the rules of religious correctness with the obligation to preach the Gospel and convert the world?

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21 Responses to Missionary work versus religious correctness

  1. ukann on July 7, 2005 at 3:10 am

    Wilfried – I always look forward to your posts and you haven’t disappointed here. I look forward to the comments. As a convert – oh how I miss in my worship the good old Church of England hymns, harvest festivals and Christmas Eve carol services and Remembrance Sundays (the liturgical calendar spoken of in an earlier post). I don’t quite believe the phrase “not taking away anything a good person has”, because I felt I have lost a lot of inspiring and ‘good’ things. Of course what I have received in return is far more and better. I can see the problem the Brethren have because if you begin to allow cultural influences into the meetings, perhaps it is the slippery slope to apostasy, and where would it (does it) end?

  2. quinn mccoy hansen on July 7, 2005 at 6:31 am

    Wilfried, you make a good point here. In portugal, where I live, the missionaries are often told by their leaders (and myself because I agree) that if the people are not interested in the gospel as we present it, then invite them to live their religion to the fullest, i.e. participate more actively in their church. I think that is a good way to propagate a good message. That is to say, we still agressively invite people to accept the restoration, while at the same time respect their free-agency, but always warning people to continue to believe in God.

  3. danithew on July 7, 2005 at 9:23 am

    Wilfried wrote: But soon another message came from Church headquarters, as a result of the mounting criticism that the Church was turning the Olympics into a Mormon showcase. We quickly abandoned original intentions and drastically scaled down the rhetoric.

    Interesting how the defenses of religio-political correctness went up because of the location.

    My experience living in Salt Lake City is that the spirit of member-missionary work suffers in general. There is a feeling on the part of many (correct or not) that they’ve heard it all before or that they already know all they need to know about Mormons. Many non-LDS who come to Utah are bracing themselves and anticipating that they will be proselytized.

    Having recently come back to New York, I’ve been thrilled to be in an environment where Mormonism is more unexpected and anything but stale. I’ve already shared a Book of Mormon with a nearby doorman and am planning to share some more with others as well as I get to know them better. So far, I think it is much easier to have the missionary spirit in a place where Mormons do not constitute such a majority or such a high-percentage minority.

  4. jimbob on July 7, 2005 at 10:14 am

    Have you considered the possibility that we are doing good missionary work by being religiously correct? I think that in many of the examples you point out (Olympics, Islam), we would have done ourselves far more harm than good if our missionary efforts were demonstrably aggressive. Thus, the “religious correctness” you mention is, to me, just another missionary tool, except that this one may mean less results now and more results down the road. Indeed, I don’t see this as particularly different than having my neighbor know me and like me before for some time so that when we do talk about religion, we can do so amicably.

  5. Steve Evans on July 7, 2005 at 10:42 am

    Wilfried, how much of our correctness stems from an eternal view of missionary work? For example, I thought that the justification for not actively converting muslims and jews in the middle east was that things would all get sorted out by God at some future date, and that we could ultimately do work for the dead as needed. Similarly, the rationale for not doing temple work for holocaust victims is that eventually we will get that work done when the social restriction goes away.

    In other words, although we are aggressive and active in missionary efforts, we have a knowledge of an eternal timeframe with respect to those efforts as well. Is this a correct notion?

  6. Mike on July 7, 2005 at 10:51 am

    J. Golden Kimball said that “we could send half the missionaries home and not have it change the conversion rate. Trouble is we don’t know which half to send home.”

    Two fundamentally different approaches to sharing the gospel are described. One is direct and aggressive and can be alienating to those who don’t respond. The other is indirect and less effecient in the short run.

    When I was in Japan almost 30 years ago I observed this in the way we attempted to tract in parks. Most of the people in the parks were older retired men, often former WWII vets who were not the least bit interested in what young Americans had to say. Or else young mothers who were even more reluctant to talk to us because of former cultural taboos that forbade a married woman from talking to a man without her husband present. Anyway, my typical senior companions would start at the entrance gate and systematically intrude and ask every person if they would listen to us. They had a variety of memorized approaches that came out of the mission office or were written by Zone Leaders or other experienced missionaries. Some were pretty good, others bordered on embarassing gimmicks. Most often the people contacted would politely but quickly say no, they were too busy sitting there in the park doing nothing to talk to us. Further badgering them did not help. We almost never got anywhere doing parks and we would return to the tired and true house-to-house contacting which was also rarely successful.

    I had this one Senior companion who was anything but conventional and pushed the limits in a variety of ways, not all of them good. This companion had another approach to sharing the gospel in the park. He would just go in the park and sit there and maybe bring some bread crumbs and feed the pigeons and appear to be goofing off. In fact he was goofing off and it made me feel nervous that we were going to get caught and I felt guilty for wasting valuable time. Patience is the key not courage, he told me. After a while one of the old vets would causally wander up to us and ask us what we were doing. My companion continued his low key approach. Usually they were surprized that we could even speak Japanese and that broke the ice. This companion didn’t direct the conversation towards the First Vision. Sometimes the old vets invited us to play this odd boring form of croquet with clay balls and that could take all day. However, without fail my companion could get the guy to invite us home for lunch or dinner where we would waste even more time. Eventually we might be able to teach several discussions to several members of his family. Eventually didn’t look very good on our weekly reports though.

    The missionaries who took the direct approach were the ones who made Zone Leader and were the ones who came home feeling highly successful. I think the missionary department in Salt Lake would never hire anyone but the most challenging and aggressive return missionaries. The few like my unconventional companion were made to feel guilty at every interview and Zone Conference until they “repented.” They often had the longest lists of investigators who slowly accepted the gospel if at all, but who loved to feed us or just hang out with the missionaries.

    I spent the majority of my mission being direct and aggressively challenging investigators. I didn’t adopt many of the practices of my unconventional companion. Baptisms were supposedly higher doing it the aggressive way, but retention was always a problem. I have heard that long term retention in Japan today is about 10%. Two of my three native Japanese companions are inactive. I wonder if we had taken a different approach if these numbers would be any better or worse. The church has grown from less than 10 Stakes to over 30 Stakes in Japan, so one can not argue with that success. But it seems to be on a plateau now.

    As the church grows and becomes more visible, I think we are going to have to move beyond the high pressure sales tactics that may have worked before when people quickly forgot us if they were not interested in a direct approach. Undoubtedly the future missionary work will be much more challenging.

    Something that disturbs me is a close look at the yearly statistical report given in General Conference and published in the May Ensign. If you look at the total converts worldwide and divide that number by the number of misssionaries in the field, you get a sort of average convert per missionary ratio. In my time that number was around 7 or 8 and I think it peaked at about 10 many years ago. Today that number is about 4 or 5. (I’m just shooting from the hip by memory here, go look for yourself and correct me if I am wrong). If you postulate that the members are more important than the missionaries in the conversion process and so you take the total membership of the church and divide it by the number of converts annually, you get even a more disturbing picture of falling ratios.

    I also believe that the full time missionaries are much better prepared today. Missionaries repent before not after leaving home. I had a friend who got drunk his last night before going into the LTM. (Don’t get me started…) These kind of shenanigans were not that uncommon in my time, but are almost unheard of today. (Heck, I leared how to date on my mission, but that is another story). I can’t put these falling effectiveness ratios at the feet of the current generation of missionaries and sit back and think how much better we were when blah blah giants walked the earth. That is not the explanation.

    What is?

  7. Kingsley on July 7, 2005 at 10:52 am

    I think the justification for not actively converting Muslims and Jews in the Middle East had more to do with (a) an aversion to Jihad and (b) the Jerusalem Center. Although President Young did say an extraordinary amount of time during the Millenium would be spent tracting in the dunes.

  8. Wilfried on July 7, 2005 at 11:09 am

    Thanks for the comments already sent. As always, there are various facets to a topic as broad as this one.

    Steve and jimbon, you’re certainly right that religious correctness, in the sense of non-aggressive proselytizing, is wise and can open doors in the long run. You see it “down the road” and “at some future date”. Even so, don’t you think that, from the viewpoint of the others, it is still an “incorrect” and therefore disturbing standpoint, since our converting them remains the ultimate goal? Don’t take me wrong, I share the missionary objective, but I try to understand how others perceive us with an eye to better relations. Basically, we say that we do not want to convert them (now) out of respect for their religion, but we still have that “Mormon” conversion in mind as final objective. Where is the difference for them?

    Ukann, special thanks for your kind words. You touch upon another aspect that is also very much part of my post, i.e. the relation of our previous heritage, with all its good aspects, and Mormonism. How do you identify what was good in former traditions and that is still acceptable in the Mormon realm? You put it nicely in “if you begin to allow cultural influences into the meetings, perhaps it is the slippery slope to apostasy, and where would it (does it) end?”

    Quinn from Portugal, that was an interesting item: “if the people are not interested in the gospel as we present it, then invite them to live their religion to the fullest”. As a matter of fact, in some countries, missionary work almost has to take that turn, e.g. when direct preaching is simply forbidden by law.

    Danithew, you bring up another aspect: “So far, I think it is much easier to have the missionary spirit in a place where Mormons do not constitute such a majority or such a high-percentage minority.” Yes, you are right, but your example comes from New York. In such area’s, as in most places in the U.S. I think, where religious diversity is part of the culture, where changing religions is fairly acceptable behavior, you are right. My post drew the attention mainly to other countries where “freedom of religion” means you are free to live your religion, but not to change religion.

    Meanwhile I see new comments above, I’ll follow up soon!

  9. Wilfried on July 7, 2005 at 11:26 am

    That was a long and interesting contribution, Mike ( 7 ). For years I have also seen both types of missionary approaches, hard and quick, or soft and slow. It seems we also have two kinds of investigators, some who respond better to the first approach, others to the second. But you ask the question: “I can’t put these falling effectiveness ratios [fewer baptisms per missionary] at the feet of the current generation of missionaries and sit back and think how much better we were when blah blah giants walked the earth. That is not the explanation. What is?”

    Simple question, certainly complex to answer. External factors mentioned for this negative development include further secularization, dwindling admiration for America if not contempt for anything American, increasing immorality… I think the growing feeling of “religious correctness” is another factor, i.e. the conviction that it is unbecoming to try to convert someone else. Internally, we could point at the lower number of missionaries due to stricter calling criteria and, in the same vein, at the stricter norms to allow a person to be baptized. But if that leads to better retention, the ultimate growth ratio could end up better than the past.

  10. alamojag on July 7, 2005 at 11:30 am

    Wilfried,

    I think your questions in post #9 are good ones. Yes, conversion is still the goal, but what is the difference? I think the difference between the direct, aggressive approach and the more unconventional approach is that in the latter, you learn to love the people and see them as people instead of as numbers. How many converts talk about going through several sets of missionaries before they finally got baptized? I think part of this is that they had to learn that the missionaries really cared about them as people, not as numbers. It is a lot easier to love people into the gospel than it is to bully them.

    On my mission I found that I enjoyed tracting and other contacting much better (and was therefore more effective) once I stopped arguing with people to try to get in the door. If they weren’t interested today, maybe they would next time, and I hoped that they would remember their earlier experience with a nice young American than with an aggressive and rude door-to-door salesman.

  11. danithew on July 7, 2005 at 11:44 am

    Kingsley, I’d love to see that quote from President Young (about “preaching in the dunes”) if you can dig it up anywhere.

  12. Greg Call on July 7, 2005 at 2:59 pm

    Wilfried,

    Thanks for these interesting thoughts. Some reading I was doing just last night brings another aspect of this topic to mind: how do we approach “religious correctness” where we are the majority religion? The new David O. McKay biography has a chapter on “ecumenical outreach” that devotes quite a bit of space to the mid-century tensions between Church leaders and Catholic leaders in Utah. It seems that there was a persistent worry among Church leaders, which at time approached hysteria, that the Catholics were attempting to proselytize Utahns (the horror!). The truth was that they weren’t, and much of the problem was based a Mormon misunderstanding of the term “mission” (in an internal pamphlet, Catholics had referred to strengthening their Utah mission, which to them meant “underfunded outpost” and to many of the Brethren meant “proselyting headquarters”). But even if they were proselytizing Utahns — so what? If we champion religious open-mindedness and a free market for religion abroad, shouldn’t we also champion it at home?

  13. Wilfried on July 7, 2005 at 3:21 pm

    Alamojag, your comment in #11 reminded me of how missionaries approached my parents when I (then 17) asked them if I could be baptized. For more than two years missionaries failed to get permission, partly because of their impatience, their too direct approach, their arguing. Until we got a missionary, elder David Rowles of Las Vegas, who was able to show true concern, patience and love. Good he stayed long enough in Antwerp too befriend my parents, step by step, and lead them to the point where they granted me permission to be baptized. Like you said, “I think part of this is that they had to learn that the missionaries really cared about them as people, not as numbers. It is a lot easier to love people into the gospel than it is to bully them.”

    Greg Call, I’ll be back with comments in a moment!

  14. Wilfried on July 7, 2005 at 4:13 pm

    Another interesting facet, Greg. Thanks for your question: “How do we approach ‘religious correctness’ where we are the majority religion?” related to the item around a Catholic mission in Utah.

    First, if we take the political definition of “correctness”, it means we accept the presence and lifestyle and belief of others in our neighborhood without any problem. As far as I know, the Church has always done that. As a matter of fact, it is our 11th Article of Faith: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may”. In that sense “religious correctness” is part of our core belief.

    Something different is active missionary work. By the given definition of religious correctness, it is “incorrect” to do so, for it is unbecoming or unethical to try to impose your set of values on others. It is indeed interesting to read that the Church would have had serious problems with Catholic mission efforts in Utah. Probably understandable in the historical context of the “own haven” Mormons had created and which they wanted protected? However, it seems to me this could not be compared with Mormon missionaries going abroad — reaching out to the whole world and to all religions.

    But as to the principle, you are right: “If we champion religious open-mindedness and a free market for religion abroad, shouldn’t we also champion it at home?” I think that nowadays the Church has fully reached that level of maturity and that there is no fear for proselytism by other religions in Utah. And I would imagine that such religions would find the field as hard as our own missionaries in some foreign countries.

  15. Ana on July 7, 2005 at 4:17 pm

    Wilfried, pursuant to these thoughts: ” Indeed, in many cultures, conversions create commotion. Often they will severely disturb social relations, break up shared traditions with family and friends, isolate members in their professional environment, and alienate them from worship in their ancestral religion.”

    In my current reading of the Book of Mormon (ten verses a night, out loud, while the children squirm and sometimes listen), I’ve noticed that at least two immensely successful missions had this effect on a large scale. The mission of the four sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites led directly to war, as did the mission of Alma and his sons and entourage to the Zoramites. Would they have gone if they’d known that thousands of people would die violent deaths in battles following their missionary efforts?

    Conflict on any scale is a terrible consequence for conversion. Yet most who are truly converted would say it’s a price they’re willing to pay. And from what I read in the scriptures I take it that the conflict is somewhat to be expected. I think those Book of Mormon missionaries certainly would have undertaken their missions, even if they had known what events would follow. They were out to save eternal souls, not earthly lives. Not cultures, not even necessarily families, if the entire families didn’t want to be saved.

    I lean toward thinking that in most cases, if we err on the side of “religious correctness,” neglecting the chance to share the gospel with others because we fear to offend, we may have our own, far more dire consequences to bear in the future. Not that I’m much of a missionary. But I think I should be.

  16. Rosalynde Welch on July 7, 2005 at 4:23 pm

    I think we can use multiculturalism’s privileging of distinct identity and cultural exchange to our advantage, at least in the short term. Last week, for example, I presented a Book of Mormon to a friend, telling him,”This year is the 200th anniversary of the of our founder, Joseph Smith, and in commemoration we’re conducting a outreach effort to educate the community about our beliefs.” Put in those terms, he could hardly do anything except accept the book graciously, as he did (and I think he was genuinely pleased to do so). Of course, the “education only” line would stop working at the first discussion, if I were to do invite him to hear the discussions, with the baptismal invite. That is to say, Wilfried, that I think your point is sound.

    It’s also interesting to plot missionary trends against (what seems to me) the drastic expansion in sophistication and saturation of marketing and advertising techniques.

  17. Wilfried on July 7, 2005 at 5:47 pm

    Ana, I am very pleased with your comment. You give a clear answer to the initial question: “How do we reconcile the rules of religious correctness with the obligation to preach the Gospel and convert the world?” We need to preach, whatever the circumstances. How we preach is a matter of discussion and circumstances, but we cannot give in to religious correctness and stand idle. In some of the above comments “religious correctness” has been understood as “the soft approach”, while the normal connotation would be a non-approach. As you define it: “neglecting the chance to share the gospel with others because we fear to offend”.

    And indeed, if conversion follows, many members have to pay a price for it. That aspect is probably not enough understood and appreciated by those who live in an environment where becoming and being a Mormon does not represent peculiar challenges.

    Rosalynde, thank you for the additional thought!

  18. comet on July 8, 2005 at 10:14 pm

    Great post, Wilfried – sums up all kinds of interesting issues. I’d like to see more about comparative issues, frankly, especially dealing with Mormonism’s sense of chosenness.

    If each religion carried out the logical consequences of its doctrinal position (that its exclusive claim to truth should be embraced by others), wouldn’t we be at each others’ throats? Extreme example some might say but that’s only because we already benefit from the norms of civil society — based on political solutions to the internecine religious wars of early modern Europe — that mediate these kinds of potential conflicts. Many scholars would argue that the phenomenon of religious correctness(=civil society) you raise is actually in retreat; that fundamentalist versions of religions — ones that foreground these kinds of exclusive claims in literal ways — are on the rise. The contemporary lds church itself is a product of this civilizing process (subordination to the US government in the polygamy case), which paradoxicaly now faces its own fundamentalist doppelgangers in the various splinter groups that claim true mormonism. It would be an interesting study to see how the church has adjusted the visibility and nuance of its truth claims over the years. I don’t see this need going away anytime soon. With globalization a new reality — the constant juxtaposition of difference and contracting proximity — the need for civil society, it seems, would be even greater. And the church’s current social trajectory — upwardly mobile institution — would seem to identify it with the kind of “order” we see in civil religious correctness, and not the divisiveness of a fundamentalism. So I think religious correctness, understood as civil society, is something the church has a strong vested interest in. Proselytizing then becomes a matter of making meaningful distinctions — vis-a-vis other rival institutions — within this larger framework.

  19. comet on July 8, 2005 at 10:15 pm

    Sorry for the misspelt name. BAd habit.

  20. Wilfried on July 9, 2005 at 3:06 am

    Excellent addition to the discussion, comet. It is obvious the Church has always been very concerned about this balance between “preaching with boldness” and “respecting the others”. Our 11th Article of faith is an early indication of that awareness. The Church has not changed its claim of being the Only True Church, as that would run counter to the essence of the Restoration, but certainly the public rhetoric on that topic has evolved if one compares General Conference talks up to the end of the 19th century, then to somewhat the middle of the 20th century, and next those of the past decades. Of course, this is also tied to the broadened forum listening through the media. We have become very sensitive to how we are viewed by the outside world, and that has, as you mentioned, an internal “civilizing” effect. But could such not also lead to a partial erosion of faith, in particular in area’s with Mormon concentration? I mean, in testimony meetings we may hear less “I know Jesus is the Christ and this is His only true Church” and more social and emotional declarations of sorts, even if commitment and fidelity to the Church remains. It seems to me this is less the case in the mission field with many converts present.

    Still, our sensitivity to how we are perceived does not exclude the injunction to do missionary work. We train our missionaries to preach the Gospel to the world, and each time they must find, individually, the balance how to do that with civility, respect, love. Previous comments have drawn the attention to that duality in approach by our young missionaries, as well as the valuable learning it entails for them.

  21. Wilfried on July 13, 2005 at 4:04 pm

    Comet, and others, one more item in connection with your remarks: a church or religious group claiming absolute truth is not necessarily a proselytizing movement. There are various fundamentalist groups in major and minor religions that live in their closed realm, perpetuating their community only through their descendants or unsollicited converts. Think of certain groups of Orthodox Jews. Do you think such entities, provided they do not condemn and abhor outsiders, would live, paradoxically, by the rules of religious correctness? Indeed, they do not seem to bother what others think, but at the same time they isolate themselves from the world.