11 people share how they talk about faith in public

Posted May 22

Nearly 1 in 4 Christians avoid discussing their faith when they meet people who might disagree with them, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Religion has long been understood as a tricky subject to address with strangers, but the study showed many people avoid mentioning it to their family as well. Just one-third of Christians (33 percent) talk about religion at least once or twice a month with their extended family, compared to 40 percent who broach the subject with strangers, Pew reported.

Many Christian denominations urge members to evangelize, such as by inviting new people to attend church services. Many young adult members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serve as full-time missionaries for 18 to 24 months and Jehovah's Witnesses go door-to-door recruiting new members in their neighborhoods.

And yet most Christians today don't talk about religion to convince people to see things their way. Only 6 percent try to persuade someone who disagrees with them about faith, compared with 69 percent of Christians who agree to disagree, Pew reported.

This week, we asked members of the Public Insight Network to describe their approach to discussing faith in public. Here are some of their responses:

Robert Brown of St. Charles, Missouri — Episcopalian

"Faith is a very personal thing. I know some people's faith practices encourage evangelism or proselytizing. … I prefer to persuade people to my religious points of view through the example of how I live my life as a Christian."

Mary Thon of Richmond, Vermont — Protestant

"I believe that it's God's job to prepare hearts and change people. It's my job to share and love."

Debra Magrann of Port St. Lucie, Florida — Jesus follower

"Agreeing to disagree is what we desperately need in America today. It's a path to peaceful and respectful conversation."

Ken Foote of Aloha, Oregon — Episcopalian

"Anyone or everyone may disagree with me about religion, but that person should not expect to influence my views nor attempt to impose their views on me."

Laurie Lind of Fargo, North Dakota — Christian

"My entire life is about Option 1: persuading them. But I have a happy willingness to end up with Option 2: agreeing to disagree. Never option three (avoiding the topic.) The stakes are too high."

Grant Farseth of Grant, Minnesota — Roman Catholic

"Religion is important to folks in organizing their lives and in getting clear about their obligations to other people, so it should be proper to discuss it and to consider its implications."

Carlyn Short of Gladewater, Texas — Atheist

"I learned long ago that one must pick their fights. Staying out of another person's religion or political view is just smart."

Shel Anderson of Durham, North Carolina — Buddhist

"Many of the people who have some traditional religious point of view are very dogmatic. I think it's important to pose a different position."

Cheryl Blake of St. Louis — Roman Catholic

"I am willing to learn about someone else's beliefs and also willing to share my own. An attempt to persuade someone away from his or her belief implies judgment, that my answers are better not only for me but also for the other person."

Claire Anne Thoen of St. Paul, Minnesota — Unitarian

"If someone has thought through a spiritual path, I might gain by their insight. I can respect anyone who struggles with doubt and works at what it means to be an ethical, earth-responsible person."

Regina Rodriguez-Martin of Chicago — Atheist

"I'm an atheist who is fascinated by religion. I just like to try to understand why someone does what they do. I like to see things through someone else's eyes."

Email: Twitter: @kelsey_dallas


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