Dictionaries define coercive as “using force or threats to make somebody do something against his or her will.” Following the death of Muhammad in 632, it is said that Islam was spread at the point of a sword. Stories are told that those defeated by the Muslims were given a choice of convert or die. Generally, Muslims deny those stories.
Are other religions coercive in their recruitment?
In the August 30, 2013 Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Billy Graham is asked about this issue. Billy’s reader says, “I have my own views about spirituality, but I don't believe in forcing them down anyone else's throat. I think people ought to be free to believe anything they want to about the Divine. Why do you Christians insist on forcing people to believe exactly the way you do?” You can read all of Billy’s answer here.
Billy first says that Jesus did not try to force people to believe in him nor did Jesus tell his followers to force people. Billy quotes Matthew 10:14 as an example of Jesus telling his followers to desist from preaching if the people of a town do not welcome them.
However, when people would listen, they were presented with a message such as in Matthew 13:41-42 where Jesus says, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace.”
Is this not using a threat to get people to do something? If you don’t behave, you will be punished.
Billy then tries to explain why Christians want to convert everyone by using the example of a person who discovers a cure for cancer. This person, says Billy, would not hide the discovery but would widely publicize the discovery. Billy calls belief in Jesus as a cure for sin and thus, should also be widely publicized.
This raises some serious questions. The first question is this: if belief in Jesus is a cure for sin, why did Jesus have to die for the sins of the world? The second question is: if Jesus died for the sins of the world, why do people need to believe in Jesus so as to be cured of sin? The third question is: if people need to be cured of sin by believing in Jesus, why did God wait for his couriers (missionaries) to tell the world? Wasn’t God like the person with the cancer cure who kept it hidden?
Christians who spread the “good news” by telling people they will suffer eternal punishment if they don’t believe in Jesus and accept Jesus as their personal savior are being coercive. It may not be a “convert or die” as the stories of Islam tell, but it is a “convert or suffer extreme pain forever”.
Billy Graham is wrong about Christians being coercive. He has good reasons for what he says and good reasons for being coercive. His reason for saying Christians aren’t coercive is to make Christians and himself look good. His reason for being coercive is to recruit converts to the Christian faith and in particular to his church where they will donate money to support Billy and his life style.
If you like what you've read here, you can Subscribe and receive an email whenever I publish a new article or you can subscribe to my RSS feed. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter. You can e-mail me directly with questions or comments.
Read all my articles at my main Examiner site.