Why I Don’t Read Books on Other Religions

When I was in college I got really into Christian apologetics. Apologetics is basically a branch of Christianity that focuses on the logical and rational arguments for Jesus. I was initially drawn to it because it offered me confidence in my own beliefs, but the more I got into it,  the more I realized that much of the field was about having good arguments as to why other people’s beliefs were wrong. You were expected to study up on other belief systems so that you could deconstruct them. The basic idea was that people would not become Christians if you first didn’t take away their initial beliefs by proving them wrong. 

I was recently told of a video circulating around Christian circles. It’s of a Christian African-American preacher that went up to a Muslim woman reading a Qur’an. He said to her, “did you know that your holy book doesn’t allow Black people into heaven? I can’t follow that religion!” The unsuspecting woman apparently didn’t know that, and the video indicates that this conversation opened the door to when she finally “converted” later on. The person that told me about this video talked about it with a bit of pride – it was a “gotcha” moment for the Muslim. ‘They didn’t realize how crazy their own holy book was!’

This method of “evangelism” has recently started to bother me. It seems we’re using shame and or guilt to motivate people. You start out by tearing down someone else’s beliefs and then when they’re on the ground, you share how your beliefs in Jesus are so much superior and how they should join you.

This is rather ironic.

In the Gospels, it’s the Pharisees and religious leaders that try to either trick Jesus or to shame him into agreeing with them.

Jesus deflected these “gotcha” moments and turned them back on the questioners.

When you look in the Bible and examine how Jesus got people to follow him, you’ll see that he didn’t try to trick people or to guilt them into following him. He didn’t even tell them all of the terrible things they believed.

People followed Jesus because he loved them. 

Jesus knew that love leads to Truth.  

What if it’s hard for us to love other people because we let our minds get in the way?

One of my favorite authors and speakers is a guy named Carl. Carl was a missionary in Lebanon for many years and is now a very influential individual throughout the Middle East. I was listening to a sermon that he gave and I was truck by his statement that he avoided reading books on Islam. In fact, he avoids reading books on most other beliefs.

He said that over the years, he’s discovered an important principle:

Learning information about people can make it harder to love them.

Carl knows a lot about Islam – he’s even taught university courses on it – but his information has primarily come from actual Muslims.

What if instead of reading books on Buddhism, we made some Buddhist friends? What if instead of watching cable news that talked about Muslims, we spent some time with some Muslim immigrants?

And what if we did all of this under the guise of love?

Remember, Jesus didn’t read books on humanity. He became human and spent time with humans, loving and serving them.

What if we did the same with other groups of people?

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