When Others Pray for Your Conversion

American Thinker | Selwyn Duke | Mar. 28, 2008

There recently was a story about a German Jewish leader, Charlotte Knobloch, who criticized Pope Benedict XVI for allowing a traditional Easter prayer that calls for the conversion of the Jewish people. Her reaction raises an interesting issue, as praying for conversion isn’t unique to Catholics any more that taking offense to it is unique to Jews.

And to start this topic off, I’d like to pose a question: Who do you think would be more likely to take umbrage at being the object of such a supplication, a person of deep belief or one of the superficial variety?

Well, here is a little anecdote. I’m a man who takes his faith very seriously; I believe it is the Truth and that God should be at the center of one’s life. I also know a man who is Jewish and believes just the same. He is orthodox, praying at the appointed times every day — regardless of the situation — and abiding by every one of the 613 Judaic laws that pertain to his life. He is a very saintly, gentle man. And he also has expressed that his faith — not mine, needless to say — is the true one. Now, if I found out that he had prayed for my conversion to what he considers a superior faith, should I be offended?

In fact, neither his perspective nor such a desire would bother me a whit. While this may strike a Richard Dawkins type as strange, understand my position vis-à-vis his attitude: I’d expect nothing less. And anything else would truly be less, as the only thing a belief in the equality of all faiths would tell me is that his faith was lacking.

Let us examine this logically. Why would I sacrifice for my faith, tolerate its demands to tame the flesh and govern my life with its teachings if I didn’t believe it was the Truth (with a capital “T”)? If I subscribed to the fiction of religious equivalence (a relativistic idea) – if I, in other words, believed it was just a matter of taste as with ice cream – why would I choose a cross? I’d be a hedonist.

Now we move to the next step. If I believed something was the Truth – that divine quantity that frees souls, dispels falsehoods, thwarts evil designs and brings happiness – why would I not want my fellow man to benefit from it? Thus, why would it surprise anyone if I prayed for his conversion?

So understand that when others pray for our conversion it is often an outgrowth of love, a function of that common human desire to have others enjoy what we believe is beneficial. In fact, what should give us pause for thought is when such people would not thus pray. After all, what do we usually think of those who possess something they consider great and don’t want to share it?

Such a desire also is not usual. Imagine you knew of a health regimen that yielded weight loss without hunger pangs, vibrancy and longer life. Wouldn’t you want to spread the word? Might you not passionately say, “Hey, you just have to try this; it’ll make you a new man!”?

In reality, whether religious or not, most people seek converts all the time. Political parties and groups spend time and treasure trying to convert us to their ideology; self-help gurus and instructors of all stripes peddle their techniques, theories or methods; and businesses try to sell us on the superiority of what they offer. Whatever the case, the message is the same: Believe what we say, follow our prescription, because what we provide is the best and will improve your life. It is proselytization.

Thus, if people would feel zealous about sharing a health regimen, why would we expect any less with respect to what they believe heals not just the body, but the soul? Sure, we may demand they not beat us over the head; we may demand they be civil. But it’s unreasonable to expect that their natural desire to share will be left at the door of the worldly realm.

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