When I Say No, You’re Supposed to Walk Away


“Hi, we’re from a Christian student group on campus.”
“Sorry, I’m not a student, I’m staff.”
“That’s OK.”
“Sorry, I’m not interested.”
“Have you been to church?”
“No.”
“Um, have you read the Bible?”
“Yes, twice, but I’m not interested in your group.”

That was a real conversation I just had while finishing up my lunch.  I work for a university, and today was one of the rare days in a while that I had gotten out of work early and could go get my favorite lunch from the food court in the student union.  Since I’m still a part of the school, I can still park and use the buildings and such.  So I was happily enjoying my delicious and rare lunch and doing some work on the computer when I see two people come up to me out of the corner of my eye.  I look up, confused.  They smile, and say their opening line, that they’re from a Christian student group on campus.

Great.  Just what I was looking forward to during my lunch.  I so appreciate being interrupted, thank you for doing so.  I sat in the corner for a reason–because I wanted to be left alone.  How is this less than obvious?

At first I was polite to them, just telling them that thanks, but I’m really not interested.  But after the third time of them trying to give me their pamphlet and get me interested in their group, I’d about had it.  I just wanted them to leave me alone.  At last they did.  I think I confused them with the “Yes, I’ve read the Bible, and I’m still not interested” line I gave them.

Which is truth.  I did not once lie.  I have read the Bible, both in Sunday School as a kid and as a scholar for my literature and mythology classes.  I know it fairly well, though it’s not memorized.  My plan is, since I have a copy thanks to school, to read it cover to cover and really get a feel for what others believe, what others see when they read that book.

I don’t particularly like missionaries or proselytizers.  Most Pagans don’t.  My personal feeling on the matter is, if I were interested in joining a church, or learning more about whatever faith the missionary or proselytizer is trying to feed me, I would go find more out about it myself.  Plus, we get into the whole “freedom of religion” thing, which is a big deal in this country, though other countries do not have such laws on their books.

As much as I don’t like evangelists/missionaries/proselytizing, I think the best approach is to be polite.  You don’t have to be kind, or pitying, or hateful or annoyed, though you may feel any of those.  Being polite is usually the best way to shake them off.  Most people respond appropriately to a polite and quick “No, thank you” by moving on to the next target.

It’s the one that don’t take the hint to leave you alone that are problematic.  Luckily, these girls got the hint that I really was not interested and left me alone, but the fact that I had to repeat myself three times is annoying.  Kudos to them for being tenacious–but it’s rude and annoying to bother people like that.  I have to wonder how they would react if I had turned the tables on them and asked them if they knew anything about Paganism and would they like to know more and have they read any New Age books?  Sure, not quite the same thing, but just imagine if the situation were reversed.  Would they not feel the same thing I felt when they wouldn’t leave me alone?  Most likely they would.

There really isn’t much of a point to this post, I suppose, other than to rant a little bit.  Luckily for me, I live in a liberal state, one in which there aren’t many evangelists or other such people who go door-to-door.  On occasion the Jehovah’s Witnesses come by, but they’re pretty nice and leave us alone after handing out whatever flyer they brought.  The ones I’ve seen at my house don’t hang around or ask too many questions.  But since this is a public university, of course we get many diverse cultures and religions in one place, so it makes sense that there would be groups such as the one the two girls today were a part of on campus and walking around talking to people.

Anyway, I just had to get that off my chest and share the experience.  I hope it doesn’t happen again any time soon!

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