I understand that religious recruitment is a rather divisive and complex issue and therefore I will attempt to approach this question in as sensitive a manner as possible.
I am a member of the Christian faith. I believe that Christianity is an exclusivist religion based on what Jesus of Nazareth said about himself, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6), what he said concerning those who disbelieve, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son” (John 3:18), and what the Apostles taught concerning him, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
As a spiritual seeker, I read the Bhagavad-Gita, the Dao De Ching, much of the Koran, and some great insight from Siddhartha Gautama. Even though my limited study of the world’s religious traditions may not have performed justice to them all, I found none of them to be both spiritually fulfilling and historically verifiable. I concluded that if I am to have faith in anything, there must be a solid bedrock of evidence to base my faith upon.
The Christian faith teaches that through the resurrection of Christ, we are assured of his godhood and our own future resurrection. Thus, the Christian faith stands or falls on the reliability of historical testimony. If we were able to verify that the testimony of the Apostles concerning the resurrection of Christ is trustworthy, then it would be reasonable to believe that we are saved through faith in him.
Not only do I believe the Gospel to be historically reliable, but also I find Christ to be the precise solution to the problem of the human condition. As Blaise Pascal wrote, “The knowledge of God without that of our wretchedness produces pride. The knowledge of our wretchedness without the knowledge of God produces despair. The knowledge of Jesus Christ forms the middle point; for there we find both God and our wretchedness.”
If humans are atoned of their own wretchedness through the blood of Christ, and are brought to everlasting life through the resurrection, then it would be unfortunate to not share this gift to the world.
In an increasingly pluralistic society, the spreading of the Gospel message is often disparaged as mere proselytization. To the Christian, however, this is nothing more than the fulfillment of Jesus’ commission to the Apostles: “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 28:18-20)
One may disagree with the ultimate truth claims of the Gospel, but it would be hard to defend the position that the Christian community is without the right to share the faith. The question should not be whether or not religious recruitment is intellectually defensible but which method of recruitment is intellectually justifiable.
One need not stand on a street corner, shouting threats of eternal damnation and hellfire in order to gain converts. Neither do we have the right to conquer aboriginal cultures, rob them of their identity, and force the Gospel message into their hearts and minds. True conversion is a free-will choice and one mustn’t be brought to the faith by compulsion.
It is the responsibility of the Christian community to live a life of holiness so that the world may be attracted to the Church by our acts of righteousness. As Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) We are not to be prideful and boastful on account of our good works but we are to be humble and congenial.
When people come to us in order to learn about the source of our good works, we are to answer in as civil a way as possible, “GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡Ãƒâ€šÃ‚ÂªAnd if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God desire, than to suffer for doing evil!” (1 Peter 3:15-17)
Evangelization should never be an excuse to spread intolerance and hate in the name of Christ. In performing missionary work in various countries, the focus should be on relieving their peoples of illness and hunger. By acts of good will and compassion, they should be attracted to the Gospel voluntarily. One should not seek to wipe out their customs and mores but to provide them with whatever spiritual enrichment they choose to receive. If they choose not to believe then so be it, for a good deed is its own reward.
Our love and service to humanity should never be contingent on humanity’s willingness to believe. We are to feed the hungry if they are willing to be fed, remedy the sick if they are willing to be remedied, and only then can we share the Gospel if they are willing to listen.
As Saint Francis of Assisi insisted, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.”
May peace be upon thee and with thy spirit.