Defining Proselytism at Georgetown

Commonweal links to a Washington Post article about new religious policies at Georgetown University. Protestant groups were required to sign a statement affirming:

While zeal for spreading the good news of the Gospel is a most worthy Christian virtue, there is increasing agreement among Christians today that proselytism, defined as any effort to influence people in ways that depersonalizes or deprives them of their inherent value as persons or the use of any coercive techniques or manipulative appeals which bypass a person’s critical faculties or play on psychological weakness, is unworthy of Christian life. Physical coercion, moral constraint, or psychological pressure and inducements for conversion which exploit other people’s needs, weaknesses, and lack of education are not to be practiced by representatives of affiliated ministries.

But what does this mean in practice?

David French, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund who advised InterVarsity during this dispute, said the “haziness” around the policy could still chill evangelicals from speaking about their faith.

“People talk about all kinds of other stuff — politics, sports, all kinds of contentious things. Then someone bring up Jesus, and suddenly . . .”

But there is a difference when it comes to matters of faith, Borelli said. “You’re talking about one’s convictions as one relates to God,” he said. “So you’re talking about something profound to our being, our position of faith, to our relations with God. That would be the qualitative difference.”

I think it would be impossible to defend that position if this were a state university.

Paul Lauritzen at Commonweal opines:

While I am sympathetic to the concern of discouraging aggressive, unwelcome evangelization, it is hard to see how you can draw the line between the acceptable and the unacceptable.  As Terry Reynolds, a faculty member in the Theology department, is quoted as saying: “What’s the difference between saying that “Christ is the only way to salvation,” and saying, “I believe if you don’t accept Christ as the way to salvation, you will go to hell?”

I, for one, don’t mind being told that if I don’t accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior I will go to hell as long as I can tell the person bent on saving my soul to go to hell.