One of my most distinct characteristics is that I am a Born Again Christian. Being a Christian is a way of life not just a set of practices. My religion defines who I am and dictates my actions. Being a Christian influences how I speak, what clothes I wear and what activities I engage in. Our church is an evangelistic church and so we’re encouraged to invite people to church activities. One goal of this study is to find out how an outsider receives these invitations. It will also be found out what factors determine the non-Christians’ response to such invitations.
Being a Christian has changed how I act in situations and most people I know have adjusted to my principles. Some have also generalized my personal principles such that when they meet other Christians they assume the latter will act the same way as I do in a given situation. Thus another aim of this study is to see the effect that interactions with Christians has on the perception of Christians as a whole. In order to achieve these goals interviews will be undertaken: one with a person practicing a different religion and another with a person with no professed religion.
The interview will start with a discussion of what, in the interviewee’s perspective, is a Christian. Questions pertaining to how Christians may be differentiated from non-Christians will also be asked. This will be followed by whether or not the interviewee has ever been invited to a Christian gathering before and how he or she responded to this invitation. Next, the interviewee will be asked to relate a memorable experience with a Christian. Finally, the interviewee will be asked to assess based on his interactions with Christians how he believes Christians perceive non-Christians of the same religious belief or non-belief as him.
It must be borne in mind that the interview itself might be misconstrued as a means to invite the non-Christian to church. The interviewee of another religion may even become defensive and this would confound the answers given. Therefore, from the onset it should be made clear that the purpose of the interview is to improve Christians’ relations with non-Christians and to correct any Christian practices which promote negative impressions. As Patton stated in his work, an interviewer must be able to build trust at the onset of the interview and the purpose for the interview must be made clear to the interviewee (1987).
The topic of religion isn’t so much a welcomed concept particularly because of the rivalry and conflicts that have arisen “for the sake of religion. ” In order to prevent the interviews from being another venue for such arguments, a collaborative approach will be encouraged through the research. As it has been emphasized in other studies, research isn’t a means to exploit the “other” rather it is a means to reach a mutually beneficial conclusion regarding overlapping interactions of different cultures (Fitzgerald 2005; de Munk & Korotayev 2000). Analysis of Interview Material
Interviews were conducted with two non-Christians (see Appendix A and B). As was indicated to the respondents, this research has been conducted in order to improve interactions of Christians with non-Christians. As has been discussed by past researchers, a cross-cultural study should benefit not just the researcher but also the person studied (Gibbs 2001). The very essence of collaborative research is that all parties to the study are benefitted by the findings. Such a conclusion may be reached through the results of the present study. The responses of the respondents may be classified into several dimensions.
The first is how past interactions with Christians have affected the respondents’ perception of Christians. One respondent showed that a positive experience with a workmate allowed him to see Christians in a better light. Despite having had many negative experiences with Christians, a positive personal experience with several Christians was able to lessen his negative impression of Christians in general. On the other hand, the other respondent whose personal experience with Christians was negative has now generalized the impression and applied it to all Christians.
Therefore, the personal experience with Christians is more important in forming an impression of what a Christian is. However, for persons with deep-rooted biases against Christians due to external factors, such as intercultural conflict, the personal experience only tempers the bias but doesn’t altogether eliminate it. This is the case with the Moslem respondent interviewed. It must therefore be asked what qualifies as a positive experience. In the case of the Moslem respondent, the positive experience consisted of the Christian attempting to understand the former’s religion.
It can be seen from the second appended interview that one of the reasons why a negative impression was held of Christians is because “I leave them alone to believe what they want. They could at least extend the same courtesy. ” This shows that the respondent also hopes for some tolerance from the Christians she encounters. Furthermore, when asked how she felt regarding being invited to her mother’s Christian gatherings, the respondent showed that she felt irritated because she had already made it clear that she didn’t wish to go.
From the above, it can be seen that a first step towards a positive impression is a manifestation of tolerance on the part of the Christian. This tolerance required in cross-cultural interactions of religions aids in the facilitation of interactions between their subcultures (de Munck & Korotayev 2000). This is important particularly since the growing complexity of society ensures that the religious cultural units will interact in one regard or another. However, as evidenced by the Moslem respondent, this tolerance is not sufficient to overcome the in-bred conflicts that religious differences have fostered between cultural units.
Therefore, a greater level of understanding between cultures is necessary in order to bridge the gap between religions. In order that this might be achieved the respondents reflect some insight. The agnostic respondent stated, “But the fact is that they can’t explain why they believe what they do. They can’t even explain half of what’s written down in the Bible. ” The Moslem respondent on the other hand stated, “But there are those who seem to know about the love that their Jesus taught. I have no problem being friends with people like that.
” The above statements show that Christians need to know about the foundation of their own faith in order to be able to preach it to others. A failure to understand their own religion comes across to non-Christians as insincerity. This insincerity renders the religion in itself doubtful. Non-Christians would thus be even more unwilling to learn about a religion which was understood and misapplied by its own followers. Finally, the interview shows that in order that Christians might become more effective in interacting with non-Christians they should be able to engage in a bottom-up process.
What normally occurs when Christians invite other people is that they become imposing yet they don’t make the effort to understand the factors which the person being invited must consider before giving a response to the invitation. In order that they would be able to connect with the person being invited they must be able to understand how the other perceives them as Christians. The Moslem respondent stated, “I think they think the same we do about them. That we are wrong in our belief. I think that a lot of Americans are afraid of Moslems though.
” This shows that he believes that Christians are as stubborn in their belief as he is. Therefore, an invitation from them would mean an attempt at conversion. Being a firm believer of Islam, he would of course say no as he would have no desire to be converted. Therefore, the Christian should be able to explain to the non-Christian the purpose of the invitation, particularly if it is for the reason simply of being able to get to know the other person better. In answer to the question of how she felt when being invited, the agnostic respondent was able to intone a similar response, “Annoyed.
I mean, they just don’t seem to get a clue. If I wanted to go to church I’d do it without any prodding. ” This shows that the method being employed by the Christian mother was no longer effective. In fact, it hadn’t been effective for a long time already. And yet, she didn’t change her approach or try to talk with her daughter in a more personal manner in order to understand the daughter’s aversion to religion. The respondents gave answers regarding how they defined what a Christian was. In both answers it is evident that they perceive Christianity as a set of practices and rituals.
The essence of Christianity as a lifestyle and as a relational interaction was lost to them. Having learned about their experiences with Christians, it isn’t surprising that they feel this way. It’s clear therefore from this study that in order to improve cross-cultural interactions between Christians and non-Christians a more personal interaction should be encouraged. This interaction should be imbued with a sense of tolerance for the other and a desire to understand the situation and motives of such other. References De Munck, V. & A.
Korotayev (2000), “Cultural Units in Cross-Cultural Research,” Ethnology, 39(4), 335-448. Fitzgerald, T. (2005), “Cross-Cultural Research Principles & Partnerships,” Management in Education, 19(1), 17-20. Gibbs, M. (2001), “Toward a Strategy for Undertaking Cross-Cultural Collaborative Research,” Society and Natural Resources, 14, 673-687. Patton, M. Q. (1987), “How to Use Qualitative Methods in Evaluation,” CA: Sage Publications. Appendix A: Interview with a non-Christian practicing a different religion Interviewer: Good afternoon. First, thank you for agreeing to meet me for this interview.
Before we begin I just want to remind you that the purpose of this study is to better understand the interactions of Christians with members of other religions. Your answers will be used only for the purpose of this study and for no other purposes. Having said that, are you willing to participate in this study? Respondent: Yes. I: Thank you. First let’s start with some information about you. Is there a religion that you practice? R: I’m a Moslem. I: How long have you been a Moslem? R: Well, I was born into a Moslem family so I can say that I have been practicing my faith since I was born.
I: In your perspective, how would you define a Christian? R: Well, Christians are people who believe that Jesus is God and not Allah. We Moslems also believe in Jesus but he is only a prophet and only Allah is God. I: Have you ever interacted with Christians? R: Of course. Most people here are Christians and so I have to deal and talk with them every day. I: Have you ever been invited to attend a Christian gathering? R: I work with some Christians who have once or twice asked me to go to an activity or concert. I: Did you go with them? R: No. It’s not allowed in Islam to acknowledge other gods.
I don’t see the point of going anyway. It would be a lie for me to pretend to believe what they would say there. I: How did you feel when you were invited? R: It was a little awkward. I didn’t understand why they would want to. It’s not like I would go with them. But at least they don’t give me a hard time about being a Moslem. I: Are there Christians who do? R: Sure. It’s not new. There are really those types. I: That’s interesting because I also wanted to find out how you think Christians view Moslems. How do you think Christians view Moslems? R: I think they think the same we do about them. That we are wrong in our belief.
I think that a lot of Americans are afraid of Moslems though. Everyone seems to be afraid we’ll turn into Osama Bin Laden or something. I: Thank you for sharing that. I’d like to ask you now about some personal experiences you’ve had with Christians. Is there any particular instance, good or bad, that you shared with a Christian that sticks out from your other interactions? R: I remember this one guy at work, the same guy who invited me to that concert at their church, he asked me once about Islam and he seemed genuinely interested. He tried finding similarities between Islam and Christianity.
He was pretty nice. He just struck me as different from most Christians and I appreciated that he tried to understand my religion and didn’t just base his impression on what other people were saying. I: Alright, you’ve been very responsive so I have only one last question left. As a whole, how would you describe Christians? R: Well, most Christians don’t know their own religion. There are some who take it too far and they can be really condescending. But there are those who seem to know about the love that their Jesus taught. I have no problem being friends with people like that.
I: [Respondent] that concludes our interview. Thank you very much for your time. Appendix B: Interview with a non-Christian without any professed religion Interviewer: Good morning. First, thank you for agreeing to meet me for this interview. Before we begin I just want to remind you that the purpose of this study is to better understand the interactions of Christians with members of other religions. Your answers will be used only for the purpose of this study and for no other purposes. Having said that, are you willing to participate in this study? Respondent: Sure. I: Thank you.
Let’s start with some information about you. Is there any religion that you practice? R: I don’t exactly believe in organized religion. I: Was there any religion that you used to practice? R: Well, we used to say a prayer at the dinner table before dinner. But that was a long time ago. I just don’t see the need to anymore. I: Alright. Well, as I told you earlier, the focus of this interview is Christians and their interactions with others. So to start off, how would you define a Christian? R: Well, Christians are people who read the Bible, believe in God, pray, sing praise songs, all that.
I: Have you ever been invited to a Christian gathering or activity? R: Sure. My mom used to make me go to church with her. She hasn’t stopped pestering me about it yet. I: Do you ever go? R: Not since I could say no without getting grounded. I: Why don’t you? R: Like I said, I don’t see the purpose. I mean look at my dad, he doesn’t go and he’s alright. If prayer is all there is to it then my mom is probably praying enough to save all of us. It just doesn’t seem important. I: How does it make you feel when you’re invited? R: Annoyed. I mean, they just don’t seem to get a clue.
If I wanted to go to church I’d do it without any prodding. Besides, if God were real then they wouldn’t have to work so hard to make the rest of us believe in Him. It all just seems like a whole bunch of lip service. It gets tiring. I: It’s very helpful that you’re talking about your family and how they are active in practicing Christianity. But apart from your family have you had any other interactions with Christians? R: Sure. They’re all the same. Preachy. When you ask them about why they’re doing it though it all boils down to cop-out faith.
Who can argue with that? I: Is there any particular experience you’ve had with a Christian that strikes out? R: I have this housemate who’s all about religion. She keeps leaving little cards with psalms on them in my things. I just find it a little irritating that she can’t just accept that I don’t do that kind of thing. I: The interview is going well so far so I only have one last question. How do you describe Christians in general? R: Well, Christians can be really devout about their faith and about having other people believe the same thing.
But the fact is that they can’t explain why they believe what they do. They can’t even explain half of what’s written down in the Bible. Even worse, they can’t understand that other people just don’t want to believe the same things that they do. I mean, it’s not that I hate god. I just don’t believe he exists. And they act like that makes me the worst scum on earth. I leave them alone to believe what they want. They could at least extend the same courtesy. I: Thank you so much. Your responses have been really helpful. That concludes our interview.