This question is not being posted to get into a religion or freedom of speech debate, but rather present the idea that regardless of religious beliefs, aggressive and pushy behavior wrapped in the pretense of a specific faith’s beliefs is often unwanted at best and annoying at worst. Is there any way to politely sidestep these folks?
I am a secular Jew living in New York City (USA of course) and find it difficulty to politely deal with Evangelical preachers of all faiths who aggressively hand out religious tracts. Below are the different degrees of folks I typically run into and my experiences with them.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses: Not So Bad: Sometimes I am dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses who honestly are not that bad. As far from aggressive as possible. They just stand there with a pamphlet kiosk and easy enough to walk away from.
- Chabad Lubavitch: “Yes, I am Jewish… Please go away.” Next up are the Chabad Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish folks who are fairly aggressive if you are nearby, running up to you and asking “Are you Jewish.” I tend to just walk away if possible, but sometimes I say, “Yes, I am Jewish but I don’t want to talk to you.” Sometimes these efforts to avoid them work and they disengage. Sometimes they become even more aggressive and have even chased me down the street.
- Christian Evangelical Groups: Unpredictable: During the holiday season in New York City, you tend to encounter various groups of Christian Evangelical groups. Sometimes there are groups that are not horrible to deal with; they respect distance and boundaries. Other times you get groups who clearly have a tactic of doing things like (for example) aggressively surrounding subway exits around rush hour (5:00pm to 7:00pm) at night and confronting commuters going home after a long day of work.
I understand that these people believe in their respective religions. And I respect that in some cases this kind of preaching is a part of their beliefs in some way. And I also understand that for many people this is—essentially—their job and they will be rewarded by their leaders with housing, food and support they could not get otherwise.
So knowing that I want to respect their position in the world, is there any way to cleanly and politely say thanks but no thanks without lying or being mean or deceptive?