Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Eight sheets of newsprint with the headings suggested below written with a marker
- Washable markers
Preparation for Activity
- Hang or place the prepared newsprint around the room as widely separated as your meeting space allows.
Description of Activity
This activity asks participants to think about what they would be willing to do to save other people. In the process, it introduces the idea of religious proselytism and evangelism.
In advance, prepare and place eight sheets of newsprint, each with one of these actions written at the top:
- Jump into the ocean to save a drowning person.
- Tell somebody to stop smoking.
- Hide cigarettes from smoker.
- Call the police if I saw somebody being robbed.
- Try to stop the robber if I saw somebody being robbed.
- Tell other people to believe what my religion says.
- Share my religious beliefs with others.
- Warn drivers that a bridge was out.
Point out the posters around the room. Say that each of them has a possible answer to the question, "What would you do to save another person?" Ask the youth to move around the room and read what each poster says, and then to sign it if they would do what it describes. When all have finished, have them return to their circle and discuss what they have done.
Read the words at the top of each poster and see how many participants have signed. Ask if anybody wants to say why he or she signed (or did not sign). Seek out remarks about the differences between similar actions, such as telling someone to stop smoking versus hiding cigarettes.
Focus on the two posters concerning religious beliefs. However youth responded to these written questions, ask them how they would answer if they believed that they could keep a person from going to hell and save them for all eternity.
Explain the concept of religious proselytism and evangelism with words like these:
Some people believe that their own religion is the one true religion and that it's the only religion that will allow people to be saved. These people try hard to spread their religion by persuading other people to share their beliefs. One word for trying to spread your religion is "proselytizing"; another is "evangelizing." "Proselytizing" is a stronger word than "evangelizing." People who proselytize might try really hard to convince somebody to accept their beliefs. People who evangelize are more likely to preach their ideas loudly and hope that people who hear them will decide on their own to accept those ideas.
Lead a discussion about how youth feel about proselytizing and evangelizing. Point out that the word "evangelism" is most often heard in connection with Christian churches. In fact, some Christian churches have the word "evangelical" in their names. However, there are also Jewish and Muslim evangelists, and other religions around the world frequently try to "convert" nonbelievers by getting them to accept their religious beliefs. Consider asking the following questions:
- Have evangelists ever come to your home to talk about their religion? How did you and your family respond?
- Should people try to convince others to change their beliefs?
- Would you ever do that? What if you thought your ideas really could help other people get to heaven? What if you thought you would spend an eternity in heaven without ever seeing your loved ones again?
- Do you think that evangelists are following the Golden Rule? Are the evangelists doing for other people what they would want other people to do for them? (See also The Golden Rule, which is Activity 4 in Session 4: Telling Right from Wrong.) How do the youth feel about Unitarian Universalists trying to get others to join their congregations?
- If you think someone might like Unitarian Universalism, is it good to tell them about your faith?
- Where do you draw the line between sharing your faith and proselytizing?
Including All Participants
Adapt the activity as necessary to allow participants with limited mobility to be part of it. Do not assume that youth using wheelchairs or crutches will not be able or eager to move around the room with everybody else. You could eliminate the need for motion by having youth list their choices on paper in order of their comfort level with each action. If you have youth with limited reading skills, read each of the posters aloud before they get started.