Take public preaching about religion in stride

A week ago Sunday, watching highlights of the Washington Redskins - San Francisco 49ers game, I heard a sports caster jubilantly refer to Steve Young as "the penultimate quarterback."

The word penultimate means "next to last;" it is not simply a fancier way of saying "the best." Now, I may be a bit biased because the Redskins are my second-favorite team, but that little gaffe (blunder) really annoyed me.

It is, however, symptomatic of the deterioration of spoken English in an era in which Rolling Stone, rather than The Oxford English Dictionary, is considered the ultimate (last) word on vocabulary. In that vein, it has recently been my peculiar (distincti ve, used sarcastically) joy to hear a number of people complain that others, especially, but not limited to Christians, are "forcing their religion" on unsuspecting non-believers.

"To force" is defined by Collegiate Dictionary as "to produce only with unnatural or unwilling effort." If these people are taken literally at their word, I thought to myself as I read some articles expressing that opinion in the Daily Wildcat, someone ou t there is re-enacting significant portions of the Middle Ages.

Someone out there - indeed, given the number of these articles and their consistent appearance, many someones - are pointing handguns and crying, "CONVERT!" Sure, I thought. More likely, one of the religious groups on campus managed to offend someone by u sing the word "religion" on a public university campus.

Then I heard gagging noises from the floor, and looked down to see that my foot was still lodged in the throat of the poor atheist I'd captured earlier in the day. In a moment of charity, I grabbed him by the shoulders and threw him out the window, yellin g "CONVERT!" as he flew through the glass.

I do not mean to make light of what may indeed be a serious situation. If someone out there is indeed being stalked or harassed or even threatened with bodily harm, for whatever reason, then legal action is entirely appropriate.

If, however, those who have expressed the above opinions are simply tired of hearing others talk about what has become a politically incorrect subject, my advice to them is simple. Get over yourselves. In fact, there is hypocrisy inherent in expressing pu blicly, "People are trying to force their stupid religion on me by telling me about it. It is stupid because I do not agree with it." That's not unlike punching someone in the mouth for kicking you in the face, all the while crying the need for pacifism.

I cannot speak for other faiths; indeed, I cannot speak for all branches of Christianity. I can say, however, that Christianity possesses a missionary, or at the very least evangelical, character. Christians do not go about attempting to persuade others t o become Christians out of some nefarious desire to do evil. It is inherent in the faith to believe that acting in that manner is for the good of everyone, individually and collectively (for reference: Acts 6:7-8, Mark 16:8, Matthew 28:18-19).

If you have a problem with the evangelical nature of Christianity, or any other faith for that matter, I would suggest that you take my approach and simply ignore or politely dismiss that which offends you. If you are for some reason driven to vocally tak e issue with those who would speak of their faith, I suggest polite conversation.

I am a practicing Roman Catholic, and am always up for a lively debate. I can say with certainty that the priests at the Catholic Newman Center are available for discussion (and they're far better versed in theology and philosophy than I), and I would ven ture that most of the religious organizations on campus share that outlook. There's no need for the sort of bigoted malignancies and misquotations I've seen and heard over the last few weeks.

And finally, to all the religious out there: They're on to us. Put down your swords and guns - the First Ecumenical Crusade Against the Atheists and Agnostics is off. For now.

Chris Badeaux is a junior majoring in English. His column, 'Cynic on Parade,' appears every other Friday.