Sjolander Road Fellowship

Declaring the God of Unconditional Love


Persuasion or Coercion


One of the conundrums of Orthodox Christianity is the confusion over whether the church and the "Gospel" it promotes involves persuasion or coercion. Initially, the professed mission of the church is presented as one of persuasion. They have a message which must be taught and embraced, so their Gospel and the associated church mission seems to imply that their role is that of instructor/salesmen. They must both teach the truth and persuade others of its truthfulness. However, in conjunction with this mission of persuasion the church teaches a related judicial punishment. This judicial element means that the attempt at persuasion is driven by a powerful element of coercion. The story is always- be persuaded or else. Even the church members labor under coercion- be pious or else, evangelize or else, remain faithful or else. Freedom denying coercion never fosters true goodness and happiness.

Once the element of judicial punishment is introduced, then the church inevitably transforms from the supposedly benevolent purveyor of good news into society's enforcement arm for morality and piety. Thus we experience the frequent intrusion of religion into the business of government, which by its very nature is all about enforcement and coercion. It is too apparent that many in the church are much more enamored with being God's enforcers than in being the bearer of actual good news to the world. Otherwise we would not continually witness the attempt by the self proclaimed morally superior to wrest the reins of government away from the degenerate rest.

Lost in all this confusion is the question as to why good news has to be sold under threat of punishment. Of course, the church's response is that the good news is nothing more than an offered way to escape punishment. In that case the reality of coercion is a given and any goodness in the church message is restricted to the existence of an escape plan. The role that persuasion plays in the church mission therefore involves convincing people that the threat of punishment is real and that the escape mechanism of the church is effective.

In that effort at persuasion, the church employs its interpretation of the Bible and the powerful influence that traditional interpretation has had on our cultural conditioning. The idea that God is angry with mankind and bent on punishing and destroying most people is relentlessly embedded in our minds from our earliest childhood, whether we be church raised or not. The unfettered influence of the institutional church in all ages and cultures has conditioned us all to accept church doctrine as unassailable, subconsciously if not consciously. Oft repeated confusion thus becomes sacred truth by means of endless repetition, much the way all forms of indoctrination work.

The power of church doctrine in molding our society is not a function of its ability to actually persuade anyone of its verity. It is really the result of our accepting the familiarity of fear as our motivation instead of seeking some higher form of motivation which might actually make the Bible story persuasively good.