Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How not to spread the word

I walked through Broadmead - Bristol's lingering-death-of-the-soul 1960s shopping centre - on the way to the station yesterday. As ever, outside Boots, there was one of those shouty evangelists loudly exhorting passing shoppers to abandon the paths of unrighteousness and forswear evil-doing.

Usually - and I hope my anti-fundamentalist prejudices aren't too visible here - these zealots are fairly unsavoury-looking characters. But yesterday's preacher was a bit of an exception: a very tall and notably good looking black guy, with an immensely powerful voice.

I wonder if he made any converts? (Certainly, nobody took the slightest notice of him, while I was passing.) And, actually, I wonder if anyone has ever fundamentally changed their belief system as a result of being shouted at in the street by a stranger?

On the plus side, I guess it's possible to argue that our friend with the fervently held convictions wasn't really trying to win anyone over with the strength of his arguments. Instead, perhaps, we might see his performance as an attempt to demonstrate the power of faith: "Look, my belief is so strong that I'm happy to get wet and cold, while making a total twat of myself!")

But I don't really buy it. Overall, I believe that any form of persuasive communication that involves hectoring, haranguing or harrassing the audience or reader is doomed to fail.

A more effective way of spreading the word? Perhaps our evangelical friend might have stood quietly and calmly in front of a placard reading:

Jesus changed my life.
Let's talk about how
He could change yours.


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