Have you ever wondered exactly what to do when you're handed a Christian bible tract? I think we all have at one point or another. Gospel tracts are really common, especially if you live in the United States. Christians love to leave them at bus stops, libraries, and even in grocery stores and bathrooms.
I think that you should take Christian pamphlets if you see them, especially if they are harmful Chick tracts. This keeps the literature out of the hands of kids who might be influenced or scared by the illustrations inside.
The places you find a gospel tract
I bicycled to work this morning, and had a wonderful time. Some dude stopped at a red light and got out of his car to hand me a free-class pass for yoga (no, I'm not kidding). Then, on the way in, some old man handed me a really cool version of the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs. I love free stuff!
This wasn't the most unusual place I've ever found a Christian trying to deliver salvation. I think using shoving them in books at the library is probably the most unusual (and annoying!) place I've found a tract. Or, you know - shoved in my door. The fake money ones always irritate the crap out of me, too.
Should you take a Christian bible tract?
I always take Christian literature for two reasons. One, if it is a pamphlet/newsletter/tract, I love reading it. The psychology of Christianity fascinates me, as does the attempt to reach a wide audience with otherwise crazy thoughts and ideas. As someone who is not part of the dominant religion, you should be well versed in what they're saying so that you can combat any misinformation, or even just hold your own in a friendly conversation or debate.
Two, it takes the opportunity away from them to reach "vulnerable" souls. Every bible/tract/newsletter that I get is one less that is going to someone who is at risk of reacting poorly to what's inside. Many people have insecurities that certain brands of Christianity will feed off of. I also don't want to demonize all Christians - but the ones leaving gospel tracts around tend to be the hellfire and brimstone sort, not the radical love and acceptance sort.
What about a bible study?
Bible studies are not inherently harmful. You can learn - about the history, about the religion, and about the culture - from a bible study. But just be aware of your surroundings and the group that you're in. There is a lot of value in Christianity, but the American evangelical subsets can be dangerous. There are just a lot of flavors of Christian churches, and if you're going to experiment - make sure you pick a flavor that will play well with your personality.
Although there are benefits to going to church (like finding a community), there are a lot of costs, too. One big benefit of paganism and Wicca is freedom from shame. A lot of modern Christian sects centralize shame and guilt, and guide their followers to rely "on God and prayer" via the pastoral lead - not intuition. It emphasizes powerlessness, and breeds a cult-like atmosphere. I don't like that at all. Learn a few bible verses, but don't drink the kool aid.
So, in conclusion: always take the pamphlet. If you're genuinely interested, visit a church. It's not harmful for you to learn or try to experience the holy spirit. But at the end of the day, the best way to live is to take control of your spirituality! Take control of your life. And don't get sucked into a cult just for the sense of belonging.
This post was originally written on April 8, 2013 - and updated on December 10, 2021.