Recently, a new story broke about how a group called Voice of the Nations wanted to host a Christian concert at Yonge-Dundas Square and have for  the last several years, but now were banned for doing so because they were proselytizing. Apparently, the manager was recorded saying that VON’s songs which made statements like “Either way, if you’re praising Jesus or praising the lord, and there’s no God like Jehova, that type of thing, that’s proselytizing.” (To be fair, I haven’t heard the entire clip, so this statement may not completely represent what the manager was getting at. Apparently, one of the participants has been involved before in preaching for conversions at such an event.)

The notion of proselytizing is interesting. Merriam-Webster defines “proselytize” as “to induce someone to convert to one’s faith; to recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause“. Oxford Dictionary defines it as “Convert or attempt to convert (someone) from one religion, belief, or opinion to another“. We typically associate proselytizing to religious beliefs. However, based on these definitions, it’s not limited to religious beliefs; it’s towards an opinion or cause of another. (You could make the argument that advertising is essentially a form of proselytizing.)

Some may challenge that there’s a different between education or awareness or proselytism. However, rarely is information given without some kind call to action. e.g. The entire petitioning system like change.org is meant to not just relay information, but to provoke some kind of change towards an “opinion or cause”.

It’s one thing when a person is forced towards an opinion/belief/cause (which is a common perception of what proselytism is considered). The fact is, we’re always being challenged to change our opinion towards one opinion / belief / cause through conversations, advertising and other forms of media. Every person has the right to accept it or not on their own volition, not another.