Manataka American Indian Council

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A response from

Grandfather Lee Standing Bear Moore

 to Linkedin Chaplains and Ministers



Theology of Proselytizing


Used as a verb, Proselytize is defined to try to persuade people to join a religion, cause, or group.  It refers to the attempt of any religion or religious individuals to convert people to their beliefs, or any attempt to convert people to a different point of view, religious or not. Proselytism is illegal in some countries.  Some of the religions that actively proselytize are Bahá'í Faith, Christianity and Buddhism.  Some of the religions that do not actively proselytize are Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Judaism.



Is there a difference between proselytizing and witnessing as a Christian Chaplain if the definition of proselytizing is to "convert someone to your particular religion"?

Chaplain Ty Alday, MDiv, BCC Chief Operating Officer at The Association of Professional Conservative Chaplains (;



Craig Cassatt - Church planting

As a Christian (whether a chaplain or not) we are to witness and proselytize but we do not try to convert anyone to any religion; our sole responsibility is to point men to Christ.


Douglas Ramsay - Cantor at Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation

Proselytizing while a chaplain is inherently a conflict of interest. You are inserting uninvited pressures and subjects into a situation that is probably already wrought with pressure, guilt, and emotion. The focus should be on the patient. If I was proselytized to in such a situation as an observant Jew, I would fire the chaplain on the spot for disrespecting me and my religion. If a patient is ever placed in that situation, the chaplain is NOT a chaplain.  That said, if a patient specifically requests to be proselytized to in a Christian or Muslim manner (Jews are not supposed to proselytize), then my advice would be to refuse or to tread VERY carefully.




Tim Staker - Staff Chaplain, Palliative Care and Oncology at Indiana University Health

In patient-centered hospital care, the focus is on the patient. As chaplains, then, we focus on helping the patient find the sources of spiritual strength that are within the patient and within whatever faith tradition or spirituality they have. If the focus is on what the chaplain believes, or if the chaplain is having to "defend" their faith, then you are not doing chaplaincy, you have strayed off into apologetics, which will not help the patient one bit. I suggest if this happens, put the focus back on the patient. You may say to the patient, "what's important right now isn't my belief system, but what is going on with you" or something similar.



Mike Lamb - Chaplain and social worker seeking new opportunities. 

I agree that the focus needs to be on the patient, resident, client in whatever setting I find myself as a chaplain. It is not about me or my belief, it is about discovering the strengths and struggles in the spirituality of the individual I'm with at the time. When asked about my faith tradition I respond "I happen to be Catholic and I routinely see people of all faiths. Is that okay with you that we visit?" I haven't had any body kick me out yet. I have found that exploring the spirituality from the person's perspective is most helpful. Because spirituality is varied for individuals, there is not a one size fits all approach in the chaplain's visit.


Lee Standing Bear Moore - Chaplain, Secretary, Historian, Storyteller, Keeper of Manataka

We will go one step farther than Douglas Ramsay of the Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation who states, "...Proselytizing while a chaplain is inherently a conflict of interest..." We believe his comment comes closest to truth.

In our opinion, proselytizing is inherently in conflict with a spiritual walk. Proselytizing to those being targeted is a sinful abomination and is seldom motivated only by a desire to "witness".  There is a very thin line between witnessing, evangelizing and proselytizing that many Christian ministers and lay people seldom consider.  Crossing that line is too frequent.  Witnessing is living as an example of ones faith and that is beautiful and more is needed.  Evangelizing is just a nicer word for proselytizing.


In the old days, proselytizing or evangelizing was done at the point of a sword or at the end of a muzzle against millions of indigenous peoples worldwide. Between 1492 and the late 1800's, most European Christian churches and governments raped, pillaged, tortured and murdered hundreds of millions of indigenous people.  The Nazi's did not hold but a small candle against the flaming atrocities of Christian evangelists. Those who proselytized in the name of God are guilty of the most horrendous crimes against humanity. 


Today, those same type 'good' Christians are guilty of  demeaning, shaming and carrying out bigoted actions against non-Christians.  In modern times, proselytizing takes the form of extreme prejudice and punishment in many arenas -- political, economic, and social. Anyone who denies this fact fails to interpret history in the shoes of their victims.  Defending proselytizing in the name of evangelism is the same as defending spiritual rape in the name of God.  It is the same motivation when radical Moslems commit acts of violence in the name of Allah -- only the Moslems are about 300 years behind the Christians in this department.


Christian Missionaries must believe their work to civilize the savages in pristine countries is wonderful.  However, immediately following the introduction of Christian churches in these places, the vast machinery of industry and the strong arm of the military follow.  There is not one single instance when this pattern is not true.  The people are first confused, their spirituality is destroyed, the land is ravaged, then famine, disease and war becomes their reward. 

We understand that good pastors and chaplains never intend to do harm against those who are the being targeted. Regardless, history is full of horrendous evil events created by those who intend no harm. 

A chaplain who proselytizes is NOT a chaplain.