Religion in the United States has a history of being interactive, at the very least, especially in comparison to major Eastern countries. I believe that the interactive, conversion-centric philosophy present has escalated recently; some churches have begun airing commercials, others encourage members to approach others – sometimes strangers – to begin a dialogue about their religion, and still others travel door to door. That is what much religion in America has become: recruitment.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are one group that certainly utilizes upfront recruitment techniques. I don’t know anyone whose house hasn’t been visited by Jehovah’s witnesses, and my house has been visited multiple times – on one occasion, by a classmate.
Evangelical Christian groups are especially known for proselytizing. Jack Chick produces a number of tracts, all bearing the same message: in order to be saved, one must repent and profess belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God. I myself have come across two of these tracts, one of which my parents had found when I was about eight years old, and another found by an ATM not too long ago. Both tracts told the same story: a man aboard Titanic was concerned only with money and success, both of which he had, but when the ship sank, he was not in the Book of Life. The tract ended with an appeal to repent right then, and offered a prayer that one could say in order to be saved.
The Church of Latter-Day Saints runs a particularly memorable commercial, in which two women are chatting over lunch, and one woman mentions the Book of Mormon. She goes on to tell her friend of all the amazing changes that have occurred in her life because of it.
Hindu temples are often found to be advertising such things as Yoga classes, open to the community. Though recruitment is not the sole focus of these venues – as most are held to aid community acceptance – recruitment is a natural byproduct.
Malcolm X famously converted to the Nation of Islam while in prison. He was the face of the Nation of Islam for quite some time, and during that period he became a chief spokesman. In this way, he spoke about the message of Islam, and in doing so furthered the goal of recruitment. His charisma was, in essence, a tool of recruitment for the Nation of Islam.
Religious recruitment is the backbone of religion in America; after all, how can a religion expect to survive without members? Religions seek to get their message out because they believe that their message is beneficial, and that those who accept that message will benefit from it; recruitment can be, in a way, a humanitarian effort. The most prominent religions in America are religions which champion conversion, and as such, efforts toward religious conversion in America can be seen everywhere.