SG Streetspeaks: Religious Touting
Where: Choa Chu Kang Interchange
When: Mar 2016, Monday, 1700h, Cloudy
This is a follow-up to my previous post on walking with a surveyor. To provide context, I don’t like to be intruded on the streets by surveyors, flyer givers, or salespeople. Yet on that occasion, the girl’s spontaneity was refreshing. After my haircut, I had to return to the interchange, but I hoped to see her again… (read that post to find out more)
Instead, another guy came up to me. “Hi, can you help me fill in this survey? Just 1 minute!” Usually I’d wave it off. But conditioned by the earlier encounter, I was feeling more generous. Okay, 1 minute it shall be.
I almost regreted immediately. It was a questionnaire on religious beliefs. There were questions like “Do you believe in God?”, “What do you think comes after death?” and so on. Alright… 1 minute and I will be through this discomfort.
I was naïve.
Taking my script, he mentally marked my responses. It seems I might have gotten 2 out of 5 questions wrong. Room for improvement. Here is the conversation, as best as I can recall:
Justin: “Hmm… I see you answered this here. Why so?”
Me: “Well, I don’t know, it’s a possibility.”
Justin: “Actually, Jesus says ____.”
Me: [grumbles inside] “Hmm. Okay…”
Justin: “So do you get it?”
Me: “Well it’s a possibility.”
Justin: [takes out a brochure]
Me: “Actually I thought you said it was just a minute?”
Justin: “Okay 1 more minute. You see, Jesus was actually _____.”
I started looking elsewhere, jealous of the moving crowds.
Justin: “So how many are there?” (I forgot the exact question.)
Justin: [points at a line] “Okay just read this line.”
Me: “Why do I have to read it?”
Justin: “Just read it.”
Me: “Well, it says 2.”
Justin: “Yes 2. So _________.”
Me: “Are you done? I’m in a rush.”
Justin: “Okay 1 more minute.” [goes on persuading no one for a minute]
Me: “Okay do you have a brochure or something, I need to go.”
Justin: “Oh we don’t have brochures. How about you leave your contact with us?”
That jerk thinks he’s going to get the chance to pester me till eternity? Fat hope!
Me: “Oh it’s fine. What about a website?”
Justin: “We don’t have a website.” [pauses]
Me: “You don’t have a website?!”
Justin: [pauses] “Oh actually we do! It’s uccspace.com* or something.”
Me: “Okay I will check it out.”
Justin: “But can you just give me your contact? We have events; there’s one next week. You can get to meet and interact with our brothers.”
Me: “How about you give me your contact?” [takes out phone]
(*I found out later that it’s uccspace.net)
Finally I won, without deserting all courtesy. It took more than 5 minutes, definitely. Perhaps I should have just walked off in disregard. But at least I got his name, got his number (erased it) and got where he came from.
It made me think, perhaps I should interact more with strangers? And thus Streetspeaks emerged, as a way to document interesting street encounters and reveal that tiny bit more about the cultures I live in. A latent benefit!
There is a detail I’ve omitted above: I follow Buddhist beliefs. And he knows, because he asked for it when I left that section blank. Yet that made him more eager if anything. I don’t know about you, but I found that rather unethical, even if I’m not that religiously-inclined.
Freedom of speech >> Respect?
I’m stating their names not to shame them, but to extend my courtesy to them. In the unlikely case that Justin reads this (he’s not familiar with web resources after all), I hope he realizes that imposing one’s judgments and “correcting” others’ beliefs is neither good reasoning nor good persuasion. I appreciate your good intentions. But when you make a promise, you are actually expected to meet it.
As for uccspace, I’m concerned about the kind of approach they are promoting. It’s okay to conduct street recruitment, but not to do so with misinformation. This was no survey; why do they need feedback for something they know to be “right”? The subsequent touting was clearly planned for, so why mislead? What is “truth” if built on lies?
I may be painting them in negative light, but I’m also giving them free publicity as such. You can check out their website and decide for yourself whether it’s for you.
I don’t insist that my views are right.