Of course this was several years ago, back in the mid-90s. Back when much of liberalism was founded on the gospel of tolerance, diversity, respect, and open mindedness. In recent years, however, I began to rethink this little conversation with my friend, and realized that, even he didn't realize it, the whole notion against 'converting' people was a sham. It was a hoax, a farce. It was a lie.
Fact is, humans have always, and will always, convert. They will make absolute truth claims, assume their beliefs are absolutely true, and demand nations, governments, institutions - and yes, religions - conform to those truths. To some extent they will attempt to convey these truths in the hopes of convincing and persuading others to change their minds and accept these truths. Eventually, as we are seeing in the post-liberal Left, there will come a time when tolerance for those who refuse to conform will lead to more 'drastic' measures.
The same is obviously true for religion. Christianity, a part of Western Culture, suffers from the Great Western Guilt. Assured of the narrative that 'the West' is to blame for everything, Christianity has backed off on making stands, against pointing fingers and saying that's wrong, against looking at others and saying 'you need to change.' All while other religions, philosophies, and ideologies think nothing of looking at the Church and saying it's wrong, dumb, evil, stupid, or anything else. Imams and atheists, Buddhists and Rabbis think nothing of sitting on a CNN panel describing the faults, flaws, and failings of Christianity throughout its history.
And all the while, most Christians still lumber along under the false pretense that we must be tolerant, that we must affirm anything and everything else, that we have no right to say we're right, you're wrong. We will not look at the other panelist and say, "Our values are the Truth values because they are founded upon the bedrock of Truth, the foundation of Eternal Divinity: God as revealed through Jesus Christ." Some do, of course. But too many leaders feel the need to become all soft and cuddly. To avoid saying such things directly. They are just scared to point out the flaws in anything else (with the possible exception of radical secularism).
Point out the bad points of Jewish history? Forget it. Mention Islamic aggression and expansion throughout the previous thousand years? Don't hold your breath. Explain that there are many bad things in Asian history, some of which actually tie to the religious beliefs of certain regions? Nope. Oh, their reps can trash, trash, and trash again the Church, its sins, its failings, its doctrines all they want. But all the while, the most respectable Christian leaders continue to be guided by that has-been of a teaching that watching the modern world should show was a lie all a long.
When confronted with diverse opinions at Athens, the Apostle Paul did NOT simply say this is one possible truth, and tell everyone else their truth was as good, or valid, as his. He did not trash his own tradition and stand idly by while others did the same. He did not use violence or aggression, as we should never do. I'm not advocating conversion at gunpoint here. I am saying it's time for the Church to stand up, take a deep breath, and say 'we're right and you aren't.' Doesn't mean we can't coexist. Doesn't mean we can't discuss and debate. It means we hold these truths to be self-evident, and are sworn to uphold and protect them. It means when folks go on tirades about the evils of Christianity, challenge them. Throw it back at them. Discuss the caste system of India, the deplorable rights records of the Far-East, the modern conditions and rights abuses across the Islamic world, the brutality (by modern standards) of pre-Columbia American cultures, the mass slaughter of the secular 20th century and its terror states founded on, among other things, the eradication of religion. Don't hold back or try to be a milquetoast anymore. It's not working. People want truth. Real truth. Truth not afraid to be truth and proclaimed as truth. And if we who believe we hold the truth don't take a stand, then others who we believe do not have the full truth will. And they will win.