Picture this: You’ve just landed at the airport after a long trip away from home. You’re exhausted, and want nothing more than to get home and sleep in your own bed. At the airport, you call an Uber to take you home. And when you get in the car… the driver starts preaching to you about Jesus.
Proselytizing rideshare drivers are a surprisingly common occurrence, and there’s even a new word for it: uberevangelism.
Some Christian Uber drivers started preaching because they realized that they have a very captive audience, but increasingly, the faithful are taking to driving for Uber or Lyft with the express purpose of spreading the good word.
However, some riders say it’s disrespectful and rude, and want rideshare services to crack down on unwanted preaching.
Uberevangelism: Uber Annoying?
“The car is such an ideal place to do this because it’s personal,” said Pastor Kenneth Drayton, who drives for Lyft and has turned his vehicle into a mobile ministry. “I can share my faith and it’s so important because that’s what I live for.”
There are entire guides online on how would-be uberevangelists can bring God into the idle chitchat of your average Uber ride. “It's pretty easy to go from superficial conversations about the weather, or ‘What job do you have?’ to talks about god, purpose of life, or religion,” reads one. And if the conversation goes south, well, “there's a time limit to the conversation (when the ride ends), so people are more willing to discuss controversial issues or anything uncomfortable.”
“It doesn’t come as a great surprise to me because thinking about Christianity, there’s a long tradition of using technology to spread the word of God,” explains Manhattan College religious studies professor Robert Geraci. “Uber, Lyft becomes a mode of religious communication and not just a transportation strategy – it’s also a religious strategy.”
Riders are taking notice, however, and many are not fans of being preached to while locked in a stranger’s car. Frustrating, exploitative, and intrusive are just a few of the ways riders have described the unwanted proselytizing.
And queer riders have even reported feeling unsafe during some of these uberevangelism sessions.
With uberevangelism – and complaints about it – on the rise, will Uber or Lyft ask drivers to stop?
So far, the indication is no. Uber and Lyft have no explicit policies prohibiting drivers from sharing their faith with riders.
And as long as they aren’t threatening, perhaps the company sees no harm in it. After all, if Christians want to take to driving for a rideshare to convert passengers, well, that’s just more drivers out there driving for Uber and Lyft.
But a negative riding experience can make customers less likely to use the service again. If a customer is receiving unwanted religious messages, they may be more likely to take the bus, or the train, or simply drive themselves next time.
It could be a delicate balancing act for Uber and Lyft, especially if continues to grow uberevangelism and more evangelicals start using the app to convert the masses (while making some money on the side).
On the one hand, we’ve probably all been proselytized to at one point or another. Should riders on the receiving end of unwanted religious conversion just change the subject like they would in any other scenario?
On the other, it’s a different vibe when you’re literally locked in a moving vehicle, and your evangelizer is at the wheel. It’s not unreasonable to believe that some riders would feel unsafe in that scenario.
What is your reaction? What should be done about uberevangelism?