Home / Mad missionaries & toxic gifts (recycled)
Mad missionaries & toxic gifts (recycled)
This was first posted in November 2007, but as it's Operation Christmas Child time again, it's being reposted.
I don't know how many American missionaries there are, or where they all are, but there are a lot of them. I posted a story in June about the Joshua Project:
Our Mission ... to highlight the people groups of the world that have the least Christian presence in their midst and to encourage pioneer church-planting among every ethnic people group.
I wrote "Mad missionaries" because they do seem to suffer from a collective psychosis. They're programmed to go and poke their interfering evangelical noses into communities that "have the least Christian presence", regardless of the existing religious beliefs, or lack of beliefs, of the people involved. Their unshakeable belief that they're doing God's will is not just misguided, it's very destructive.
Suffolk Humanist Nathan has been infuriated by the activities of missionaries in Cambodia, where most people are Buddhists. The young people at the centre where he's doing voluntary work must have been bewildered by the books they were given by an American organisation:
The dictionary in the back of the booklet was highly amusing, however. A is for Abraham. B is for Baptism. C is for Commandment. I particularly liked H for Herod, K for King David, and S for Sin. Useful, relevant English for the modern world.
Some evangelicals in Cambodia and elsewhere behave like the do-gooders (or should that be do-Goders?) who expected the poor and destitute to sing hymns for their supper in 19th century British soup kitchens. They ask the Khmers to pray in exchange for food and healthcare - not Christian charity, just bribery.
One of the biggest of these organisations is Samaritan's Purse. They encourage children in the affluent US and UK to fill shoe boxes with gifts for Operation Christmas Child. "Oh, what a lovely idea," think thousands of well-meaning but gullible people as they help their children to fill boxes with Christmas tat, "All those poor children will have such a lovely Christmas." The Samaritan's Purse website says,
Samaritan's Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God's love through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If they were genuinely concerned about helping "hurting people" they'd offer aid without strings, rather than trying to convert the recipients. The Rev Dr Giles Fraser, vicar of Putney and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford, has written about their "warped version of Christianity" in the Guardian, advising would-be donors,
... why not support Christian Aid, which works wherever the need and regardless of religion. Its current campaigns include working with HIV/Aids orphans in Kenya, recycling guns in Mozambique, and highlighting the impact of world trade rules on farmers in Ghana. Sure, we will need to have some rather grown-up conversations with our children if we are to explain some of these things. But that would be time better spent than wrapping up a shoebox. We must get over our fondness for charity and develop a thirst for justice.
It's bad enough when the Mormons or the Jehovah's Witnesses turn up on our doorsteps, with their "good news" - I just tell them to push off, but when they gift-wrap God for children, I just want them all locked up.
Oh, and just in case anyone reading this asks what atheists do to help other people, I can tell you a lot - they just don't make a song and dance about it, or try to convert anyone as a price for their help. Altruism is a natural human quality, as I wrote elsewhere, not a religious quality.
The BHA has some suggestions for alternatives to Samaritan's Purse - click here to see their website.