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Actual missionaries
As you may have noticed, I have written a series of posts about missionaries in eastern Zaire in the 1980s and early 1990s, focusing on my own personal experiences. These seven posts represent only a small number of these experiences, but they are more or less representative. They are meant to underscore the down side of missionary activities in Central Africa. To some extent, the negatives you may see in these essays are part of the reason for missionary activity being illegal in many countries (although the reasons for those laws varies considerably). It is my opinion that missionary activity should never be allowed, but at the same time, missionaries can have a positive effect that would not likely happen in their absence.

Frankly, I think that the world of sceptics and non believers looks a bit asinine for not making much more of an effort to replace these positive effects in a secular way and to give the missionaries a run for their money.

One of the reasons that I’ve written these essays is because I was asked to address this issue by Mike Haubrich. Mike is the producer of Minnesota Atheist Talk Radio. The idea was that I would write a few blog posts on my experiences with missionaries, and then we would do an Atheist Talk Radio spot on the topic. As it turns out, this coming Sunday’s show will be the last Minnesota Atheist Talk Radio instalment. After this, the show will be off the air forever. So don’t miss the show! Mike is producing the upcoming show, and Stephanie Zvan will be conducting the interview.

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Do not assume that mud hut = unhappiness
One of the things that I have not sufficiently conveyed in these posts about missionaries is the broad misconception people … not just missionaries, but most people in The West … have about Africans and Africa and the nature of life there. The average American will see a photograph of a mud hut with a grass roof and a family positioned outside the hut staring into the camera and this average American will think, “Oh, those poor people” without any understanding of the fact that they could be looking at the happiest people they’ve ever seen living in relative comfort, with fulfilling lives. They are just not the lives that the average Westerner has determined, in their privileged, middle class, suburban mindset, to be ideal. But who cares what you think?

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Most likely, they are dead by now.
Or, you can look at the broadly smiling face of an African Child bursting with happiness, and think, “well, they fixed that one … he’s happy” and not have any idea that this is a kid who will die of malaria next month because the region of Africa he lives in has zero medical care because there is a war going on over access to the raw materials needed to make your cell phone. Or because he lives near a Christian mission with a medical facility but is not a Christian.

In other words, you have no clue, most likely. And not only do you have no clue, but most of the bad stuff happening to these people is your fault. And you’re probably never going to get a clue. In fact, you are going to spend your energy denying that this is all your fault instead of just doing something to undo what your civilization has done.

The reason you not likely to figure this out, and that you are most likely to keep doing the wrong this, is because the reality that you are willfully misunderstanding is actually quite complicated, but you’ve been trained by your culture and society to view Africa and Africans as rather monolithic and simple.

These posts on missionaries don’t help much in that regard. In these posts, the Africans themselves are not really featured, and though they are far from one dimensional (do look and compare the different individuals mentioned) since these posts are not directly about them, there is just not much there. But I do hope that in reading these seven essays that you will come to understand one thing: When the missionary is showing the slide show about the great work the missionaries are doing, whether you are seeing this in church or on the web or at the local community center or public school, and the missionary is asking you for your money to help do more, please do write a check.

And send it to the UN. Or to the Ituri Forest People’s fund. Or some place, but not the missions.

Here are links to the missionary posts:

On a Mission from God

Forget the Maginot Line, What About the Beer Line?

Our Research Camp as a Mission Station

The Great White Missionary

Attack of the Hound of Malembi. Or, “Whose are these people, anyway?”

Don’t be a Jew

The good book

Comments

  1. #1 Jason Thibeault
    June 26, 2009

    Last show!? And this was going to be the first I streamed live from Canuckistan! Can you provide some insight as to why?

  2. #2 Stephanie Z
    June 26, 2009

    It costs us money and it ties us down to a particular format. It also involves me being awake early on Sunday mornings, but I don’t think that was part of anyone else’s decision-making. The plan is to keep going in podcas form with at least some live shows. It will take a little time for that to start up, though.

  3. #3 Joshua Zelinsky
    June 26, 2009

    Greg, do you mean it when you say that “missionary activity should never be allowed” – this would seem to be a pretty big breach of basic free speech. We might as a whole want to discourage missionizing but would you really want to make it illegal? I suspect for example that you don’t want to outlaw preaching in the US.

  4. #4 Jason Thibeault
    June 26, 2009

    Okay, good… thought maybe something sinister was going on station-wise. Podcasts are easier for us furriners to get at anyway.

    Greg, I understand your drive to counteract the ridiculousness of the missionaries undermining the local populations, but are you also suggesting that atheists / skeptics / freethinkers go out there and proselytize at the same time as trying to fix the medical supply problems etc.? Because if so, I suspect you’re asking more than most of us freethinkers are willing to do.

    I do agree that the actual underlying problems need to be tackled and resolved rather than focusing on “one smile at a time”, and the more scientifically minded folks are better suited for this task than religious missions.

  5. #5 Strider
    June 26, 2009

    Stephanie
    Glad to hear that the show will be continuing in podcast form because I love it. I won’t miss the AWE commercial with Beorn(sp?) “Bad? Why bad?” and the woman (sorry I can’t remember her name). I will miss the Qcumbers commercial, tho.

  6. #6 sailor
    June 26, 2009

    I thought Barbara Kingsolver’s book the Poisonwood Bible was a brilliant depiction of a missionary. And I am not a particular fan of her other books.
    Joshua, I think there are cases where banning missionaries should be the law. I think it can be handled in terms of protecting small untouched cultures.
    In south America if you look at the native river populations and compare Guyana where they were missionized and made dependent, to Venezuela, where interactions have been heavily contolled, the Venezuelans did a way better job. Now limited tourist interaction is allowed in Venezuela, and that seems to work.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    June 26, 2009

    On secular missions: There are some secular missions, BTW, bujt I don’t know much about them. The idea of a secular mission is not to preach. It is to provide the services that missions provide, the services that allow people to say “Oh, you may not like the religious part, but look at all the other important stuff they do.” The idea is to do those other things.

    I mean, really, what would a skeptic preach?

    Regarding “missionaries not being allowed” … It is true that I am a blogger, and that whatever I say, therefore, is only one step away from being codified in law, but it is not necessary to evaluate everthing I say (about what I want) in terms of it’s feasibility if it were to be implemented in codified form and then tested in court. Most likely, the countries that illegalize missionary work are otherwise pretty facist. The two that come to mind right now are Afghanastan and Israel. So go chew on that for a while.

    BTW, missionaries are often hated by governments because missionaries could care less about the law of the country they work in. They really don’t give a rat’s ass about local law, other than to the extent that they need to avoid getting caught. This usually annoys the governments.

    So, I’m not actually proposing, or expectign, national or international laws to illegalize missionaries. I would prefer, to quote the great PZ Myers, if they simply dried up and blew away. But what might be more doable is replacing them with secular services.

    This, by the way, is one off the issues that most people are unaware of that is at the crux of the left/right division in the US over government. Its only really clearly visible at the international level.

    Rgarding the radio show, I’m not in a position to say anything because I’m not involve in it directly. I’ve been aguest a few times, including as a guest interviewer. See comments above by Stephanie, and maybe Mike will chime in as well.

    What I will say is the following: Keeping the show is expensive and is paid for by the Minnesota Atheists, the cost of the show is actually a big chunk of that organization’s budget, they have other things they could do with the money, and frankly, no one is sure how many people listen to the broadcase anyway. It costs money to find out how many people listen to your radio broadcast.

    Personally, I suspect that a well developed (in a publicity/marketing sense) podcast will not have an adience that is smaller than the current station. After all, they’d have to have a number of listeners who do not have the internet but do have AM radio on at 9:00 on Sunday.

    I also want to add that August Berkshire seems to have had a lot to do with making this show happen to begin with and he’s a key leader in the community.

    You can expect that anything that Mn Atheists does by way of podcasts to be fully supported by this blogger. In spirit and blogospherically.

  8. #8 Warren
    June 26, 2009

    The reason you not likely to figure this out, and that you are most likely to keep doing the wrong this, is because the reality that you are willfully misunderstanding is actually quite complicated, but you’ve been trained by your culture and society to view Africa and Africans as rather monolithic and simple.

    [emphasis mine]

    That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? If it’s true, as you suggest, that “culture and … society” have trained us to see Africa and Africans as “monolithic and simple”, how then can any of us be, at the same time, guilty of “willful misunderstanding”?

    Put another way if a person is kept ignorant of the knowledge that, say, some people speak French, is it fair to accuse that person of being willfully unaware of some je ne sais quoi or other?

    If you’re trying to gain allies, it seems that taking on an accusatory, browbeating tone might not be the very best approach.

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    June 26, 2009

    So Warren, are you’re feelings hurt? Almost everybody I ever got close to in Zaire is dead. They really did die for your cell phone, and the knowledge about this (and parallel things in Nigeria regarding oil, and so on and so forth) has been there in front of all of us, you included, all along. There is nothing secret, nothing being kept from you. There is only you chosing to ignore one thing and focus on another. There is no valid excuse for not knowing.

    My assertion of “willful ignorance” is probably best applied at the broader, social level than at the individual level, but it does absolutely apply at the individual level for anyone in educated society. These are not things that are hidden from you. These are things you’ve known. You have not been kept ignorant of these facts.

    I do see that you have confused my statement that Westerners learn to oversimplify Africa with my references to other knowledge. Funny, that. Deeply ironic!

    So, are with us on this or are you just going to upgrade your cell phone next time you have a chance because you want some new feature you are never going to use, like the rest of them? (And when I say “them” I mean “Us”, frankly)

  10. #10 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 26, 2009

    The reason that I asked Greg to do this is because one night at a Pharyngulafest he told a great story about smugglers and then mentioned a short bit about missionaries. It was late and we didn’t get much of the story, but the little bit he had to say made me curious as to how an anthropologist would interpret the presence of missionaries. A scientist and an atheist. I have my own impression of the effect of missionaries, colonialism and the effect of religion in easing the way for one society to destroy another, but I am not a trained anthropologist who has been to Africa to observe it. Greg has been such a great guest on the show, so I thought it natural.

    As to the show, they have now approached us about the possibility of continuing for free, so apparently they have found it to be a good addition. They just want to mess with it and make it a point-counterpoint thing (which didn’t work so well the one time we tried it, but it may just have been the guests.) We don’t know yet what will continue, if it does, on the live airwaves but I won’t be involved.

    Jason – make sure to call in. Yours would be our first call from BeaverLand.

  11. #11 José
    June 27, 2009

    These are not things that are hidden from you. These are things you’ve known. You have not been kept ignorant of these facts.

    I’m sorry for your losses, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. I do my best to be socially responsible, and I’ve long been aware of the dark side of things like oil, diamonds, and clothing. But until today, I’d never even heard of coltan mining, and I wouldn’t even have known to look had you not mentioned cell phones. When I read about war in the DRC, colton mining is usually lumped into the catch-all “exploitation of natural resources”.

    While I’d like to be aware of everything I do that might contribute to the exploitation of somebody somewhere, there will always be things I’m in the dark about simply because I have no reason to suspect there might be a problem. What are some other issues like this in the DRC you’re aware of?

  12. #12 Adrian Morgan
    June 27, 2009

    Re: Or because he lives near a Christian mission with a medical facility but is not a Christian.

    The fact that there are people who deny medical treatment or any other service to others based on their (the would be recipient’s) religion is the deepest of human tragedies and should make us all extremely angry.

    The good news is that mainstream Christians, in my experience, are as angry about it as we are. On this issue, as on so many others, moderate Christians are our allies against the lunatics on the fringes.

    The Catholic writer Henri J M Nouwen wrote that: “It belongs to the essence of a Christian spirituality to receive our fellow human beings into our world without imposing our religious viewpoint, ideology or way of doing things on them as a condition for love, friendship and care.” Most Christians I know (generally Protestants) would agree passionately with Nouwen on that point, and many would be very deeply offended by people who profess Christianity yet support such discriminatory behaviour.

    I am an ex-Christian myself, and in my day would have uncompromisingly said that anyone who disagrees with Nouwen’s sentiment cannot truly be a Christian at all. (And no, that is not an example of the No True Scotsman fallacy, because if you presuppose the existence of God then the distinction between true and false followers of that God is legitimate.)

  13. #13 Travis
    June 28, 2009

    Sadly I probably will not get a chance to listen to this tomorrow but if it is available as a podcast I will certainly listen to it.
    I have really enjoyed reading your writings on Africa and your experiences there. I have read a large amount about central Africa and I find your articles to be some of the most interesting and enjoyable on the area. I just wish they were available in some audiobook/podcast format because I often like to listen to those while getting ready to sleep and while trying to get to sleep.

  14. #14 Kristjan Wager
    June 28, 2009

    Most likely, the countries that illegalize missionary work are otherwise pretty facist. The two that come to mind right now are Afghanastan and Israel. So go chew on that for a while.

    I wouldn’t consider Greece fascist. Of course, it’s not a law against missionaries, but rather an anti-proselytizing law, so it’s not quite the same.

  15. #15 Caravelle
    June 28, 2009

    José : I’m sorry for your losses, but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. I do my best to be socially responsible, and I’ve long been aware of the dark side of things like oil, diamonds, and clothing. But until today, I’d never even heard of coltan mining, and I wouldn’t even have known to look had you not mentioned cell phones. When I read about war in the DRC, colton mining is usually lumped into the catch-all “exploitation of natural resources”.

    I’d heard about coltan mining, and I’m a not-that-well-informed 25-year-old. The subject does come up when you read about Africa. Of course, if you don’t read about Africa or think much about it outside of what comes up in the news cycle you won’t know that kind of stuff.

    Which I think is Greg’s point; we know things are messed up in Africa, and we know the Western powers have a lot to do with it, but we don’t really care. So we don’t make any effort to inform ourselves on the details of the situations there. So we’re clueless.

  16. #16 Travis
    June 28, 2009

    I find that most people ignore African, or do not hear or see what they are actually told about it when there is an opportunity to learn. But then again, I find there are many things I talk about that I believe should be common knowledge to most, things that have been discussed in the media over and over again, only to find no one knows what I am talking about.

    For instance, I remember when the movie Blood Diamonds came out, all I could think was “Isn’t this really late in being made, everyone already knows about this problem” only to find that I was quite wrong about that. It baffles me a bit. I had read much about the issue and had seen seemingly endless reports on the CBC or BBC discussing the problem. It was a similar experience with coltan.

    Quite frankly I think there has been plenty of opportunity to learn about Africa. On the news I find myself tired of the introductions to stories about Central Africa, they often seem to explain the same background I have heard so often, often that is the bulk of the story, I guess that means many people still need a reminder. Do people simply not pay attention to news, not reading it, or watching it? Or do they see it, only to forget it quickly?

    That did not come out quite right, I am having a hard time expressing exactly what my frustrations are as I have quite a few of them surrounding this and they all want to come out at once in an unorganized fashion.

  17. #17 jemand
    June 28, 2009

    How the HECK is this my problem?

    http://www.sungazette.com/page/content.detail/id/83179.html?isap=1&nav=5022

    Nearly 18% of south African men admits to having raped a girl or woman. 17% admitted to attempted rape and 9% admitted to participation in gang rape. You’re saying THAT is due to “western influence and my cell phone?”

    The violence and inhumanity which AFRICAN MEN inflict on AFRICAN women is endemic throughout the continent and really seems to be pretty homegrown, seriously.

  18. #18 jemand
    June 28, 2009

    sorry, that’s supposed to be 28%, not 18%

  19. #19 Stephanie Z
    June 28, 2009

    Yes, jemand, that’s exactly what he’s saying. Colonization is directly responsible for the disruption of old social structures, and political games designed to seat rulers whose main qualification is that we think they’ll be friendly to our corporate interests account for a hell of a lot of the more recent instability. Then there’s the weapons brokering, the trade with corrupt regimes, and the general unwillingness to support productive health and education programs in an entire continent.

    What have you done about any of these?

  20. #20 jemand
    June 28, 2009

    Than give my ANYTHING to show that those “old social structures” showed any more humanity to the women in the culture than today’s model does. You can’t. Rape is endemic in the society, it was endemic in the society, and the inability of women to control their fertility is the number one contributor to societal instability.

    I hate the “it’s all our fault” tripe. It forgives and forgets the VERY REAL violence perpetrated BY Africans, ON Africans. We HAVE contributed to some of their political instability, but I pointed out that rape statistic, because that sense of male entitlement and the individual decision TO rape on the part of those men is nothing but their own, and western observers shouldn’t make excuses for them.

  21. #21 Stephanie Z
    June 28, 2009

    So it has to be “all” our fault or it’s not our fault at all? Try again. While you’re at it, catch up on the topic of how “political instability” relates to rape.

  22. #22 Stephanie Z
    June 28, 2009

    Also, given some recent calculations on how adaptive rape is (not) as a strategy among people living in smaller, cooperative social units, the burden of proof is really on anyone who wants to argue that rape is a large part of pre-colonial African culture (and you do know that there was an awful lot of variety in cultures across Africa, right?).

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    June 28, 2009

    Jose: Regarding other issues in DRC and elsewhere, there is gold, there are diamonds, and both are exploited in very bad ways. The gold mining is very environmentally destructive as mercury is used to extract the gold, and it gets into, well, the ocean, eventually, but the people doing it are sickened by it. By definition, congolese dimaonds are blood diamonds.

    Most poached ivory comes from DRC. Any ivory trade, in antique ivory, other ivory, enhances the value of all ivory including the poached ivory. For the sake of the elephants that have not died yet of the mercury, don’t buy any ivory!

    I would like to add rhino horn to this list but I think maybe they have all been killed. There was a subspecies of white rhino in N. Congo, only a couple of dozen.

    And lumber. I don’t know what to say about that at this time, I’m not sure what the issues are or what to do/not do.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    June 28, 2009

    Adrian: The good news is that mainstream Christians, in my experience, are as angry about it as we are. On this issue, as on so many others, moderate Christians are our allies against the lunatics on the fringes.

    Many, many Christians are deeply disturbed by what happens with these missionaries.

    Travis:I just wish they were available in some audiobook/podcast format because I often like to listen to those while getting ready to sleep and while trying to get to sleep.

    I would have thought you were a sock puppet of me, because just today at lunch, I suggested that we should develop “Blogs on Tape” for exactly the reason you suggest.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    June 28, 2009

    Kristjan Wager: Regarding illegal missions. I’m sure you are correct. I’d like to add: I don’t think missionary activity is low in countries where it is illegal. Being a missionary in a country where it is illegal is considered very high status among missionaries and their supporters.

    Jemand: Than give my ANYTHING to show that those “old social structures” showed any more humanity to the women in the culture than today’s model does. You can’t.

    Huh? Well, these writings about missionaries did not come flying out of my ass one day. They are a tiny little side effect of having spent years living in the region studying the culture as an anthropologist. Your view of Africans, and violence in Africa is very uninformed and absurd, totally incorrect, and deeply offensive. You better take it down a notch.

  26. #26 Travis
    June 28, 2009

    Glad I am not the only one who likes to do that. However I often do fall asleep somewhere in the middle and have to listen to what I have missed (often the next morning before getting out of bed if it was set to repeat).

    It is getting harder and harder for me to find something to listen to however. I love history and science, and of course the history of science, but have not found a large number of podcasts to listen to that I enjoy and are done well. I have now basically tapped out every BBC show I can find, most of the ABC Radio National Broadcasts, CBC programmes like Dispatches.

  27. #27 Greg Laden
    June 28, 2009

    Have you considered the Science Friday podcasts?

  28. #28 Ted
    June 28, 2009

    Also look for the Nature podcasts. I do not know if they are still being done, but they are reasonable good quality.

  29. #29 Elizabeth
    June 28, 2009

    I pointed out that rape statistic, because that sense of male entitlement and the individual decision TO rape on the part of those men is nothing but their own, and western observers shouldn’t make excuses for them.

    How does a rape statistic from post apartheid South Africa tell you what you seem to think it tells you?

  30. #30 Joe
    June 28, 2009

    What she said.

  31. #31 Go places
    June 28, 2009

    Excellent post.

  32. #32 Wyatt
    June 28, 2009

    Frankly, I think that the world of sceptics and non believers looks a bit asinine for not making much more of an effort to replace these positive effects in a secular way and to give the missionaries a run for their money.

    Yes, and the government route you suggest is problematic because of the high %% of $$ that goes into military and other non-humanitarian funding, such as funding to prop up mineral or oil exploration or industrialized agriculture.

  33. #33 Greg Laden
    June 28, 2009

    Wyatt: Exactly. That is why I suggest direct involvement with your representatives in government. I is totally OK to tell them what to do in most countries, and they sometimes do it.

  34. #34 Andrea
    June 28, 2009

    I was a good show today. I listen now and then an always want to call in. Today I almost did. Now I never will be able to. Oh well. Maybe in my next life …. :)

  35. #35 Sofia
    June 28, 2009

    OK… it took me a while to get the American Idol connection. But then I did.

  36. #36 José
    June 29, 2009

    @Caravelle
    I’d heard about coltan mining, and I’m a not-that-well-informed 25-year-old.
    Good for you. That’s your experience. It’s not mine. I do make an effort to inform myself, and if I had ever come across colton mining before, I never made a connection something I was doing. Anyway, what I was trying to say doesn’t hinge on this one issue. I’m sure we’re all guilty of unknowingly doing something that contributes negatively to the lives of somebody somewhere in the world. Just because these things are not hidden from us, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re irresponsible for not knowing about them. And it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t care or don’t want to know about them.

  37. #37 Hypatia's Daughter
    June 29, 2009

    You cannot fault people for being uninformed about something like coltran. I have never heard of it. But all my general news comes from local TV & newspapers who never cover non-US issues beyond 2 – 3 sentences under “International News”. And I am in a big southern city with a major paper. These outlets have to be careful how much time they spend on these issues before readership stops buying and they get accused of being anti-American commies.
    But you CAN fault people for having an opinion (like the war in the Sudan or rape in Africa) without doing some research first. Disinterest and ignorance is one thing; being opinionated about something of which your are ill-informed is another.
    That is the true gift that Lushbag, O’Lielly, FoxNews and their ilk make to the right. They take the real news, wash out any unpleasant “liberal” facts and spin dry to the perfect right-wing fluffiness to make it soft & comfy for their already ill-informed listeners.
    They are like the Mafia’s money launderers, but they wash the truth, not money.
    And they are the sole source of news for a frightening number of people.

  38. #38 Qwerty
    June 29, 2009

    I spent 18 months in Eritrea during the 1970s while in the US Navy. (Yes, the navy, we had a communications station there.)

    Recently, we’ve had a flood of Somali immigrants to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Why? Don’t know, but it often reminds me of my time in Africa.

    There was also a war going on as Eritrea was a part of Ethiopia at the time and a seperatist movement was under way, but Americans stationed there were in very little danger.

    Greg’s right in htat most Americans have a very myopic and incorrect view of Africa.

  39. #39 Caravelle
    June 30, 2009

    José : Good for you. That’s your experience. It’s not mine.

    To be fair I don’t think those experiences mean anything either way, I was just answering an anecdote with an anecdote…

    I had ever come across colton mining before, I never made a connection something I was doing.

    Well, as far as the connection to something we’re doing goes, I’m not sure there’s much to be done there. Not buying a cellphone won’t change much in the big scheme of things, and I’ve never heard of sustainable electronics*. Still, better to know than not to, in case that changes. Or in case I turn activist :p

    I’m sure we’re all guilty of unknowingly doing something that contributes negatively to the lives of somebody somewhere in the world. Just because these things are not hidden from us, doesn’t necessarily mean we’re irresponsible for not knowing about them. And it certainly doesn’t mean we don’t care or don’t want to know about them.

    I guess I just disagree with that. I can’t know everything that goes on in the world, but insofar as I could know *more* with little effort, I’m responsible. And while it doesn’t mean I don’t want to know things, it does mean that I don’t care to the exact extent where I didn’t bother to get more informed.

    And I accept that; I can’t care about everything, I like to be a good person but I also like to do what I want and enjoy my own life. All I can do is get to a balance I feel comfortable with. With as little denial as possible involved, preferably. But then denial is one of those unknown unknowns isn’t it…

    *Hey ! You know what I could do ? Google “sustainable electronics” ! Eh, or not, we’ll see.
    If I don’t though, and it turns out there’s AMAZING THINGS I could do to make the world better, I do think I’ll bear some responsibility for my ignorance of that fact. Not as in “the world sucks and it’s my fault” of course, more like “okay, I could have done better there”.

  40. #40 tioedong
    June 30, 2009

    A lot of it depends on what you mean as “missionary”.
    We have a lot of Americans who come here to the Philippines to teach them that Catholicism is pagan and evil, and train them to think like Americans: Be honest, don’t lie or cheat, be tight with your money, and forget the part about helping your non “christian” neighbor or drinking a “San Mig” during the fiesta.. So I agree with some of your post.

    On the other hand, in a lot of Africa, most rural hospitals are run by churches or church related groups. I’ve heard of some that insist you listen to hymns or preaching before treatment, but such hospitals are few and far between. Most of the Catholic hospitals (or hospitals run by mainline Protestant churches) are pretty liberal about such things, and often have non believers on staff.

    And remember, a lot of charity money ends up in people’s pockets…so giving to a non church NGO or the UN might not be a good answer.

    How about using time and energy to petition the European Union to stop subsidizing their food, and to allow African food to be imported? Or pressuring NGO’s to support a “green revolution” there?

    The “green revolution” works: notice India and China are no longer starving…and although we grow and sell organic food, there is no reason not to do both ways to grow food.

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    June 30, 2009

    tioedong: Money for protestant megamissionaries goes primarily to air flights, fuel to power fancy suburban ameneties, and the good life for a small number of people, as far as I can tell. The second biggest expenditure is hospital and education costs for people who are not just drop ins, but mainly part of the mission, especially the schools. Those are religious schools. I think you are seriously underestimating the negative effects of even casual religious training in relation to the larger problem.

    But yes, the sensible production and movement of food is a good thing. But I would not argue that stopping funding is a good idea, and I strongly argue that secular outlets such as NGO’s and the UN work better. Well, I’ve only worked a little with UN but I’ve worked with secular NGO’s and there is a vast difference.

    Reallocation from the current ways of spending may well be in order, however.

  42. #42 Ben
    April 8, 2013

    Contrary to its intended purpose, this article has strengthened my resolve to give to missionary work in Africa. Poverty or wealth, Jesus saves. Praise God!