Missionaries. Ick.

I live in Minnesota and work in South Africa. That means that every time somebody I don't know hears that I've been to South Africa more than once or am going there for an extended period, they say "Oh, is it mission work ... my [cousin/aunt/uncle] is a missionary there."

Thankfully, I have yet to meet a missionary in South Africa, but when I lived in the Congo, I often lived among them. And there are two kinds. The good ones (as far as I know they all speak only Italian and KiSwahili and are Catholics) and the evil ones (American, Australian, and British, mostly).

OK, they've helped me out a lot, but I've always returned the favor in kind. I owe them nothing, and what they are up to is unjustifiable. And at least some of them know how I feel.

Well, I just got this note from Chris Mooney, and on his blog he has some very annoying information about missionaries. Read this:

"Last night a lot of people died and entered an eternity of suffering," [Baptist Missionary] Neely said. "Almost none of them has heard a Christian testimony or biblical explanation of who Christ really is. They have never heard the truth about who God really is, who they are in His sight or what God's plan is to save us from our sin through Christ.*

This is not acceptable, and the government of Bangladesh should throw this one and all the others out of the country as soon as possible.

Don't get me started. Some day when I have the time and inspiration I'll tell you missionary stories.

More like this

I'm a tropical ecologist working mostly in Central America. During the last ten years or so, it seems that every time I go down there is a missionary group in the plane. They always have a "hook", help build a school, a clinic, etc., and then they snag you.
The ones I really hate are the ones that do it to indigenous populations. The social and cultural consequences of converting indigenous people are disastrous. Families split, people kick out of villages, social tensions, etc. In one occasion I even had to arbitrate a dispute between two individuals over the role of God has over animals! Scientist must know those things, you know!

By TrekJunkie (not verified) on 20 Nov 2007 #permalink

There are still missionaries in the world? Call me naive or ignorant, but I thought they belonged to the same category as pirates and travelling salesmen and chimney sweeps -- vocations of a bygone age. Huh. Learn something new every day.

By ed kupfer (not verified) on 20 Nov 2007 #permalink

There are large patches of the planet where almost every non-native you will see is either missionary or a plantation owner.

There are missionaries and missionaries. The good ones don't have to be Catholic to be good. There are a number of Christian groups that actually do things that benefit local people, like starting schools and hospitals, building houses, creating safe water systems, etc., helping farmers, and the like. But there are the others. . . .unfortunately, I think they are the majority. These people are generally from certain "evangelical" Christian traditions. And they aren't in the least concerned about their effect on the local cultures, bad or good. In fact, they are often hostile to the local cultures, and they want to change the local culture to something much more like the culture they come from. Which, of course, doesn't work. and causes a lot of problems for the local people. The more "mainstream" Christian groups recognize this, but, as I said, those whose only goal is to convert armies of Christians from their sinful "pagan" ways, do not. And I don't like this any better than you do.
Anne G

Hey Greg, I sent you some stuff about modern missionary positions at your U of MN acct, that might tie in nicely with this discussion.
Now I am wondering: is their also such a thing as good and baad Nazi's, good and bad fascists, racists, etc--people who fall into the neat dualistic paradigm where one side is good and one bad, or one side bad and one better at least than them?
I mean, can I sell two different people fishcake soup and, at least, I gave only one of them the soup with the vermin waste in it, rather than the one with the rotten tomatoes and the salmonella? After all, you can eat rat poop (metaphorical *you* can eat it, I said), as long as you cook it well first.

By the rail CMF (not verified) on 20 Nov 2007 #permalink

No, and in fact, there are no good missionaries. I was trying to be nice but it didn't work. Last time.

Yeah, TX for the clarity...I was also kind of nudging at that comment one above...I mean, I would be a heretic to say that my uncle--a missionary in India for some 40 plus years--didn't do some kind of good, but that whole Catholic breeder cult thing? More harm than good, no matter how many ol' ladies you help across the street.

By the real cmf (not verified) on 20 Nov 2007 #permalink

I'm with Anne. Not all of them are as provincial and myopic as the evangelicals. Some of them actually accomplish something...bridges, schools, etc...

I'm not entirely willing to believe that ALL of them have a conversion agenda. If that were to be true...well...then there isn't a charity on the planet worth giving to.