Beyond the financial issues discussed in Part II, I want to look at some of the ethical issues involved with missionary work.
Persecution and Death - In America, if you go from being a Southern Baptist to a Catholic, no one cares except perhaps your more devout family members. If you try out Buddhism for a bit before switching to Taoism, people assume you are on a spiritual journey. Although people don't like it, even the rise of atheism and agnosticism is seen as nothing more than a nuisance and a sign of the end times. This is not the case in other countries all over the world. In many Islamic countries, apostasy is punishable by death. Honor killings happen on a daily basis. Even Hindus frown on people leaving their religion. By bringing a new (and often illegal) religion into a group of people and actively trying to convert them, aren't you essentially condemning these people to death? Most Christians I know, even the hardcore Evangelical ones believe that in the end, people who have never heard the gospel properly, will be judged in heaven by God based on what they did know and understand. Surely, the thought goes, God wouldn't send people to hell who have never had a chance to accept him. If you believe this then wouldn't it be kinder to let them continue to believe what they believe instead of introducing them to a concept that will either get them killed here on earth if they accept or suffer eternal punishment in hell if they don't? For a long time now (even before my deconversion) I have been happy when I hear of missionaries being caught and deported for prothelitizing. I'm even okay with them being jailed. You go to a country where you know what you are doing is illegal and you do it anyway, then you deserve to be jailed. And no that is not persecution. No, I don't think people should be persecuted for believing anything, but if you are a foreigner in another country who is breaking the law, you deserve the consequences of breaking those laws no matter how ridiculous you think they are.
Deception - I mentioned in Part II about a friend who is a missionary in another country, but she and everyone in her organization actively deceive the local and country officials in order to do their missionary work. They see this deception as an acceptable "sin" in order to preach the gospel. I see it as an accident waiting to happen. They are playing a dangerous game, their children have been made a part of it, and they are forcing the locals to also cover for them. The Bible is rather clear about what it thinks of liars, yet all that seems to go out the window when it is "for the Lord". To think of this another way, I want you to imagine a couple of Muslims applied to come to America, but they claimed that they are non-religious or grew up Muslim, but aren't affiliated with a Muslim religion. When they arrive here, the wife starts a women's quilting group, while her husband works on home construction projects. The whole thing is just a front though. Secretly, the husband is getting money from an Islamic organization and actively trying to convert Christians to the Islamic faith. His wife is doing the same thing, using the quilting group as a cover, when in fact she is talking to the women there about her faith and has even started inviting some back to her home to learn more. Now, America does not have laws against this, but our government would most certainly take issue with this kind of organized deception and probably deport them if caught. If you can't get into a country without lying, then you probably shouldn't be there.
Cultural Destruction - We all know that when a new religion arrives on the scene, that religion attempts to overthrow the current "heathen" system. At least, most of the major religions have done this. Christianity is often condemned for culturally appropriating pagan holidays as their own. Religions also like to destroy things like "idols" from other gods and has a really bad habit of destroying entire cultures in an effort to force their own onto the people. Some of this happened a long time ago and some is happening now. For example: We can see the effects of conversion in Mynamar (Burma). The Muslims are being treated horribly at the hands of Buddhists, a religion that in most parts of the world is considered peaceful. I think this is a perfect example of two cultures clashing though and how religions desire for dominance, no matter how passive their roots are. And sometimes religion is an important aspect to the culture. Japanese ancestry worship is an integral thing to how their society formed and how they view family. It is so deeply ingrained that to remove it would be like removing their heart.
White Saviors - There are a lot of white missionaries traveling to predominantly non-white areas to bring the good news these poor third-world countries. There was a recent story in the news concerning a woman who traveled (or claims to have traveled) to a country in Africa and basically describes herself as an angelic white woman in a sea of dark savages. Something you expect to see in a Tarzan novel from 1900, but not in 2016. But this mentality still certainly exists. I would like to think full-time long-term missionaries know better, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were missionaries out there who believed that they were saving the savages. Daniel Everett is a prime example of someone who thought he was saving the savages and in the end, they ended up converting him.
Short-term Work for Long-term Problems - There are some serious issues going on in some of these countries. When we traveled to the Dominican, we helped build water filtration units for churches and homes. The real issue though is that these people don't have running water or the infrastructure to support it due to massive amounts of corruption in the government. So we built a water purifier....but where are they getting the water from? This applies to many of the places that missionaries flock to. You come in and bring food, which is a need at the moment, but what are you doing to solve the long-term issues? There are many humanitarian groups whose job is to help during emergency situations. However, if you are a long-term missionary or even a short-term, the goal should be to support the long-term needs of the people on the ground. We built water purifiers, but I found out later there is an organization in the Dominican that works to build wells and infrastructure in small towns and teaches the locals how to maintain them. Long-term solution.
Ulterior Motives - When people are in a life or death situation, they don't care what religion the people are who are helping them. They are however, extremely vulnerable to those religions. Europe is currently experiencing massive amounts of conversions by refugees. No one knows how many of those people are converting because they actually believe and how many are converting in hopes that they can be granted sanctuary. People want to believe that conversions are true, but as long as there is a string attached we will never know. If you go into a situation stating that you just want to help people and then end the visit with a prayer and "In Jesus' name", there is clearly an ulterior motive there.
Coming Up: In Defense of Missionaries Part IV
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.