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Missionaries go home

Updated on August 8, 2012
what does it all mean?
what does it all mean? | Source

Christians at the door

One of the greatest mysteries in the universe has to do with what good religious people are. This is a question that probably will never be answered. They take if for granted that their worth is self-evident, but it is not. Only the lonely know what it is like to hear the dreaded knock on the door of a missionary. Against him or her the laws of this country refuse to protect us. To lose contact is one thing, to have this vacuum filled by strangers who seem never to have learned basic manners is another. When it comes to Jesus Christ, the American salesman or saleswoman of the cloth is absolutely insane. Enter very nice, well bred, educated and motivated grads from the Wheaton Seminary, who feel that they must penetrate into the Amazon, upset the a tribe that has been jittery about everything for centuries, and intentionally ignore the recipe for disaster they have themselves tossed together.

What is it about the missionary that makes him or her so overconfident? Not all of us do well with the labels and stigmas life has handed us. But why do we need to start again from scratch with the neighborhood zealots? No church has the right nor the power to convert. We are what we are and what is wrong with that? From almost before we are conceived, our religions are established. So why are our mothers' wombs unsuitable to the johnny-come-lately religious aggressor? Who knows? Nevertheless, there are reasons why conversions might take place, though few if any have to do with God or holiness. Mainly, they address the needs and wants of immediate social relations. At least this is how it is in what is called civilized society. In the wild, the Waodoni also had a religious structure, though it was far from ideal. In a burst of anger and resentment, they resorted to spears, in keeping with this selfsame structure.

Still, there is something to religion, but it is not manifest in solicitations and visitations. Have missionaries ever apologized for trespassing? They might want to re-read their bibles. But with their tongue lashings and free food the quest for truth deviates from a certain direction and then continues along another trail. In the drama (End of the Spear, 2005) and documentary (Beyond the Gates of Splendor, 2002), the divine quest actually triumphs over death as missionaries, tribesmen, and tribeswomen band together. Good comes from bad and that is an unexpected plus. And in retrospect, how could people from extremely diverse backgrounds not have merged together in the spirit of lunacy? What is remarkable is that another spirit permitted invader and defender to unite on a higher plane.

These are films to watch that have substance and cause one to think, if it is not too much trouble. Somehow, all at once, five men achieve perfect martyrdom, automatically pitched past blame or accountability. Neither film suggests that they fought back or were prepared, the way almost anyone would have been, with some form of deadly force. Nevertheless, for an obscure and inexplicable reason, none of the victims can be considered losers. The secular may criticize their lack of foresight and basic common sense, but to the religious, these attributes are usually but not always welcome. It is men and women like these who made Christianity such a fearful force, as Nero and other rulers discovered, when their victims hurled themselves at the lions, instead of running away.


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