It has been a long while since I have written- this is mainly because I was at school completing my first semester! But while there, I did come across a few topics I wanted to talk about.
I came into college with an open mind and thought about trying out a few different religious groups/organizations to find one to stick with. It only really occurred to me that there are many different denominations of Christianity. Like a lot. I don’t know what a few of my friends belong to, but I believe they mainly go to the gathering for the Maryland Christian Fellowship. And another girl in my math class is part of the Protestant Church of God, which I had never heard of before she told me.
During the first week of school, I went to Catholic mass at the Memorial Chapel and it was nice- very much what I was already used to. The second week, I decided to try out the Maryland Christian Fellowship, which is “a new non-denominational church serving the DC metro area. We are excited to provide a culturally relevant and practical church. We aren’t about theories or judgments. We’re about experiencing God in all of His grace. Join the experience!” (from their website- as is “Dress is casual – Music is Contemporary – Messages are Relevant”). It was a pretty small group when I first entered the building where they held the service and they were kind and friendly. We waited a few minutes for the pastor to come so we could start.
We eventually went in (they handed us various forms to fill out, one of which was to be completed during the service, I guess? It was new to me). We sangs songs and read passages of the Bible. After that the pastor-Jeff Warner- came and preached. It was more evangelical megachurchish, but tinier. With a pastor preaching at you. I wasn’t really feeling the style of the mass, and didn’t really intend to come back, though it was going fine. However, I completely decided that I wouldn’t come back after the pastor said something that just rubbed me the wrong way.
I don’t remember everything word for word, but this was the general gist: He said when he goes around and stuff, he usually asked groups of people, “What if I told you about a place where less than 5% (10%? It was a small number) of people don’t know Jesus and (I forget the exact number) a lot of women had had sex before marriage (or some type of sexual encounter)?” Then he said he responds with, “You wouldn’t think I was talking about an American college campus [I was thinking you would definitely think he was talking about a campus], you’d think I was talking about some third-world country.”
I sat here like, “What? Excuse me?” because I found it highly offensive. First, I didn’t like it the way he made it would as though anybody possessing these traits was somehow bad or lost or whatever and specifically directing it at people in developing countries made it even worse. It made other countries seem somehow worse or “lower” or something because they were not followers of Christ or that they engaged in sexual acts before marriage.
I also dislike that kind of “us/them” dichotomy that exists with the US and other countries as well as with (I guess, more extreme) Christians and non Christians. As though we are somehow better than them and they are inferior to us. I also sometimes feel oddly uncomfortable with the converting of people to Christianity- like what missionaries do in developing countries (more on this further down). I think it’s cool if someone wants to explore the religions and see what it is like for themselves and convert as opposed to having missionaries come to you and flood you with it, or be manipulative about it.
I hate the idea that other non-Christian people are somehow lesser or lacking and they they need to be “saved by Christ” or whatever. I like my religion for the most part, but not like that. I absolutely do not think that any one religion is the supreme religion or is more right than any other religion. They are somewhat arbitrary. I mean, how did some of these ideas even come about? Each one really just branched from the same need to understand their life on Earth and attribute it to some higher power. But no one is totally correct and I hate how it seems that anyone who follows “older religions?” (e.g. having sun gods, fertility gods, etc.) is somehow “backwards or behind.” Behind in what?
I have a lot of qualms about my religion and the way it is carried out/ portrayed/enforced, but that is for another day. That incident irritated me so much, and I will most likely never go back, though a few of the friends I mentioned earlier still attend.
So, I went and did a little more research about missionaries and the act of proselytizing.
- Missionaries in India: Conversion or Coercion?
“I don’t know if these egregious actions are commonplace or rarities. I do know that they are dishonorable. They’re about coercion, not spiritual conversion; extortion, not the exchange of ideas. And, if I may say so as a non-Christian, they are an affront to Jesus, whom every Hindu I’ve ever met regards as a holy man of the highest order if not an incarnation of God.”
In this article, the author gives his opinions on missionaries who take advantage of native people, particularly those in rural areas and in poverty. Oh course not every missionary engages in these practices, but it is shameful that such things even exist. And that is the kind of missionary work that I am vehemently against.
2) Christian Missionaries Target Every Single Component of Hindu Society
This article come from a part of the Indian side of issue. This person is beyond appalled, frustrated, and angry at what certain missionaries are doing in order to spread their faith and get people to convert.
This line reinforces my thoughts about how religion should spread. They can preach, and people can come if they want, but they shouldn’t force it or insult and degrade another religion to fit their own agenda. This author also seems to have not had many positive experiences with Christian missionaries:
“If at all the generic Church wants to sell Jesus in India, let them try to sell him with their own testaments. Let them not steal Hindu scriptures, symbols and rituals shamelessly.”
I also wanted to offer my thoughts on the New Community Bible- I think it would be okay, if it was just a book, comparing the two religions and detailing the similar aspects. But it is definitely not okay to say that one trumps the other or to insult Hinduism. But, knowing that the sole purpose of this book is to get Hindus to convert, any positive knowledgeable intentions seem questionable.
3) Why did/do Christian Missionaries Try to Convert People to Christianity in India?
Here various people give their reasonings as to why Christian missionaries tried/try to convert people, particularly in India.
4) How Missionaries Work
This site gives a more objective and historical view of missionary work. Every section is worth reading, but I just want to point out a few: 1- a brief summary; 3- details techniques and some controversies; 5- missionary work for other major religions (the Judaism aspect is interesting); 6-modern missionary work (which for some is more humanitarian as opposed to converting.)