Christian Mission work not always helpful
Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2013 17:02
One of my courses this semester focuses on the definition, limitations, and positive affects of “development.” The conversation became especially engaging when we began to discuss religious organizations that enter developing countries and provide aid. To begin the conversation, we read several mission statements from different organizations, some religiously affiliated, some secular.
Compassion International’s statement, which we all agreed clearly identifies it as a Christian organization, led some to say that if you don’t like the religious affiliation of an organization simply don’t donate to it.
I thought about this for a while, and though I originally nodded in agreement, I now disagree. By allowing others to donate to organizations that, arguably, imperialistically impose their religious beliefs and values upon others in exchange for aid and services, we allow a group of people to dramatically alter culture and impose our ideas of development upon a group of people who may not want to accept those ideas.
If I were short-sighted I would say that these organizations should be dismantled and boycotted so they would not be hurting or dissolving certain cultures around the world. However, many of these organization genuinely help the areas in which they choose to evangelize. Without their services, many children who are, in fact, introduced to the concept of education and never have had the opportunity to experience school can then attend school because they have the finances to support costs of tuition, clothing and essential classroom supplies.
Instead, perhaps the better approach is to begin to secularize these organizations, and take religion out of the missions completely. Could the individuals who support religious organizations not provide aid to foreign countries without talking about God or their religious motive?
Of course they could.
Yet, the very idea that we should provide “aid” to any country but our own is pompous and in a way grotesque in itself. I am again left wondering if mission work and/or aid should ever be offered to foreign countries, or people of different cultures.
Having participated in several “mission” trips in the Navajo Nation, I have seen both the benefits and negative aspects of religious groups providing aid to people of different cultures. The group I worked with decided to not impose its religious beliefs on the Navajo people. If asked why we were working with the Navajo people we would say, “we’re just here to help.”
But help them with what?
Many homes did not have electricity or running water. We found this disgusting. The Navajo people thought it normal. In fact, the “white man’s” arrival and culture infiltration in the Navajo Nation has led most of the young to accept America’s patriarchal ideal that one must be a productive citizen, work in the corporate setting and try to fulfill the “American Dream.” In turn, the Navajo culture disappears with each death of an elder.
And this is in our own country.
So do we provide aid to anyone? I don’t know. I don’t think we’ll ever know. Perhaps we have to put our faith in the idea that “progress” is, in fact, good. Or perhaps we live and let live. Either way, we see that this is a complicated subject, and one which we must continue to reevaluate to ensure we are doing “good” in the world.
Graves is a junior majoring in communication studies and religious studies.