Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Missionary imperialism

Christians often fail to get in touch with the shocking message that can lie at the heart of evangelism: “I am here to change you, and I’m going to change you so that you become like me.” There are some obvious dangers here once we think about all this. If we approach people in this way, we are not treating them as people. We are not respecting them. We are treating them as part of our own program, like an objective and a statistic, and this is self-centered as well as disrespectful. An obnoxious smell of superiority is apparent. Further, we are judging people as fundamentally inadequate. We are okay, of course. Missionary work conducted in this spirit is a well-intentioned but self-centered power-play.

It is true that Christians do want to convert people to their own position, as Paul did. There will be judgment on non-Christian behavior as well. Change of a certain sort can be expected. But if we lead with this agenda and only this, we lapse into this somewhat unattractive missionary imperialism. We must, rather, place these concerns within the correct broader framework, and that begins with the reorientation of our intentions.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 54

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