Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Luk√°cs

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The American Empire's civilising missionaries

It being Easter and everything, Saturday's Telegraph magasine had a heartwarming article by Andrew Marshall on the half a million or so Christian missionaries currently spreading God's word around the world in what he describes as 'the greatest missionary push since the 19th century'. I am not sure if it is online, so I will type out some of it for you:

'It [missionary work] is driven by America's rich and influential evangelical community, now thought to number 50 million people, and by technologies such as the internet. There were 62,000 missionaries in 1900 and 420,000 a century later...the number of missionaries working among Muslims has almost doubled between 1982 and 2001, from about 15,000 to 27,000. About half of these are American and a third are evangelical.'

'The chief target of this evangelical onslaught is the so-called "10/40 window". For missionaries, this is the final frontier. It refers to a vast area lying between 10 and 40 degrees northern latitudes, and includes: Muslim North Africa and the Middle East; Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Islamic republics of Central Asia; Hindu-majority India; and the Buddhists and Taoists of Southeast Asia and China. These "unreached megapeoples", as they are called, make up most of humanity.'

'A bellicose George W Bush made "crusade" a dirty word after September 11, yet mission literature retains strong militaristic overtones. Missionaries are "Christ's warriors", non-Christian countries are "enemy-held territory", God is the "commander-in-chief", and Islam, inevitably, is a "weapon of mass destruction".' Yet tooled up with 'satallite phones and global-positioning systems' to fight "God's war against sin", 'many evangelical groups take on the structure of aid agencies to obscure their primary objective of spreading the gospel'.

Many of them are trained at 'faith factories', megachurches in the US, in courses devised for would-be missionaries. 'An excitable local pastor called Todd outlines his campaign to evangelise the Muslim Somali refugees living in Louisville...there's a prayer to thank God for leading this Muslim community "out of slavery and out of Islam". Tonight's main speaker is Bill Weber, a former missionary in apartheid era South Africa. He begins by discussing the inspirational figures of the 19th century - what missionaries call the "Great Century". The Great Century belonged to British missionaries who, like their American counterparts in Iraq in 2003, often advanced in the wake of imperial conflicts. But the 20th-century missions moment was overwhelmingly American, and turned its evangelical gaze upon the "unreached" tribal peoples - and, later, upon the Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists of the "10/40 window".'

Among American missionaries, Muslims in particular are found 'spiritually lacking. According to one, Islam "does not lead one to eternal life and heaven...they [Muslims] are in a sense living a lie." "We teach our students here that not all Muslims are Shiite-AK47-aeroplane stealing Muslims. Some would make very good neighbours. They don't drink alcohol, they're very chaste in their appearance" but "that doesn't mean they're spiritually OK". A former Southern Baptist Convention president told applauding pastors in 2002 that Mohammed was a "demon-possessed paedophile".'

'A Baton Rouge pastor called Larry Stockwell once claimed that the world's three and half billion "unreached people" could form 25 lines around the planet. "Can you picture 25 lines of Christless people, trampling endlessly towards hell?" Stockwell asks.' Personally, I am more worried by the thought of 500,000 Christian fundamentalist nutcases being financed by America's rich and powerful to go around the world spreading the ideals of George W Bush's Empire...

Labels: , ,


At 11:37 am, Blogger Tom said...

Ah. good to see SWPers finally taking a stance against religious fundamentalism ;o)


Post a Comment

<< Home