Monday, January 26, 2009

An Atheist Comments on Christian Missions

A few days ago, I stumbled across a fascinating article in the Times [of London] Online by Matthew Parris, former member of Parliament and an avowed atheist.

Parris apparently grew up in Africa. I don't know if his parents were diplomats or if they worked for an international NGO (non-governmental agency) or just why he was in Africa. He comments on his observations of the good that Christian missionaries do:

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution
that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of
secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone
will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity
changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is
real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical
work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is
part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal
the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of
secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be
better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate
missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts.

Read the rest of the article here.

Notice that he singles out Christian missionaries. (Don't be confused—there are missionaries of other religions out there. On my two trips to Uganda, I became acutely aware that Muslims have learned from the Christians and built schools and health clinics and dug wells-all with the intent of spreading their own brand of religion.)

If you read the entire article, you'll see his comments about how the African mindset is totally different from the Western mindset and how
Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct,
personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the
collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through
the philosphical/spiritual framework. . . That is why and how it liberates.
As one who has ministered in Uganda twice and who expects to return someday, I'm personally intrigued by this difference that Parris has observed. He notes that Christianity - real Christianity - is a totally different worldview than the typical African worldview.

But I'm just as interested in how to apply these same observations and the principles behind them to our current American culture. Although very different from the rural African mindset, American secular humanism is also a totally different worldview from Christianity.

No comments: