This year, 2011, marks the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps “promoting peace and friendship around the world.” Those are their own words describing their mission. As I read about this anniversary of doing good, helping people, creating friendships, I could not help but compare to the xtian concept of sending missionaries to “spread the gospel” around the world.
Image by afagen via FlickrI grew up in a fundamentalist, Christian home. I went to church school for my education beginning in the first grade and continuing through the completion of my Bachelors Degree. They attempted to brainwash me for virtually all of my growing up. Through all of that I always harbored doubts beginning with my earliest memories. Now I also had doubts about Santa Clause and you all know how that turned out. In my family I had one uncle who was a missionary to Africa and India, another who was a pastor and missionary to Vietnam and an Aunt who was a missionary to Mexico. I heard all of their stories of saving souls repeatedly, but something seemed to be missing.
Most, if not all, of the major xtian denominations support an army of missionaries that fan out around the world. The Baptist World Mission says they have missionaries in 47 countries. The LDS website states that they have “an average of 55,000 missionaries are proselyting in any given year.”(sic) The Seventh-Day-Adventists report to be in over 200 countries. Even that nut case Harold Camping has radio, shortwave and satellite broadcast capabilities around the world. And the Catholics; don’t even let me get started on that one. I can go on, but I think you get the idea. The big question is; what are they doing?
First off they are merely following the mandate of god. In Mark 16:15 it says “Then he said to them, as you go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.” (ISV) They are proselytizing! Oops, I mean saving souls for the lord. At least the LDS church came right out and said so. Xtians spend millions of hard earned dollars to build chapels and church schools in impoverished villages and towns that could have well used that money and a bit of knowhow to install a water delivery system or pave a critical road or build a bridge across a river that separates them from the outside world every rainy season. Instead of something of value they are given “the good news”. Maybe they build a much needed clinic, where, as they refuse to provide condoms in AIDS ravaged Africa, they tell the wretchedly sick people of a mythical better life in the hereafter. Where, if they are really good, they get to have a harp and watch Lions starve while not eating the sheep.
The real humanitarians of this world have been out there for fifty years now, making THIS world a better place. In Armenia volunteers held a multi day camp for children with disabilities, helping them find their special place in life and playing mind games to advance life skills. Not memorizing biblical passages. In Kazakhstan volunteers held camps that promote gender equality, empower young women and create a supportive environment for learning. Not espousing xtian dogma that pins “original sin” on women. Volunteers in Peru use the radio waves to teach thousands about their health and the environment. Not the impending doom being planned for us all by god. All of this good is done without adding to the desperate lives of these people a fear eternal damnation.
I have been told repeatedly that the old testament is the more authoritarian and violent part of god, but the new testament is the loving, compassionate side. I am sorry but it is the new testament that mandates this colossal waste of billions of humanitarian dollars; dollars that spread the good news about the hereafter rather than offer a helping hand in this world.