They went WHERE on their missionary trip?
Several years ago when I was in a long term relationship (that really should have been a quit-by-the-third-date association—I have since realized that I have incredibly bad taste in men, and pretty much sworn off them)…anyway… I was introduced to one of the Sig O’s good friends. We were all together for a local but tediously long journey to Someplace (i.e., immured in the car with no escape for a couple of hours) when the conversation rolled around to the recent homecoming of the friend’s parents, who had just returned from a Christian missionary trip.
Having been tossed the conversational ball, I, who disapprove of missionary trips as a matter of principle—more about that in a moment—asked brightly, “Oh? Where did they go on their mission?”
“To Ireland,” the friend replied.
I was totally bewildered. “Uh, isn’t Ireland a basically Christian country?” I asked.
“Oh, no,” he replied quickly, shaking his head. “It isn’t Christian. It’s Catholic.”
After I’d replaced my jaw, I drew a breath preparatory to saying something along the line that this distinction would have come as very unwelcome news to my late, very devout, Italian Roman Catholic grandparents. Had anyone told PopPop or Grandma that they weren’t Christian, well, that person would have been in for at least a tongue lashing (probably in the very rudest Italian terms, some of which I can, quite proudly, quote), or possibly some very well-known and equally rude Italian hand gestures, or even a straightforward wallop right on the nose. I considered adding the information that, despite having left the church as a teenager, I myself had been raised Roman Catholic and certainly considered myself to be a Christian during those years.
However, my incipient protests were shut down by peremptory hand gestures and warning glares from the Sig O, who did not want to hear anything from the person in the cheap seats (i.e., me). Cautious regarding the Sig O’s easily-triggered temper, I swallowed my protests and subsided into invisibility in my corner of the car, not venturing to engage in the conversation any further. But thereafter I refused to ever spend (waste) time again with Christian Missionary friend. (I should have also refused to ever waste time again with the Sig O, but I’m a slow learner.)
Aside from the whole Catholic-not-Christian controversy, which I don’t to this day understand, I disapprove, as I mentioned, of missionary trips on principle—the principle being that I do not believe there is any one “true” religion, and that whatever people chose to believe (or not) is pretty much fine with me, so long as it doesn’t involve human or animal sacrifice. I’m sort of down on misogyny, burkas, and the summoning of demons, also (that whole “inviting evil in” thing has always pretty much bewildered me). But I’m pretty firmly convinced that most of the world’s major religions have, in their long histories, done one helluva lot more harm than good, what with pogroms and witch burnings, Bloody Mary and the Inquisition, torture and shunning and pious hypocrisy and bloodstained religious wars, and just general “man’s inhumanity to man”—not to even mention man’s inhumanity to all womankind.
My view of most religions is so completely cynical that I am neither shocked nor astonished by the constant sordid revelations of sexual crimes and egregious physical abuse committed by clergy of every faith, especially those that prate of chastity as a preferential state of being. Such hypocrisy is woven into the very patriarchal warp and misogynistic woof of those religions. I wasn’t even slightly surprised when abortion clinic workers recently revealed that they often provided abortions to the very right-to-life protestors manning their stations outside the clinic; women who, having had an abortion, informed the clinic workers that they were doomed to hell and then immediately returned to the picket line in a flagrant display of sanctimonious deceit.
Nope, as I view the whole situation from my admittedly-lofty-and-judgmental perch of contempt, if a person of any faith feels compelled to perform missionary work, then they might just want to consider shucking the agenda to convert others and first try leading by example: demonstrating by a life well and kindly lived that their belief system has genuine merit. They might also want to think about spending time actually working to make the world a better place by, oh, say, feeding the hungry, succoring the poor and homeless, eschewing racism, treating others as they wish to be treated, caring for the environment and the animals which share this planet with us, and simply being (as suggested in Ephesians 4:32) kind to one another–without requiring adherence to a particular set of beliefs as a prerequisite. Any of these actions might better serve both the Divine and humanity than hair-splitting quibbles about who is or is not Christian.
And, of course, initiating any or all of these behaviors in their own neglected backyard might prove to be a far wiser choice than hooting off on a “missionary” vacation to Ireland!
My cockeyed religious viewpoint can also be explored in “Tough Love for the Prodigal Son”, which was published March 30, 2018. You can locate it by scrolling to the Archives, below.