Missionaries Go Home
“You’re going to hell!”
A rabid Christian missionary shouted these crazy words at me in front of a large crowd of people at Don Meuang Airport. This missionary threatened me with his violent words because I dared to criticize his purpose for coming to Thailand. His purpose: to brainwash and convert Thai Buddhists to be born-again, brain-dead fundamentalist, evangelical, Christians. I have been to Thailand on four separate occasions, and each time there was a group of missionaries on my plane from Los Angeles.
Anyone who has spent a lot of time in Thailand has surely come across missionaries or some of their converts. You can find them trying to sell Jesus to complete strangers in parks and at canteens of college campuses. You can also find them passing out their Jesus pamphlets near busy pedestrian intersections. I haven’t spent much time in the countryside, but I understand that they are even more active there. Ninety-five percent of the foreign missionaries are American, probably because it’s the only western country that has so many of these “born-again” evangelical Christians. Europeans are lucky that these religious extremists emigrated centuries ago. Unfortunately, they settled in America and have been multiplying ever since.
While reading this, you may get the impression that I am anti-Christian. In reality, I’m anti-fundamentalist, and anti-missionary. I know most Christians aren’t fundamentalist missionaries, but the ones who become missionaries are usually fundamentalists. These fundamentalists actually believe that every passage in the bible is the absolute, infallible truth. Anyone who would travel to far away lands to try to change people’s religion is a fanatic. Unfortunately, quite a few Christians in Thailand are fundamentalists because they were taught by the missionaries to be “born-again” Jesus freaks.
I have no respect for people that insist that their religion is right and everyone else is wrong. What gives them the right to travel to foreign countries and teach people that the religion their families have been practicing for hundreds of years is wrong? Worse than claiming that everyone else is wrong, they insist that if you don’t agree, or convert, you will spend eternity in “hell”. These self-proclaimed “servants of god” can actually get special visas issued by the Thai government. These visas allow them to stay in Thailand long-term. They respond to the kindness and hospitality of Thai people by trying to convert them. I’m surprised the Thai government allows them in the country, considering that their activities have the strong potential to divide families and communities along religious lines. Evangelical Christians will never live peacefully with other groups. Though they may smile and act friendly, there are disingenuous because they are always thinking of ways to get you to church and “bring you to Jesus”. The next campaign to mobilize, canvass the streets, post more Jesus signs and get more converts is always just around the corner.
After a group of missionaries have planted a church, and brainwashed enough Thai converts to run it, they usually go home, leaving their garbage behind. Almost all Protestant churches created in Thailand over the past 100 years, were started by American missionaries. Sadly, now a lot of Thai converts do the dirty work for the missionaries, proselytizing and hanging big yellow “Jezuz” signs throughout the countryside. Thousands of these big yellow signs with black script are posted high up in the trees in rural areas, though you might not notice them because they are written in Thai script.
Missionaries are close-minded extremists by nature, believing that only Jesus followers can go to heaven-and everyone else goes to hell. By their warped rationale, all of the Kings of Thailand as well as Buddha himself are burning for eternity in a fiery underworld, just because they didn’t love Jesus and call him their “savior”.
Due to their beliefs, missionaries and fundamentalists have no respect for other religions.
“There can only be one truth” is a common phrase they spit out as a way of justifying their contention that all other religions are wrong. They also have no respect for Thai culture, for they either don’t care or have no understanding of the deep inter-connectedness between Buddhism and Thai culture. When staying in a foreign country, you should learn from the culture of that country, not try to change it. This brand of Christianity doesn’t allow for integration. Thais that convert to Christianity aren’t supposed to go to Temple Fairs, give food to monks during alms rounds, or enter temple grounds for any reason. Does this often divide families? Absolutely. Thai converts usually won’t marry Buddhists unless they convert. If there is a mixed marriage between a Buddhist and a Christian, the Christian usually insists that the children be raised Christian. I have no idea why a Buddhist would accept this. <Are you sure about this? I would dispute it – Stick>
Many people after converting put extreme efforts into trying to convert their families and friends. This is usually done by routinely badgering people to come to church so they can hear the “good news”. This isn’t merely my opinion. I’ve been told these things by missionaries and Thai Christians who say it is their duty to bring their family and friends “to the lord”, and many of my Buddhist friends have all been pestered to convert by at least a few annoying acquaintances and missionaries over the years.
A first-hand experience I had is when I went to the YMCA just off of Sukhumvit Soi 22. I had this crazy idea that maybe I would volunteer for a few hours. In the back of my mind, I knew that YMCA stood for “Young Men’s Christian Association”, but the organization always seemed secular in nature, at least from my memories of using their gymnasium as a kid. Upon entering, I was taken aback by the huge overbearing crucifix on the wall, the kind that shows all the details of Jesus’ ribs, contorted face, nailed limbs, etc. In addition to that, several full-sized Jesus portraits adorned every wall. I sought out the manager and got straight to the point. The conversation went something like this:
Me: Is this a church?
Thai manager: No, but we share the good news of Jesus Christ.
Me: You just said this isn’t a church.
Thai manager: Well, it isn’t, but we tell them about the “good news” and if they are interested, we tell them about all of the churches they can go to in the area.
Me: You are trying to convince them to change their religion, aren’t you.
Thai manager: No, we just share the “good news of Jesus Christ”. They don’t have to listen.
Me: Do you think any young boy would tell you they are Buddhist and they don’t want to listen to you proselytizing?
Thai manager: They don’t have to listen.
Me: They didn’t come here to be preached at or converted. It’s even worse than a church because you preach to young kids that come here to play basketball and go camping.
Thai manager: I have to go now.
Fortunately, most Thais see that Christianity has nothing to offer them (except for bribes). After more than 400 years of trying to convert Thais to Christianity, less than 1% of the population is Christian (this number may be a little higher in Bangkok and Chiang Mai). For such a small minority, they are quite visible.
The methods of the missionaries are quite devious. In fact, you can read all about their plans to “plant churches” and gain converts from their own websites. If you type “Thailand” and “missionaries” in any search engine, you will get thousands of web pages. Try it. Check out the two examples below.
1) http: / / www.mtwthailand.org /
2) http: / / www.fafach.com / Danny / MonthlyUpdates / COThaiStaff.aspx
The first site gives details about how you can help plant churches, physically or economically, along with the typical babble about “spreading the gospel”. The second website has bios and pictures of the Thai staff and details about specific people that they are trying to convert. Examples of the ridiculous babble:
“Pray for her family, as she is currently the only Christian…” and: “He is currently following up five students who are interested in knowing God but who are not willing to submit their lives to Christ yet.”
What do both of the groups above have in common? You guessed it; they were created and run by Americans. In the developed world, outside of America, the numbers of evangelical Christians are practically non-existent (with the notable exception of South Korea). Therefore, they are putting substantial effort and money into gaining converts in developing countries because it’s much easier to get converts among poor and desperate people. Missionaries actually thrive off of the poverty of others. When someone is hungry or poor, they aren’t always sophisticated enough to ask why they have to go to church or listen to a sermon or receive a bible to get a free meal.
Missionaries will say that they have the right to proselytize under the principle of “Freedom of Religion”. To them, freedom of religion means the freedom to travel to foreign countries and try to brainwash people into accepting their God while disrespecting native religions and cultures in an effort to get converts by any means necessary. It is also interesting to note that the so-called “Faith-Based Initiative” that President Bush has created gives federal aid money directly to religious groups. Therefore some of these groups are using US government money to proselytize abroad and gain Christian converts. Some of the methods these groups use to gain converts abroad would be illegal in America.
One of the methods missionaries use to gain converts is to provide enticements (bribes) for converting. An example of this is the farce of “Free English Lessons”. The catch is, you have to go to their church to receive the lesson. Once in the church, a missionary will read from the bible and teach English with a biblical perspective. In some countries, like Laos and China, where religious proselytizing is outright banned (good for them), many missionaries try to sneak in under the guise of “English Teacher”. They will lie, cheat, do whatever they can to sneak into these countries to brainwash people, and they will justify it with passages from their dour black book.
As an English teacher in downtown Bangkok, I have heard a lot of first-hand accounts from my own students about being pressured to convert. Many wealthy Thais send their kids to Christian Schools because they think they provide better education. I wonder if these parents approve of their children being pressured, even on subtle levels, to convert. Below are a few examples provided to me from students that go to Catholic and Christian schools:
1) A thirteen-year old girl was badgered by a woman to go with her to church after school, without her parent’s permission. The girl agreed to go because Thai kids find it hard to say no to adults. Before entering the church, the woman told the girl that she couldn’t wear her Buddhist amulet and removed it from her neck. When the service was over, she wouldn’t give the amulet back to the girl. Stealing “heathen” amulets is apparently acceptable to born-again Christians. Needless to say, this girl never went to church again. Frankly, I’m amazed that the girl’s parents didn’t call the police or approach that woman and demand that she give the stolen amulet back.
2) Another student of mine was frequently invited by one of her Catholic teachers to go to the church and pray. The teacher said that if she starts going to church, she can convert and become Catholic, but if she converts, then she can’t go inside a temple anymore, not even with her family.
3) Though more than 95% of students that go to most of these Christian schools aren’t Christian, they all HAVE TO go to the church every week (some schools every day). Why should they be forced to go to church? The headmasters may say that their goal isn’t to convert students, yet the students are forced to attend church. This is forcing religion on people. Yes, it is a Christian school, but parents are sending their children for education, not to go to church or to be brainwashed. It is obvious that the goal is ultimately to convert as many as people as possible. Most of my students tell me they either sleep or pay no attention in the chapel. How about this twisted logic. Most of the students are Buddhist and are forced to go to church, but if they convert, than they absolutely MUST NOT go to temple. This also demonstrates how close-minded and intolerant these Christian beliefs are, while conversely, the Buddhists are much more open.
4) A woman I know received a scholarship from a Christian group to pay for part of her university fees. You may think this sounds wonderful, but the catch is, she had to convert, get baptized, and attend church services for one year before she could receive this bribe / scholarship. I’m amazed that the government allows this.
This goes on all over the world in developing nations, not just in Thailand. There are numerous other examples I could site, but I’m trying to keep this under 2,000 words.
I’m ashamed that most missionaries come from my country. It’s another example of American cultural imperialism, but in the guise of “Freedom of Religion”. In America, it isn’t uncommon to come across these extremist “Jezuz Freaks”, you know, people who mention Jesus more than 10 times in a three-minute conversation. People aren’t very nice to them at home. If you're not one of them, you either ignore them or tell them to go away. Thai people on the other hand, are always friendly to them, even when the missionaries suggest with that glazed, brainwashed stare that they are following the wrong path because they “don’t know Jesus”.
What we should do is challenge missionaries and their converts whenever we see them proselytizing. Moreover, we should educate the general Thai public (particularly in poor rural areas) about the real goals of the missionaries. Personally, whenever I see a foreign missionary, I tell them what they are doing is wrong and if their goal is to help people, then they shouldn’t be pushing their religion on the people they claim to be helping. They shouldn’t dole out a side order of Jesus with every meal or English lesson. Another technique I use to challenge them is to ask them to explain what they have to offer that is better than Buddhism. Usually, all I get for response is some babbled bible verses, or I’m told I’m going to hell for challenging them and not loving Jesus.
When I meet a Thai convert who is proselytizing, I ask them to clarify their beliefs. The same goes with their own families. Of course they are terrified to say that but they can’t deny it is what they believe.
Missionaries are quite an insecure bunch, which is why they insist that everybody must believe like they do, or else! Anytime they try to convince you of the good work they are doing and the aid they are providing, ask them if they would do it if they had to leave their bibles at home and were forbidden from proselytizing. Ninety percent of them wouldn’t do it because, as one missionary told me, they don’t want to waste resources on people who have no chance of “being saved”. To prove this point, a Christian group withdrew funds from Indonesia after the tsunami. They were going to build an orphanage and raise Muslim
orphans to be born-again Christians. Fortunately, the Indonesian government wouldn’t allow that, so the charity withdrew its money. If they can’t convert, they won’t donate their money.
The bottom line is this, don’t believe all of the nonsense these missionaries and their converts tell you. If you know any Thai that is receiving pressure to convert, advise them against it and tell them all the reasons they are better off remaining Buddhist. Most importantly, when you see a foreign missionary, tell them to take their bribe money and their bibles and “GO HOME!”
I had to laugh when you say that the Thai Christians are active. It's so true! I always see "Proud To Be Christian" stickers on so many cars? The locals do seem to be quite "proactive" in their devotion to Christian ways.