Missionaries of Cambridge, MA

Somehow, in studying at my favorite coffee shop a few days ago, I managed to sit right next to some of the few evangelical missionaries in Cambridge, MA. As some of you will remember, I also managed to be approached by one of the few anti-choice street proselytizers in Harvard Square and had the pleasure to reflect on that experience here. Perhaps folks can just sense that my mega-church-Baptist-Catholic heritage will, at least, prevent me from being rude and even, perhaps, help me understand a little of where they are coming from. Or maybe I am just a statistical anomaly. Anyway, the missionaries sitting next to me reminded me a lot of my Campus Crusade days – friendly, hip-seeming people in love with Jesus. Which, of course, I think is lovely and have no problem with. In fact, I sort of miss that closeness with the savior of the world that one feels like one has as a Christian in love with Jesus. However, what I was a little irked by was all the talk of taking the message of Jesus to other countries. I am not even that terribly opposed to sharing about the work Jesus has done in your own life with other people, especially if you are very culturally sensitive as they appeared to at least be trying to be (I was not purposefully listening – they were just right next to me and I could not avoid it). I mean, I like to share about Unitarian Universalism and how much I enjoy my faith and how much I get from it, and the work of hope and justice that it has the potential to do. But my thing with spending one’s life sharing Jesus in other countries is all the time and energy this takes without lots of practical results. I guess to me, the idea would not to be to share Jesus for Jesus’s sake (just like I don’t share Unitarian Universalism for its own sake) but rather to share the LOVE of Jesus through one’s work and let God take care of the rest. Kind of Jesus as the path and not the destination. (I DO however, understand that this is exactly the opposite of how they feel. Jesus is FOR SURE the path AND the destination. I’m just saying what I would prefer.) This is why I am pretty impressed with what I know about Habitat for Humanity (I’m sure they aren’t perfect, but try to focus on my general point here). Habitat builds houses and says we are showing God’s love through our work. Houses – something people really need. So if you are DYING to share Jesus with the people of the world, why not do that WHILE you are doing something helpful. Rather than spending all your free time plotting and planning about how to share Jesus – why not do that through your works and, as they say, give the rest up to God? I think a house or clean water or unconditional, sustained, support and love over years speaks way more than going through the rehearsed-yet-spontaneous-sounding ways of sharing your testimony and bringing people to Jesus. The missionaries sitting next to me seemed relatively progressive (as missionaries go) and truly excited about sharing their excitement about Jesus and wanting not to be all “we know best” and “give up all of your culture and adopt our culture along with our god” old-style Christian missionary. But rather than having strategy meetings at a cafe and lots of small group meetings on planning and months of praying (I heard them discuss this all) why not DO God’s work of love and justice and trust that those acts, and inquiries about your acts of love, will be the path to sharing the message of hope of your faith rather than thinking that God or Jesus needs you to run around laying out all the details to people who are not in need of more creeds, but are in fact, in need of deeds, particularly from privileged Americans whose privilege rests in large part on the structures set up by the U.S. military and economic hegemony. Just my thoughts. Now back to work. p.s. Afterthought here: I really don’t like the idea of going to other countries to bring people to Jesus at all. I don’t like the idea of Christians thinking that they have something better than what people already have. I guess my point is that if you have a strong passion to be in another country or culture to do works of love, and the people in that community happen to ask you about your faith, you share with them from an honest place, and those people happen to convert to Christianity, I see no harm in that. But when the idea is to go there so that people will accept Jesus and you do good things in order to show people “See, how cool Jesus and Christianity is?” I do not think this to be okay. My main point is that I am much more supportive of people who feel no need to convert others to their faith, but instead feel a strong need to love and do works of justice as a result of the faith that they hold. I’m going to stop now. I could go on but I won’t. Hope this is clear enough.

2 Responses to Missionaries of Cambridge, MA

  1. powderblue says:

    Your post reminds me of an encounter I had with Jehovah’s Witnesses this past weekend.

    Because the JW’s believe in some significant eternal advantages of membership, I respect their desire to convert me, and I’m no more annoyed with their visits than I am with any other unscheduled knocks at our door. My partner usually does the talking, and accepts their Awake! and The Watchtower offerings (which have become better written and more interesting over the last couple of years, in my opinion.)

    This past Saturday, though, I came to the door and asked them about their religion’s view of a concern in *this* life – humanity’s treatment of the other beings on Earth.

    They explained that no human or other animal suffered in Eden, and none will when the Kingdom of God returns. Until then, what’s happening in factory farms and slaughterhouses is a sign of Man’s fall from grace, but not a moral problem their religion compels them to redress with their grocery cart choices (I’m summarizing their statements.)

    I gave them a copy to keep of a recent discovery for me – the Christian Vegetarian Association’s wonderful DVD “Honoring God’s Creation.” I agreed to read their materials if they’d watch it, and we agreed to discuss both the next time they return. I don’t have high hopes. Maybe though this will help redirect at least a little of their zeal to the problems of the world we live in now.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Powderblue. Thanks for the comments. That is interesting that you shared your DVD with your visiting JW. We (as in my partner and I) are always struggling about how best to share the role that veganism/vegetarianism love/compassion for animals plays in our life and the ways that eating habits impract the planet. We want so much to share what this practice has done for our everyday life in terms of sensitivity to the suffering of all beings and the way it helps to contribute to a healthier, more compassionate planet, but animal rights people have managed to share in a way that, overall, has made animals rights people/vegetarian activists appear to be crazy, that we are always afraid of adding fuel to the flame and instead typically end up sharing only by example and when asked, sort of how I hoped that the Christians would share. That said, sometimes offering people info they wouldn’t otherwise have can have a big impact as well, so I wish I could find a way to do it gently that doesn’t add to the perception that vegetarians/animal rights people are overly zealous and judgmental. Yay for you and your DVD sharing – if the JW visitors feel like going door to door isn’t too zealous, certainly sharing a DVD with them on the occasion that they came to you couldn’t be perceived as too much! Best to you, Elizabeth :)

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