Bad Missionary, Part 2
I think the previous post deserves a follow-up. Or maybe it would be better termed a prequel. Either way…
Let me ask you a question…
Do evil spirits live in trees?
No cheating! Give me an answer before you go on reading.
I’d like to take you with me (as I usually do) to Tchad. At least in your imagination. (But those interested in coming literally should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org )
I live in a country that reports itself to be about 65% Muslim and 35% Christian.
And in my experience, it’s 100% animist. Animism is the attribution of a soul to plants, inanimate objects and natural phenomena.
If you undress a Tchadian, even a Christian pastor or a very good Muslim, you will find under their clothing an array of trinkets, fetishes, charms, etc, all meant to keep away the evil spirits or offer some sort of spiritual protection.
A Tchadian might find it completely rational to believe that an evil spirit lives in a tree.
A Tchadian might believe that they require protection from that evil spirit whenever they pass by that tree. They pass the tree in fear. Perhaps they can get a trinket from the traditional healer (politically correct for ‘witch doctor’) that will protect them. Perhaps they need to sacrifice a chicken when they pass by the tree.
Now let me ask you… if a Tchadian believes that an evil spirit possesses a tree, and he lives in fear of that tree and of that evil spirit, and he puts his faith in a trinket obtained from the witch doctor to protect him from said tree… who wins?
You bet Satan wins! He has convinced that man to put his faith in something besides God!
Let me ask you another question…
Is Satan alone?
Who is with him?
We read that ⅓ of all the angels are with him!
Is ⅓ insignificant?
Thirty-three percent is a lot!!!
So would it serve Satan well if he sent out his angels to possess trees and convince the people living nearby to place their faith in a string tied around their baby’s wrist to protect them?
Let me ask you again… Do evil spirits live in trees?
So why don’t evil spirits live in American trees? Japanese beetle ran him out?
Well, let me ask you… Did you scoff when first asked the question, Do evil spirits live in trees?
Why would an American scoff at that question?
We presume that inanimate things are inherently and infinitely inanimate. And a majority of Americans suffer from atheism, agnosticism, apathy or a mix of the above.
If you don’t believe in the spiritual, has Satan won?
You bet! Why would he want to continually remind you that there are spiritual forces at battle behind the veil? You would likely put your faith in God!
So why the difference between the American and the African? Is it genetic? No, absolutely not.
African culture has not had the slide away from the spiritual that American culture has had. African culture has not had the luxury of self-dependence that 21st century Americans have had. Africans have had to rely on spiritual sources for their survival. And they have on occasion made the mistake of selling out to Satan via witch doctors. And it’s often been wholesale on the scale of entire tribes.
For centuries, Africans have put their faith in things other than Christ, despite having heard the good news of the cross.
Do you believe God is omnipotent? Do you believe God is all-loving?
If you believe that your God is all-loving and all-powerful, do you need anything else in this world? Do you have any reason to fear? Do you have any use for a witch doctor and his potions to ward off evil?
So what is my job as a missionary in this culture?
Do I come swooping in and start teaching them the doctrine of the Sabbath? Will they be saved by Sabbath-keeping? Will their lives become significantly better upon learning of the true seventh-day Sabbath?
Imagine going from a life of fear, a life of appeasing evil spirits, a life of indebtedness to a witch doctor… to a life lived as a child of the omnipotent, all-loving Creator and King of the Universe.
What an immense blessing we have to live under this understanding and promise.
So now… How do I bring them to know the joys open to them, the freedom from fear?
Well, first of all, I risk being mocked by my American contemporaries and I acknowledge the spirit in the tree.