Christian Missionaries, Part 2

Today was the only other time I was going to see the friend whose new friends I suspected to be Christian missionaries. We were at a large dinner event with many people but I took some time afterward to speak with her. I felt embarrassed and awkward. It went something like this:

“I have been thinking about your new American friends. I am sure they are very nice people and good friends. When you were talking about them I wondered, since they don’t seem to be here for work and they are such a young family with small kids… it sounded to me like maybe they are trying to spread their religion.”

“Oh, no. They are… how do you say it… Christ?”

“Christians. Yes… well, sometimes people will want to teach others about their religion. Sometimes Americans will decide to move to another country and while they are there they have the goal of teaching other people about their religion and helping them to become Christians, too.”

“But they are so nice… Sometimes they tell me about their religious stories. Sometimes I tell them a Chinese religious stories. They say that is OK but they do not believe it.”

“Yes. I think they are probably telling you those stories because they want you to learn about their religion.”

“But what do they want to do? Just get a couple of people to believe? Where is the sense?”

“Maybe. Or maybe they are hoping to start a church here. To bring together some people to read the bible and sing and pray.”

“Their friends come to read the bible. But they didn’t ask me.”

“Well maybe someday they will. That is the point I want to make. In America people have friends easily but they also lose them easily. I care about you and do not want you to be hurt. You are good friends with them but that does not mean you cannot say no to their religion if you want to. If you want to learn about their religion, I am sure they will be happy to tell you but if they are really your friends you can say no and that will be OK, too. Just be careful.”

“Thank you for explaining this to me. I don’t want to have a religion and I cannot imagine becoming a Buddhist or Christ-religion.”

“You are welcome. In the United States it is common to meet people who want to spread their religion but I know it does not happen in China very often so I thought I should mention it.”

And then we reunited with the remains of the group as we all headed out of the restaurant. I am so glad that I had this conversation with my friend. It certainly confirmed my suspicions regarding the intent of her friends as well as her obliviousness to the situation. I did my best not to be critical of Christian missionaries and instead focus on the cross-cultural issues I identified in my earlier post. I stand by my earlier assertion that folks engaged in such activities in China should be more up front about their desires. I know they cannot be official missionaries else they would be denied entry or deported. However, I would suggest that once you are sharing bible stories it is time to come out of the closet. Your average Chinese isn’t likely to put it together and see what is going on the way an American would.

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2 Responses to Christian Missionaries, Part 2

  1. Sonya says:

    Great Post, I never thought about the implications of this for a Chinese citizen (and the potential for not realizing the purpose).

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  2. Pingback: Christian missionaries and full disclosure | Vermont 2 China

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