My favorite, though, is D.L. Mayfield’s column “Assimilate Or Go Home: Dispatches from the Stateless Wanderers.” She writes about living in low-income housing with Somali refugees in Portland, Oregon and ‘putting the fun back in fundamentalism.’
Her first installment, We Are Fundamentalists, begins,
Several years ago I showedThe Jesus Filmto an apartment packed with devout Muslims. I had ordered theVHSoff of a special minister-to-Muslims website (it was pretty old school—hence, theVHS). The people were Somali Bantu, recently arrived from decades spent languishing in a refugee camp. I was the earnest young volunteer with English language skills and free time to burn. The apartment was small and hot and musty, full of the smells of food and people who don’t adhere to western methods of personal hygiene.
I was nineteen years old, and I wanted to be a missionary.
In her latest column, she talks about motherhood and death:
When I woke up so swollen I could barely open my eyes, I thought it strange. On the way to doing other important errands, I stopped in at the local hospital to get my blood pressure checked. The nurses frowned, ever so slightly, and the air changed. The afternoon stretched on, a forced sort of cheerfulness underlying all the tests and paperwork and chart-checking. A strange doctor came into the room to chat and I couldn’t understand what he wanted from me. He talked about my liver failure, of the blood pumping and exhausting my heart, of platelets being destroyed and the imminent refusal to clot. I thought: he must be talking to someone else. I’m young, healthy, and prepared and committed to a natural birth. I barely heard him say that the only cure for me was delivery. That I would not be leaving the hospital until I had the baby.
Do you have any thoughts on successful social justice work done in a Christian spirit, but without the neg. side of proselytiz/evangeliz?
Leaving aside your characterization of evangelism as negative (my feelings on this are ridiculously complicated, but I see the issue more in shades of gray), I’ll just try to focus on the first part of your question.
I think Christians can do social justice work without proselytizing. The most successful models I’ve seen/heard of are ones where the help being offered is not at all contingent on whether the recipient accepts Christianity as well. Obviously a lot of Christians are going to be in foreign countries or doing social justice because of their Christian beliefs, but that doesn’t necessarily have to imply anything ethically shady.
Did that answer your question?
Christians are missionaries by necessity because all that we are and do only makes sense if what we are and do is done in the name of Jesus.
Premillennialism during the Cold War both encouraged missionary activity informed by biblical prophecy and aided McCarthyism and anticommunism by creating an evangelical identity that lauded patriotism and cultural bias. Paradoxically, this bias also hindered the success of missionary activity around the world.
It is a terrible blight on evangelical Christianity that our churches have sent more soldiers to the Middle East than missionaries. If Christians are so concerned about the threat of Islamofascism, then what better way to confront it than with the Gospel of Christ?