Mission Improbable

Christmas day, and the school of 2000 children that fills all horizons from my window has employed its favourite device of torment to full effect – its loudspeakers. For an hour this morning rang a child’s voice giving an impressively well delivered rendition of the story of baby Jesus being born in the manger. Now they are playing Jesus Christ Superstar, which is one of my favourite movies ever.It is curious that the Christian story is presented directly without any notion of competition or fear. Thais, and probably Buddhists the world over, do not have the idea of fearing other religions as heresy, competing world views, or a subverting device of Satan. They look on them much as a Briton would regard the story of Guy Fawkes or Vampires.

For their inclusion of various customs many westerners consider the Thais to be very animist, following an amalgam of spirit worship and misunderstood Buddhism. But Thais pick up new customs not through any real belief or intention, but just because they are sanook – fun. And because they are interesting. Without the feeling of threat that other cultures suffer when presented with something alien. Loy Krathong is a good example. Writes one Christian missionary:

The sad part about Loy Krathong is that the reason most Thais release these krathong’s on the waterways is to appease the spirit of the water. They ask forgiveness for polluting the water, etc and then ask for blessing from the spirit as well…. One of Satan’s biggest tactics here in Thailand is that of fear (fear of spirits, ghosts, etc)…

Fear seems to be on the side of the Christian however.

Thais assume that their Western Christian neighbours are as open-minded and safe in their own traditions as the average Thai is. But that is not always true. Looking at the Presbyterian Missions to Thailand a much more sinister story emerges. The missionaries are deliberately trying to draw Thais into their activities, with the express design of working in bible class and teachings. Thais are friendly to the missionaries as they are to everyone. Since Buddhism has no fear of other’s religion, and Buddhists have no real desperation to convert others, Thais assume the same attitude is refeleced back. Little do they know that they are being befriended with the single minded purpose of being led to conversion…. Another Christian missionary blogs:

There is a constant demand for English teaching here. It’s an easy and steady source of meeting Thai people Our prayer is that these small communities of students that do catch on, would be exposed to the Gospel through the friendship of their teacher, and the many ministry events (and Thai worship) that we invite them too. We could see the Lord changing the hearts of an entire class all at once, as they come to hear about Jesus all together for the first time.

While I admire the strength of character of the Thai school outside my window in dedicating the day to Christmas stories and traditions, and I wish could see Jesus Christ Superstar as well as I can hear it, I just can’t quell the groan that fights its way up and out from between my lips when the Christmas Carols start playing after the movie.

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About Cittasamvaro

Auto blogography of an urban monk
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4 Responses to Mission Improbable

  1. Marcus says:

    Hi,

    Yes, I quite agree – it’s awful the arrogance that must exist for someone to even think of becoming a missionary, their basic assumption that ‘my religion is better than yours’.

    Of course the missionary doesn’t see it like that, s/he thinks they are expressing ‘love’ by converting people away from damnation to salvation through Christ. This really is the very worst of Christian activity based on the very worst Christian theology.

    But it has to be remembered that such activity/belief is not mainstream. The Church of England, for example, the main church in England, respects other religions and doesn’t engage in any such vigorous and despicable recruitment ploys.

    Anyway, to get to my point – do you have a source for the quotes you use? I’d love to see the blog you are quoting from?

    And I wonder how these missionaries came to have such a large presence in the school that they can present their religion to the entire assembly whilst also being so open about their aims.

    Is it a Christian school, or are the missionaries co-ordinating their efforts by getting recruited as teachers there? Are monks alowed into the school? Are there Buddhist activities there? Are Buddhist holidays and festivals also observed?

    Of course Christianity has existed in Thailand for hundreds of years and is much a Thai religion as Buddhism is and everyone sould have the right to pick the religion of their choice, but really, such a concerted and underhand plan to recruit in schools is just wrong isn’t it.

    Wishing you peace,

    Marcus

  2. Cittasamvaro says:

    I’ll mail the links seperately.
    I may not have been clear. The school outside my window is more Buddhist than anything, but fairly secular in its approach. The fact they are happy to show/play Christmas media signals their lack of fear in trying to ‘protect’ their own religion. They do not see it as a competition, or Truth vs Paganism.
    I think that the Thais in general have a similar outlook; an attitude utilised by the missionaries in their calculated plan of conversion. I will be blogging on this topic several more times over the next few weeks, looking at what kind of plans they use and how they are executed.
    You are right to point out that it is not Christianity that is at fault, but the relative minority of fundamentalist Christians, all of whom, I must admit, seem like nice people. It is a shame that they feel the rest of us are destined for Hell unless we join them.

  3. Marcus says:

    Hi,

    Oh, yes, sorry, I’ve just re-read your post – the missionaries you are writing about and the Christmas theme adopted by the school next to you are quite separate. Sorry for my confusion!

    The long history of Christianity in Thailand has not had much of an effect really. There are some lovely church buildings in Bangkok and a lot of good work done by many Christians in terms of orphanges and the like (Pattaya springs to mind) but still only 2 or 3 % of the Thai population is Christian.

    Of course, as you point out, the evangelical wing of Christianity poses a much more serious threat. But, on the other hand, if the Sangha is healthy then a little competition is nothing to be feared!

    In my last job in Bangkok I work alongside Thai Buddhists, Thai muslims and Thai Christians and I heard of no problems whatsoever. Surely the result of the Thai character and the good effect of Buddhism and healthy religion generally on wider society.

    Anyhow, enough from me.

    With metta,

    Marcus

  4. anagarika says:

    It occors to me that littlebang should not be banging away at the Church or the Sangha-raja or any other topic that may cause controversy. Withhin a Dhamma community, speech should create love and peace and harmony and not arouse critical feelings in others towards outward objects and events in the world. We notice a lot of things that are not perfect in the world but it is better not to dwell on them and not to reinforce other’s critical and coarse feelings. If we are going to talk, we should focus upon and talk about the Dhamma.

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