Thursday, February 19, 2009

Confession of an ex-missionary

Wikipedia has, under "missionary",

A missionary is a member of a religion who works to convert those who do not share the missionary's faith; someone who proselytizes
 When I was officially a missionary, from late 1998 to 1ate 2000, I represented the worst elements of the breed. I was arrogant. Of course at the time I didn't realize this. But I was pretty much crap at listening to people. I had my story, about my god, and what he thought, and what he did. I thought that my god was better than other people's gods. I could sort of make the excuse that all this stuff--my arrogance, etc--was built into the whole structure of "missionary" as I understood it. Indeed it's somewhat probable that I couldn't have managed to even join the missions organization of which I was a part  without buying into that way-of-seeing-things to such a degree that my attitude and behavior were inevitable.

But that's not entirely true. I've always been a bit of one who ... is constantly trying to shrug off at least some of the idea-structures and ways-of-being-and-doing of institutions of which I am a part--constantly pulling at them like the itchy part of the fabric in a shirt I'm wearing. So I can't really get out of it that way. For the most part I didn't rebel much at all against the worst elements of the institution I was a part of. In fact I contributed to them.

I almost wish I could go back and do those two years over. Mostly I regret all the stories I missed out on, in my verbose and arrogant belief in the superiority of the story I was telling. I wish I had spent a lot more time asking all the people I met about their gods, and their stories, with the goal in mind of being amazed, moved to tears or horror or wonder, by the vast array of human experience made specific in the stories and gods of individual people. All those people had a name for god, I suspect, all wrapped up in, and through, and under, and around their stories, and I was so busy trying to tell them about my name for god that I rarely got to hear theirs.

1 comment:

Karin said...

I've almost broken out in a cold sweat when I've recalled how I behaved when in the grip of a fundamentalist 'Christian' organisation, but the only useful function of guilt is to warn us that we are doing something wrong. Once we've realised that we have to move on from guilt and regret and live in the light of the lessons we've now learnt.

I actually think that's the message Jesus tried to get across, but as usual men who wanted power over other people twisted the Good News in order to control other people by guilt and fear.