The religious world of my youth was filled with stories of so-called courageous missionaries who gave their lives so that so-called savages would come to know Jesus Christ. The more extreme the stories got the more folks seemed to find their way down the center aisle of the gathering to give their lives to going on missions. The idea of missions as something that happens elsewhere permeated much of my upbringing and still permeates much of the church.
I recently talked to some native Africans about the numerous pieces of bigoted homophobic legislation that have swept the continent in recent months and years. The response is consistent…the legislation is a product of the Christian missions and missionaries who taught our people to hate queer folk by teaching interpretations of the Bible that encouraged and justified violence and oppression. In the estimation of my African friends, the entire church is guilty of these hermeneutical crimes. I think the queer folk in these nations might have been better off if we had just stayed at home.
The danger of missions is the danger of exporting your hate for your self and your neighbor to somewhere else.
The world is desperate for the salvation of love…but our missions seem to have sown much hate. I want to spread the love of Jesus everywhere…but I am concerned that most of our churches here are fresh out of love and have none to export. One solution might be to spend time figuring out what love is and what it should look like so that we don’t go exporting something called love that will only be revealed to be hate.
The mission begins within.