Saturday, December 01, 2018

Fool for Christ

John Stackhouse 

I read a piece issued by a prominent American medium (Religion News Service) that was really badly written, a hodge-podge of fact, stereotype, and outright falsehood that almost certainly was published only because the author identified herself as both a former evangelical Christian and a Native American wrestling with her own identities as such.

There aren’t many heroes left outside superhero comics and movies, are there? Not unalloyed saints, that’s for sure. And that’s okay: No one but Jesus has been perfect, and we’re right to keep our critical faculties about us even when, and sometimes especially when, someone is presented to us in glorious robes of sanctity.

That said, I agree that it’s weird, verging on the pathological, the way even fellow Christians have sharply criticized this young man, initially assuming he was a fanatic who knew nothing about diseases (wrong), languages (wrong), tribal cultures (wrong), and the dark history of imperialism (wrong). In fact, he and his sending agency seem to have been impressively responsible on all those counts. So what’s the problem?

Then we have evangelical Christians chiding him for breaking the law in preaching the gospel to people the government had said were off limits. Excuse me? Anyone read the Book of Acts recently?

Missionary history is in fact full of stories of pioneers cut down upon first contact, only to be replaced by more who were inspired by the initial story who then enjoy success. Let me be clear that of course I am not defending any and all missionary endeavours. Some of them have indeed seemed foolish and fruitless. But I am defending the simple point that someone has to be first, and that someone may well pay the ultimate price in order to get the conversation going. That’s what John Chau did, and it’s ‘way too early to write off his self-sacrifice as foolish and worthless. Let’s just see what happens next.

Last point: For Christians, the worst thing in the world isn’t dying. It’s failing to do the will of God.


  1. Yeah, I’ve read very few people who have bothered to point out that the Sentinelese, y’know, killed a man.

    More than a few have framed the incident in what can only be described as mythopoetic: this is exactly how it should go when Christians dare to spread their faith.

    Oh well. Chau went to his reward and was a better Christian than I could ever hope to be.

    The weird thing is that no one could be so foolish as to believe these people will evade modernity forever.

  2. Steve, typically I don’t like asking people to comment on articles, but it seems to me more actual Christians need to be made aware of this vile claptrap.

    The author styles himself a Christian while describing Chau as a rapist and the people who killed him his victims. His comments about the book of Acts are similarly infuriating:

    1. I think this is the first time I've ever seen sharing the gospel with people who don't want to hear the gospel compared to rape (albeit implicitly)!

      Sure, it's much better to leave them to an eternity in hell! :)

      Of course, I'm not denying there may come a point in evangelism where we shake the dust off our feet and leave them be, but that's hardly been demonstrated in the case of the Sentinelese.

    2. To elaborate on my last point, it's not as if the Sentinelese have even heard the gospel in the first place in order to reject it, have they? Not to my knowledge.

    3. Brandi Miller is a campus minister and spends her time deconstructing white supremacy in evangelical spaces and exploring the role of practical theology in racial justice.

      The people writing, preaching, and claiming to know how to interpret "the" truth were almost entirely cisgender heterosexual white men in positions of authority in religious communities.