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Naïve in Thailand
January 16, 2005 8:24 PM   Subscribe

Naïve in Thailand: The misadventures of an unprepared 43-year-old Brit who drops everything to try and help with tsunami rebuilding. Pet peeve? "The only real irritation has been the American Christian volunteers."
posted by NortonDC (88 comments total)

 
I'd tell the American Christian volunteers that were bothering me to Phuket or Phuk off...
posted by alteredcarbon at 8:49 PM on January 16, 2005


Great article - sounds like a very well meaning, practical fellow. The quote from the christian volunteer: "Oh, I guess you'll be around until George Bush stops paying for the paint," would make me ropable.

It's not a contest, but per capita, the US is not one of the biggest donors. Australia has pledged over 700 million US dollars.
posted by Dag Maggot at 8:50 PM on January 16, 2005


Good read, thanks NortonDC.

He did sound a little unprepared (to put it mildly), but dang, he went there and made a difference.
posted by sour cream at 9:07 PM on January 16, 2005


Wow, in spite of everything that we see, humanity strikes again! Humbling stuff. Thanks.
posted by blindsam at 9:14 PM on January 16, 2005


Hearts and minds ppl , hearts and minds. I had really hoped that this tragedy would unite the world, not be another opportunity to spin. When I first heard how the this U.S. administration hoped that there might be a chance to show the Muslim world that we could be good guys it turned my stomach. It seems that the good Christian soldiers didn't get the talking points memo.
posted by wonway at 9:15 PM on January 16, 2005


How ridiculous that in such an article, time must be taken out to take yet another pot shot at i) Americans ii) Christians and iii) for some reason, fellow volunteers.

I'm also not quite sure why you seem to believe that his negative view of his fellow volunteers is a key point of the article. All he said was that religious folks gave him dirty looks when he blasphemed in front of them, and one made a comment he didn't like. Seems like another cheap shot from the Guardian to me.

Other than that, interesting article, I guess.
posted by loquax at 9:19 PM on January 16, 2005


Yeah, fuck those Christians volunteering their time and shit. How dare they look at me funny when I use the name of their God inappropriately!

Seriously, of all the things to highlight in your FPP, that struck you as the most important? Sure, some of us are annoying (especially those who mistakenly believe Bush is good for anyone), but honestly - aside from that one anecdote (which would have pissed me off too), to say that a group is 'irritating' because they don't appreciate his disrespecting a key figure in their religion...

On preview: what loquax said.
posted by chundo at 9:25 PM on January 16, 2005


Never said it was the most important. I just looked for something that would get loquax and chundo to read.
posted by NortonDC at 9:33 PM on January 16, 2005


Well, actually he said the following: "They go on about God all the time and give really horrible looks when I say "Jesus!" or "Christ!". And they seem to think that they are the world's landlords. ..." Seems like a typical behavior to me. And yes, it is annoying.
posted by c13 at 9:39 PM on January 16, 2005


And yes, it is annoying.

So is trolling on the part of a "reputable" newspaper.
posted by loquax at 9:42 PM on January 16, 2005


The behavior of 'Christians' in a primarily non-Christian land evangelizing about Jesus while the population struggle to rebuild their world seems a whole lot more like trolling to me than the Guardian article itself.
posted by moonbird at 9:58 PM on January 16, 2005


Excellent article, btw.
posted by moonbird at 9:59 PM on January 16, 2005


Just because the it offended your sensibilities, does not mean it was "trolling". The guy does not like christians. It really isn't that outrageous or unusual.
posted by c13 at 10:02 PM on January 16, 2005


Those poor abused Christians. Kinda tugs the heart strings don't it.
posted by filchyboy at 10:17 PM on January 16, 2005


For future reference: "trolling". Sounds about right to me. Had it been an in-depth piece about what horrible people the American Christian volunteers were, fine, assuming that is actually the case. But as it is, this is nothing more than a silly little troll. Which is a shame as the rest of the article is interesting. I'm sure there are many jerks of all religions and nationalities involved in the relief efforts. Why it was so important to highlight in this case, as a complete non sequitur is beyond me. Sells newspapers, I guess. And what better way to dishonour the suffering than by using the relief effort to score cheap political points? Better than mentioning how Canada, let alone the US, has pledged more to tsunami affected countries than the UK.

The guy does not like christians. It really isn't that outrageous or unusual.

Seriously? If you're not kidding, replace Christians with anything else. Blacks. Jews. Arabs. Women. Muslims. That was just a slip of the tongue there right, your casual acceptance of stereotyping and dislike of more than a billion members of a religious group?
posted by loquax at 10:26 PM on January 16, 2005


It may not even be that the "guy does not like Christians." It may be that he, like myself, doesn't like people who claim that they're Christians but aren't anything that Jesus would recognize as following his teachings. What the apologists seems to be ignoring, and what is particularly telling, is the fact that he didn't finger "Christians." He said, "American Christians."
posted by xhepera at 10:33 PM on January 16, 2005


In addition to what xhepera said, blacks, women, muslims and other christians (russian orthodox, for example) are not running around trying to "convert", "save" and "educate" anyone. Well, not nearly as much as American christians. So I can see how some people might not like that.
Also, blacks used to be slaves, women were discriminated against and jews were burned in ovens. Equating this to mere dislike of american christians is a little how would I put this...arrogant. Which is precisely why they are disliked.
posted by c13 at 11:02 PM on January 16, 2005


Don't forget, they also mention Bush, so it's American Republican Christians that are the issue here.

There have been a few stories about the practice.
Saturday, January 15, 2005
ASSOCIATED PRESS

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia - A senior Islamic leader warned foreign relief workers Friday of a backlash from Muslims if they bring Christian proselytizing to tsunami-stricken Sumatra along with humanitarian help.

Masked health workers, meanwhile, fanned out spraying insecticide to kill mosquitoes and prevent malaria from breaking out in Aceh province's refugee camps, where poor sanitation and contaminated water pose a health risk to tens of thousands of survivors.

At Friday prayers in the main mosque of Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, a Muslim leader warned against Christian aid workers' evangelizing among survivors. Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation, and Aceh is particularly conservative. "All non-governmental organizations, either domestic or international, with hidden agendas coming here with humanitarian purposes but instead proselytizing, this is what we do not like," said Dien Syamsuddin, secretary-general of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas, or religious scholars.
So it looks like the English chap isn't the only person to notice the practice.
posted by wah at 11:09 PM on January 16, 2005


Maybe I'm reading a little too much into it but it seems that he's feeling a bit of resentment towards self-serving aid. What I mean by that is that explicitly or not, each American Christian helping out is sort of acting as a missionary, bringing their good Word to the Thai. Some Christians are probably actually missionaries, handing out bibles and thumping logs-cum-pulpits. Some are probably just there for 'marketing value'. Imagine if Coca Cola flew down a relief effort that consisted of millions of Dasani-branded bottles. Nice of them to help out, but, you gotta say, a little low on the out-of-the-goodness-of-your-heart scale. Also, think of Monsanto supplying nonfertile Roundup-Ready seed to Iraqi farmers.

And I think what he's saying by "they are the world's landlords" is that they feel that he's a competitor. Really, it would be in the Church's best interest to be the only aid provider, such that it seems that only the followers of Jesus have any good in them, and no one else.

On preview: I think wah's quote addresses my thoughts.

Amusing story about taking a pot out of some guy's home. I've done that myself in the US, making me much more of a 'right wally'.
posted by breath at 11:12 PM on January 16, 2005


Let me rephrase my second paragraph a little. I don't mean to suggest that the Pope issued a Dr. Evil-style bull that said "Eliminate all the other people providing aid! Thailand shall be mine!".

But when you're part of a team (as American Christians are part of the "American Church" team), you tend to look down on those people who aren't on your team. They're not "one of us", they share different beliefs, they're not as "righteous" or "cool". That's just the way people act about teams (religious or not).

That's what's happening. Subconsciously the American Christians are rooting for their team and trying to cut down those who aren't on it.

This interpretation is delivered straight from my armchair to yours.
posted by breath at 11:25 PM on January 16, 2005


Oh, and it's also cool to see someone just drop everything (Err, nothing) and be able to contribute something to the rebuilding process. Good story.
posted by wah at 11:34 PM on January 16, 2005


My experience living here in Uganda has given me some perspective on the christian-bashing being mentioned. The fact is that when (likely) white evangelists come in from america, europe, or anywhere substantially more developed than the countries they are visiting, it creates a completely unfair power dynamic.
Evangelists will of course position themselves as being
'good christians' (which they no doubt are), but without explicitly explaining to the convertees that their 'religious superiority' has nothing to do with their whiteness, or with their wealth. And so, you end up with a population of devout christians who do not beleive that they can ever achieve to the religious or financial level of the missionaries because they don't have the whiteness or the wealth that 'jesus prefers'.

(I have had actual conversations with my housekeeper and with my more educated ugandan co-workers to this effect - that 'the whites' are rich because Jesus was white and so he likes whites better, and that they will never be as rich as the whites because Jesus doesn't like them as much. I swear.)

Do we really want thousands of people experiencing the greatest hardship of their lives to also feel completely dependent on a religious foundation that, as they understand it, implies that they will never truly be able to help themselves?
posted by Kololo at 1:06 AM on January 17, 2005


Compliments to the guy for his work. As for the Guardian doing trolls blah blah..it's the guy telling what happened, not the Guardian (that happens to be reporting) and anyway

"Oh, I guess you'll be around until George Bush stops paying for the paint," he said

Bah, that's typical of some pseudo-religious guys who think you're the only one who's doing anything, everybody else is doing nothing. Unfortunately for him, the Shrek guy presence is proof proved that there are other people doing something...mmhh..let's belittle him by implying he's just a Bush payola guy.

But given that some other religious guys are , usually, as disarmingly naive as easy to condemn other (repent sinner repent !) .sometime they speak the truth.. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that a significant number of volunteers are being paid to be so.

Which smells of reconstruction business, see Halliburton et al.
posted by elpapacito at 1:36 AM on January 17, 2005


that 'the whites' are rich because Jesus was white and so he likes whites better, and that they will never be as rich as the whites because Jesus doesn't like them as much. I swear.

Shit dude, there's lots of Americans who believe this.
posted by black8 at 2:29 AM on January 17, 2005


Great article. I, too, am irritated by people who are up their own arses.
posted by chrid at 2:32 AM on January 17, 2005


Okay, so there are some things about some American Christian volunteers that this guy doesn't like. Fair enough.

Does that really undermine the massive amount of volunteer labor and funds going into this effort to help people from, yes, Americans? Or Christians, overall?

I know it must really gripe some people to admit it, but America, and Christians, are part of the relief effort and doing really good things, along side a lot of other nationalities and faiths.
posted by darkstar at 2:38 AM on January 17, 2005


Seriously? If you're not kidding, replace Christians with anything else. Blacks. Jews. Arabs. Women. Muslims. That was just a slip of the tongue there right, your casual acceptance of stereotyping and dislike of more than a billion members of a religious group?

Do you really not see the difference between religion, sex and race? I'll give you a clue: one is a choice.
posted by ninebelow at 2:58 AM on January 17, 2005


One more observation: while it's undoubtedly true that some American Christian volunteers are culturally insensitive, it seems that this fellow was bring culturally insensitive, too. I would hope that the grace he expects to receive from others as he adjusted culturally would be the same kind of grace he'd extend to others who may be rubbing him the wrong way.

Finally, the unkind charge levied by the insensitive person who opined that he was only volunteering because "George Bush" paid for the paint is not too different from the charge levied in this discussion thread that Christians are basically only helping in the relief effort as a means to proselytize. Both are thoroughly uncharitable accusations meant to attack the better angels of human nature: namely, our profound desire to lend a helping hand when a fellow human is in distress.

And ninebelow: the volitional elements of faith do not obviate the appropriateness of tolerance toward people of any given creed, Christian or otherwise.
posted by darkstar at 3:02 AM on January 17, 2005


"...was *being culturally insensitive, too."


Spell check didn't catch that one!
posted by darkstar at 3:03 AM on January 17, 2005


loquax: Had it been an in-depth piece about what horrible people the American Christian volunteers were, fine, assuming that is actually the case. But as it is, this is nothing more than a silly little troll.

It is also a single comment burried 11 paragraphs down. (Three paragraphs from the bottom.) In newspaper writing, this means it is one of the least important aspects of the story. If the newspaper was actually trolling, it would run that comment as a lead.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:42 AM on January 17, 2005


christians are [not] basically only helping in the relief effort as a means to proselytize

Except that Christian charity is based on the example of Christ. I am not implying that each individual involved in it has a proselytizing objective in mind. But they do act in the name of an organization who is more than happy to point to their work as a means of proselytizing and whatnot.
posted by magullo at 4:48 AM on January 17, 2005


he dropped everything to go to Thailand - even though he didn't know where it was

bought a ticket on January 2 and flew off the next morning.
Is this article for real? Seems odd a person lacking geography knowledge is quickly flown to his unknown destination.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:49 AM on January 17, 2005


Seems odd a person lacking geography knowledge is quickly flown to his unknown destination.

It's not like you really need to know where you're going just to buy an airplane ticket there. I flew to Durham, North Carolina last summer, and I'm still not entirely sure where it is. I'm inclined to believe this guy.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:51 AM on January 17, 2005


Looking at it as an iternational flight.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:57 AM on January 17, 2005


Well thom, all he would have to do is tell the airline where he wanted to go, buy the ticket offered, and then get on the plane.

I love it when someone just sees something that needs to be done, says "Why not me," and just does it.
posted by orange swan at 6:14 AM on January 17, 2005


It's not that hard to buy a ticket to "Thailand" without knowing where Thailand is. If you go to the British Airways website and type in "Thailand" as your destination, the website will helpfully assume that you're looking for a flight to Bangkok and give flight times and ticket prices. From that point on, you could buy your ticket and turn up at the departure gate printed on the ticket and be conveyed to Bangkok without any knowledge of where Bangkok may happen to be in the world. A British passport holder is given an 30-day visa on arrival in Bangkok, so he wouldn't have needed to contact the Thai embassy before he left either.

All the guy would need in order to fly to Thailand is a British passport and the knowledge that "Thailand" exists.
posted by talitha_kumi at 6:40 AM on January 17, 2005


It is also a single comment buried 11 paragraphs down.

Precisely why I called it a troll. It's inflammatory, unrelated and unimportant to the tone or content of the rest of the piece and not backed up by any facts or analysis of the position. Burying it in what is bound to be a widely read and disseminated article is unfair and unprofessional of the Guardian, and very reminiscent of slashdot. Again, this was not a political op/ed, or an analysis of Christian American behaviour in Thailand, it was one person's account of the relief efforts. A responsible newspaper would have cut his possibly bigoted and prejudicial opinion about Christian Americans and let the reader focus on the inspiring nature of the rest of the piece. If proselytizing is a major problem, dedicate a entire article to it. Provide some background and factual analysis of the issue. You know, not just tossing out accusations against an entire group of people based on the actions of a few is usually something that most people support. Had he been robbed, or "irritated" by some local Buddhists would his disparaging of all Thai followers of the Buddha been acceptable, or rather, fit to print?
posted by loquax at 6:43 AM on January 17, 2005


The behavior of 'Christians' in a primarily non-Christian land evangelizing...
blacks, women, muslims and other christians (russian orthodox, for example) are not running around trying to "convert"

Just to be clear, there's no mention of proselytization or conversion in the article. Zero. Not to say that it isn't happening, but if there had been serious amount of it or if it had been going on to the detriment of actual work, surely that would have turned up in his complaint.

sounds like a very well meaning, practical fellow

I don't think I agree about the practical. He's offered a job doing something the locals presumably find useful -- keeping the press out of a morgue -- but turns it down because it doesn't tug at his heartstrings enough. Which isn't to say that he isn't helping a damn lot more than I am.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:04 AM on January 17, 2005


Hey loquax, it's not a major problem, and the Guardian would have been lazy or negligent (or obnoxiously "politically correct") if they left it out. I would imagine they asked him a series of questions about his arrival, the availability of materials, whether he met anyone interesting, and so on. If he said that as a response to a question about whether anything was annoying, so be it. It's not so offensive as to really hurt readers.

If he said something like, "Thai people smell funny and are ugly!" then that would have probably been dropped because it's blatantly offensive. As it is, more than likely he was offended by this other volunteer's comment -- after all, he's there on his own dime helping efforts, and is basically being told that it means less than someone else's contribution. If that was recognized, he wouldn't have a comment to make. He made a generalization about the workers he'd encountered. If he has seen quite a few incidents of Thai Buddhists who were "sneaking around for Buddha" happening to steal some things, then yeah, it'd be ok to mention. As it is, he just said some Americans who are there volunteering for Jesus are obnoxious.
posted by mikeh at 7:14 AM on January 17, 2005


loquax: A responsible newspaper would have cut his possibly bigoted and prejudicial opinion about Christian Americans...

But then again, we don't really know what he told them. Maybe he was going on and on about them bloody Americans, and the newspaper courteously ommitted all that drivel, but left in this one anecdote for flavor.
posted by sour cream at 7:15 AM on January 17, 2005


Yes, loquax, the Guardian is so unfair, it's like Holocaust all over again.

ROU, this is directly from the article: They go on about God all the time... Usually this kind of behaviour is associated with proselytization. Also, if the article is not enough, there is a link to a few more by wah up in the thread.
posted by c13 at 7:18 AM on January 17, 2005


not backed up by any facts

Yes it is. He cites a particular example.

Which isn't to say that he isn't helping a damn lot more than I am.

That's bold. How many industrial scale donations did you inspire and direct? How many shelters did you build? How many homeless orphans did you make smile?

Go ahead and show that my assessment is wrong. It would please me greatly to find that you are indeed doing so much more than him that belittling his contribution is justified. My own contributions certainly do not.
posted by NortonDC at 7:19 AM on January 17, 2005


magullo: Except that Christian charity is based on the example of Christ. I am not implying that each individual involved in it has a proselytizing objective in mind. But they do act in the name of an organization who is more than happy to point to their work as a means of proselytizing and whatnot.

Not to mention:

It is pretty hard to ignore that Chistianity as a broad historical movement has had a really bad track record when it comes to cultural imperialism.

loquax: It's inflammatory, unrelated and unimportant to the tone or content of the rest of the piece and not backed up by any facts or analysis of the position.

Um, unrelated in what way. The article is a first-hand account of a building contractor helping out with the relief effort. It's a basic puff piece where you give someone with an interesting perspective a few collumn inches to tell a story with minimal editing.

Again, this was not a political op/ed, or an analysis of Christian American behaviour in Thailand, it was one person's account of the relief efforts.

Exactly, why should that comment be treated to a different standard than any other comment in the article? Would the article have been acceptable if it had been criticizing U.N. employees or Doctors Without Borders?

A responsible newspaper would have cut his possibly bigoted and prejudicial opinion about Christian Americans and let the reader focus on the inspiring nature of the rest of the piece.

So what you are saying is that this article should be the voice of a person describing their experiences in Thailand, except when those experiences offend some political group?

The purpose of a newspaper in a free country is not to "inspire." The purpose of a newspaper is to publish news and commentary that provide multiple perspectives of a story. This means that we might sometimes read commentary that we don't agree with or dislike. That's ok, I don't expect to agree with everything published in the paper.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:29 AM on January 17, 2005


loquax: quoting
A responsible newspaper would have cut his possibly bigoted and prejudicial opinion about Christian Americans and let the reader focus on the inspiring nature of the rest of the piece.

That would be editorializing ? So if they keep the point on the christians, they're irresponsible ..if they leave it out, they're editorializing his opinion so that some angry pseudochristian organization will not sue them..therefore protecting their interest at the expense of the truth as said by that dude, that he met a so called christian american and found it to be a snotty s.o.b.

Damned if they do, damned if they don't. Oh and if the Guardian is irresponsible for its alleged editorialization, what about other media, for instance Fox News ?

Additionally, who cares about what the dude thinks about that sedicent organization "American Christians" ? Anyway that's quite a bold name for an organization, considering that the nature of the name easily misleds into thinking they represent the view and actions of all of christian americans...while obviously they don't and will never.
posted by elpapacito at 7:36 AM on January 17, 2005


NortonDC:

I don't think the article was trolling. It's a part of one man's story that he is entitled to, whatever it stereotypes or not.
However, I'm quite sure that you were trolling by drawing it to the front page. Hope this is the discussion you were looking for.

Also, read more carefully:

Which isn't to say that he isn't helping a damn lot more than I am.

I think you'll find that comment from loquax means the exact opposite of what you responded to.
posted by chundo at 7:49 AM on January 17, 2005


As an Englishman myself I can safely say that it would probably annoy me - very few christians in the UK wander around advertising their religion (it's just not done) so to have someone obnoxiously pointing it out is offensive to our slightly more advanced sensibilities.

I think it's great that there are christians from the US (and no doubt other nations) working with people from every denomination and religion to help these people get back on their feet after this disaster, I just don't think wearing a "JESUS IS GREAT!" smile and yapping on and on about the man upstairs is in any way useful to people in those circumstances.
posted by longbaugh at 8:00 AM on January 17, 2005


I just don't think wearing a "JESUS IS GREAT!" smile and yapping on and on about the man upstairs is in any way useful to people in those circumstances.

Which brings up an interesting point. What exactly are they going on about? Jesus just killed 200000 people, isn't he great? Or that they deserved to be drowned because they did not listen to the word of god?
posted by c13 at 8:09 AM on January 17, 2005


Chundo, every bit of what I wrote in the front page post is about that one guy--his naïvité, his age, his origin, his actions, his unpreparedness, and his very own pet peeve, which means it is something that particularly gets on his own individual nerves. That's how I framed his comment. Some people have seen fit to turn a personal comment from one guy, naming a personal irritation and framed as such, into a persecution of a whole tribe of people. So be it.

As for me, I was pointing to an intriguing detail about that guy.
posted by NortonDC at 8:12 AM on January 17, 2005


longbaugh, I think you'd find that most of us over here are the same way. Unfortunately the tactless ones always get the press. Entertainment value and all, I guess.

Were I in their position, I doubt the locals would know my religion unless they asked, or knew the organization I was volunteering with. Charity isn't a barter arrangement ("Ok, I'll give you water, you give me your soul"), which some people within the church seem to have forgotten.

On preview: nobody's equating this to persecution of a whole group. Because some think it is irresponsible to devote half of your FPP to a minor (but inflammatory) part of the overall story, that amounts to thinking we're persecuted?
posted by chundo at 8:31 AM on January 17, 2005


I agree with Loquax that the paragraph in question is unnecessary. It's pretty much understood among all cultures that Republican Evangelical Christians are some of the most annoying people in the world. I suppose it might be interesting if we found a Yanamamo-type culture that had never been exposed to them before.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:02 AM on January 17, 2005


More here and here (scroll to the bottom). Looks like its not just the Guardian trolling.
posted by c13 at 9:07 AM on January 17, 2005


Ummm it's obviously a no-brainer... convert to get the damn biscuits.
posted by TetrisKid at 9:28 AM on January 17, 2005


c13 -

The first story basically says, "most Christian groups don't proselytize during relief efforts, but some evangelicals still want to, as long as it's after relief needs have first been addressed."

The second story is an incident involving some asshats.

So combined, those two stories say "every group has their asshats." Ours are, more often than not, right-wing evangelicals. Tell us something we don't know.

Neither article, of course, has anything to do with American Christians as a group - or Christians as a whole - being irritating or disruptive.

I'm not sure what we're trying to prove here. My only complaint is that NortonDC chose to highlight an anecdote that reinforced stereotypes, and which was really just a subjective opinion on the part of the author. Obviously a poor choice unless he wanted the discussion to go this way, since the consequential reaction was pretty easy to predict by anyone who has read MeFi for a few years.
posted by chundo at 9:44 AM on January 17, 2005


Neither article, of course, has anything to do with American Christians as a group - or Christians as a whole - being irritating or disruptive.

It has everything to do with Americans Evangelicals as a group being irritating and disruptive. Proselytizing isn't a fringe activity among Evangelicals; it's part of their core belief. When's the last time you heard about Jews or Buddhists doing it inappropriately?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:53 AM on January 17, 2005


A_S -

See what you just did there? American Christians != American Evangelicals. If the term used was American Evangelicals, I'd be hard pressed to defend it. But that wasn't the original term used.
posted by chundo at 10:01 AM on January 17, 2005


Chundo, the guy in the original article was irritated, the villagers in the yahoo story were pretty pissed off too. So was the muslim leader from the story wah linked to. All of them were irritated by the same group of people, don't you think there is a pattern developing here? Also, I haven't come across any articles that implicate other religious groups in the similar behavior. But somehow I'm not very surprised.

Basically, what Armitage Shanks said..

On preview: Chundo, the people in these articles either don't know or don't care to differentiate. They have far more pressing issues right now than to worry about papers writing about them and offending some christians in America.
posted by c13 at 10:13 AM on January 17, 2005


Since the article purely anecdotal, I'll add my own contribution: When I briefly worked for Mother Theresa, there were certain clueless Christian groups who would come through and spend their volunteering time singing songs and quoting scripture to dying and destitute Hindus and Muslims who had no idea what they were blathering on about. One lad in particular informed me the work he was doing (walking around with bible in tow) was "supernatural good" as opposed to the work I was doing (feeding, washing, emptying bedpans, etc), which he derided as merely "good." On the other hand, I worked with many very religious and dedicated folks who were instrumental in relieving the physical suffering of the people. Whatever you think of religious charities (I have my beef with M. Theresa in particular but that's another story), there are always members who are there to proseltyze because Chrisitan faith (in their minds) it is the only path to relieve suffering. But there are others who are more practically minded...and you should not discount their contributions. As an aside, I remember visiting a very poor Hmong village in Thailand where the villagers had allowed a church built by idiotic-but-well-intentioned missionaries to go to shit, despite the fact it was the nicest building in the area. I have a hope that most of the tsunami victims will be able to put up a similar stand against the sort of proselytizing occuring now.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 10:20 AM on January 17, 2005


It seems pretty unfair to be angry with people who want to share what they think is the most important thing in the world with other people. In fact, I have a hard time believing that religious people of any stripe wouldn't understand such enthusiasm if it were explained to them that it's inspired by spiritual devotion.

It seems to me as though a better solution is teaming up with Christians in order to do things that all people agree are needed, like rebuild homes and establish water supplies. I know a lot of evangelical Christians (though I am not one myself) who are going to that area, and for every single one of them, without exception, offering immediate physical help is the first priority.

It's easy to hate on something that we're all familiar with and have to put up with-- but we should try to look past it and be more caring. These people are just trying to help; sure, their reasons for doing so might be annoying to us, but every willing helping hand is so needed right now that snarking about it rather than putting them to work is pure selfishness.
posted by koeselitz at 11:38 AM on January 17, 2005


What Koeslitz said.

The bottom line is that the volunteers in Thailand are improving the conditions there (i.e. building shelter, distributing food and meds, etc.). If their good works - which go a long way to the alleviate people's suffering - are accompanied by the occasional reference to faith or religion, is that really so bad?

Assuming that certain volunteers are always going to talk about their faith, would it be better for everyone if they just stayed home? Probably not.
posted by theknacker at 12:00 PM on January 17, 2005


It seems pretty unfair to be angry with people who want to share what they think is the most important thing in the world with other people. In fact, I have a hard time believing that religious people of any stripe wouldn't understand such enthusiasm if it were explained to them that it's inspired by spiritual devotion.

Again, when's the last time you heard about Jews or Buddhists proselytizing when it's not wanted? Why are evangelicals so uniquely obnoxious?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:04 PM on January 17, 2005


It seems to me as though a better solution is teaming up with Christians in order to do things that all people agree are needed, like rebuild homes and establish water supplies.

In what way is the author of the article not doing that?
posted by dirigibleman at 12:09 PM on January 17, 2005


Why is it unfair to be angry or annoyed by people who want to share something I don't want with me? Why must I like being distracted by some guy knocking on my door and wasting my time talking to me about something I don't care to talk about, especially with him? Why should I cherish the thought that some fuck who does not know anything about me automatically assumes that I'm a lost soul, ignorant or just evil and that he is somehow better than I, and takes it upon himself to save me?
I remember american missionaries coming to my school back when I was living in Russia and trying to spread the word of Jesus' love. That was in Russia, mind you, the country that has been christian three times longer than America existed as a country!
Bothering someone is wrong, no matter how noble the intention. Why is it so hard to understand?
posted by c13 at 12:20 PM on January 17, 2005


c13 -

All of them were irritated by the same group of people, don't you think there is a pattern developing here?

Soooooo.... didja read my response?

The point wasn't "Christians don't irritate people." The point was, we've all got our bad apples, and in cases like this, they're generally limited to a very specific, identifiable subset. If you watch the news, you know which subset that is (hint: it's that ones that Rove likes).

And if you honestly think I was blaming the people in the articles, I doubt we're going to connect on any level here.
posted by chundo at 12:48 PM on January 17, 2005


Did you read mine? I'll repeat: the point is that people don't differentiate between denominations. They just notice that they are irritated by someone who speaks English and is, quite frequently, from North America. And that they are christian. A few bad apples, you say? Fine, then it is the responsibility of other, good christians to discourage the practices that cast them as a group in a bad light. Not trying to justify or explain away their actions. And definitely not expecting others to be understanding or accepting or "..look past it and be more caring..".
Is this stereotyping? Is this any more stereotyping than someone who thinks that everybody else (even, in some cases, christians of other denominations) are wicked and going to hell?
posted by c13 at 1:10 PM on January 17, 2005


It seems pretty unfair to be angry with people who want to share what they think is the most important thing in the world with other people.

Wait, so declaring memetic war on someone is okay as long as you're convinced you're doing the right thing?

Trying to change someone's beliefs to your own is *not* universally benign. In fact, it's usually quite hostile. But they wrap it up with smiles and "Jesus loves you" so it's all sugarcoated somehow. It's still undermining whatever beliefs the person already has, and that is rude, disrespectful, and basically, like I mentioned, memetic war.

Of course people are going to get annoyed, they have every right to.
posted by beth at 1:26 PM on January 17, 2005


Fine, then it is the responsibility of other, good christians to discourage the practices that cast them as a group in a bad light. Not trying to justify or explain away their actions.

Hmm. I thought that's what I was doing here. Explaining that these people don't speak for all of us. Putting them in a bad light, as it were. And hoping that you would use that information to not perpetuate stereotypes about the group as a whole.

Apparently it is my duty to fix them all first. But how shall I do this? Proselytizing is bad! Oh dear.
posted by chundo at 2:12 PM on January 17, 2005


It seems pretty unfair to be angry with people who want to share what they think is the most important thing in the world with other people.

You know, you're absolutely right. That guy down on the street corner has been screaming all week about how the aliens are talking to him through his fillings, telling him who was really behind the Kennedy assassinations, and I've just been writing him off as a crazy person. I should really have a little more consideration and take him a little bit more seriously.
posted by majcher at 2:13 PM on January 17, 2005


Dude, are you for real? Do you really don't understand that what I was saying is that it is the responsibility of "good" christians to discourage "bad" christians from making fools of ALL christians? You're really, really not helping the stereotype here.

Explaining that these people don't speak for all of us.
You know what, I have not met any christian yet who would not do this. Granted, I have not spoken to all that many, but the trend is definitely not encouraging.
posted by c13 at 2:37 PM on January 17, 2005


It seems you're under the misconception that we're one big happy family. Here's the problem with your reasoning: I don't associate with them. They're their own denomination; almost their own religion in some ways. Nothing us "good" Christians say would matter, because they already believe they are the true believers. In worldview and attitude, many times the only thing we have in common is the name "Christian", which you can't just, you know, take away from them.

What is so hard to understand about that? What then is there left for me to do, besides distancing myself from it - which according to you, is "explaining it away?" And what's not encouraging about having Christians you meet disavow wacked-out behavior?

Besides drifting off-topic, this is getting pretty tedious. You don't seem to understand any of the internal dynamics of what you're criticizing, nor have much of a desire to, so I'm going to let this thread die here.
posted by chundo at 2:59 PM on January 17, 2005


The Christian has spoken!
posted by NortonDC at 3:14 PM on January 17, 2005


Hmm. I thought that's what I was doing here. Explaining that these people don't speak for all of us.

Well, yes and no. Your earlier comment was "every group has their asshats". This initially made it sound like you were talking about the proverbial individual Few Bad Apples, when it's actually a systemic problem with evangelicals as a group, people who make up a considerable and growing portion of the US population.

Apparently it is my duty to fix them all first. But how shall I do this? Proselytizing is bad! Oh dear.

Yes, proselytizing is bad. It's obnoxious. Perhaps the first thing you could do is not make it sound like you don't take other people's objections seriously.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:22 PM on January 17, 2005


I apologise for the twisted double negative above. It's not like I don't know the language.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 3:23 PM on January 17, 2005


Fine, then it is the responsibility of other, good christians to discourage the practices that cast them as a group in a bad light.

No it isn't, any more than it's the job of other, free-spending Jews or Scots to discourage the practices that led to the stereotype of cheapness, or the responsibility of other, fried-chicken-avoiding blacks to discourage the chicken-eating that led to that stereotype, or the responsibility of any other identifiable group to combat whatever practices or tendencies might have led to stereotypes or prejudices against them.

Saying that "religion is a choice, unlike race" is just dumb as even a moment's thinking will reveal that for 99.99% of the world's Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Shintoists, Confucianists, Animists, Sikhs, and anything else you care to name, there was never any real choice in the matter any more than someone born of Poles in Warsaw had the choice to be Quechua by seeking appropriate upbringing.

Is judging as individuals really so fucking hard and complicated?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:22 PM on January 17, 2005


An unexcercised choice is still a choice, no?
posted by NortonDC at 4:36 PM on January 17, 2005


Sure, people choose to be Christian or Zoroastrian in exactly the same way that they choose to be culturally Turkish or Filipino; which is to say that they don't. Except for the vanishingly small case of converts, religion is not a choice; it's a matter of inculturation as surely as their ethnicity or language, and it's either dumb or disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

Again, is judging people as individuals really so fucking hard and complicated?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:50 PM on January 17, 2005


Ethnicity includes a racial component not defined by learned or adopted characteristics.

Unlike religion.
posted by NortonDC at 4:59 PM on January 17, 2005


99.99%? You sure its not 99.99451%? But anyhow, if none of them had any choice, why go around trying to convert them?
Is judging as individuals hard and complicated? Two guys stand on opposite sides of a bridge leading from a parking garage at 0800 in the morning on my campus and distribute bibles to everybody that passes that bridge so that most people who are polite end up with two bibles. And then there are more distributors down the street. Now, I could have considered them separately, but somehow I don't think my opinion of their mental abilities would have improved much.
Also note that they don't even ask if I might already own a bible, they just assume that I do not.

On preview: Again, if religion is not a choice, why do those pricks go around trying to convert muslims to christianity? And why should muslims tolerate that?
posted by c13 at 5:10 PM on January 17, 2005


Yes, judging as individuals is really so fucking hard and complicated, because there are several billion of them, and its hard for any observant person to not discuss the obvious patterns they can't help but notice in any group of people that can be grouped in some way, whether its people that wear red shoes or people that believe that some dude was the son of god. I certainly won't restrain myself from bringing such patterns into discussion, even at the risk of being labeled racist, prejudiced, or whatever else you want to throw at me. Not everything is black and white - including the morality of presupposing certain characteristics in an identifiable group of human beings.
posted by odigity at 5:37 PM on January 17, 2005


Except for the vanishingly small case of converts, religion is not a choice

And yet millions of people, particularly in Western countries other than the United States, have chosen not to be religious at all, despite their heritage. How can that be?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 6:06 PM on January 17, 2005


If one's position is that Christians are ignorant about the nature of the world, then one has no ground to blame them for trying to tell people about it. Ignorance isn't worthy of blame, because no one is willingly ignorant. If Christians knew that their position wasn't the truth, they wouldn't try to believe in it. Ignorance is a sickness that ought to be treated with compassion.

Furthermore, if one's position is that Christians must be incredibly stupid to believe what they believe, wouldn't one prefer that they keep trying (albeit badly) to follow the teachings of a man who seemed to advocate service, good works, and charity toward others? Wouldn't one sigh and keep working alongside that belief, rather hoping that these Christians don't wander off and read Ayn Rand or something and get it into their heads to try being really selfish?

In this day and age, what is most needed is increasing religious tolerance. Nothing is helped by railing against the naivete of our own Christian people. Only by tempering their religious devotion with tolerance can we make things better. We should be trying to encourage Christians to build and work and love, and to show those of other religions that their religion is much like that of the Christians. Muslims, who spent several of the last few centuries trying to bring other countries under their umbrella, can certainly understand the impulse of the Christians. Yes, Armitage Shanks, there are some Hasids who are just as overbearing in their conversion efforts as evangelical Christians; and how exactly do you think Buddhism spread from India to the rest of Asia? Prosyletization isn't just a Christian or evangelical trait, it's a human impulse, and it should be treated carefully and with thoughtfulness.
posted by koeselitz at 6:17 PM on January 17, 2005


no one is willingly ignorant

checks and... yes, you are new here.
posted by NortonDC at 6:56 PM on January 17, 2005


Sorry, I'd take that back if I could. Because I should just address the comment, not the poster, as I myself have clearly stated.

Instead:
That comment of yours I quoted above is a falsehood.
posted by NortonDC at 6:58 PM on January 17, 2005


Ignorance is a sickness that ought to be treated with compassion.
Perhaps. Although after the Inquisition, Crusades, conquistadors, Salem witch trials, lynchings in the South and other such niceties compassion is becoming somewhat depleted.

Koeselitz, it is perfectly fine what they (christians, as well as others) believe. It's just that one would wish they kept it to themselves.
posted by c13 at 6:59 PM on January 17, 2005


Well koeselitz, it's also a universal human impulse to find willfully ignorant and intentionally stupid people really, really annoying, an impulse which should be treated carefully and with thoughtfulness instead of automatically rejected as intolerance.

Or am I bluffing? ;)
posted by boaz at 7:02 PM on January 17, 2005


NortonDC:

The Christian has spoken!

I was referring to the thread between me and c13, or I would have referred to it as the post. But I'm sure you're smart enough to know that. Kudos for your infinitely valuable snark on this post thus far though.
posted by chundo at 8:07 PM on January 17, 2005


There is no thread between you and c13, there is only the thread in its entirety, and no, I'm not smart enough to know how what you write differs from what you mean, apart from the usual array of literary devices, which that was not an example of. I'll work on it.

Whoah, comma-rific!
posted by NortonDC at 8:36 PM on January 17, 2005


Christianity: convincing white guys that they are oppressed minorities since 400 A.D.
posted by boaz at 9:05 PM on January 17, 2005


Well, I'm gone. Sorry. NortonDC, c13, boaz: you win.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 PM on January 17, 2005


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