Friday, December 18, 2009

Missionaries, part 1

The Samurai (Reprint) (New Directions Classics)
I'm currently reading The Samurai by Shusaku Endo. The book follows the lives of a Spanish missionary in eastern Japan and a poor samurai caught up in the political manoeuverings of his domain's councilmen. The missionary, Velasco, is driven by an overzealous ambition to become Bishop of Japan, and plans a trip to Nueva Espana and then to Spain with some Japanese envoys and merchants in the hopes of establishing a trade treaty in exchange for full missionary rights for Spain. The novel recounts some very interesting historical events, the details of which have unfortunately been lost over the last few centuries.

I have read two of Endo's books (Silence and The Samurai) and they both deal with missionaries in Japan. The other day, while reading The Samurai, I was suddenly struck (actually restruck) with the realization that I am thoroughly against missionary work. In fact, I loathe it. I find it shameful, xenophobic, classist, racist, and baseless.

There are two cases to examine when considering missionary work. The first case assumes the religion being sold is valid. The second assumes the opposite.

The second case is easiest dealt with. In The Samurai, Velasco is expounding the Roman Catholic faith. If Christianity is false, then men and women embarking on missionary work throughout the world is an absurd waste of resources. Since, in general, most religions are exclusive, a given Christian missionary happily believes that while his or her work is worthy, that of all the "other" missionaries is not. Of course, in this scenario, all of the work is worthless. Even more damning and unforgivable in the second case is that the proselytized are torn from their native beliefs and culture for absolutely no reason.

The first case, although highly unlikely, supposes that a particular religion is in fact true. In the case of Christianity then, we are meant to believe that God revealed "himself" to a few people in a very localized area, ignoring all of the other humans on the planet. His plan then being that over more than 2000 years, his word would be preached to, taught to, and forced upon the rest of the world in an eons-long struggle. How much easier it would have been had the all-powerful one made himself known to all nations at once, or at least on successive days? Perhaps in a few weeks, the whole world would have been happily Christian, Jesus wouldn't have died, and we would no longer have Easter. I think it would have been more than a fair trade.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Blogging again.

Wow. It's been over a year since I posted anything to this blog. I guess that was about the time when my Twitter-ing began to eclipse my blogging. Twitter is addictive and too easy to use. Blogging requires thought while tweeting does not. You can already see that these sentences are short and useless; a result of too much Twitter use.

The reason for starting up blogging again is a little embarrassing. It's due to an article about the relationship between writing and thinking. However, I didn't even read this article, I skimmed it. But the gist of it was enough to make me rethink blogging vs. twittering. The writer claimed that if one doesn't write, then one doesn't have any serious thoughts. Writing certainly involves thinking and the organization of thought, so I bought this writer's claims quite quickly. I don't want to be guilty of not thinking about serious things, so I will start writing again.

So, here we go...