UNDERCOVER MISSIONS CAN’T JUSTIFY BREAKING LAWS
Undercover missions are an irresponsible means to spread Christianity. This type of mission work has created an ethical quandary that evangelicals are at a loss to justify.
While the mission of seeking out unsaved souls is an admirable one, it is dangerous to do so in a country where Christian evangelism is illegal. When a missionary goes to work in one of these places, they not only endanger themselves, but converts as well.
In the summer of 2007, China expelled more than 100 missionaries in a secret operation that was the largest expulsion campaign of foreign missionaries in over half a century, according to Christian Newswire. These missionaries were lucky. China is one of the more forgiving countries when it comes to illegal missionary activity.
Missionaries in Islamic countries face a greater risk.
The two Baylor alumnae and other members of Now International, who were arrested by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, is one example of the persecution undercover missionaries may face. A year later, three missionaries were killed in Yemen by an Islamic militant. The Yemen government eventually executed the convicted murderer, but there still exist countless Islamic radicals who view Christian missionaries as attempting to eradicate Islam and shame the culture.
Christians have been attempting to secretly convert people since The Crusades, but that doesn’t make it ethical, especially in the modern world where diplomacy is pivotal in ensuring peace among nations.
Undercover missionaries break laws, above all else. Laws are created to instill order within society and ensure that individuals’ beliefs do not put the greater population in danger. One’s Christian values and morals, as noble as they may be, do not justify blatant disobedience of a country’s laws.
Undoubtedly, missionaries go with a pure purpose, and usually the belief that sharing Christianity overrides all else. From a logical angle, personal beliefs, i.e. a religion, should never be allowed to trump the law. Guerrilla-style evangelism is no exception.
The murkier of issues are ethical in nature. By disobeying local law and disregarding a country’s culture, missionaries endanger the lives of those they successfully convert. The Barnabas Fund, a Christian persecution watchdog, recently reported that inflated figures citing the amount of Muslim converts to Christianity have increased danger for converts and Westerners in Islamic countries. Muslims in these countries have used such figures to incite public outrage against the Christian evangelical movement.
For safety purposes, secret missionaries often enter a country under the guise of a profession such as a teacher or medical aid worker and are forced to live by false pretenses. Jesus never lied, according to the Bible. Missionaries who preach Jesus Christ’s ultimate message of truth, while simultaneously sidestepping laws and cultural values, send the wrong message.
Before crossing cultural and legal boundaries to harvest unsaved souls, Christian missionaries should evaluate what message they are conveying, and rethink what Jesus truly meant when he said in Matthew 4:19, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Would He have been so reckless in today’s world?
Liz Foreman is a junior international studies and journalism major from Beaumont and the assistant city editor of The Baylor Lariat.