Thursday, December 06, 2012

Something Evil Lies in the Heart of the New Tribe Missionaries.....

What I find to be a particularly noxious nature in the undertaking of missionary work in general, grounded as it is in a fundamental imbalance of power, and predicated on the giving of conditional gifts, with services that have strings attached---other groups, like the conservative and evangelical Christians who've long supported it financially, and as the doers in these "good works," view as one of their most noble endeavors, a long running success story in fulfillment of the requirements of their belief, and so bring about God's plan for salvation, which includes, by the way, an impending Apocalypse to sort out the winners and losers.

Any lingering hope in me that there might be some truth in that opposing view, so that I might be reconciled with a more positive outlook on humanity, has been dashed recently as I've studied kidnapping cases in the Philippines, like that of Gracia and Martin Burnham, who were second-generation missionaries there with the "New Tribes Mission," headquartered in Sanford, FL.

In fact, evidence is mounting that I'd been too soft in my conclusion, with certain churches and seats of religious power in the United States and abroad likely to be hiding places of the Prince of Darkness himself. This would make strategic sense, from his point of view, that is, since the only requirement for membership in the evangelical club is to assume an intellectual attitude (also known as making a decision,) about something completely unknowable, (like placing an off-track bet on a horse without a tip-sheet,) then never, ever wavering, as you ignore anything that passes by in life which you could possibly chew on.

For instance, in the first of New Tribes Mission's Statement of Beliefs below, along with the total inspiration and final authority of the Bible, comes the word "sufficiency" (although I think what they really mean is "exclusivity," of which sufficiency is only the admitted byproduct.) This could refer to major archaeological finds like the Dead Sea Scrolls, whose study influenced my understanding greatly. Any "argument" over archaeological geology, and the selfcenteredness behind belief in creationism, can't compare to missing out on some fresh words from Jesus. This would say to me they must think that God is either dead, or at least inactive.

Then there is some very scary updating to the language expressing their sixth belief: "That salvation is a free and everlasting gift of God, entirely apart from works, received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." This has always meant, to everyone, I thought, that there was no necessity to do any good deeds to assure a spot in heaven---itself a highly questionable theological position. But this is saying just the opposite---that no amount or quality or motivation behind even bad or evil works, or deeds, or acts, could stem the inevitability of "heaven."

This is the great moral waiver behind what I find is a RICO conspiracy of church members-in-good-standing who have done everything from faking their own deaths and kidnappings, as the Burnham's did, to following through on the charade, such as Gracia Burnham's lying on the witness stand to win convictions in death-penalty trials against 14 fall-guys who were also co-conspiring, just for different reasons. Of the thousands of "little people" it took to execute plans on September 11, 2001, many came from this same population.

This is not Christianity--and for lack of a better term we have to call it Satanism, with its capital S, for a misguided people in the thrall of a power greater than themselves.

Satanism is also what we see on display in an article written about a community church "planted" by the New Tribes Missionaries in the mountains of the Philippines 19 years previously, where the indigenous communities were comprised of native animists.

Published in Religion Today on December 6, 2000---near the actual end of the millennial era widely feared and celebrated the year before---its title, Tribe Rises "From Fear to Faith", would have been a laudable goal for a conversion, were it not apparent from the text that the maintenance of a fear-based social order was the underlying agenda.

Pairs of disconnected dichotomies describe a "tribe of spirit worshipers" who also, "lived in fear of evil spirits that brought sickness, disaster, and condemnation to a hellish afterlife.."
"It is wonderful to see what the Lord has done there - it's an incredible story," the ministry's Oli Jacobsen told Religion Today. He was the field chairman in the Philippines in 1981 and helped select the Higaunon tribe for a missionary visit.
Giving the Lord credit for the development of the community is thoughtful, but after-the-fact. I'm interested in what the criteria was for "selecting"---a term that brings to mind cattle cars and rail sidings---where the missionary resources were to be placed

But it is in the totally negative litany of a "before" spirit life that I find fault with New Tribes missionaries, who lacked any training or possibility for appreciation of native cultures
...The Higaunon of Mindanao island feared spirits they believed inhabited rocks and trees. The spirits, they believed, had to be appeased to ward off sickness and disaster, according to New Tribes. The tribe feared death most of all and relied on special spirits to tell them what rituals to perform and laws to observe to avoid going to a terrible place after they died.
...They also worshiped ancestral spirits that were said to protect the village from natural disasters and bring good crops. Shamans, who claimed to hear the spirits, controlled the people, telling them what they had done to deserve punishment and how to atone for their transgressions, according to New Tribes.
To me, this sounds like a lot like western religious thought, just with different props.

Then a certain Imbos Asihagan is quoted, who's otherwise unidentified, but obviously a Christian convert there to bad mouth an old life---if not say anything good about the new.
Rituals sometimes involved child sacrifice. A baby born with the umbilical cord wrapped around its neck was considered a bad omen and had to be buried immediately to ward off sickness, Imbos Asihagan told New Tribes. "We didn't like doing this because often we hear the baby screaming for a long time under the ground," she said.
This atrocious imagery is obviously the fabrication of a sick imagination. In the third-word, absent the ability to do an emergency C-section, a baby born with its umbilical cord around its neck would suffocate in the birth canal, or very shortly after the deliver. It would never have taken its first breath of life, let alone have some left over with which to make sound after a burial alive. That this cock-and-bull story was placed third-hand into the mouth of a certain Ms. Asihagan, a woman, if not herself a mother, adds to the nonsense.

To extend this lie into a libel that nativists were so controlled by negative spirit masters that they were obligated to devalue life and do something "they didn't like" doing---like an American mother's 4-second rule, where food dropped on the floor is still sanitary if picked up quickly enough---is a negative projection out of the thought processes of New Tribes missionaries themselves.

Furthermore, to categorize a universal tragedy as a "Ritual involving child sacrifice," displays an inability of these Christians to empathize with, or value anything non-Christian, codifying into another article of faith a possible number 15 for the list above: Christianize or die.

Calling them "operatives for the Central Intelligence Agency," in October, 2005, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ordered the entire 160-person-contingent crew of New Tribes missionaries out of his country, expelling them for subversive neo-colonial activity against the state. New Tribes rebutted by saying Chavez's action came after Pat Robertson called for the assassination of the Venezuelan leader on American television, then issuing a tardy apology.

But by conflating the two, New Tribes does its cause more harm than good. Overseas, the politics of a fatwa will be solved by an American drone attack; here in America, Robertson was forced into an apology but otherwise remained under his protective umbrella

Several facts on the brief Our Heritage page of the New Tribes Mission's web site would indicate that the organization's founders were indeed functioning as clandestine operatives of United States' intelligence agencies, whose doctrine in support of a de facto imperialism is at odds with the principles of Christianity.

First, is the year of the organization's birth in 1942, at the heart of the disruptions of the second World War. Given the total control exercised by the American military within lines overseas, no independently arising organization of any stripe could have been conceptualized and launched then, let alone one which promised to go where no others had gone before---to the "unreached" peoples at the furthest edges of "civilization," who had yet to hear "the word."

Second, only one man, Paul Fleming, out of the six said to be the founders of New Tribes Missions, is identified, and that is unfair to history, and to the other founders. Anonymity has its spiritual uses, but more often it's found holding up a scrim behind which hide a whole range of activities from general public knowledge. Secrets are kept because they have to be, not because they are "innocent fun."

Third, New Tribes Mission is described as having had "no funds or organization behind them when they dared to trust God to establish NTM," and this is naive as to the sole method God will work in to originate or develop anything, which is through the agency of human beings, who are guided, or misguided, by inspiration of a power greater than themselves. Some force below the level of God and above the level of individuals brought into being a resource-consuming, ostensibly charitably endowed organization, and in the absence of an honest, logical explanation, we may assume the obvious.

Charities are subject to the same competitive urges as any other sphere of human endeavor. Some get ahead and prosper while others languish and die, often for reasons that appear inexplicable to the observer. For an organization specializing in a "flying ministry," whose small aircraft go into the most inaccessible international locals, intelligence agencies would have been derelict not to have availed themselves of the opportunity. As the Bible says, by their fruits we shall know them.

The explicitly political nature of the New Tribes Mission's quest, as well as a further dose of their anti-intellectual misreading of the world, comes in the article's penultimate paragraph:
...Christians in Baligiyan started taking the gospel message to other Higaunon villages. One man, Mosing, loved to go to the villages to teach about Christ, and many people were becoming Christians through his ministry, New Tribes said. Communist rebels, fearful of the growing church, warned him to stop but he refused and was murdered in 1985, the ministry said.
There are real Christians functioning in traditional roles as missionaries, who work with the poor in third-world settings like the Philippines, but having lived amongst them, sharing in the burden of being born at the bottom of a system of inequitable division, these religious workers tend to develop leftist politics pretty quickly. The cause of poverty has never been an inadequacy in someone's belief in the Christmas story. Nor has anyone ever been politically murdered for mere popularity, as New Tribes somehow would have it. But working for economic justice anywhere in the world could make you the target of elimination by special interests enforcing a status quo where they reap the goods.

Martin and Gracia Burnham had nothing to fear on that account. It was their chance stay at a posh $220 a night resort, (which carried a 2-night minimum, by the way,) along with the company of more happily philandering couples than married ones, that was just a case of---gee whiz---gosh darn---don't swear now--bad luck, that that particular Sunday Abu Sayyaf planned to raid.

So it was a slight misnomer for Hugo Chavez to call New Tribes "agents of the C.I.A.," particularly since New Tribes was founded in advance.* A better construction would be that organizations like the C.I.A. are beholden to certain religious ideologies like that of New Tribes, who justify their private agendas at the expense of a somewhat amorphous "public good." Together they are "family," and like having an uncle in the wholesale rug business, when somebody needs rugs, they know where to go.

*Actually, according to Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett, in In Thy Will Be Done, the association between the intelligence community and Christian missionaries predates the public emergence of the CIA. They write of the Wycliffe Bible Translator's (also known as the Summer Institute of Linguistic -SIL) and its founder William Cameron Townsend's association with the intelligence community.New Tribes Mission is closely related to Wycliffe Summer. 
May 15, 2001,

October 19, 2005, Religion Today, Missionaries Deny Venezuelan Leaders' Charge of Espionage, by Allie Martin and Jenni Parker, Agape Press

December 6, 2000, Religion Today, Tribe Rises "From Fear to Faith,"

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