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The Problematic Nature of Church Missionaries

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

Growing up in a small town usually means your close-knit community also centers around church. This is usually met with trips and events to promote evangelism. As a preteen, this means attending church camp, summer camps and overnight, weekend trips to different church events in cities other than your own. As a teenager, this means going on a missionary trip to a third world country. To some, including the church, this is a good thing, and I am not undermining the work that is done. However, these trips are problematic in nature.

Colonialism during the 19th and 20th century was often disguised as missionary work. The need to spread one’s own faith helps breed ideas that Christianity is the only true faith and so, inherently, Christians are better than all other people who do not identify with Christian.

Although we now understand the implications of colonialism in various nations is and continues to be problematic as it breeds racism and hate, modern day missionaries still carry and instill this ideology.

I’m sorry, but someone posting a picture with poor emaciated children with the caption “I count my blessings everyday” or “God’s will is being done” on an Instagram post is not bringing awareness to the children or the problems they deal with everyday. It is solely benefiting the person by how many likes they can get and the self-glorifying notion they now have.

It would be different if the people making these posts truly cared but in retrospect, they will return to their life of luxury and continue to type on their brand new phones without thinking of the amount of privilege it takes to do so.

I’m sure at this point I have angered some. However, keep in mind that these superiority notions that one adapts from the church come directly from the doctrine and are further solidified by doing missionary work. The idea that if they are not Christian then they are damned and therefore, by all accounts you are better.

The work that is being done is temporary. It serves as a facade; a way of saying, “look at the good works I am doing” without regard to the long-term. If there is a problem than it is a problem with the system itself.

That is not to say, I am undermining the work that is done. I believe that the act of building houses and sending money and packaging food is important. All of these are beautiful things and should continue, but if you truly cared about the people that have allegedly touched your heart then you should focus your energy when you return on making their lives easier. For example, do not shop at places that exploit them, that includes that venti iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks because where and how do you think they get their coffee? Continually send money to the families that touched you, do your research and don’t support politicians who continue to aid in the exploitation of these people.

If you are part of the few that do then I am sorry, this article wasn’t meant for you. I expect you feel the same. If you are apart of the majority that goes on these mission trips to feel better about yourself then you are part of the problem, and you should fix it.

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Emily Holter is a Freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University. She studies Mass Communications with a concentration in Print and Online Journalism. She is an avid reader of books, a lover of all things Cher, and a flower enthusiast. Most days, she is tucked away in a coffee shop, sipping on her black coffee and enjoying light conversation.
Keziah is a writer for Her Campus. She is majoring in Fashion Design with a minor in Fashion Merchandising. HCXO!