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Ungodly Missionaries

[previously titled: Conflicting Prayers]

Copyright © 1999, 2003 by David E. Ross

… the right to be let alone — the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.

Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, 1928

News item from Yahoo! News:

Baptists to Members: Pray for Jews

FORT WORTH (AP) — Southern Baptists are asking members to pray that Jews will convert to Christianity this month during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.

Rosh Hashanah is next Saturday and Yom Kippur on Sept. 20, with both celebrations beginning at sundown the day before.

A "prayer guide" published and distributed by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board in Richmond, Va., explains the Jewish high holy days, gives sketches of Jewish people in different parts of the world and offers suggestions on how to pray for Jewish people.

The guide urges Baptists to "to pray for Jewish individuals you know by name."

Also reported in the Los Angeles Times

On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, this Jew will pray that thoughtless busybodies will mind their own businesses and stop sticking their big noses into the religious beliefs of others.

Yes, I have a very large problem with religious proselytizing. Efforts to convert a person from one belief to another — by the Baptists to convert Jews to Christianity — assume that the missionaries' belief is the one true way and that the victim's belief is false and in error. What an inexcusable insult! Such rudeness!

God is neither a Christian nor a Jew. God is God.

5 September 1999

Another news item from Yahoo! News:

Baptist Prayer Guide Sparks Controversy

(CHARLOTTE) — As the Jewish High Holy Days begin, a Southern Baptist pamphlet is raising some eyebrows. The Jewish New Year begins today at sundown and continues through Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, one week from Monday. The Southern Baptist Convention Mission Board has released a prayer guide that asks its members to pray for the Jews.

Some Jewish leaders say the pamphlet, which attempts to explain the holidays, is an effort to convert Jews to Christianity. Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic of Temple Beth El in Charlotte says she hopes the Baptists will place more emphasis on understanding different religions and less on conversion.

Don Kammerdiener, the executive vice president of the Mission Board, says part of the church's mission is to bear witness of Christ's love to other faiths. The International Missions board has published a similar guide to help Christians pray for Muslims during the annual Holy Days of Ramadan. Similar guides are planned for prayer efforts focusing on Hindus and Buddhists.

This attempt to eliminate Judaism is no less anti-Semitic than the policy of the Russian Czar a century ago: to convert one-third of the Jews to the Russian Orthodox Church, to exterminate one-third, and to drive one-third into exile. Fortunately for me, my grandparents chose to be in the "lucky" last group.

There might indeed be one true path to God and heaven. However, the intolerance for other faiths shown by the Baptists — an intolerance towards those who remain steadfast in their differing beliefs — indicates that the Southern Baptists are not on that path.

10 September 1999

Another news item from Yahoo! News:

U.S. Baptists Target World's Hindus For Prayer

NASHVILLE (Reuters) — The largest U.S. Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is poised to launch a prayer effort for the world's 900 million Hindus who it believes are locked in "spiritual bondage," a church official said Friday.

The group's International Mission Board, based in Richmond, Virginia, is distributing prayer booklets to its 41,000 churches asking members to pray for Hindus during that faith's annual festival of lights, Divali, beginning November 3.

"We want to invite Southern Baptists to pray that the world's Hindus might be convicted of sin and see Jesus is the Light of the world," [said Bill Merrell, vice president of communications for the 15.8-million-member Nashville-based group.]

The prayer guide is the third in a series. Previous publications were aimed at Jews and Muslims, and the mission board said it has a fourth guide under development that will target Buddhism.

No, the Southern Baptists are not merely anti-Semitic (by trying to eliminate Judaism through conversions). They are equal-opportunity, arrogant, intolerant zealots who cannot see value in any belief different from their own. Since God loves all peoples, the Southern Baptists are much farther away from a true path to God than members of other, more tolerant religions.

22 October 1999

My complaint is not directed specifically at the Southern Baptists. Missionaries of all faiths are equally wrong. Here is another news item from Yahoo! News.

Pope Says Religion Conversion Is Human Right

NEW DELHI (Reuters) — Pope John Paul, ignoring Hindu appeals to halt the Roman Catholic church's drive for converts in Asia, told other religious leaders Sunday that converting to another religion had to be recognized as a right.

"No state, no group has the right to control either directly or indirectly a person's religious convictions," the Pope told religious leaders including Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jainists, Zorastrians, Jews and Bahais.

"Religious freedom constitutes the very heart of human rights. Its inviolability is such that individuals must be recognized as having the right even to change their religion if their conscience so demands," he said.

"Religious people are more busy in increasing the number of their followers rather than paying attention to the challenges besetting religion," Jainist guru Acharya Mahaprajna told reporters.

"Everyone is free to propagate their religion but nobody should press anybody," said Sikh holy man Bhai Manjit Singh. Asked if the Catholics were going too far, he said: "In India we hear talk that there are some cases of trying to convert by force. If it is true, it should not be there."

The Jainists and Sikhs understand. They know that active proselytizing for religious conversion requires that the missionary show an insulting disrespect for his target's beliefs. They see something wrong when missionaries pry into the differing beliefs of others.

Yes, if someone wants to change his or her religion, the Pope is correct. Anybody has the right to change his own religion. The problem arises when somebody wants to change someone else's religion. Thus, the Pope expressed only part of a person's rights regarding conversion. He failed to recognize that my right to convert includes my right not to convert, to be free of pressure from others to abandon my current religion, to be let alone. He failed to denounce the arrogance of those who believe they alone hold a monopoly over the path to God and heaven.

7 November 1999

When missionaries attempt to change an intrinsic characteristic of a person's being, they mix ignorance with arrogance.

S. Baptists Announce Initiative on Gays

Wed Jun 18
By RACHEL ZOLL, AP Religion Writer

PHOENIX — The Southern Baptist Convention has started an initiative to "liberate" gays from their homosexuality by befriending them and convincing them they should accept Jesus as their savior.

At the denomination's annual meeting, which ends Wednesday night, leaders asked their 42,000 churches to reach out compassionately to gays, focusing on how Christianity can save them.

"Homosexuals can find freedom from this sinful, destructive lifestyle," said Richard Land, head of the Southern Baptists' public policy arm. "They can be redeemed. They can be liberated."

Many gays would rather find freedom from interfering, ignorant missionaries. They too have the right to be let alone.

4 July 2003

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Note that the news articles quoted above are copyrighted by Yahoo!, Reuters, and Associated Press and are not covered by my copyright notice. My copyright applies only to my comments about those articles.

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