I was surprised upon moving to Chiang Mai, how many missionaries live here. They work primarily with the hill tribes of Northern Thailand and I’m not sure if I like it. I’m assuming the missionaries do great charity work, perhaps bringing education, clothing, food, and shelter to the ethnic minorities and outlying communities.
There are six main hill tribes that have migrated from Southern China and Tibet. They have preserved their traditional clothing and way of life and have become a popular tourist attraction. Many visitors go “trekking” through the mountains to see them. There’s an agreement with tours and I’m sure there is a mutual financial benefit for both sides but I can’t imagine going to visit say – Native American tribes in my home country as a zoo attraction.
The U.S. Peace Corps no longer work in Thailand because it is considered developed enough but what I am discovering is a lot of NGOs or Non-Government Organizations work in the area through HIV, hospital, orphanage and educational work. And it’s wonderful to see a group of happy and healthy children going on a field trip to the King’s Mother’s Garden and people from all over the world doing charitable work. But for the higher glory of God? Why not, eh?
The Western world has an illustrious career in missionary work gone badly and when I heard about the mission Christian population in Chiang Mai, I said, “Isn’t that so 19th century?” Even when I was in church, and the preacher spoke of spreading the word of God, tell your friends, etc. I felt very uncomfortable. I could not imagine telling anyone anything about what I feel is a personal relationship between God and me.
Religion isn’t a great brand of shampoo you want to tell your friends about; it should bring you to your knees in private not public. I hate the new wave of churches today full of power points, orchestras, and microphones. It’s nothing but a show. I don’t go to church to be entertained but it seems that is exactly what church has become. Missionary work feels like a similar show, a traveling circus of entertainers here to sell you the latest miracle in a bottle.
That’s why so many people are turned off by Christianity. Who’s in charge of marketing? They need to be fired. Don’t say Jesus, we assume too often to know what he said and then we use it for our own purposes. And the hill tribe people? If they are anything like my mom they will get baptized just to please the missionaries or in my mom’s case, her mother-in-law.
But God told me so. God tells us. If God wasn’t there to tell you how to think, what would you think?
But I know people who are missionaries in Chiang Mai and I have nothing against them. I guess the next step is to find some anthropologist to study this Christian Hill Tribe phenomenon. Because I’d like to get an answer that didn’t involve, “it’s good” or “it’s easy” from the hill tribe people when asked what they think of God or Christianity.