In the previous post we looked at a paradigm of missions embedded in the language of sexuality. Today we will take this paradigm a bit further. Let’s consider what the opposite act of masturbation would be. A word that comes to mind is rape. Rape is an act that constitutes someone wanting to gratify themselves by forcing themselves onto the other. This act negates the will of the other person and usually consists in de-personifying someone. By ignoring who they are, the rapist can impose themselves onto someone else. It negates the normal rhythms of give and receive and forcefully gives something which in actual fact is masked by a desire to receive. The rapist, in other words, give something but the main aim is to receive. In this sense it overlaps with masturbation with the exception that the desire for self-gratification moves from the realm of fantasy into realism. The continuum now looks like this:
Living here on the African continent, brings one into contact with a lot of this kind of ‘missions’. It is the absolute characteristic of missions as colonialism. It is perfectly summed up in a statement that non-European Africans make. “When the white man came to our country, they had the Bible and we had the land. Then we closed our eyes to pray. When we opened our eyes, we had the Bible and they had the land.” This “rape missions” has to do with the spirit of conquest. It is shown in our culture’s opaque use of the phrase “war on” the war on terror, the war on crime, the war on poverty. The church has a devastating history of dealing in this rape missions – the crusades being its main exhibit.
A few months after I started my journey of following Jesus I zoned in on a homeless man in order to do ‘missions’. In a deftly fashion I took him through the spiritual laws also known as the Roman Road. In the middle of my diatribe he looked me in the eyes and said something I will never forget. He said, “I’m really just another scalp to you, am I not?” The truth is that he was. It was not relational, I wanted to rape him for my own ego. Instead of celebrating our common humanness I was the one who saw myself as potent and I wanted to share it – so that I could receive something (adulation from friends and leaders mostly). It is this kind of missional activity that pillages local cultures in the name of ‘development’ and forces native people to give up their ‘barbaric ways.’ I think a lot of ‘short term missions’ fall into this category and also in the masturbation category. It can either become a scenario where we force people to ‘accept Christ’ or one in which we practice a kind of spiritual voyeurism.
This ‘rape’ missions has at its heart a deep-seated mechanism of objectifying people. This flattening of the contours of peoples’ lives and stories can be achieved when people become statistics or objects for our missions. Do you have any thoughts on this?