Christmas is around the corner in the Western world. It finally caught up with Cambodia too. It was here before but this year it really made a big splash, so to speak, what with all the Christmas carols blaring from the sound systems of the shopping malls and supermarkets, like Lucky and Bayon, and with (artificial) Christmas trees in many restaurants; even the ones where you wouldn’t expect it, like my favorite Chinese-Khmer breakfast place, the Mekong. Thankfully, I believe most Cambodians ignore all that hustle and bustle that is normally associated with the pre-Christmas season, e. g. buying presents (after all who has the money), the office parties, etc.
Now since this is a Christian holiday, that is, before it declined into a purely commercial event, this brings me to the question why there are so many Christian organizations in Cambodia. They really seem to proliferate. It appears as if it’s mostly American and Australian churches, or denominations, that abound. Of course, Americans have always been great missionaries, and they are found all over the world. Wasn’t it American missionaries that annexed Hawaii? But you also have your German Lutherans, and Roman Catholics, e. g. the Don Bosco padres, etc.
I know I am not the only one who is asking himself the question whether or not all these Christian organizations are here for the help they extend to the poor and needy, or are they here for their souls? Now, why would a family of six from Oklahoma pack up and go to live in Cambodia? Aren’t there any souls to be saved in their dusty home state? Wouldn’t they have a much more comfortable life back home? Why leave all that for some backwater, ‘uncivilized’ country like Cambodia?
Yeah, I know, they all do good work here, and traditionally churches have always been on the forefront of humanitarian aid. But obviously, their underlying purpose is to proselytize and convert people to the Christian belief, whether it’s Protestant or Catholic, with the numerous protestant denominations outweighing the Catholics 99 to 1, I would guess. One of their insidious ways of getting Cambodian converts is by schooling them. One primary example appears to be the Hope schools, incl. Logos. They teach a normal American curriculum but each day has one period of Christian lessons, like Bible study. They also teach the theory of Intelligent Design (including that ridiculous belief that the earth is about 5,000 years old), alas alongside the Darwinian Theory. Those schools are not for free, but they do offer scholarships to Cambodian children. Some Christian schools, though, offer a free elementary education; that age period when children are most impressionable and easily indoctrinated.
I wonder who funds all these NGOs. I know people in the West donate tons of money for good causes, and in the U. S. whole churches exist on their members’ donations. So is this where all the money comes from? And it’s not that these missionaries live an ascetic life. No, they drive nice cars, mostly SUVs, rent villas, and employ maids. I guess it must be worth it to leave all that materialism behind and help people here.
In the plus-column, though, we can note that they do offer a quality education, if you disregard their religious lessons, they do help with community projects, they do provide much-needed health care in some rural areas. But could they just do it without wanting to convert people, or to show them the ways of the Christian God and their Savior Jesus?
After all, the Cambodians have an older, perfectly acceptable, and livable religion in Buddhism, or philosophy as some would say, in terms of how to live a good life. Some would say it is a better religion as it has not brought forth so much evil that was committed in the name of Christianity.
I mean, Christian ethics as expressed in their 10 commandments, which actually is a Judaic postulate, and the teachings of their prophet Jesus weren’t new ideas. The same principles were espoused long before Jesus came along. Plato and Socrates come to mind. Buddha laid down more or less the same principles. That all happened well before Jesus’ time.
Christianity is just a sect that sprang from Judaism, just as Islam did. Religion has a way of splitting up into Churches. It’s only too human. When people differ in their beliefs, they just start their own church. And there is no place like the U. S. where anybody can start their own church, mega-churches even, that oftentimes rake in millions of dollars. Similarly, anybody can come to Cambodia in the name of Christianity, start an NGO, collect money, and do some good work, right? Don’t get me wrong. I am not accusing any organization of coming here for the money. But it would be possible, now wouldn’t it?
And what are these Mormons doing here? At the time I was still flying back and forth between the U. S. and Cambodia, there was hardly any time when I did not see a group of Mormons on the plane that usually dispersed in Taiwan taking their flights to the different Asian destinations. Each Mormon must spend 2 years as a missionary. This is a dictum of their church. So you have them here in Cambodia, of all places, bicycling along in their white shirts, black pants, always wearing a helmet. Clean-cut, nice guys, no doubt. And you have to give it to them. They all speak Khmer. So they come well-prepared, and they surely have the most prominent ‘Christian’ building in Cambodia. But, as far as I know, they don’t do squat in terms of doing some good deeds. They just spend their time trying to convert people. Now, I would think they had better pack their magic underwear and head back to where they came from. Cambodians need them as much as a dose of VD. (Note to those who don’t know: Mormons wear special undergarments, or garments, that are supposed to protect them from evil, and also remind them of the promise they made to God. There are some other interpretations and a lot of ridicule about those magic underpants. If interested Google it.)
I mean, to each their own. Sure, let them come here and do good; and the Cambodian government lets them. Just don’t be so ostentatious about it. Cambodians regrettably copy enough of that Western, mostly Americanized, life-style as it is. They sure don’t need that Christian belief too. I am sure secular organizations could do just as good, if not better, a job. I am thinking of Oxfam, or the GTZ (German technical NGO). But as to the Mormons: you are not needed here, nor anywhere for that matter.