Sunday, December 19, 2010

Does the Country Need This?

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.


Anonymous said...

Blessed by Priesthood Power

The power of the priesthood is a sustaining influence in the lives of new Cambodian members as they mature in the gospel. Many people, such as Sam Nang, have experienced medical miracles that continue to strengthen their faith.

Early one morning as Sam rode to work on the back of a motorbike, a large truck ran into her, throwing her violently onto the pavement. No one wanted to move her until she could be identified, and being only semiconscious, she was unable to answer the bystanders’ questions. She lay in the street unattended for almost two hours.

At the hospital a doctor examined her injuries and said the bones in her right leg were “smashed to fragments.” His immediate plan was to amputate the leg just above the knee or, at best, try to pin the bones back together. Sam’s family was distraught, and they called branch president Un Son and senior missionary couple Elder LaVon and Sister Marianne Day. These leaders told the doctor to do nothing until they arrived.

After arriving at the hospital, President Son and Elder Day gave her a blessing. Despite earlier protests the doctor agreed to delay the surgery briefly, while he reviewed the recent X-rays and saw something that he couldn’t quite believe: the leg showed no fracture or sign of trauma! The only real damage was a torn muscle and large laceration, which he stitched closed. The doctor seemed to have no explanation for the abrupt change in Sam’s condition.

With some additional surgery and skin grafting, Sam will have the complete use of her leg again

KJE said...

The foregoing comment clearly shows the fantasy world many believers live in. This post was clearly written by a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, as they officially call themselves. What they attribute to priesthood power was clearly and simply incompetence by the doctor. This incident, if true, is not unique in Cambodia, or in any other underdeveloped country for that matter. Doctors are not qualified enough in modern medicine, are rash with their diagnoses, and oftentimes give the wrong treatment. Most assuredly, this was not a miracle induced by priesthood power. This is exactly what makes sects like the Mormons so unacceptable to the broader population. Of course, with their belief in miracle powers they fit right in with superstitious Cambodia.

James said...

KJE you shouldn't be so dismissive of Priesthood Powers story.

Maybe the people that did the blessing were wearing magic underwear?

Anonymous said...

"Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen recently honored the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for its humanitarian work in the country."

KJE said...

Nice article; the overtone in it, though, suggests that the author was taken by the sect, possibly even a member herself. The fact remains that they come here to convert, and to convert only. The rest is an alibi function.