What the Missionaries Taught
by: Russell Odell © 1986
Reprinted with permission from the Ask Why web site.
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I used to go to the Sunday Night Church Services with my mother when the visiting missionaries from Africa were to talk. I hoped they would tell about the lions, elephants, rhinos and all the other wild animals, but that never happened. All they talked about was saving the natives’ souls for Christ. They spent many words on how they rescued them from their pagan gods.
I asked my mother what was the difference between her God and the African’s Pagan God. She told me the God we believed in was the only true God. All the other gods were false gods; untrue gods; pagan gods; bad gods. Those gods belonged to the devil.
I asked my father, who was atheistic, the same question. He told me that every religion has their own God and the God they believed in is supposed to be the only true God. All the other religions’ Gods were considered pagan gods. "Basically," he said, "it was strictly a matter of personal opinion."
When I asked my Sunday School teacher about this, she told me my mother was right and my father was wrong. I knew my mother and father would not lie to me and I found this very confusing. I satisfied myself that it was as my father said, "A matter of personal opinion." I also noticed when reading religious articles, their God was always spelled with a capital "G", while other Gods were spelled with a small case "g". This tactic seems to be allowable religious discrimination.
I began to remember the stories the missionaries from Africa told at their Sunday Night Sermons. When they first encountered the natives in the jungle, the natives had never seen a white man, never saw a shirt with buttons, and never saw a pair of shoes and they believed in their God who lived somewhere up in the sky. Strangely, the white man’s God also lived somewhere up in the sky.
The natives had a special man such as a witch doctor, who was in charge of their religious functions. He dressed differently than the natives; wore a special head piece with feathers in it; wore a special necklace of animal teeth and a garment made of animal skin.
The white man’s religion has a similar head man to conduct their religious functions. They are called ministers, priests or rabbis. They, too, dress differently than their congregation. They wear a special robe; a sacred string of beads with a cross hanging from it. They wear special little hats according to how important they are in their religious hierarchy as though their God holds some in higher esteem than others. This format is no different from that of the witch doctor.
The natives offered sacrifices to their god. The white man’s religion did the same thing. Isaac and Abraham offered sacrifices to their God and Christ was sacrificed for mankind.
The natives met in a special or more sacred grass hut to worship their God. The Christians, too, meet in a special building to worship their God. They call them chapels, churches or cathedrals.
The natives sang chants to their god. Christians do the same thing only they call them hymns.
The natives believed in a life after death of some sort having to do with spirits. Christians too, believe in life after death having to do with spirits.
All this I pieced together from what the missionaries told me. Natives in the African jungles had the same format, step by step. The only difference is, the Christians have polished and fine tuned the format with great finesse, and made it into a million dollar business. The natives were not smart enough to capitalize on their religious congregations as the white man did.
It appears that every clan of people adopts a religion to fit their culture. Because of the variations in the cultures of civilization, religions varied also. Each sought their own God in their own way to fit their needs. Who is to say they are wrong and you are right? Basically, God is the same God, it is just the different way we interpret what He is to us.
Those missionaries from Africa didn’t tell me any stories about the wild animals, however, inadvertently, they did tell me much about the religion of one animal.