Christian spycraft

January 1, 0001

Wednesday, an op-ed appeared on CNN entitled, “Three arguments against covert Christian ‘spycraft.'” The piece articulates a perceived problem:

In order to get inside these “closed” countries, some missionaries pose as aid workers, teachers and business owners. Under the guise of work they think a hostile government or population will find valuable, they sneak in, concealing their true aim: to convert as many as possible to their religion.

It argues this approach is (1) fundamentally dishonest, (2) undermines the cause of religious freedom, and (3) puts a target on the backs of local Christians. It suggests the solution is to “be honest” about one’s intentions:

Here is my challenge to those who want to bring their faith into the hard places: Stand in the open, in the light of day. If you want to convert others, open churches or engage in religious debate, be honest about that. If honesty comes with higher risk, own it. And if you dare to say you are a businessperson, a teacher or an aid worker dealing with people at the height of human suffering, then by God, be great at it. Drop the shell game. Show the world there is something worth living – and dying – for.

I agree with “not posing” as something we are not. When he says, “if you dare to say you are x, be great at it,” I wholeheartedly say, “Amen!” On the other hand, I firmly disagree one should (must) always state up front one’s intentions about bringing faith into hard places. We are told to be “wise as serpents but innocent as doves.” I don’t think laying one’s cards on the table at the customs counter is very wise. I am firmly against the idea of fake businesses, fake aid, fake education, and demanding conversion to receive blessing. But at the same time it seems to me one can enter on an honest platform of being a blessing, with the less trumpeted intention of being a further blessing (the Gospel) where possible. Sometimes these arguments as cast as either/or situations, when they are more nuanced than that.