Monday, July 17, 2017

The Great (Virtue Signaling) Commission

The most well known ending of the four Gospels is found in Matthew 28:18-20. Jesus speaking to His disciples upon rising from the grave sends them forth with Good News....
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18-20 KJV)
These words are the command of Christ that has driven much of the church for the next 2000 years. Countless missionaries and evangelists have gone to all the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel. They have also gone across the street. Later in the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we see more details from Jesus on this sending:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
Take note of the order. The Gospel goes out locally to globally. He doesn't say this and I am loathe to put words in His mouth but it seems that He is saying that we should preach where we are first and foremost. Even in America with a church on every corner and sometimes two, there are a ton of unsaved people. That is due in part to our assumption that being an American = being a Christian and also thanks to a ton of confused to heretical "churches". From liberal, apostate denominations like the United Methodists and the Episcopalians to historic enemies of the Gospel like the original globalists in Roman Catholicism to out-and-out heretics like the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, America has been a breeding ground from cranks and crackpots and has proven to be fertile soil for both the Gospel and for anti-Christs.

If you ask any even slightly aware Christian they will admit that there are a ton of people who are lost in a small circle around their home and that there are a ton of people with real, legitimate needs in that same circle. So why then do we see so much focus on overseas mission and mercy work?

The simple answer is that it is White guilt mission porn, virtue signaling under the guise of the Gospel. Most of my social media contacts in my "real" life are Christians and that means social media pages full of photos of White Christians in some far off land, grinning at the camera with a black, Hispanic or Southeast Asian kid. They are overwhelmingly "vacationaries", blending a week or two long "mission trip" with a little vacation to an exotic locale. It is how we get street cred in church. Why don't we see photos very often of those same folks in Appalachia or other rural areas in the U.S. wrecked by opiod addiction, broken families, unwed mothers, unemployment, hunger and poor medical and dental care? Read Hillbilly Elegy and tell me there isn't a need in rural, White America. I am afraid the answer is that we feel better about ourselves if we are seen to be "helping" non-Whites. A picture of me with a little boy in West Virginia coal country is not going to get a lot of heart "likes" and emoji on Facebook. But a picture with a little girl in Vietnam or a couple of little black kids in Ethiopia is going to shower me with virtue signaling manna. Perhaps you think I am being harsh but if you are honest with yourself you know I am right. Even Samaritan's Purse, a monster of a relief agency with over $634,000,000 in contributions and other support according to their annual report, a number that staggered me even though I was expecting a large figure, bills itself as an "International Relief" agency and fills their webpage and annual report and marketing materials with pictures of kids from around the world, even though they actually do a lot of work in the United States. One place you won't find much diversity is on their board of directors who all kind of look like me, just older:

A dozen board members and they are 100% White men. Many would complain about a lack of diversity. I would too, where are all of the "people of color"? Or is mission work overseas just a burden for Whites? I am willing to bet that their missionaries, aid workers, staff, etc. are also overwhelmingly White. Even though Whites are a small percentage of the world's total population, we do an incredibly out sized amount of mission and mercy work that far exceeds our representation in the world. Yes I know, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more. " (Luke 12:48). Also "With great power comes great responsibility", Spiderman's Uncle Ben Parker. I don't deny that. I also understand that in the U.S. a lot of the social safety net is already provided by the Feds. I just don't see where "Well Caesar has America covered, so off to Ecuador we go!" is in the Bible. Many Christians have been on a lifelong guilt trip from the pulpit that tells them that they should feel bad about having running water and Uber.

Another issue is simple stewardship. For example, just using Travelocity and picking a date in September, I found airfare for one from O'Hare to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is over $1,000 and that cheapest flight takes over 38 hours and sounds kind of sketchy. That doesn't take into account other expenses like meals, housing while you are there, vaccinations, extra cost for luggage, the need for a passport, the time commitment, etc. On the other hand, driving from Chicago to Charleston, WV is about a 500 mile trip and takes about 7 hours. Even in a big church van getting 10 mpg that is 100 gallons of gas round trip and at an inflated $2.50 a gallon that is $250 plus meals and accommodations. The difference is that a big church van can carry a dozen people or more so the cost per person is next to nothing compared to over a grand for a single person to go to Ethiopia. So ten people could go to West Virginia for less than the cost of one person going to Ethiopia. Rather than sending White aid workers and missionaries overseas, it is much more cost-effective to have them serve and evangelize in the U.S. and if you are so led send cash to local aid groups and missionaries so that they can make a living and also work with people with whom they share a culture and language, instead of English speaking Whites. If you don't think places with a heavy mission work presence like Guatemala, Haiti and others have a lot of people who take advantage of White American Christians, you are naive. I have been overseas and I know it happens. For a fraction of the cost and with far greater impact American churches can aid people in the U.S. who need help and the Gospel plus reach far more efficiently and effectively people in third world nations by supporting local missionaries.

Don't even get me started on the need for the Gospel in Europe. According to one survey, something like 5% of of people in the United Kingdom attend church services, which is by far the lowest bar possible for gauging actual faith, and American Christians share a lot of culture and have a common language with Brits. In other Western European nations the numbers are just as bad. Only in places like Poland is church attendance still strong and most Poles are attending the Catholic Mass which is almost as bad as not going to church at all. In general, apart from Muslim majority nations, according to Wikipedia the least Christian nations are European. So why no mission trips to England or Poland or the Ukraine or Sweden? I know of some Christians that do go to majority White nations like Russia and the Ukraine but nowhere near the numbers that go to non-White nations. The only explanation that makes sense is that we get more satisfaction out of being seen to be compassionate toward black and brown people than we do White people. Little Colombian or Kenyan orphans generate more social media love than little Russian orphans even though it seems iron-clad to me that it is more efficient and effective to send money instead of White missionaries and aid workers.

Somewhere along the line we seem to have forgotten the purpose of the Great Commission. It is to spread the Gospel and make disciples, not to go for a week to a third world nation so we can post pictures on Instagram of little brown and black kids to signal our virtue. It is not that I think non-Whites are less in need of or deserving of the Gospel and simple mercy. The Gospel is for all people everywhere. I am simply making the case that we need to be smart and realistic about how we allocate our resources. For what it costs to send a "team" of "missionaries" to some third world country for a week to paint a building and take pictures of little non-White kids you could realistically fund a number of indigenous workers for a year or more. Hire a Dominican to paint the orphanage so he can also feed his family instead of paying thousands of dollars so a White church lady can do the same thing.

Let's set our virtue signaling and White guilt aside and start serving with our heads as well as our hearts. You don't get extra points in Heaven by guilt-driven fundraising to go to Ghana instead of going to Alabama and the Lamb's Book of Life doesn't have links to your Facebook page.

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