Undercover missions can’t justify breaking laws

Source:  Lariat Online (Baylor University), Jan 28, 2009

Undercover missions are an irresponsible means to spread Christianity.
This type of mission work has created an ethical quandary that
evangelicals are at a loss to justify.

While the mission of seeking out unsaved souls is an admirable one, it
is dangerous to do so in a country where Christian evangelism is
illegal. When a missionary goes to work in one of these places, they
not only endanger themselves, but converts as well.

In the summer of 2007, China expelled more than 100
missionaries in a secret operation that was the largest expulsion
campaign of foreign missionaries in over half a century, according to
Christian Newswire. These missionaries were lucky. China is one of the
more forgiving countries when it comes to illegal missionary activity.

Missionaries in Islamic countries face a greater risk.

The two Baylor alumnae and other members of Now International, who were
arrested by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001, is one example of the
persecution undercover missionaries may face. A year later, three
missionaries were killed in Yemen by an Islamic militant. The Yemen
government eventually executed the convicted murderer, but there still
exist countless Islamic radicals who view Christian missionaries as
attempting to eradicate Islam and shame the culture.

Christians have been attempting to secretly convert people since The
Crusades, but that doesn't make it ethical, especially in the modern
world where diplomacy is pivotal in ensuring peace among nations.

Undercover missionaries break laws, above all else. Laws are created to
instill order within society and ensure that individuals' beliefs do
not put the greater population in danger. One's Christian values and
morals, as noble as they may be, do not justify blatant disobedience of
a country's laws.

Undoubtedly, missionaries go with a pure purpose, and usually the
belief that sharing Christianity overrides all else. From a logical
angle, personal beliefs, i.e. a religion, should never be allowed to
trump the law. Guerrilla-style evangelism is no exception.

The murkier of issues are ethical in nature. By disobeying
local law and disregarding a country's culture, missionaries endanger
the lives of those they successfully convert. The Barnabas Fund, a
Christian persecution watchdog, recently reported that inflated figures
citing the amount of Muslim converts to Christianity have increased
danger for converts and Westerners in Islamic countries. Muslims in
these countries have used such figures to incite public outrage against
the Christian evangelical movement.

For safety purposes, secret missionaries often enter a country
under the guise of a profession such as a teacher or medical aid worker
and are forced to live by false pretenses. Jesus never lied, according
to the Bible. Missionaries who preach Jesus Christ's ultimate message
of truth, while simultaneously sidestepping laws and cultural values,
send the wrong message.

Before crossing cultural and legal boundaries to harvest unsaved souls,
Christian missionaries should evaluate what message they are conveying,
and rethink what Jesus truly meant when he said in Matthew 4:19, "Come,
follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Would He have been so
reckless in today's world?

Liz Foreman is a junior international studies and journalism major
from Beaumont and the assistant city editor of The Baylor Lariat.

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