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Do you think that Western Christian missionaries unwittingly destroyed native cultures in the attempt to save them and "better" their lives?

Like making the women wear tops, when they normally went topless in order to nurse their infants, and teaching them to build houses from wood, rather than mud bricks which insulated form the heat, and had the added advantage of washing away every couple of years, forcing them to move into newer, more sanitary dwellings... not to mention depriving them of their "witch doctors" who had most of the knowledge of the natural herbs and remedies of the region.


Asked by Anonymous at 1:28 PM on Jun. 23, 2009 in Religion & Beliefs

This question is closed.
Answers (22)
  • Yes, very much so. Actions undertaken without insight or understanding are very likely to harm more than they help! Importing a culture/belief system without any understanding or respect for the pre-existing way of life has caused a lot of harm.
    If you want an eye-opening read, look at attemps to Christianize native populations in Canada- it involved removing all children from their parents and placing them in residential schools to be taught Catholicism- parents had no say, communities were destroyed, the residential schools were certainly no picnic and physical and sometimes sexual abuse occured regularly- all because the church thought it was to the benefit of the children not to be 'savages' and to be 'civilized' in their own image.

    Answer by Freela at 1:40 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • Unwittingly? NO. Purposefully, intentionally, and with a malevolent intent? HELL YES

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:30 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • I think that going in to a foreign culture and thinking your way of doing something is better just because is so ignorant, Then changing the natives habits when you do not understand their lives is even worse so yes I agree unless you are aware of what they need to survive don't butt in.

    Answer by Luvmylittlegrl at 1:32 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • Unwittingly? NO. Purposefully, intentionally, and with a malevolent intent? HELL YES

    This. When members of the clergy found native religious writings, their immediate response was to destroy them because they couldn't read them, and if they weren't written in Latin, that meant they must be the work of Satan. That same attitude applied to the populace. They weren't civilized, or the right color, therefore they were less than human.

    Answer by NotPanicking at 1:44 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • Without a doubt.... and I agree, most of it was not "unwittingly".

    Answer by Laura1229 at 1:46 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • Freela, the Protestants did the same thing here. They forced the Natives children into schools that would teach them the "right" way to live. They were thought of as savage and stupid because they didn't live the same way the white Protestants did.
    And, alot of the changes the Protestants made did literally KILL out certain Native American tribes. There are several tribes that were completely annihilated because they refused to adhere to what the white man wanted.

    Answer by spiritguide_23 at 2:03 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • I agree with everything already said here. I think christian missionaries are, and have always been, pure evil. And if it's what they are convinced their god wants, "he's" no better.

    Answer by roachiesmom at 2:04 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • IMHO, what they did was absolutely horrible. However, I think the personalities and culture of the people had a lot more to do with what they did to the Indigenous Americans than what Christianity would actually have someone do.

    The Bible tells us that the apostles were given the gift of tonuges to be able to speak to other cultures in their native languages. It NEVER says that another language is evil and that other people must convert to the missionary's language. The individual letters to towns give custom advice to those towns regarding that town's problems and individual cultural problems. Paul NEVER expected the churches he wrote to to change their culture or who they were in order to have faith in God. Jesus' commandments were to love someone as you love yourself. If you're killing people and burning their literature, you're obviously not following Jesus' commandment. (cont.)

    Answer by NovemberLove at 2:29 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • Oh, yes! And I think they know what they are doing... Christian Missionaries are only a few steps short of Crusaders. They force their beliefs and ways of life on the helpless and needy or refuse to help them. That's not help! The problem is that the people need the help and so they are taken advantage of. It's like all the homeless here that are being taken in by Churches only to hear how they are going to hell because they live a life of sin... If you want to help someone - truley help someone - your faith should not be forced on them. That shouldn't be why you're there. If you want to feed a child, then feed a child, don't tell them, "We will feed you IF you follow our ways"

    A true Christian missionary should be following the example that Jesus left for them. He was the first and he never would have forced his views in exchange for help. He helped even those that apposed his views.

    Answer by SabrinaMBowen at 2:31 PM on Jun. 23, 2009

  • I believe in Christian missionaries. I do not believe in colonialization and there is a huge difference between the two. A Christian missionary should grow accustomed to the cultures that they seek to share with, and they should be the ones to change their own customs to fit in, they should not try and change the culture they are sharing with.

    Margaret Ashmore is an example of what I believe in, she moved to Papua New Guinea where the men walked around all naked and the women too. She however, respected them (she wore clothes herself) but she lived, ate, learned their language and became one of them. The Shamans were actually waiting for her, because they knew a white woman would come tell them about God. The whole village embraced her. She translated the Bible to their language. But she said that the witchdoctors know more about the plants and healing than any Western doc.

    Answer by Cinnamon-mom at 2:32 PM on Jun. 23, 2009