A Personal Dilemma

A personal dilemma has come up for me in the last 24 hours.  And since it concerns religion, I figure the blog might be the perfect place to explain and ask for advice.  (Since this concerns family, no names or identifying characteristics have been used.)

I got a letter yesterday from my family.  The letter turned out to be from my younger brother (allegedly from him–I’m thinking it’s probably my very religious, evangelical stepmother who really wrote it) asking for money for a trip to Peru this summer.

Normally, I’m all for supporting travel.  I think it’s important to travel around the world and see different cultures and places.  It’s a very eye-opening experience.  However, this trip my brother is planning is not a fun lets-learn-about-culture kind of trip.  No no, this trip is a missionary trip organized, I assume, through their church.

Here’s my problem: I want to support my brother.  If it weren’t a missionary trip, I would have forked over money without hesitation.  But it is a missionary trip, and spreading the word of God is the main focus.  He says in the letter that the group will take part in serving a needy community and reaching out to children in need by providing children’s programs the kids can attend.  But he also says that they will organize and fund a group of local students to travel through the mountains to spread the word of God with them.  “I’m very excited to be able to help children far less privileged than me by spreading the word of God.”

And that is the crux of my problem. How can I support something I very much disagree with, even when it’s my own brother?  I don’t agree with missionary organizations or people, and I cannot agree with or support their goals of spreading the word of God, especially when they do so while ostensibly giving aid to others.  In my opinion/belief, aid to these communities should be offered freely and from all for all, without any strings attached.  I believe it is the duty of all to help those in need, not for ulterior financial or religious motives, but from the goodness of our hearts and because it is the right thing to do.  It shouldn’t be a requirement or hurdle that in order to receive aid, you also have to put up with preaching and proselytizing.  And to proselytize to children strikes me as reprehensible and shudder-worthy.

I admit that not all missionaries are bad.  Some are very good people who genuinely want to help others.  They can bring much needed aid, supplies, and so forth to poorer communities, and not all of them inject extraordinary amounts of religion into their interactions with the communities.  But others are rather despicable and withhold aid unless the people convert or otherwise express a religious affiliation with the missionary.  Some missionaries take pains to turn a community against the non-believers in their midst in order to gain more followers.

It is possible that I’m being too close-minded about this.  I don’t have a very good opinion of missionaries, and I freely acknowledge that.  The idea that my brother might be turning into that type of person makes me cringe.  But I don’t think my brother is really into this.  I think he just wants to go to Peru, and is doing the church trip because it makes his mother happy and gives him the opportunity to travel.  Still, I have a serious personal conflict with giving money in support of such a trip with the goals that it has.

And I don’t know what to do about it.  Not contributing something means likely causing a family uproar once my stepmother finds out I didn’t send something. She will hold it against me and use it against me at some point.  She is that vindictive (some Christian she is).  I thought about writing to my brother and explaining why I won’t contribute toward the trip, but I don’t have his number or email, and he doesn’t have Facebook–so my only option is mail, and I don’t want his mother to open the letter, which she might very well do.  But saying nothing seems wrong; I don’t want him to think I don’t care or something like that.

And now I’m doing that Virgo thing where I over think things and look at all the different possibilities…

What do you all think?  What would you do in a situation like this?



11 responses to “A Personal Dilemma

  1. I realize I’m a year late in responding to this, but if it were me, I wouldn’t lend anyone some money for a missionary trip, not even if it were someone in my family. Aside from the common feelings we all share about missionaries, missionary work can also be extremely dangerous. Anytime you enter a Third World country with the intention of telling the locals how “backward” and “wrong” they are, you’re asking for trouble. And I completely understand your concerns about not making waves with your family, but in my own experience, some things are WORTH making waves with your family about. (You should have seen some of the nonsense that occurred around my wedding!) Anyway, I hope this situation was resolved peacably somehow and that you and your brother are both doing okay.

    • Sorry, “Third World” above was intended to be in quotes, and I can’t figure out how to edit the comment. My apologies to anyone from Peru.

    • No worries on the timing! The topic is still definitely open for discussion. I will argue that missionaries can, in some ways, be good, or at least have some benefits. For example, my brother and his group helped the locals build and repair houses. I’m sure the physical labor was welcomed–who would turn down free labor? But, overall, I believe missionaries ultimately cause more harm than good, especially if they’re true zealots. The amount of psychological harm alone they could inflict on others is deplorable.

      My personal situation was resolved in the end. I didn’t contribute, but I very obviously didn’t get invited to the welcome home party. (I have one hell of a passive aggressive family!) My brother didn’t seem to mind that I didn’t contribute, but Stepmother did. Still, it was resolved for me and I moved on with a sound conscience. He still got his trip and I still maintained what I believed to be right for me.

  2. Happened to stumble onto your blog while looking up oracle cards. And then this post. Pardon my wandering mind. I would say you should rather suggest your brother to go have Ayahuasca ceremonies in Peru than a religious trip. Everything will fall in place. ^_^. I’m saving for it to go next year hopefully.

  3. Some years ago I was loaned a biography on Nelson A. Rockefeller, once Director of the CIA. One program was the use of Christianity ( sic ) to subvert opposition of native tribes to interlopers – like mining company survey teams. This was done by secret support for Wycliffe Bible Translators who airdropped translated Bibles in JAARS. You are a believer in individual revelation being asked to support cult cultural subversion using naive idealistic and programmed scenarios every bit as much as Jesuit missions. Better you should think of him as having been brainwashed by the Moonies. And look up Dominionism.

  4. Thanks everyone for your comments and suggestions! I really appreciate the advice.

  5. Being from country, where the missionaries are often sent (because of the misconception that we are oh so unreligious country, because we are not into the right kind of faith), it probably will show him that not everybody are as open to Christian cause as missionaries believe.
    Still, the situation is tricky one. Supporting a cause that goes against you is hard. At the same time I do have very differently thinking brother and sister, so I understand how hard it is to put your feet down in such situations.
    Though traveling gift is good idea, I don’t think that is what he is in need for right now. I would still send some money. But firmly state that he needs to do his part and get the other half himself. From your stepmother if she is so keen on him going. Though being bigger sister is a wonderful feeling, parents should do their part too.
    I hope it helps. It isn’t the bestest of feelings, if you feel you could have given more, but they must understand that you do not support such endavours. Next time, when the trip is not about missionary work, you can give more. But if you give more now, it might send a message that you can still be coached back in Christianity.

  6. I think sending a travel gift is a much better way to handle the situation. Let your brother know you love him and support him, but that you do not support the message he will be spreading. He will understand and be thankful for your honesty and the gift you have given despite your disapproval.

  7. Celeste Wolffe

    I understand that you love your brother and want to help him however you can and I understand you would like (to some degree) to keep the peace in your family. I could not abide the sending of money with your brother for the purpose of supporting something you are so against supporting. I would offer to give him money to do something (later on) that is strictly for him and would be enriching to him. It will stir the pot, so to speak, but I suspect that your take on spirituality and your stepmother’s Christian position has already set the boat rocking. Stay true to yourself and support your brother another way. ~Celeste Wolffe SilverStarr~

  8. I don’t know your specific family situation so I would tell you to take my advice with a large grain of salt but I would send some token amount of money to honestly just try to keep the family peace and a long letter, one that invites more correspondence and discussion and ask for his email or something of you can’t trust your stepmom. I think you’re right about missionaries honestly but you’re also right about your brother wanting to go on a trip ( which may, hopefully broaden his perspectives) and honestly if you’re very uncomfortable sending money maybe try to send a travel gift or something that he might be able to use instead.

    • Hey Shimon! I like the idea of sending a travel gift rather than money. I’ve traveled quite a bit internationally, so I know what sort of things are really useful for that kind of trip. Thanks for the suggestion! =)

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