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?