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Meditation 213
Medicine and Proselytizing

by David Pidcock

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Someone recently gave this justification for missionaries and proselytizing:

"If you were holding the cure for a virulent disease in your hands; a disease you knew all about, but which was beyond the understanding of the peoples you were visiting, wouldn't you want to give it to them, to save them ? Wouldn't you encourage them to take it, to accept on faith that it worked, because you knew better than they did? And wouldn't you pity those who, in their stubborn ignorance, refused, and were thus condemned to death? Well that cure is the Word of God, and that's how these people feel about it"

It's an emotionally forceful argument, casting the missionaries as beneficent medical workers, dispensing their vaccines with a loving hand.

But to that, I would respond: Even the most ignorant person can see the effects of a physical disease, and can see the effects of the cure. The example needs amending. I think it goes a little like this :

You are holding a vial of something in your hand that someone else told you was a cure for a disease you had never seen, but he insisted was extremely nasty. You don't actually know what's in the vial, but others you know say they have taken it and show no obvious ill-effects. This person cannot provide any proof that the disease even exists, other than his word. He claims someone even more reputable told him all about it. He cannot describe how the contents of the vial works, nor even how it is made.

Would you take it yourself? Would you then encourage others to take it ? What makes you qualified to make this suggestion to others ? In what way are you different than the person who first encouraged you to take the vial ?