Sunday, February 10, 2008

Missionary deconversion

Here's an article about a missionary, Daniel Everet, who went to work with a small tribe in the Amazon area and ended up losing his faith.

Some of the relevant passages:

"How did being with the Pirahã change your thinking?

They lived so well without religion and they were so happy. Also they didn't believe what I was saying because I didn't have evidence for it, and that made me think. They would try so hard to understand what I was saying, but it was obviously utterly irrelevant to them. I began to think: what am I doing here, giving them these 2000-year-old concepts when everything of value I can think of to communicate to them they already have?"

What interested me about the article is that he's been approached by a Hollywood producer to make a movie about his life. I think that says a lot about what is "newsworthy" about Christians. Everet is now a professor in linguistics, and I'm guessing that if he had lived the exact same life--without deconverting, no one would find it interesting.

Airplanes and Christians are two things that the media seem to cover only when they fall.

** Thanks Edward B for the link! **


Ben said...

Thanks for this article. I circulated it around to all my translation/linguistics colleagues.

I had a lot of curious questions:
- What was his theology before he went? What kind of Christianity did he have?
- I'd be curious to hear the perspectives of his wife and kids.

I think a lot of our theology is too static. True, our faith is based on events from 2,000 years ago, but it has to have relevance now and be flexible enough to have relevance in widely divergent contexts. I think the challenge (especially for Western Christians)is seeing ways God is already present in cultures like these. (Taking the time to do good ethnography first would probably help.)

Brad Wright said...

Good points, Ben. I'm not sure what his theology was, but the article did say that he and his wife ended up divorcing.

Interesting to think about how God manifests across cultures...