I am a hopeful universalist. I believe God will force no one into hell against their will, and I am hopeful that God’s love will ultimately overcome everyone and all will freely choose to worship him over living outside God’s presence.
photo from NTM
I follow New Tribes Mission’s blog because I am in interested in ethnic groups. New Tribes Mission is a conservative missions organization who works with unreached people groups in other countries. I have never been apart of NTM (and I would never join because I am uncomfortable with their goals), but their office was in my neighborhood when I was studying the local language in SE Asia. Additionally, I spent a few months living with an ethnic people group, so I follow NTM and try to keep up with what is going on in SE Asia.
Yesterday a missionary from Papua New Guinea posted a story about a man who belongs to a dialect right next to group he lives with right now. In conversation, this is what the elderly man relates to the missionary:
Elderly man: “I’ve been to one of the churches near here and they only teach from Pidgin or English Bibles. They told me that if I don’t believe God’s talk then I’m going to the place of fire. I don’t understand God’s talk though. This is really weighing on me….If you don’t come live with us…then…then I’m going to cut off my finger.”
Yes, you read that right. A missionary scared the elderly man shit, and now he is saying he wants to cut off his finger if someone doesn’t teach them the Bible NOW!!!!!!!
As blogger Seth explains, it is important to understand that in this ethnic group, cutting off a finger is an actual practice, because it is a symbol of grief. For example, one might cut off a finger when their child died. So this elderly man was perfectly serious.
I will not criticize the actual practice of cutting of fingers. As long as adults are consenting to having their fingers removed, I will not fuss about practices different than mine. But I am disturbed that missionaries have been going around to tribes, without understanding their culture, and telling them that they are headed to hell.
Telling people they are going to hell has real world consequences. It scares people shit, and in some cases, it scares them so bad they want to remove their finger.
This practice of going around and scaring people needs to stop.
Missionaries are always talking about how thirsty other people groups are for God, but sometimes I wonder if they are less thirsty and more just scared shit.