By David Schussler

Considering the fact that our current desire to help the people of Iraq is a mission of democracy, I offer the following observations. If you were to research the histories of notable missionary projects in the world you would find several things in common. The first is that they were all undertaken presumably at the will of a higher power. Secondly, missions were attempted in order to convert people of one belief system to another. Thirdly, the mission often required forceful physical efforts on the part of the missionaries to make the non believers submit to the new teachings. These efforts included theological political and legal systems as well as war with those societies which did not believe in changing. Lastly, unlike evangelical and naturally evolved societies, all missionary projects were complete and utter failures. All of the people being beaten into submission and forced to accept new religions and social doctrines were basically screwed. Hence, “The Missionary Position”.

The first missionaries in history were evangelical in nature. They were like Jesus and his apostles, like Muhammad, like the Buddha. They were teachers, both by word, and deed. They did not try to cram any philosophy down anyone’s throat. Because of their exemplary lives, and common sense beliefs, little by little, nations were transformed into believers of a single higher power. A power and belief that offered rules of law and a promise of understanding of life that could allow every individual the opportunity to overcome woes and be successful if they followed those rules. These missionaries did not force anyone to submit to their beliefs. To the contrary, during the period from about 400 A.D. to 800 A.D., the “Barbarian” conquerors of the Graeco Roman Empire were impressed by, and adopted, the religion of the vanquished civilization, something that occurred many times in the course of the last 2000 years. During the 700’s, the Vikings pillaged and plundered western Europe and within 400 years had completely adopted the beliefs of those people. Monasteries were developed in Egypt around the fourth century and although they began as retreats for learning, by the 1600’s and through the period of European exploration and colonization, they became the Christian church’s center of missionary training and propagation. This was the infamous period of the Crusades. Although there were many who viewed the Crusades as an opportunity to preach … not to fight, there were others who used this as an opportunity to impeach the civilizations they conquered and they exercised their will and power in the name of God extracting wealth through taxation and conscripting the people. In the 13th century, Ghengis Kahn as a supreme leader, converted all of his tribes because he married a Christian. Eventually, due to the tribal nature of society, sect leaders were co-opted and nations were converted only to retain resentment and hatred that still exists today. The Jews fought many wars, as written about in the old testament B.C. Translations of which are scripted and adopted by all major faiths. The Jews, however, never forced their beliefs on the conquered and, in fact, have had no global mission other than conversion by marriage (maybe that’s where the “missionary position” expression comes from.) Since 620 A.D. the Muslim civilization has, by military mission and conquest, attempted to force their philosophy on other cultures. By the mid 1300’s the Ottoman Empire had become the last great Muslim expansion through war. European development and culture became more appealing, many Muslims converted and local customs and advanced technologies flourished creating the diverse hostile nature of today’s Middle Eastern Muslimism. A failed mission.

Any mission is not necessarily theological but a strategic action taken on behalf of what is usually a vision involving a lot of cultural baggage, (in the case of Iraq it is our cultural baggage). Missionary purpose and orientation is, by itself, not a very good predictor of the outcome of one’s interest and vision, regardless of good intentions.

Many of the world’s greatest and well intended missions have failed, and although our belief in freedom and democracy is legitimate, and should be acceptable to everyone, our mission to help others achieve it at times has failed. It failed for some parts of Europe during WWII as nations were forced under the will of Marxism by treaty. It failed substantially in the Korean War to Communist imposition, It failed partially in Viet Nam, and it is failing currently in Iraq due to radical Islamic terrorist infighting and insurrection.

Maybe we need to take a lesson from history and change our mission from trying to help the Iraqis achieve a democracy as we know it to helping them for now to achieve peace. Some of those in our government who are creating our foreign policy do not necessarily think like Middle Eastern people. Democracy as we experience it in the USA cannot be understood by an Islamic society due to their beliefs which mandate religious law above all civil law. If they are to achieve some sort of democracy, it has to be accomplished in different terms, but first the people have to agree to stop killing each other and come together to determine a form of governance that would satisfy the majority. It doesn’t have to be called a democracy, perhaps it is all in the wording. What’s needed is for the Iraqis to have a period of peace and for the U.S. Military to not be constantly in the crossfire. The U.S. needs to redefine its short term goals, to take a new posture, and to get out of the old “Missionary Position”, it is not creative enough to be satisfying and it has a history of failure.




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