Daily Archives: March 11, 2012

Savior of the World

You know what’s really cool? The way young people have been able to mobilize globally through social media to affect change. Think of the Arab Spring uprisings last year and the changes the people are making to the New Middle East.

Think now of this new movement called KONY 2012:

It’s fascinating how we Archies already knew about the Invisible Children long before this wildly popular movement came about, thanks to David’s efforts in working with this group. And while I quietly championed David’s interest in global charity and good works, I’ve always had an uneasy response to any Western responses to problems and atrocities that take place on the African continent.

By the same token, I also have issues with Christian missionary work also taking place there and in other third world countries.  The intent is good, but there are repercussions.

GOD. GOLD. GLORY.

For those of you who don’t know Imperial history, this is how it works. First, a European country sets its sights on the natural resources available in a foreign location (the “Gold” part).  Then they send in “God” (i.e. Christian missionaries) who tell all those HEATHENS how backward and savage and ridiculous their own cultural worldviews are and why they must exchange their old beliefs for Christianity.  Then, once the indigenous peoples start believing in the Europeans’ God, they get crushed, enslaved, and colonized, while the white people come in and take over through Western Imperialism.

That’s how my ancestors were enslaved by the way.  Somewhere on what was then called the “Slave Coast” (stretching along Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and throughout West Africa), Africans were captured and rounded up as “cargo” and stuffed like sardines in the belly of the ships, as illustrated below:

It took slave ship crews a while to figure out how many Africans they can stuff into a ship without losing a huge portion of their “goods” (slaves), and sometimes on the journey called the Middle Passage (sailing from Africa to the New World), the crew might toss weak captives overboard, along with the dead and dying, because they would then collect on insurance for their “lost goods.”

It was such ships that bore Christian names like Jesus, John the Baptist, Mary the Redeemer, etc., and on such ships, captains like John Newton would pen beloved Christian hymns like “Amazing Grace,” even though he and his crew took part in mass torture and mass rapes of those African captives aboard. Yep, I know enough of my Christian past to know the damage it can do to a continent.

The Transatlantic Slave Trade, as it was called, didn’t end until 1807, and while some good Christian folks called “Abolitionists” helped usher in the ban on this slave trade, there was once again an economic incentive to do so.  European interests started seeing that there was more profit to be made in the natural resources of Africa – like diamonds, oil, rubber, and other materials- rather than on their human resources, as represented by slaves.

Once again, Christian missionaries would be sent in to the African continent to make way for “God, Glory, Gold.”  They would convince African natives that their way of living is so backward and so HEATHEN, and since their numbers had already been decimated by the millions that were already taken away as slaves in the Americas, it was easier to conquer those left behind.  Tell them their way of life sucks without Jesus, and sooner or later, they are being colonized. Of course, those who refuse to give in to Western imperialism without a fight would be turned into devil-worshipping sinners who must be crushed and eliminated at all costs.

It’s an ugly history, and Africa is hardly the only continent where such Western imperialist practices took place.

So, despite my Christian faith (or perhaps because of it, knowing from whence my people came and why we adapted Christianity according to our own African-derived beliefs here in the Americas), I’m very wary of contemporary Christian missions and especially wary of the ways that we Westerners tend to look at the African continent and find convenient “war criminals” to demonize, which is exactly what is going on with this KONY 2012 campaign.

Now, what does this have to do with David Archuleta? Plenty, actually.  After all, he’s getting ready to go on a religious mission (who knows where) and he supports Invisible Children, who is behind this massive campaign.

You all know I love me some David Archuleta. I don’t know how many times I’ve made that clear. But there are times that I don’t share his worldviews, and this may be one of those moments.

Don’t get me wrong.  Joseph Kony is a horrible human being, and there may be many truths to what the KONY 2012 campaign says about him (although different reports are investigating since there are some exaggerated facts).  The sad truth is: Joseph Kony is not alone in perpetrating crimes against humanity.  Uganda is one country neighboring countries like Rwanda, which experienced a genocide back in 1994, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which continues a horrific war waged over raw materials that finance our high-tech revolution.  When guerrilla gangs and soldiers do horrible things on the ground in developing countries, you best believe that some multinational corporation based here in the U.S., in Europe, in the Middle East, and in Asian countries like China and Japan is behind the chaos.

Why is chaos needed in certain African countries? So that the political infrastructure is so unstable, so in shambles due to warfare, genocide, and other acts of violence, that wholesale corporate theft can occur when the world isn’t looking and the locals are being terrorized.  When there are so many rapes and wars going on, who’s there to ensure safe and equitable transfer of raw materials and natural resources that are used to finance our global economy? How else do corporations profit but through free and cheap labor and chaotic infrastructures that enable easy access to resources?

Think about that for a minute.

To demonize one man is to rely on a recognizable stereotype of the scary savage African man and to ignore the larger global and historical structure that enabled his barbarity to begin with.

When we send young Christian missionaries to places like undeveloped countries such as Uganda, we are sending them in with no compass, no map, no historical guides, and no knowledge, except in a simple little belief in how Jesus is the “Savior of the World.” The only reason any church – not just Latter Days, mind you – would even send their young’uns into such places with zero preparation of the global economy and the geopolitical spheres in which such conditions exist – is because it continues in a tradition of “God, Glory, Gold.” You have to truly believe in your own superiority (racial or national or religious) to even attempt any “salvation of the world.”

That’s one of the reasons why I think the musical Book of Mormon is so clever. It totally makes fun of the whole process of sending clueless American Mormon boys to places like Uganda, where there are serious political, economic, and social problems that they’re not even prepared to solve but they’ve been told they can “convert and save” the people.

It’s also one of the reasons why I would love to see David do a self-parody of himself and star in Book of Mormon when he returns from his own mission. 😛

When I met David in Verona last December, I definitely got a sense that he was quite the innocent and, no matter where he is sent, he’s sure to grow and learn (I would hope) and not simply retreat into some safe version of what the world is after witnessing what the world actually is.

But that’s what the whole KONY 2012 campaign reminds me of: young, impressionable kids not knowing how to discern complex global issues but responding all the same through a bleeding-heart impulse to catch a bad guy.

I wish the world were that simple.

I can only hope that the same young will be willing to learn more once they get invested in popular campaigns like this one.

The good thing about David, I must say, is that he tweeted his excitement over the twitter trending of Invisible Children’s #stopkony campaign without himself condemning Joseph Kony.

As usual, he knows how to be a shrewd diplomat.