Friday, May 30, 2008

Jesus in the Amazon

Every once in a while a headline from Yahoo! News actually piques my interest. Today they posted aerial pictures accompanying a brief article about an "uncontacted indiginous tribe in the Amazon." The article notes that there are some 100 uncontacted tribes like the ones pictured throughout the world. Only 100? Have we really explored every place there is to explore on this earth and deduced that there are only about 100 tribes that have been untouched by civility?

Second, and more the focus of this post, now that we are more aware of at least this one particular tribe and its whereabouts, do you suppose that some missionary is going to go evangelize to these people? All sarcasm aside, should they be evangelized to? I don't think it's necessarily arrogant to say no, but I'm not sure I wouldn't say yes.

The word evangelism itself brings up an image that makes me uneasy. In my mind I see evangelism as brow beating and evangelists the brow beaters, wielding the Bible like a weapon. It reminds me of my Intro to Evangelism class at Cincinnati Bible College where we were to "evangelize" to 2 people during the semester and write up a report about it for a grade. One of the criteria of the report was to note whether or not I thought my evangelism worked. Did the person I evangelized to "come to Christ" as a result of my evangelism technique? I fear that this is the mindset that will bring a missionary or even a whole group (oh, I mean team) of missionaries to "bring Jesus to the ends of the earth." In this case I am comfortable in thinking that this tribe is fine just as it is and is, in fact, better off without the missionary team.

On the other hand, what do we do with verses like Acts 1:8 and Acts 13:47 and any number of other passages that speak to taking the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth. I guess it depends on your view of salvation. If this tribe never knows about Jesus how can they be held accountable for it? No doubt this tribe worships something, and something that makes perfect sense to them. Does God accept their genuine worship even though it may not be specifically directed toward him because this tribe does not specifically know his name?

Should a missionary go in and teach them about Jesus? How would that change that tribes way of life? Does it matter that their way of life was changed if they now know about Jesus? What if that knowledge changes the tribe for the worse because it could confuse what they've always known or cause divisions in the tribe between those who may have accepted the knowledge and those who may have rejected it. Then there's a whole new cycle of the acceptors thinking they are better than the rejectors, and oh the rabbit trails this takes you down.

I didn't even address the bit in the article about how the tribe and others like it are in danger of losing their land because civilized people are knocking down all the trees. At that point there's more of a justice aspect that enters the picture rather than a salvific aspect.

Ultimately my question is simple though the answer, if there is one, is not so much. How does God/Jesus apply to this tribe of people?