Brazil News and Views

Missionaries or Yankee Imperialists?

Missionaries who leave their homeland to work in another country almost always carry with them political baggage. They will be asked to explain or justify the actions of the leaders of their nation of origin. And this is not limited to current events. I still get asked why the US found it necessary to bomb Hiroshima, or invade Iraq.

Sometimes the political baggage turns into downright suspicion. I will never forget begin told by a Brazilian that our seminary was most likely a front organization for the CIA, who doubtless had secret tunnels underneath from whence they coordinated their Latin American operations.

During the hot days of the Cold War the suspicion of North American missionaries reached a fever pitch, stoked by Communist groups within Brazil. Below is an article that appeared in 1950 in a Socialist rag in Fortaleza called (ironically) The Democrat. It was translated into English by it’s main subject, pioneer missionary Edward McLain. My observations appear in parentheses.

ESPIONAGE

Concerning the American strangers in the Carirj;
They work under the cape of an evangelical mission of the Brazilian church. Reunions in the English language, far from the sight of the native believers. The number of Yankee missionaries grows day by day. Who is Mr. Edward McLain, chief of the mission, where the beasts of Truman are worse than the beasts of Hitler?

It has been but a short time since the periodical, ‘The Action’, which is edited in the city of Crato, published a full report denouncing with strong alarm the profundity of the Yankee imperialist penetration in the Cariri, masqueraded in an evangelical Mission of the Baptist church, headed by Mr. Edward McLain. It is true that that organ, which obeys the orientation of the Roman clergy, saw little beyond the danger which said mission would bring to the interests of the Roman church.

However, the danger exits, but for the future of our country; because it is already no secret that the North American Imperialist forces come to us adopting these tactics in the penetration of many, if not all,of the countries of the continent.

A Notable Engineer

Mr. Edward has resided for some years in the city of Crato, which seems to be the seat of the so-called mission of the Baptist church in the Cariri. He is a mining engineer of notable capacity, who presents himself as simple Protestant pastor. In Crato, Mr. Edward possesses a residence installed with every modern comfort. He lives on a high plane, and no one knows any other legal activity aside from his being chief of the Protestant worship in the Cariri.

The Mission grows continually.

Since 1949, the number of missionaries has increased considerably. Most of the houses recently constructed in Juazeiro, for cxample, are to be used by members of the Mission who are now arriving, or soon will be; these missionaries bringing with them refrigerators, radios, automobiles, etc. The mission owns a Jeep, and a station wagon which constantly leave Juazeiro with destination unknown, being gone from three to four days. [Editor’s Note: The “unknown destination” was evangelism in the outlying communities.]

Suspicious reunions.

Every Monday there is a reunion of the pastors to which the native believers do not have access. Further than this, the conversation is all in English. Since it is impossible for any native element to enter, no one has the slightest idea what is discussed in these sessons, which are secret and lengthy. [Editor’s Note: These “suspicious meetings” were Monday prayer meetings, and we still have them.]

Suspicious acts of Espionage.

It is known that recently Mr. Edward McLain went to the bureau of statistics in that zone, soliciting, among other things, “innocent information”, complete facts concerning the topography of the region, fountains of production, demographic index, etc. [Editor’s Note: I believe “fountains of production” would be better translated “sources of income”. These are normal things a missionary looks at when going into a new community.]

It is to be seen that not even religion escapes the colonizing and war-thirst fury of the North American
trusts and monopolies. We know, today, from our own experience, that Truman’s hyenas are worse than Hitler’s beasts. Since it is thus, it isn’t to be wondered at that they use religion for the criminal ends of colonization and war, as the Axis did in the last war, using the piety of priests and bishops of the Catholic religion, in various countries of the world including Brazil; and has occurred recently in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and in other countries of the new democracy where different acts of espionage were discovered and punished.

What We Ought To Do.

It is the special duty of the adepts of the religion preached by the Yankee missions to demand that the pastors make clear certain mysteries which surround them and that they give account of their actions to the people who have received them in good faith, explaining how they live and where so much money comes from to maintain their high standard of living. As for the anti-imperialistic and peace-loving patriots, we must denounce with utmost vehemence every movement of these war agents and colonizers in our country, demanding that the Brazilian government which orientates our international policy in the sense of absolutely impeding the atomic bomb and that it considers it a crime against humanity to use atomic energy for Biblical ends, and a war criminal the nation which first uses it against any other people or nation. [Editor’s Note: Not quite sure how atomic energy can be used for biblical ends.]

Let us put into practice the wise recommendations of the Congress of Stockholm beginning by driving off our native soil all the spies and war traffickers of every color. [Editor’s Note: As late as 1989 I attended a rally for a political figure whose platform at that time included the expulsion of all Yankee Imperialists from Brazil. That political figure is now President of the Republic.]

Talk back to the missionary: How do you think a missionary should handle the political baggage he inevitably carries?

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6 Comments

  1. Wow, that’s wild! I’m not sure a missionary wants to get into arguments about US politics, or to try to justify past events. I’m not sure I want to get in an argument about US politics! Especially with an unsaved person. It makes me think of witnessing to someone who asks, “What was the mark God put on Cain?” or some such question to deflect the real issue!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Andrew. We missionaries may not be able to drop all of our political baggage, but we can certainly learn [by listening to the “natives”] to drop some of the cultural and social baggage. Without judging the missionaries of the past, we can learn from this article to choose a standard of living similar to those among whom we work. It appears that today God has forced this on us by dumping the US economy and allowing the Brazilian Real to become strong in spite of bad economic policies.

  3. Connie,
    In my experience it is decided counter productive to get into debates about American politics. Definitely a lose-lose situation. Such conversations are to be avoided like the plague.

  4. Jim,
    I agree with you that we need to be very careful about our standard of living. The low dollar has had a very positive effect in this respect. I have to force myself to remember that every time I do my family budget…
    In regards to the missionaries in question, I think we need to allow for Socialist’s penchant for exaggeration. After all, in the same article they actually have the chutzpa to say that Truman’s hyenas are worse the Hitler’s beasts. Wha…???
    Also, on a side note, it is interesting that the “luxury” items they mention are now, a little over 50 years later, common in all but the absolute poorest of Brazilian households.

  5. Your Dad notes that this will potentially affect future missionary candidates. Will they be willing to live without conveniences considered necessities here?

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