John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera on Secular Missionaries Are Free to Spread Their Gospel Throughout the World

The 2020 Academy Award for best short subject documentary went to “Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone.” The film tells the story of “Afghan girls who learn to skate through a program run by a Berlin-based NGO.”

The NGO’s stated mission is to train young people to “become leaders for a better world,” through a combination of skateboarding lessons as well as “creative, arts-based education.” Though I’m a bit fuzzy how skateboarding lessons will produce “leaders for a better world,” Academy voters seemed to like the idea.

However, one person not enthralled by the film was Sahar Ghumkhor, a social scientist from the University of Melbourne. Writing for Al Jazeera, Ghumkhor called the film an example of “white savior” syndrome. Though that’s a jarring term that too often gets thrown around indiscriminately, it does capture an underlying cultural attitude of those who see people in the developing world as victims of an “inherent backwardness.” These are people who need saving, not just from sickness, or drought, or poverty, but from a way of life, specifically their traditional ways of thinking — typically about things like the role of sexual morality, gender and marriage roles, and the emphasis on “community norms” over “individual desire.”

In this case, teaching Afghan girls how to skateboard and providing “creative, arts-based education,” is, in the end, shorthand for making them more “Western” in their views about women, and thus, less “backward.” The hoped-for end products “are artists, hipsters, [and] rebels with a cause, who are often introduced as trailblazers.”

Reading Ghumkhor’s piece, it becomes clear that many of these NGO’s are nothing less than “secular missionaries.”

Of course, Christian missionaries are the ones so often depicted as judgmental and dismissive of native cultures. The history of Christian missions certainly does include bad ideas about native peoples and bad behavior by those tasked with bringing the Good News to them. Still, today, it’s Western liberal secularists leading the way in being judgmental and dismissive of native cultures.

In 2017, French president Emmanuel Macron lamented Africa’s high birth rates as a “civilizational problem,” snidely saying, “present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, John Stonestreet and Roberto Rivera