The recent earthquake that shook Nepal left thousands dead and over 6000 injured. It’s a catastrophe that this little Himalayan kingdom must have never imagined it would have to face. Governments, organizations and individuals around the world have rallied around to help with rescue efforts, monetary mobilization and on-ground help in whatever way they can. It’s reassuring to see that the world is able to stop its bickering and set aside its myriad differences to help a country that has suddenly landed in deep trouble.
The Indian government and army are deeply involved in rescue efforts and I say that with no small degree of pride. I have always known Indians to be compassionate and, in a world that’s sliding deeper into chaos, they are by and large sensible and grounded.
Among the various bits of news related to Nepal is also the bit about Christian preachers trying to reach as many unsaved souls as possible under the cover of this catastrophe. Of course, this has been met with condemnation. At a time when people are forgetting political, ideological and even religious differences, how can these preachers and evangelists push their evangelizing and conversion agenda so brazenly? Some of my friends have called them shameless opportunists and vultures on Facebook.
If I were to adopt a secular or liberal lens, then yes, the actions of these men do seem heartless, in bad taste, agenda-driven and inhumane. However, if I were to look through the lens of Christianity, then I, at the very least, understand their actions.
Few religious systems are as focussed and driven by “life after death” as Christianity is. Jews have no concrete knowledge of it and, in fact, could believe in reincarnation. Islam believes that based on your actions—obedience of the words given in the Quran—you will be assigned heaven or hell. Non-muslims may have to go through a purgatory of sorts before they can attain heaven. Catholics officially have the concept of purgatory. Hindus believe that the soul will keep returning to this life in various forms till one day it lives well enough to attain Nirvana from this cycle. Buddhism again is focussed on Nirvana. Spiritualists say that the basic soul essence remains forever. Those who have lived bad lives will go to lower realms and those who have lived exemplary lives will attain the Third Realm, a place of immense beauty. Every soul, however, has the capacity to slowly move from a lower to a higher realm.
Christianity alone believes that:
- salvation can only be attained when one is alive.
- salvation can only be attained through belief in the sacrifice of Christ’s life that He offered on the cross…no amount of good living alone will fetch it for you.
- death is final and after death there is no activity, no change, no purgatory until the final judgement, where one is sent to heaven or hell.
Christians, therefore, place great importance on evangelizing to people and encouraging them to accept salvation while they are still alive, because after death, it is just too late. There is a sense of urgency that is brought on by this belief. In an earthquake-hit region that is still experiencing tremors and where human life hangs by a frail thread, they feel this urgency even more.
Before you criticise them, bear in mind that they gain nothing monetarily or politically out of it. In fact, most missionaries and evangelists live life in the edge of danger, with indigenous people of a land threatening, persecuting, attacking and sometimes, even killing them, as the case of Graham Staines demonstrates. These missionaries could have lived peaceful lives in their own comfortable and orderly Western societies. They are here, living perilously, as a result of obedience of the great commission.
Yeah, I think I understand the actions, behaviour and motivations of these evangelists. I am sure they are not unaware of the criticism their actions will elicit and the sharp increase in the danger to their own lives in the current circumstances, but they are doing it anyways. So, go easy on them.
For those who want to know more about afterlife as taught by various religious systems: