ELL: Re: Waiver

Matthew McDaniel akha at loxinfo.co.th
Mon Oct 4 15:28:30 UTC 1999

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Date: Mon, 04 Oct 1999 22:28:30 +0700
From: Matthew McDaniel <akha at loxinfo.co.th>
Organization: The Akha Heritage Foundation
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Subject: Re: ELL: Re: Waiver
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I was raised in a fundamentalist home and community where the things that
people did to each other in the name of what the Bible told them they could
do were incredibly abusive.  I could go on all night speaking of what people
said to each other in and after church and in almost any situation, the
humiliation they heaped, the scorn, the justified unkindnesses.  But I
outlived it, not forgetting that I could have done without it.  A little
human kindness would have been nice.  But then, one off shoot of it was that
the particular group I grew up in was very stout in their emphasis on
knowledge of the Bible.

Then many many years later I ended up working in Northern Thailand and met
Akha people who I greatly admired, they seemed so strong in the face of it
all.  I knew missionaries in northern Thailand and despite the fact that I
didn't meet them often, assumed I could respect them.  But with time I got
more involved with the Akha and began noticing increasingly disturbing
things.  When I confronted missionary friends with it I met increasing
hostility and denial.

The greatest single incident was the missionary sterilization project that
left so many women in ill health and from which so many died of a weakened
condition.  There was no concern or compensation.

Then I began encountering rich culture in some villages, full of so many
wonderful nuances and not far away a Christian village where it had all been
wiped out completely.  I began asking the missionaries what was going on and
again met with defensiveness and a whole litany of excuses from the much
misquoted Bible.  And then the ole education kicked in and I began asking
them beyond the rhetoric how they justified what they were doing even by the

Won't make you friends.
I started my work on medical assistance and then books and believe me if I
had kissed a few asses and played a few games which I could and still can
easily play if it were my choice, I could have had bucks coming out my ears
here, and my work has always been very hard to pay for.
I was mostly completely rejected by my own religious community for the stance
I took on the building of these churches in the villages and how these people
are treated.

I won't find Christian friends in North Thailand.  I can ask them the
questions, they stay away.

So it is lonely work.  But I feel what they are doing is wrong and I won't
take one dollar to do it.  And believe me when you choose medical bills over
other things you can often end up in the empty stomach syndrome.

But it so incredibly pissed me off what these people were doing, the sheer
scale of it.  Their standards for full saturation of the Akha were not the
same as for the Thai.  They couldn't convert all the Thai, or even appear to
so they didn't have that goal.  Impossible.  But not for the impoverished

I can go to almost any Christian Akha village, poverty on most every turn and
the bulk of the people in the villages that have already had their churches
for a while admit they were lied to.  They have seen nothing for what they
were made to give up and they are plenty clever enough that when you bring up
the previously unsaid points of theology, they clearly see that they weren't
given the whole picture.

Take this for example.  I ask them why the Christians forbid the Nyeeh Pahs
from working.  She is sometimes called a "spirit woman".  The Akha said that
she was talking to evil spirits so she was forbidden.  I asked them what the
role of a Nyeeh Pah is.  Her role is to heal sick people.  I asked them how a
Nyeeh Pah could throw out an illness by the power of an evil spirit?  They
immediately saw the contradiction in what had occured.

Currently there are encouraging signs that there will be a rekindling of the
swing back into traditional culture.  We are trying to assist this.  And I
should note, that I often tell the Akha, I am not saying you can not or
should not believe in Jesus.  But sure as hec don't take these people's word
for what he said you must be or do.  That they seem to increasingly

The point is informed choice without pressure and without shame to one's
self, traditions or culture.

The joke is that the Christians didn't think the Akha had a clue to their
concept of right and wrong.


Sean O Seaghdha wrote:

> Ar 3 Oct 99, ag 17:21 scr.obh Henry Szymonik
> f.n .bhar "Re: ELL: Re: Waiver [please disrega":
> > Matthew was using the logic that since all the missionaries
> > he sees that are abusive are white, then all white missionaries
> > are abusive.
> I think Matthew has fairly well put his point that evangelism is
> inherently abusive.  The people he is having the most problems with
> are white North Americans, so it is perfectly understandable that
> these are the people he is most angry about.  He is not having
> problems with Islamic missionaries, whatever mischief they may be up
> to!
> It is also perfectly understandable that a person raised in a western
> christian culture should feel able (and maybe duty-bound) to
> criticise its abuses.  Would you feel better if Matthew were
> criticising *other* cultures and if so, what does that say about your
> own biases?
> Maybe it would be interesting to know how many of the people pursuing
> the "few bad apples" argument are committed christians themselves?
> Or maybe it would clarify the debate a little if we actually stated
> whether we think that people from a rich, technological, colonial
> culture forcing their religion on poor, indigineous peoples is
> abusive or not?
> I think it is.
> > I don't know why he has seen no black/Hispanic/Native
> > American missionaries, but I was saying that Matthew
> > should look at other reasons than race.  I gave a possible
> > example that perhaps the groups that send missionaries
> > to places like Thailand are racist and do not accept
> > non-whites in their ranks.   It was just a hypothetical.
> >
> > Does anyone have more concrete reasons for why
> > Matthew only sees whites?  Perhaps it is something
> > as simple as the denominations involved are rooted
> > in mostly white areas.  In the U.S., for example, the
> > Mormon church is based in Utah, which is 94% white,
> > so it makes sense that most Mormons who go abroad
> > on mission are white.
> That hardly makes their destruction of another culture justified, now
> does it?
> `~:.,.:'^`~:.,.:'^`~:.,.:'^`~:.,.:'^`~:.,.:'^`~:.,.:'^`~:.,.:'^`~:.,.:'^`~
>  S e . n   .   S . a g h d h a                   sean at urania.apana.org.au
> An t. at. thuas .ltar deoch air, ach an t. at. th.os lu.tear cos air.
>                                                                Seanfhocal.
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Matthew McDaniel
The Akha Heritage Foundation
386/3 Sailom Joi Rd
Maesai, Chiangrai, 57130
Mobile Phone Number:  Sometimes hard to reach while in Mountains.

US Address:

Donations by check or money order may be sent to:

The Akha Heritage Foundation
PO BOX 6073
Salem OR 97304

Donations by direct banking can be transferred to:

Wells Fargo Bank
Akha Heritage Foundation
Acc. # 0081-889693
Keizer Branch # 1842  04
4990 N. River Road.
Keizer, Oregon,  97303 USA
ABA # 121000248

Or In Thailand:

Matthew  Duncan McDaniel
Acc. # 3980240778
Bangkok Bank Ltd.
Maesai Branch

Web Site:

mailto:akha at loxinfo.co.th

Discussion Groups:
akha at onelist.com
indigenousworld at onelist.com

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