What Does a Dead Missionary Have to Do With Thanksgiving?


In case you haven’t heard, John Allen Chau, a 26-year-old missionary and graduate of Oral Roberts University, was killed last week trying to spread his faith to North Sentinel, an island in the Andaman Sea.  Read about it here.

Yesterday my friend Kate Carte unleashed a tweetstorm connecting Chau’s missionary endeavors to the story of 17th-century European imperialism, particularly the so-called “first Thanksgiving.”

I am not sure I agree with everything Kate has written here, but I have been thinking about and processing her comments all day and I think they are worth considering.  I present them here for your consideration.  (I apologize for the fact that I do not know how to embed a tweet in my blog without including the previous tweet.  Sorry).


6 thoughts on “What Does a Dead Missionary Have to Do With Thanksgiving?

  1. John says that he is “not sure” if he agrees with everything that Ms. Carte has written. One would hope that he would strongly disagree with her claim that a missionary, killed for proclaiming the Gospel — yes, to people who did not want to hear it or have any contact with him — was a terrorist.

    John spends a great deal of time on this blog documenting and denouncing the many foolish and morally indefensible things said and tweeted by the President. Ms. Carte’s tortured moral equivalence between this missionary and a terrorist is as misguided as anything Trump has uttered.

    A few other things worth noting. She repeatedly calls Mr. Chau’s entry to the island where the Sentinelese live an “invasion.” I find this ironic, given that we have been repeatedly lectured by the media, in the context of thousands of people approaching the U.S. border in the “caravan” — that using the term “invasion” is nativist bigotry. But she had no qualms applying this language to one man bearing a Bible and some fish.

    Second, she claims that Chau “dragged other Indian citizens into his crime.” What can that possibly mean? In reading the linked Guardian piece, we find out that a number of local fisherman helped Chau get to the island. Did Chau force these people to help him? In Ms. Carte’s telling, these people had no moral agency, and were simply the victims of a scheming “terrorist” missionary.


  2. On a semi-related note, before I sent my students off for Thanksgiving, I got them thinking about the Thanksgiving of Sarah Josepha Hale and Thomas Nast rather than William Bradford – the former embodying a nationalism where women could take a leadership role, the latter a Thanksgiving with a dream of all Americans sitting together around the same table as equals.[1]

    [1] It was just a dream, but so was the Declaration of Independence.


  3. Delivering a religious message counter to that which is the prevailing message is one thing. Killing in the name of your religion is quite another . While Chau did not intend to go and kill for Christ , he did disregard the law and the island residents’ wishes which is not what a missionary does.


  4. At age 62 I’m realizing I don’t know everything. I’m a former Moral Majority conservative Evangelical, now a believing agnostic (if that’s possible). I’m just coming to terms with my own beliefs all over again. Don’t have much to comment on this tragedy.


  5. Kate Carte is deeply wrong. Calling John Allen Chau a terrorist is gravely wrongheaded, nor are missionaries

    First, he will not be and never sought to be an agent of western imperialism. This island isn’t set to be conquered or its people enslaved.

    Second, Christianity isn’t about western culture. God acted in history in the Middle East to display the Gospel in Christ, choosing to incarnate Himself as a Jewish man. Not a European man.

    Plus, Christian believes early spread the gospel to Africa and Asia. See Christianity: A Biography.

    Finally, no matter what anyone says or thinks, we have a direct command, as Christian believers, to go and make disciples. Those who reject the exclusive truth claims of the Bible are free to disdain, but I will continue to humbly share this most important story. This young man may have been acting without sufficient planning, but I remember that he was willing to face death to try to go share the only message that leads from eternal punishment for sin to eternal joy in the presence of God.

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  6. There is much to consider. From her perspective we should not celebrate Christmas because Jesus was a “terrorist.” There is much to debate about the efforts of missionaries but Ms. Carte is wrong to claim that all missionaries are terrorists because they choose to “change” the beliefs of others.


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