A missionary can be defined as a person who is convinced of the superiority of his belief system. The belief system can be Communism, Socialism, Islam, or any of the many varieties of Christianity, or Scientology, or even Spiritual Rescue Technology.
A belief system can be as simple as telling doctors to wash their hands between patients.
I am defining Missionary Syndrome as the inability to recognize the innate value of an existing culture because it lacks the advantages of the missionary’s belief system. Like someone with Asperger’s syndrome, the missionary does not see the target culture as worth something in itself, only as something to be modified. He will have an obsessive focus on getting the culture to accept his belief system as the right way to live.
A dedicated missionary, whether religious or political in nature, wants to introduce a new belief system and in the process, he will inevitably cause a loss of cultural identity whether that is his primary intention or not.
Adoption of any new belief system will introduce a new lifestyle to the people involved and can wipe their culture, their gods, their institutions off the map, and even change their dreams.
ANY GROUP THAT VALUES THEIR EXISTING CULTURE WILL RESIST THE INTRUSION OF NEW VALUES
They will try to accomplish this in several ways, but normal social resistance through disapproval will not deter the dedicated missionary who knows he has right and possibly God on his side. The missionary is trained to deflect and overcome cultural resistance by persuasion and other non-violent means.
The members of the culture who recognize the danger the new ideas represent to their culture will eventually escalate their resistance to the assimilation of the new ideas and will use increasing levels of force to counter the loss of cultural identity.
When a group loses its culture, it is no longer the same group. Preservation of the group culture is the highest priority of any group that wishes to continue to exist. If the existing culture has enabled the group to survive and expand, any change has the possibility of ending that trend.
Changes that are developed from within the group are not easy to implement, but those are the changes that will be accepted and supported by the group over the long term.
Changes that are enforced on the group by outsiders will be resisted, even if the changes can benefit the group in the long run. The resistance can be sabotage in the beginning and can escalate to murderous slaughter if the missionary efforts are maintained and supported by superior force.
In session after session, I have handled many fine beings who wished to bring enlightenment to primitive or savage societies and ended up being burned at the stake or tortured in some grisly way. Their lament was always the same, “I only wanted to make things better for them!”
They never considered the desires of their audience. They only saw these people as subjects for conversion to a higher truth.
The only way a missionary can be successful is if he can see what the target population WANTS to change and is prepared to deliver this. It is called “finding their ruin” in Scientology and means finding out what the group wants to change. Once you find out what a group WANTS to change, you will probably get cooperation in accomplishing that change.
If you are peddling a “better idea”, you need to do the groundwork to make sure it will not damage what the group considers valuable. If you do that, you will be a teacher and will be welcomed.
If you are trying to be a typical missionary, you will have an uphill battle and may lose everything when you least expect it.
My suggestion? Don’t be a missionary. Be a teacher instead and make sure your subjects want to learn what you are teaching.
David St Lawrence