At a time when most people in academia and the media enjoy trashing missionaries as misguided and useless at best and diabolically destructive at worst, it is refreshing to find an honest atheist who is able to recognize the beneficial influence of missions. London Times columnist Matthew Parris wrote an article titled As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God (Dec. 27, 2008). Parris grew up in Nyasaland, which today called Malawi, and recently returned there to see the work of a British charity that installs water pumps in rural areas.
While recognizing the values of development work in Africa, he shares another observation that he finds undeniable:
Now a confirmed atheist, I’ve become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people’s hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
He shared his discomfort with this observation, but explains that he cannot deny the facts. Through stories of his time growing up in Africa, he explains his first hand observation of the positive impact of missions in the lives of Africans.
He concludes that Africa needs Christianity in order to thrive in the 21st century
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I’m afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
The entire article is well worth reading.