The war in Iraq was not about bringing the values of the United States to the Arab World, President George W. Bush said again and again.
It was alternately a war to find weapons of mass destruction, depose a dictator and free the Iraqi people, but never a clash of civilizations; U.S. Christian missionaries want to change that.
They want to save the Iraqis from themselves.
What could possibly make less sense in the tense conditions of occupied Iraq?
Arabs feared (and still do) that this war would be one of conquest over a predominantly Muslim country.
They feared that the United States would seek to remake Iraq in its own image.
Our leaders made countless speeches to assure the Arab world that this was not our intention.
These Christian groups, however, are seeking to do exactly that.
They want to bring the Gospel to Iraq in an effort to win more converts to conservative Christianity.
They are seeking to take advantage of the turmoil in Iraq in order to counteract Islam, which many conservative leaders have said is an “evil” religion.
The arrogance of any such effort to effect a fundamental cultural change in a war-torn nation is astounding.
These Christian evangelists want Iraq to be more like the U.S.
One man who wrote to The Philadelphia Inquirer that the U.S. should turn Iraq into “something more like the United Sates, in which religious freedom and speech are fully tolerated.”
The Christian evangelists are arguing that now that Iraq is “free,” U.S.
missionaries should have the free speech to challenge the religion of the Iraqi people.
However, civil liberties such as these apply to citizens of the nation, not outsiders attempting to undermine the dominant culture.
The writer also argued that it would be pointless to liberate Iraq and give Shiites the freedom to openly practice their religion after 40 years if Christianity were not allowed to “compete in the marketplace of religious ideas.”
This argument misses the point of the debate.
The issue is not the practice of Christianity, it is the fact that outsiders want to come in with their own brand of a religious tradition (Christianity) that is endlessly varied around the world.
Iraqi Christians should of course be allowed to flourish and peddle their ideas in this supposed religious marketplace.
But Iraqi Christianity is not the same as the American version; this is what the evangelists are missing.
Iraqi Christians would probably dislike the U.S. infringement on their culture as much as Muslims.
The calls for evangelization also ignore the danger of such a mission.
Iraqi Shiites, finally free to practice their religion and assert political power, are already pushing for the U.S. to leave Iraq.
Protests over the past week have targeted the U.S. occupation force, calling on Bush to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.
The Shiites (and other religious groups) have a newfound freedom to practice their religion; they are not looking for the saving power of Jesus Christ.
Missionaries in Iraq would likely be in genuine danger, blinded by their own arrogance to the fact that Iraqis really just want to be left alone now that the long nightmare of Saddam Hussein’s rule is finally over.
Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.