The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Its their Business to convert YOU!

Compiled by Chandra Saini


Bill Britt:

Promod Haque/Opportunity International:

Promod Haque/Maclaurin Institute

Tom Monaghan

The New York Times edition of November 14, 2005 highlighted the global nature of the "Missionary Business" or in other words, evangelical missionaries who run businesses to fund conversion activities around the world.

Andy Newman, in this NYT article called "Their Mission: Spreading the Word Through Business", has painted a glowing picture of these "preying vultures". Yet we quote "faithfully" from the article:

'Tom Sudyk is not most people's idea of a missionary. On paper, he looks like a modern global capitalist, which he is. Mr. Sudyk, an entrepreneur from Michigan, runs, among other things, an outsourcing company in Chennai, India, providing medical transcribers and software engineers to American businesses. In six years, the Indian company -- a subsidiary of EC Group International, a larger outsourcing company that Mr. Sudyk founded in Grand Rapids -- has grown to 75 employees and is moving into a building triple its present size.

But the Gospel, Mr. Sudyk says, illuminates every aspect of his business, from its ethics to its help to local ministries to the technical support it lends a Christian-run vocational school for polio victims in Chennai. Each afternoon at the Chennai office, there is a 10-minute prayer, and while the prayer is interdenominational, employees who ask to learn more about Jesus Christ -- as many have -- are gladly accommodated.'

While portraying their tactics in a positive light, the NYT article continues:

'Christian-run companies are multiplying in just about every corner of the globe, reshaping overseas mission work. These businesses form a movement known variously as business as mission, kingdom business and great commission companies, after the biblical charge to "make disciples of all the nations."

In Romania, for example, a Californian who runs a Tex-Mex restaurant and catering hall said that he expected to clear $250,000 in profit this year, most of which will be donated to local ministries. And in a Muslim country with a history of hostility to Christianity, a medical-supply
importer from the Midwest leverages the trust she earns through her business dealings to quietly spread the word.

Some supporters of business as mission set up microlending banks or fair-trade coffee companies. In countries where there is more hunger for economic development than for missionaries, some of these supporters think that a profit-oriented company centered around Christian values can be a powerful tool for building a Christian society. A job-creating, taxpaying enterprise, they say, will be more legitimate in the eyes of locals, harder for a government to expel and better for the resident economy than one propped up by handouts from back home.

"The real power of the movement is that it's not donor-funded, it's basically globally funded," Mr. Sudyk said. "There's no restraint in the capacity of this system, because you avert the donor and plug into globalization."

Business as mission grew from a 1980's mission movement to reach people in the "resistant belt" across North Africa, the Middle East and Asia where Muslim, Buddhist or antitheistic governments made it hard or impossible for religious workers to get visas. Missionaries with no
business experience opened travel agencies, Internet cafes and other small companies, sometimes accused of being little more than fronts for proselytizing.

"That model was about getting missionaries into these countries by whatever means you could, whether it's teaching or business or whatever," said Steven L. Rundle, an associate professor of economics at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., and an author of a 2003 book, "Great Commission Companies: The Emerging Role of Business in Missions."

Now, Professor Rundle said, evangelical groups are recognizing that mission-minded businesspeople can do things that traditional missionaries cannot. "The future generation of missionary will be the rank-and-file businessman," he said. The wheel, he added, has come full
circle: many of the first emissaries of the Gospel were tradesmen, not priests."'

The NYT article quotes the example of one businessman from California, Jeri Little, a financial planner who saw immense evangelical prospects in a post-Communist Romania. This missionary businessman, who now lives in Romania, is quoted as saying:

'I realized that we needed to not just send them money and create another banana republic dependent on our aid," he said. "We needed people to create business." The question was what kind.

Mr. Little decided to open what he said was the first secondhand clothing store in Iasi (pronounced yahsh), Romania's second-largest city. "Good used clothing from America at good prices," he recalled. "And we introduced a number of new measures, like smiling." Soon there were three stores, and Mr. Little and his wife plowed the profits into local mission projects.

Then, Mr. Little said, God gave him a new assignment: open a restaurant. Why not, Mr. Little, thought, although he knew nothing about it. "The most popular TV show after the revolution was 'Dallas,' " Mr. Little said. "So we said, 'Let's do a Texas theme, make it a Tex-Mex restaurant.' "

The Littles gave the clothing stores to local ministries, and in 1997 opened Little Texas, by all reliable accounts the most popular and authentic, not to mention only, Tex-Mex restaurant in northeastern Romania. As diners in the John Wayne dining room eat their enchiladas and homemade tortillas, they can study a passage on the wall from the 20th Psalm: "Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God."

The couple built a hotel above the restaurant, for Romanian business travelers, with 32 rooms.

Some of the restaurant's profit this year will be put back into expanding the business, but the rest will go to local aid and ministry projects, Mr. Little said. These have included opening a kindergarten and day-care center in one of Iasi's poorest neighborhoods. Soon, Mr. Little
and his associates plan to open the first dental clinic in a town in Moldova, several hours from Iasi.

Mr. Little also helped some Romanian friends start a housing company that gives 25 percent of its profit to evangelical ministries. "If I'm going to be involved," he said, "there's going to have to be a significant win for the ministry right off the top."

It is one thing to establish an evangelical presence in a Christian country, another to do it where opening a new Christian church is illegal and evangelizing is frowned upon. Mary, a 52-year-old from the Midwest who imports medical products into a country she identified only as " 98.9
percent Muslim" because she feared hurting her credibility, said that in her four years there she learned to let people come to her.'

The NYT article ends, not surprisingly, describing Mary's efforts to convert a Muslim, who was her business associate.

What the article surprisingly did not mention were other hotshots who are prominent "missionary businessmen" in America. These include:

- Bill Britt – He presides over the famous Amway products conglomerate (Quixtar), that claims to have had $3 billion in sales between 1999 and 2004. Britt is also a 21-year veteran of fulltime evangelism and the President of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists. According to their website, he heavily encourages Baptist missionaries to go to India and Africa for conversion activities.

- Promod Haque – He is a billionaire venture capitalist of Indian origin in Silicon Valley, California. Haque remains on the Board of Governors for "Opportunity International", the largest Christian microfinance organization in the world whose aim is to "reach" the world's poorest people through its microenterprise development programs. The organization's website claims that Opportunity International uses a business-based approach to empowering the poor with Christian principals. It also claims: "We assist churches in their responsibility follow the Biblical commandment to practically demonstrate God's love".
Haque also remains a donor to "The MacLaurin Institute". This institute is a Minneapolis-based Christian institution that counts amongst its Fellows one Vishal Mangalwadi, a Christian missionary of Indian origin notorious for his anti-Hindu activities; and has invited fanatic Christian speakers like Ravi Zacharias. Zacharias, who has been recently quoted in "India Abroad" newspaper of hate-speak against Hinduism and of blaming Thailand's prostitution industry to Buddhism, has also been accused of fraudulent conversion practices in many countries around the world through his Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)'s annual budget of over $6 million.

- Tom Monaghan – He is the co-founder of Dominos Pizza who sold his company in 1998 for a billion dollars. According to observers, Monaghan is building Ave Maria University a Catholic University with a Catholic-centered town whose pharmacies are not going to be able to sell condoms or dispense contraceptives (No surprises here! ). After an earthquake devastated Nicaragua, he is reported to have decided -- against the wishes of aid workers on the ground --that spending $3 million dollars to rebuild a church in Managua was more important than aiding the victims of the quake. Now that's surprising (or is it?)

We hope this article gives you a fair idea of the men behind the Christian behemoth that threatens to dominate the world. Its their Business to convert YOU ! Are you willing to stand up for yourself and for others who refuse to submit to them?

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