There are so many missionaries here, Mormons are the most visible because of the uniform and fact they work in two and on any random day in any area you’ll see them and others. Are these basically glorified vacations for christian youth?
Well, Mormons, at least, proselytize to any and every non-Mormon. Presumably other Protestant groups do the same. Certainly, as a Catholic, I’ve been proselytized at by several different groups in my life.
You’re converting people from other sects and trying to keep the people who currently identify with your sect from being courted away by the other ones. The humanitarian aims aren’t all window-dressing either.
Although they like to glorify the rare instances where they actually do convert non-Christians, the American missionary tradition has always been mostly sectarian. See for example the huge numbers of American protestant missionaries who swarmed into the Philippines and the other predominantly Catholic colonies taken after the Spanish-American war.
Well, sometimes, yes. There are Christians who bemoan this, and mock this kind of work that (at best) serves as an object lesson for the rich white Christian kid (Look how bad those people have it! Aren’t you lucky? Don’t you feel like you should help them?) and are at worst an expensive business extracting money from rich white Christians who are on vacation. Some of the kids who go on mission trips are actively using their parents to get a vacation, others are genuinely devout and want to help, and most are somewhere in between.
And secondly, I think you underestimate factionalism and division among Christians. Many Protestants believe that Catholics aren’t Christian, and are thereby fair targets for evangelism. There are usually well intentioned; e.g. “Those poor Catholics have no idea that by venerating saints, they’re actually worshiping demons!” Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses regard every who isn’t a part of their sect to be unsaved and in need of conversion. I have an aunt and uncle who went on a JW mission to Belize for a year or so.
For the RCC, in many cases the mission of the “missionaries” isn’t conversion, it’s service to populations in bad situations, but there are funds and resources earmarked for missions which are not available for non-mission situations: for example, by calling the free schools around favelas “missions”, they get to draw from the “mission” funds and get a different kind of resources than non-mission schools. Also, there are many things which are “pre-approved” in a missionary situation but not in general. For example, in mission areas there’s much more use made of catechists; the catechists don’t just teach sunday school but perform many other community outreach activities, most of which are not religious in nature.
My cousin went to Venezuela “for a year” as a secular missionary wondering what use would a psychologist be there; she came back 11 years later with an adopted son and having spent uncountable hours helping people register their very existence with the government, getting kids to school, getting people to use the medical resources at their disposal… in other words, social work galore.
We jokingly tell her that it was her who got Chávez elected, since so many of his votes come from the poorest people - those poorest people who thought that (real example) they could not register the birth of their children (or, indeed, the parents’ own existence) because the birth registry forms said “name of wife” and “name of husband” and they weren’t married - why not? Because the parents of one of them weren’t married. Why not? Because one set of grandparents hadn’t been…
For some of the Western European countries, it can be said that these are in reality only nominally Christian. There may be millions of registered church members, but many rarely or never attend services and are more or less functional agnostics or even atheists.
In Germany for instance, even the head of the largest mainstream Protestant denomination, the Evangelic Church in Germany (which is seen by critics as highly secularized anyway) came to the conclusion some years ago that Germany these days is missionary territory.
In the German Catholic Church, a significant number of priests originally come from Poland oder even the third world.
On the other hand, there is a rapidly growing Muslim population who are for the most part steadfast believers.
We get a lot of missionaries from other parts of the country here in New Orleans. The vast majority of the people who live here are at least nominally Christian. Seems to be for several reasons:
The population is about 64% Roman Catholic, who are considered fair game for conversion by Protestant churches (as stated by appleciders).
Hurricane Katrina had a lasting impact, and volunteers still come down to “help” build houses. (There’s a debate in the construction business over whether this does more harm than good.)
It legitimately is a very poor and violent city. Over 30% of people are below the poverty line and we always have one of the highest murder rates. Volunteers are actually needed.(I have doubts over whether some random congregation from Iowa is really equipped to help with these long-term social problems though…)
It has a reputation for licentiousness and general debauchery. This is the big one, especially during Mardi Gras. Sheltered kids from the sticks get to go on a mission trip where they hang out on Bourbon Street all night. They always look like they’re having fun even if they’re just handing out leaflets.
I am not Christian, but I am amazed that people who take the Bible as the word of God, or inspired by God, do not seem to know that the Roman and Orthodox bishops back in the 300’s at Constantine’s suggestion decided what was God’s word, and what was inspired by God. Apparently they don’t realize that they are in reality taking those bishops words and beliefs as Gods!
Mormons go everywhere, although as the numbers are declining as a percentage of the membership and as Western US members (who supply most of the missionaries) are seeing declining birth rate, they are concentrating more in the US where they don’t face as dismal retention rates.
For Mormon missionaries, (I went on one) it was pretty hard work. We did missionary activities six days a week with only Mondays off.
Nothing odd about that. Men have always decided what was the word of God, that’s how it works. How else could it? Even if you stick to the Bible itself it’s open to about a million interpretations. Is God going to tell them which interpretation is correct?
I met some in Haiti getting ready for their mission to the US. Missionaries are biblically guided by God to go where He sends for His purpose, Paul being a leading example of this. So with that reasoning the answer is because God is sending them.
And there is a pretty large difference between cultural christianity and living for Christ. The christian nations you elude to in the OP may have more to do with some flavor of cultural christianity then actually devoting one’s life to Jesus.
It looks to me like your own link goes a long way toward answering your questions.
So, it sounds to me like it’s at least partly for the benefit of the people making the trip. A “glorified vacation,” perhaps, but one with a greater chance for benefitting both the “missionaries” and the people they visit, than a week spent drinking and lying around on the beach in Florida.
Mormons don’t believe that everyone else is “unsaved.” Also, Mormons have both proselytizing missions and service missions. I’m fairly certain that other denominations have both types of missions, too.