Do Missionaries Destroy Culture?

Carol Moerman

READ : Isaiah 2:3-5

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV)

In The Spirit of the Rainforest, a shaman of the Yanomamo tribe recounts the gruesome, often heart-rending story of tribal life in the Amazon jungle. Disturbing tales of war and revenge, the abuse of women and children, and lives defined by fear and deprivation give a different picture of life in this society than the one commonly offered. An idyllic picture is often painted of culture untainted by the outside world. Jungleman the Shaman writes: “I wish I had known the truth about [Jesus] when I was a young man – it would have saved me so much pain and misery.”

All cultures have unique and beautiful elements; all also need to be redeemed. Communities are transformed as Spirit-led believers apply the truth of Scripture to their world. Jungleman observed the living example of the missionary, who cared for them, treated women with respect, challenged their revenge-based relationships. Finally he led his people to follow Jesus. Their transformation to forgiveness-based relationships eventually drew other tribes to Jesus, and brought an end to tribal warfare.

Cultures are fallen as are the people who comprise them. They need the healing power of Christ to fulfill their God-designed purpose.


Lord, transform both individuals and cultures as you make all things new.