02 July 2013
THE MISSIONARY IMPULSE
In a previous post I described some of the stressors involved in my current search for alternative housing. To organize information on locations and features, I carry a notebook with four lines devoted to each advertised house or condo ~ enough room to record location, rent, amenities, and the condition of the place.
During one recent two-week period something odd happened. When I narrowed my search to a home having two bedrooms, washer/dryer, A/C, garage or carport, storage, and allowing cats, a too-good-to-be-true location popped up. It had everything I wanted, and fell near the lower end of my planned price range. In Missoula, housing is ridiculously expensive, whether you own or rent. So I wondered, what's the catch?
Upon inquiring by email, I found out. The owner and his family had accepted a missionary assignment to Africa. He said he'd tried to sell, but with no success, so decided to rent to someone who would take good care of their home. Fair enough. Things started to sound strange when he wanted me to submit a sheet of personal information without having seen the house's interior (he had the key with him in Africa). Oddly, when I drove by the home, there was a realtor's lockbox on the front door.
That's when I learned that contrary to his email claim, he still had the place up for sale. I contacted the realtor, who kindly showed me inside, and it was indeed a nice home (though located at the end of a very narrow cul-de-sac, which would present the hazard of colliding with parked cars during winter's snow accumulation).
Bottom line, too good to be true? Yes. I was dealing with a potential landlord located partway around the globe, with no local designated representative, a man who didn't mind bending the truth to gain a tenant. What if I had rented from him, then he sold the house? My rent would likely rise beyond my means, and I would have little time to locate another place to live. Not to mention the ongoing intrusion of showing what would be my own home to potential buyers.
There was also the issue of the landlord's awkward use of English, as though it was his second language. Nothing wrong with that in principle, but two people who attach different meanings to the same word or phrase, especially in a legal document like a lease, are headed toward mutual misunderstanding and possible conflict.
All this could be accepted as simply a cautionary tale, but the same situation happened again, and yet again. Two more owners wanting to rent out their homes at a low price, because they were going overseas as missionaries. The same playing fast-and-loose with the facts, the same language problems ~ it was as though they had gotten together to rehearse their act. Or was it one person, pulling some kind of elaborate con? I'll never know.
But let's be charitable and assume this was coincidental timing involving three missionaries. What is it that prompts some religious people to try to convert others to their beliefs? I find it puzzling, and offensive. By the time we are adults, whether we live in Kenya or Samoa or Guatamala or New Jersy, we likely have developed our own political, cultural, and spiritual beliefs. Of all the world's hundreds of religions, doesn't the assumption that yours is the one true faith and all others should believe as you do, seem laden with hubris? Are evangelicals so insecure in their own vision that they have to reinforce it with sheer numbers?
If I were to try to convince a deist to adopt my atheist worldview, even someone I know, it would likely not be a welcome effort. If I were so seized by my values that I traveled to faraway places and preached my 'gospel' to the world's 'unenlightened', that could rightly be viewed as the symptom of a mental disorder.
So please, don't come knocking at my door peddling your brand of salvation. And if you just can't help yourself and accept a 'missionary position' among 'heathens', have the decency to be truthful when renting your home out. Someone might be watching.