Missions and Marxism

FrontPage Magazine | Mark D. Tooley | July 22, 2009

During the 1980’s, United Methodist Church missionaries toiled in Nicaragua, not planting churches or winning souls, but flaking for the Sandinista experiment with Central American Marxism. Today, some of those missionaries have reemerged to agitate for Honduras’ ousted leftist President Manuel Zelaya, whom the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court, with the military, removed for attempting unconstitutionally to prolong his presidency.

Zelaya’s “overthrow was carried out in violation of Honduran law,” and “those who today control the de facto government of Honduras have no legitimate right to do so,” declared 36 United Methodist missionaries currently or previously in Latin America, in a public statement. Conspiratorially, they implored President Obama to investigate “any involvement of U.S. government-related agencies, including the International Republican Institute, in encouraging or preparing the rupture of the democratic process in Honduras.”

The independent IRI, along with its Democratic Party counterpart, receives U.S. Government funding to promote democracy overseas. The missionaries’ reference to IRI is a little odd. But a World Council of Churches story about their pronouncement darkly recalls that IRI allegedly “supported and trained opposition parties and leaders during a 2004 coup in Haiti,” which sent radical ex-priest Jean-Bertrand Aristide into early retirement after his third time as president.

“Given the long record of the U.S government in subverting genuine democracy throughout the region, it is important that your commitment to justice and democracy be reflected by the entire U.S. government,” the Methodists told Obama. They insisted he “take whatever diplomatic and economic steps are necessary” to restore Zelaya to power.

The missionaries commended Obama for having condemned the coup as “illegal,” while lamenting that the U.S. and others had “failed to restore democracy in Honduras, and the Honduran people have paid a heavy price, suffering from media censorship and other serious restrictions to their fundamental human liberties.” They urged a “precedent throughout the region that democratically elected governments cannot be overthrown without a robust and timely regional response.”

For some of these missionaries, the interest in “human liberties” and democracy is selective, as they spent years defiantly defending Sandinista tyranny in Nicaragua, despite its repression of political opposition, churches and independent media. Missionary signers Paul Jeffrey, Lyda Pierce, Howard and Peggy Heiner penned a different letter in 1985, addressed to their United Methodist bishops, decrying U.S. “aggression” against the Sandinista regime, and claiming religious and political freedom in Nicaragua. They nonchalantly asserted: “If you are not a Contra [anti-Sandinista rebel] you don’t have anything to worry about.”

“We witness no general repression of religion in Nicaragua today,” the pro-Sandinista missionaries insisted then. “There is, however, repression of the right to commit treason.” They even condemned “some sectors” of the Nicaraguan religious community, including the Roman Catholic hierarchy, for having “abused their freedoms of religion and speech to actively work in support of the counterrevolution.” The Methodists faulted these defiant religious counterrevolutionaries for failing to “register” publications and “misrepresenting draft evaders” as seminarians. Religious leftists evidently support the draft, and oppose conscientious objection, when the military is upholding Marxism! The missionaries also defended the Sandinista imprisonment of several Protestant pastors who had supposedly urged breaking the law by “not complying with the Patriotic Military Service,” which is “similarly illegal” in the U.S. The pastors denied the allegation, but naturally the missionaries believed the Sandinista claims.

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