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Would you like some Jesus with that medicine? (crossposted as DK diary)

If churches must proselytize I wish that they would do it on their own dollar and not at the expense of the American taxpayer. While evangelicals fight the “War on Science” at home, they are giving out lifesaving medications in the name of Jesus abroad.

The Boston Globe just published the first part of an excellent series on the use of faith based programs as a part of foreign policy under the Bush administration. The details are shockingI have no objection to Christians distributing food, primary care, and AIDs medication to impoverished countries. I also have no problem with Christians who decide that the best use of their time is to go to other countries and try to convince people with vastly different cultural histories to be just like them. The BIG problem is when the same people combine both roles.

Sante Dokhe, a 45-year-old mother of five from the Samburu tribe, became one of the health program’s first “contact mothers.” She said she used to practice a traditional African religion. Then came her US-funded classes, which impressed her by drastically lowering the infant mortality rate in the village.

“The first time that I changed my mind is when we were learning the health education and our teacher was also talking about God,” Dokhe said. “We used to go to the rivers and pour milk for the god who stays in the mountain. But I learned through our classes that that is a very tiresome god. Now we have known that you don’t need to struggle to please God. Now I have learned through health education that God is everywhere.”

Of course there used to be some safeguards to protect against abuse. Missionaries who were giving out aid couldn’t require participation in religious services. As contractors they could not discriminate based on race, religion, or national origin. Services had to be conducted in a seperate building. But George Bush changed all that.

Now missionaries can have a prayer, then a service, then a call to salvation, then give out some aid courtesy of Jesus, then have another prayer, without ever telling people that they don’t have to be Christian to get life-saving help. Now aid workers receiving their salaries from the government can be discriminated against in employment because religious organizations are the ones doing the hiring. Even a conservative Republican congress wouldn’t go that far – so Bush just signed executive orders to make it all ok.

Just as disturbing, the government is paying for a massive recruiting effort to convince evangelical organizations to sign up. And it is working. According to the article cited, the share going to faith based organizations has doubled in five years. Furthermore, over 98% of these groups are Christian. What happens when we want to send aid to Muslim areas? What happens when the local population gets tired of having a foreign religion crammed down their throats?

Once again, the fundamentalists have an expensive new social experiment that they want to try, and once again we get the bill.

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