[There has recently been considerable noise in the UK that Christians - the vast majority here in this country with a Christian State religion - are being persecuted. It just amazes me when the increasing rights of the minority are termed 'persecution' of the majority!]
Griffiths would argue that missionary work - when done respectfully - brings exposure to new ideas. It is a healthy thing done only by those dedicated to preserving the status quo.
Well, he may be ignoring the obvious fact that it has always been the powerful and the affluent who have the ability to send forth such missionaries. The poor and weak are always at the receiving end of the 'saving message.' This is not hardly our ideal free exchange of ideas when it is so entirely tied to power and money.
On the other hand, we live in a world awash in a different kind of evangelism - advertising. There is almost nowhere we can go where we will not be exposed to the promise of salvation through purchases. I am beginning to suspect that a new iPad will truly bring me the independence, connectedness, efficiency, effectiveness and sheer joy that I have been craving!
In that kind of a world - where missionaries are so enormously out-gunned by corporate evangelism - is a bit of missionary activity really so bad?
I recently heard an excellent presentation by Brian Kiely, President of the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU). Kiely was very, very careful to ensure the audience that the ICUU was not in any way working to spread the U*U [Unitarians, Universalists, and Unitarian Universalists - oy!] movement, but rather to support those groups that have have already become identified with and connected to U*Uism. Good religious liberals like the U*Us are impeccably careful about imposing anything on anyone - so much so that we tend to be invisible. The ICUU is well aware of the history of Western religious imperialism. It clearly does not wanted to get painted with that brush.
But... isn't there a good argument to be made that in a world awash in materialistic, corporate evangelism, a respectful message - a truly respectful message without attempts to convince or convert - would be appropriate? More than appropriate, perhaps it is irresponsible not to share a way of life that is more meaningful and satisfying than materialism.
I would be very supportive of some good U*U missionaries travelling the world, standing on soap-boxes, and shouting out our not so oppressive messages: "you are worthy of respect and love", "you have the right to think for yourself", and "it doesn't matter what you believe, just be good to each other and the planet."