If Missionaries Want To Win Converts, It’s All About Business, Not Bibles

In the last decade and a half or so, Christianity has become quite an appealing option to many of the Jarai people of Cambodia. The reason? Simple Economics.

Traditional spirit god appeasement doesn’t come cheap, often costing hundreds of dollars in slaughtered animals and other goods. Since Jesus doesn’t make you part with that much stuff (at least not until the televangelists get involved), it makes him much more sustainable to worship. The money they’re saving by believing on the cheap has started improving the health and over all standard of living of the poor villagers who have made the switch, as they now use regular medicines instead of killing things for health, go to schools, live in houses and don’t drink so much.

In the village in O’Yadav district’s Som Thom commune, about 80 per cent of the community have given up on spirits and ghosts in favour of Sunday sermons and modern medicine.

Sev Chel, 38, said she made the switch because when she used to get sick, it could cost her hundreds of dollars to appease the gods with a sacrificial package that might include a cow or buffalo, a chicken, bananas, incense and rice wine.

“So if I sold that buffalo and took the money to pay for medicine, it is about 30,000 riel to 40,000 riel [for them to] get better, so we are strong believers in Jesus,” she said. “If I did not believe in Jesus, maybe at this time I would still be poor and not know anything besides my community.”

Kralan Don, 60, said he and the four other members of his family began attending the church about five years ago because of their poor standard of living.

“We believe in Christianity because we are poor; we don’t have money to buy buffaloes, chickens and pigs to pray for the spirits of the god of land or the god of water when those gods make us get sick,” he said.

At least these folks are up front about selling out their traditional belief systems when it suits them and are smart enough to do it when they get to be too much of a drain. This, ironically, puts them miles ahead of a lot of Christians.

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