While the evangelical organization that trained John Alan Chau for his fatal mission trip to North Sentinel Island considers him a martyr for his faith, not everyone is convinced that’s the case. Chau’s own father had some harsh words about the Christian group his son got involved with, according to J Oliver Conroy in The Guardian.
Dr. Patrick Chau is also a devout Christian, and, like his son, a graduate of Oral Roberts University. But he blames “extreme” religion for pushing his son into a death trap.
… I had thought [Dr. Chau] might want to defend evangelical doctrines against the unsympathetic media coverage sparked by his son’s death. In an email, however, he called religion “the opium of the mass[es]”.
“If you have [anything] positive to say about religion,” he told me, “l wish not to see or hear” it. He said his son’s zeal was a longstanding point of contention and that they’d agreed not to talk about John’s missionary work.
“John is gone because the Western ideology overpowered my [Confucian] influence,” he said. He blamed evangelicals’ “extreme Christianity” for pushing his child to a “not unexpected end”, and he referred with particular bitterness to the Great Commission, Jesus’s injunction that Christians spread the gospel to all peoples.
There are many Christians who take the Great Commission seriously and still consider Chau’s work as nothing more than a suicide mission. Perhaps the Gospel writers considered scenarios like Chau’s, which is why they included the following in Matthew 10:14: “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.”
Chau’s father isn’t the only one with reservations about his work:
Like Patrick Chau, Justin Graves, a pastor and a friend of John’s from linguistics school, has blamed evangelical culture for enabling Chau’s death. “John Chau was a good man,” he wrote in a Facebook post. “He was a loving, passionate individual I was blessed to befriend, and the loss of his light on this earth was devastating. But it cannot be left as a mere tragedy. His death brings to light a multitude of issues with Evangelical views” and “hell-based ethics”.
Chau himself recorded in his journal that he thought he could be more useful alive than dead. But he proceeded with his mission anyway… and we all know how that ended.
It’s one thing to admire people who died for their beliefs, but many of Christianity’s martyrs were victims of legitimate persecution — they didn’t go actively seeking it. Chau’s death may be a tragedy, but it was entirely preventable, and has already spawned copycats.