Response to Reji Matthew at Mission Kali

Response to Reji Matthew at Mission Kali

I have come across quite a few articles by this gentleman who goes by the name Reji Matthew. I’m not sure if that’s his real name or a pen name that he’s adopted. The reason being is that, in Indian culture, your religion is determined by your name. This could be the reason that such a name has been used to lend credibility to his claims – “Oh! He’s a former Christian. Whatever he says got to be the truth”. These people tend to believe that if a person is an Ex-Christian he has some sort of authority and inevitably becomes a scholar on the subject. In my opinion, NO. Just because you are a former Christian, it doesn’t mean your reasons to leave are well informed or justified. This is only applicable to Reji if he’s a former Christain. He could be. At this point, I’m skeptical because we don’t have any information on him.

Fallacies galore

With that out of the way, let’s have a quick look at a recent article that was posted on Mission Kali. The article can be read here. His main argument in this article is that missionaries will take advantage of you to feed others and/or fill their pockets. As expected, he starts the article by poisoning the well. He writes:

The bible has a magnificent story of Jesus feeding five thousand people. I never bothered to disprove it because I am thoroughly convinced it is a mere myth. Everyone knows that a myth is a story and nobody attempts to disprove a story.

He is convinced that this is a myth just because it has a miracle claim. I think he believes that since miracles don’t happen this has to be a myth. I don’t want to strawman his views, but this could be his belief which is nothing but begging the question fallacy. I understand his motive in this article isn’t to prove that miracles don’t happen. But as a Christian, when I read such bald assertions, it does raise some red flags. The readers should note that he doesn’t provide a single line of evidence or reasoning to show why miracles cannot happen. He presents himself as an authority on this subject and handwaves such incidents as myth and doesn’t want to carry the burden of proof. If he wants to claim that this is just a story/myth, he gotta shoulder the burden to back up his claim. If he’s simply going to dismiss it, it would be lazy. This is how it works: the one who makes a claim carries the burden of proof. It applies to both Christians and non-Christians.

I would also like to point out that, even skeptics who reject the miraculous, argue that the purpose of this text is to inspire an attitude of love among them and teach them to share their food. Even skeptics have a charitable reading of the texts but we cannot expect that from Mission Kali. Their campaign is to give a sinister spin to just about everything.

Getting the story wrong

I have always been a strong advocate of steel manning the opponent’s argument, but Reji fails at this big time. He even gets the story wrong or deliberately presents a caricature so that he can destroy the original intended meaning of the text. I’m not sure, so we will give him the benefit of doubt and assume for the sake of the argument that he gets it wrong. Part of the reason he gets it wrong is because of his hatred for Christianity in general and Jesus in particular. He writes:

But interestingly in the story, the disciples of Jesus a lad with five breads and two fishes and Jesus takes away that boy’s supper for the miracle. 5000 people were fed and there were twelve baskets remaining, all overflowing. But I am sorry! The story does not say anything about the young man, even whether he had his supper.     

Let us take a look at the passage in John (6:1-15) that record this event:

Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the signs he had performed by healing the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages[a] to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

14 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” 15 Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

We need to make a few observations to understand what is happening:

  1. This is the only miracle that is mentioned in all four gospels.
  2. A huge crowd was following him because they saw that he was healing the sick. It is important to note that people were there out of their own volition. No one was forced to be there. They could’ve been elsewhere but they chose to be there with Jesus.
  3. The place where this miracle happened is of significance as it gives us an important insight. This place was wilderness (Mat. 14:15)/ remote place (Mark 6:32).
  4. When Christ saw so many people he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. (Mark 6:34)

Now, let’s get back to what Reji had to say about this event. He says that “Jesus takes away the boys supper for the miracle (sic)”. These wordings are of utmost importance because he is presenting it as if the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish were taken away from the boy. Such a sentence gives us the impression that he was an unwilling participant. However, nothing in the verses mentioned above leads us to that conclusion. As per (1) the people were there out of their free will. They saw the healings that he was doing! It can be inferred from the verses, that people trusted him. They were looking after each other and the boy (and his parents probably) were more than willing to give away their supper to feed someone else and trusted that Jesus would provide for them.

Another point to be noted here is that he thinks Jesus took the supper for the miracle. As if the primary purpose is to do the miracle. I know this sounds a little odd but stay with me. Jesus had compassion on them and was worried that they would go hungry because of him (as they found themselves in such a situation because they chose to follow him to such a remote place). So, he wanted to feed them because they were hungry not because he wanted to do the miracle. These small details make a lot of difference. The intention is what matters the most here.

Next, he writes that there’s nothing mentioned about the boy whether he had supper or not. I’m not sure whether he is really ignorant or deliberately misleading his readers. He is the one pointing out that 5000 people were fed and twelve baskets were remaining, but yet he thinks he’s not sure whether the boy who gave away his supper! Disingenuous? Maybe.


The cousin pastor (reality or myth)

Here we come to the most important section of the article – the story involving his father, uncle, and cousin. I’m skeptical that this story is true. Why? Several reasons – 1) he doesn’t name anyone. Looking at the agenda of MK, they are out there to expose Christian missionaries. So, if important people in the story are anonymous, it is more probable that this story is fake. 2) His missionary uncle started a church (singular) and 20 pastors were working under him. This seems to be a strange model – one missionary and 20 pastors working under him in a single church? It could be that there’s one Pastor and 20 missionaries working under him. It could then seem to be a believable story. But then again, 20 missionaries is a huge number which again raises some questions. But I can’t be certain of what a local church does – therefore I’m skeptical of such models.

Let’s assume for the sake of the argument, that this story indeed is true. The pastors were dissatisfied that they were only getting money for ordinary meals and demanded that they get chicken curry (this sounds so strange). His uncle came to his village and asked his father to provide a special meal and his father, out of ego, fed them at a hotel at his expense, while his son and mother didn’t have enough to eat. If this story is true (which I’m doubtful of), it would be a case of anecdotal evidence. If Reji wishes to use this anecdotal evidence to argue that all missionaries and pastors are like this then it would be a fallacy of hasty generalization. If he makes a more modest claim, that not all of them are the same then as a Christian I would agree with him.

If this story indeed is true, it gives us an insight into ‘How’ people behave. It doesn’t give us an insight into what religion teaches. In Luke 9:3 we read – And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics” – this is how it should be done. When the pastors are dissatisfied with what they are getting, it questions their faithfulness to Christ. Christian faith doesn’t guarantee health, wealth, and good food. If one is to whine for such petty matters, they gotta introspect. Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” is a faithful believer. The one who does the will of the Father is!


Belittling Father

The most troubling and disappointing portion of this article is when Reji belittles his Father for his agenda. It’s okay to disagree with your blood, but the matters can be solved elsewhere, not on the internet where your Father can’t be there to defend himself. He says that his father suffers from some form of altruism as if it’s a kind of disease. I’m not sure whether he understands that words have meanings and you just cannot change them at your will. He says his father’s altruism is selfish. By definition, altruism is selfless so if it is selfish it cannot be altruism. I’m sorry I have to talk about his Father like this. It pains me. I can’t help but highlight these aspects of his articles. If his father is doing all these things for his selfish motives then it is all about ‘Him’ and nothing about the Christian religion. I invite the readers to judge a religion by its principles. No one should judge a religion by those who abuse it.

Contradictions?

The rest of the article exposes their double standards. They think that missionaries offer money, jobs, education, etc.. so that people will convert to Christianity. But then here, Reji is asserting that he has done some studies (I’m not sure how can one conduct such studies, but Ok), that the ones who give money are the poor people. First, they claim that they are getting money to get converted and, now they are claiming that they are manipulated into giving away their money. This is a serious contradiction that these individuals haven’t thought through. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. This also raises a lot of questions about Reji’s understanding of how a church works. The pastor is a salaried position. He has a fixed salary and the tithe that has been received is used for everything – ranging from maintenance costs for the church, light bills, phone bills, administration costs, salaries for various individuals working for the church, etc.


In my name

Reji compares his father’s words, “that go and eat whatever you want and just give the hotel owner my name”, to Jesus’s words “Whatever you ask in my name and I will give”. I don’t see how the two can even be compared. According to Reji, his father wanted to make a name for himself and that’s why he fed those pastors out of ego. I think Reji misunderstood the context in which Jesus said to ask anything in my name. The context is that if you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (John15:7). The verse is pretty clear; it begins with a condition if you abide in me. If we were to abide in him, we will ask according to the will of God. Jesus was talking about the pursuit of the Kingdom of God, not material benefits. So, unlike Reji, I don’t see any comparison here.



Conclusion

We first pointed out that the author commits a couple of fallacies and that he gets the feeding of the 5000 story wrong. His story about his uncle and Father seems to be implausible. There seems to be a contradiction in their approach – poor people get money for conversion or their money is taken away? Finally, we saw that Reji misunderstood the words of Jesus when he says ask anything in my name. Before I end this article, I have a question. What evidence do we have to believe in the existence of Kali?


Keep Questioning! Keep Thinking! The road to Damascus isn’t far.

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