Friday, December 15, 2023

The Mission

The Mission tackles the preventable killing of missionary John Allen Chau whose death was caused by hubris wrapped in a flag of faith which even his own family saw as troubling. Buying into the Evangelical idea to forcibly spread the word of Christianity across the globe led the 26 year-old missionary fueled in part by propaganda on a hairbrained scheme of invading one of the most isolated islands left on the planet despite the obstacles in his way.

Interviewing Chau's parents, friends, and mentors, while also narrating and animating events from the missionary's recovered journal, directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss attempt to make sense out of the tragedy. Trapped under the misconception he could save savages who would welcome him and accept Jesus Christ, Chau ignored common sense and personal safety. Believing Chau to be at worst a potential martyr, too many enabled his plan. While interviews with experts point out several flaws in Chau's mission, the church itself (and those who aided him) take no responsibility for its deadly outcome.

If the documentary has a fault it's not taking a stronger stance against the ideas of Christian colonization and those who found ways to profit from Chau's ill-conceived mission. The Mission attempts to focus on what it views as the thin line between faith and madness, focusing on the building blocks that eventually led to Chau dying so far from home. In Chau's case, I don't know that there's an actual thin line to debate.

Watching the story unfold, I was reminded of 2005's Grizzly Man which used archival footage to piece together the unfortunate death of crazy bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell who, like Chau, died from ignoring common sense in favor of a greater truth he claimed to understand. While Chau's motives may have been pure, if tempered through controversial perspectives warping his judgement, there's certainly blame to be levied at those sources, such as All Nations (the evangelical organization that trained Chau) which sent the young man off to die and then found a way to martyr him to continue their prideful crusade, along with the Evangelical movement that spawned it. There's no glory for God here, only the preventable death of a goodhearted, if delusional, young man.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: The Mission
  • IMDb: link

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