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'The Mission' doc reignites debate over John Chau's tragic death, ethics of Evangelical missions

John Chau | Courtesy of All Nations/The Christian Post

By Leah MarieAnn Klett - Posted at The Christian Post:

Published November 12, 2023

When John Chau, a 26-year-old missionary, was killed by the Sentinelese tribe after he traveled to North Sentinel Island—an isolated region of India—to share the Gospel with the uncontacted group, responses were polarizing.

Some, both in the Evangelical and secular arenas, condemned Chau’s journey as a reckless one that reflected deep levels of ignorance, pride and cultural superiority. Others applauded his commitment to the Great Commission, the biblical mandate to reach all nations with the Gospel, despite great personal risk.

The new National Geographic documentary “The Mission” delves into Chau’s background and history to understand the young missionary and the beliefs that drove his passion for reaching the lost, ultimately losing his life in pursuit of that goal.

The documentary, from husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, explores Chau’s personal writings, social media and diaries and features interviews and accounts from those who knew him best, including his inner circle, family and pastor. Woven throughout the film is a poignant letter from John’s father, psychiatrist Patrick Chau, who blames “extreme Christianity” for his son’s death.

“When we read about John's death, an act of radical faith, I think that we were left with more questions than answers, like what propelled him to this faraway place to bring the Gospel to this uncontacted tribe, and who is this tribe that we've heard almost nothing about, and how have they escaped the world's attention?” Moss, who, along with McBaine, doesn't identify as religious, told The Christian Post.

“That was kind of remarkable and its own mystery. There were a lot of news stories about John and his tragic death, but they were very reductive. We felt if we could take the time, and we had the support, which we ended up getting from National Geographic, we could take on this really challenging and sometimes uncomfortable story. And that's what we've tried to do.”


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