Missionary went to change tribe, but they changed him
BY ANDREW HERRMANN Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
The mission assigned to Daniel Everett after he graduated from Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute was to change the lives of members of a tiny tribe in the Amazonian rain forest.
It was, however, Everett who was changed.
Everett, along with his wife and three children, were met in the rain forest by the Piraha people of central Brazil — a primitive culture which has no words for numbers or colors and no concept of war or personal property. They live in the present.
For a missionary like Everett, then 26, that last part proved a stumbling block as he tried to find the language to talk about Jesus and an afterlife to people who never talk about the past nor the future.
In the end, Everett, now a linguistics professor at Illinois State University, abandoned his own religious faith, a tale he tells in his new book, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes (Pantheon, $26.95).
“I had preached the evidence of Christianity could be seen in the lives of the believers,” Everett said Tuesday. “Then I realized, these people, were, if anything, more secure, happier.”
Oh, if only more self-righteous, intrusive god botherers would “see the light” and leave the innocent alone.
“The Piraha don’t feel poor — they feel satisfied and that’s the basis of their happiness,” said Everett. “If they start to feel a lack in their own culture, a need for western goods, that will be a very destructive force in their lives.”