25 May 2011

Nothing has been done about Sam Wollaston

I don't get many visitors to this blog, and I don't complain about that: it's too irregular and too unfocussed to build up a following. (More than half the visitors I do get only come here because they think they're going to see something about Charlton, and more than half the time they're disappointed.)

But one of my posts that's always attracted a trickle of views dates back to April 2009. I suppose it turns up when people do a search for Sam Wollaston. Why would people google him? I think it's unlikely that people want to know more about him - he's adequately forthcoming himself about his own life, his career, his girlfriend, etc - but I like to think it's people looking for someone else who shares their disbelief that he keeps his job.

And now, more than two years later, I've got my first comments on the post, and I'm pleased to say they support this hypothesis. In fact the first commenter, Ronniespraggs, makes me look like Wollaston's biggest fan.

As for me, I've almost stopped looking at Wollaston's columns. I know that people will say that's what I always should have done: if you don't like it, don't read it. But for me the real pity of Wollaston's writing is the opportunity cost: the Guardian's TV review could be, and used to be, one of the delights of the paper, one of the first things I'd turn to. Ronnie and Linda's comments have made me look at his latest two columns, and it doesn't seem things have changed. This makes me sad.

03 May 2011

The missionary vanishes

As I've noted before, waking up early gives you the opportunity to listen to American evangelical preaching, and this morning at 5 am Pastor David Jeremiah told the story of Jenny Adams, a Baptist missionary in Trujillo, Peru. Even at that time of day the story sounded strange, so I decided to investigate it further.

Here's what Jeremiah said.

Jenny Adams had been a missionary for 34 years. One day, she gave a lift to a young woman, without knowing that the woman's brother was a cocaine refiner, and she was carrying 3.9 kilogrammes of the drug. The police found this in Adams's vehicle, and so she was charged with possession (and presumably with intent to deal). The Peruvian legal system presumes guilt until innocence is proved (apparently), and so the local newspapers started printing stories about the "cocaine missionary". Adams was in prison for 20 days (so we must assume she was cleared of any charges).

Jeremiah's point is that this was an example of anti-Christian harassment. As a symbol of north American Christianity, Adams and her mission were vilified on this pretext, and no account was paid to her 34 years of unblemished service.

My first thought was that all over the world people are stringently punished for suspected drug offences, whether they are Christian or not. If there was any vindictiveness aimed at Adams or her mission it was more likely to be anti-imperialist that anti-Christian. And she was apparently acquitted. Good, but all over the world there are people in prison for long terms who might have done nothing worse.

So I decided to find out more about Jenny Adams. Jeremiah had mentioned what sounded like direct quotations from Peruvian newspapers, so it shouldn't be too hard to find. He must have read the story somewhere, and as he presumably doesn't read the Peruvian press, it must have turned up in some American media. And if the story is so heinous, at least some American Baptist websites would cover it.

Google searches for "Jenny Adams peru" and "Jenny Adams baptist" hardly help at all. I find one page which identifies Jenny Adams as a missionary in the Iglesia Bautista de Samne, 50 kilometres from Trujillo, so that must be her: the name must be right. But nothing about drugs. Even that snappy headline "cocaine missionary" doesn't give anything.

I'm honestly surprised that there is no trace of the story, and caught between disappointment and delight. I feel like it's possible I've caught Jeremiah out in an act of fiction, to put it nicely, but I'd be happier if I could be sure that the Jenny Adams story is not as he told it. What started out as a fairly weak attempt to show that Christians are persecuted merely for being Christian turns out to be a story that - so far - only exists in the world of David Jeremiah. But if anyone knows better, please let me know.

EDIT: I'm grateful to Anonymous(1) for the link and happy to see that the Jennie Adams story is true. I don't agree with a lot of what missionaries do, but I admire her evident fortitude. I had got the impression that this had happened quite recently, but that's clearly not the case, which would explain why it was hard to find any trace on tinternet. I'm also happy to withdraw any suggestion that Dr Jeremiah had made it up: it's natural that he would have known personally of Jennie Adams's history.