Archive for the ‘missionary adaptation to culture’ Category

these facts of cultural and linguistic pioneering conflict with the reputation of Christianity as one colossal act of cultural intolerance

December 14, 2009

Christianity is the religion of over two thousand different language groups in the world. More peple pray and worship in more languages that in any other religion in the world…. Obviously these facts of cultural and linguistic pioneering conflict with the reputation of Christianity as one colossal act of cultural intolerance. This has produced a deep Christendom guilt complex, against which all evidence seems unavailing. It is important, however, to get people to budge, because the default Christianity they now practice is a worn-out cultural fragment of something much greater and fresher.

Lamin Sanneh, Whose Religion is Christianity?, pp. 69-70.

Benefits of the gospel

September 10, 2009

…in the histories of Asia and Africa over the past 200 years, it is Christian medical missionaries who have frequently been the pioneers of rural health care systems, medical education for women, and other under-privileged groups, and the development of special medical techniques (for instance, reconstructive surgery for lepers) which 3rd world conditions required.

Vinoth Ramachandra, Recovery of Missions, p.57

Make known the ways of God not the white man

September 10, 2009

The customs of the colonised people, their traditions, their myths—above all, their myths—are the very sign of that poverty of spirit and of their constitutional depravity. That is why we must put the DDT which destroys parasites, the bearers of disease, on the same level as the Christian religion which wages war on embryonic heresies and instincts, and on evil as yet unborn. The recession of yellow fever and the advance of evangelisation form part of the same balance-sheet. But the triumphant communiqués from the missions are in fact a source of information concerning the implantation of foreign influences in the ore of the colonised people. I speak of the Christian religion, and no one need be astonished. The Church in the colonies is the white people’s Church, the foreigner’s Church. She does not call the native to God’s ways but to the ways of the white man, of the master, of the oppressor. And as we know, in this matter many are called but few chosen.

FRANTZ FANON, The Wretched of the Earth

Whilst this charge could be levelled in fairness at some missionaries, Fanon surely cannot be speaking of the likes of Hudson Taylor.

The missionary should heed Fanon’s warning, not to stay at home – for the native ‘myths’ he speaks of condemn men to eternal hell –  but to make known the ways of God and not ‘the white man, of the master’.

Becoming all things to all men

August 25, 2009

Surely no follower of this meek and lowly One will be likely to conclude that it is ‘beneath the dignity of a Christian missionary’ to seek identification with this poor people… Let us rather be imitators of Him (who washed His disciples’ feet).

We have to deal with a people whose prejudices in favour of their own customs and habits are the growth of centuries and millenniums. Nor are their preferences ill-founded. These who know them most intimately respect them most; and see best the necessity for many of their habits and customs – this being found in the climate, productions, and conformation of the people. There is perhaps no country in the world in which religious toleration is carried to so great an extent as in China; the only objection that prince or people have to Christianity is that it is a foreign religion, and that its tendencies are to approximate believers to foreign nations.

I am not peculiar in holding the opinion that the foreign dress and carriage of missionaries – to a certain extent affected by some of their converts and pupils – the foreign appearance of the chapels, and indeed, the foreign air given to everything connected with religion, have very largely hindered the rapid dissemination of the truth among the Chinese. But why need such a foreign aspect be given to Christianity? The word of God does not require it; nor I conceive would reason justify it. It is not their denationalization but their Christianization that we seek.

We wish to see Christian (Chinese) – true Christians, but withal true Chinese in every sense of the word. We wish to see churches and Christian Chinese presided over by pastors and officers of their own countrymen, worshiping the true God in the land of their fathers, in the costume of their fathers, in their own tongue wherein they were born, and in edifices of a thoroughly Chinese style of architecture.

It is enough that the disciple be as his master (Jesus Christ).

If we really desire to see the Chinese such as we have described, let us as far as possible set before them a correct example: let us in everything unsinful become Chinese, that by all things we may save some. Let us adopt their costume, acquire their language, study to imitate their habits, and approximate to their diet as far as health and constitution will allow. Let us live in their houses, making no unnecessary alterations in external appearance, and only so far modifying internal arrangements as attention to health and efficiency for work absolutely require.

James Hudson Taylor addressing a letter to all who would seek to join him in this new work in 1867. Source

It is wonderful to see God’s providence in granting Taylor’s wish for ‘churches and Christian Chinese presided over by pastors and officers of their own countrymen’ through the forced eviction of foreign missionaries by the communist regime. Could he have imagined that tens of millions would worship the true God in China as they do today?