Archive for the ‘not cultural imperialism’ 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.

O slavery! Thou offspring of the devil…when wilt thou cease to exist?

October 20, 2009

John Smith was a 19th C. London Missionary Society missionary to Demerara, South America. He saw slavery first hand. He wrote in his diary: ‘O slavery! Thou offspring of the devil…when wilt thou cease to exist?’

Increasingly he found himself in conflict with the plantation authorities over such matters as physical maltreatment of the slaves or their being compelled to work on Sundays, and the very act of teaching the slaves to read was accurately regarded by the colonial authorities as having potential for subversion.

Brian Stanley, The Bible and the Flag, Apollos, 1990, p.87

…the planters and their political allies preceived evangelical missions to be a threat to their power and to the stability of colonial society. Relations between colonists and missionaries were never cordial and were frequently antagonistic.

ibid., p.90

Footnote

John Smith (1790 – 1824) was a missionary whose experiences in the West Indies attracted the attention of the anti-slavery campaigner, William Wilberforce.

Smith arrived in Demerara under the auspices of the London Missionary Society in March, 1817. He lived at plantation Le Resouvenir, where he preached at Bethel Chapel, primarily attended by African slaves.

On the night of 17 August 1823, about ten to twelve thousand slaves drawn from plantations on the East Coast of the Demerara colony rebelled, under the belief that their masters were concealing news of the slaves’ emancipation.

Smith was subsequently charged with promoting discontent and dissatisfaction in the minds of the African slaves, exciting the slaves to rebel, and failing to notify the authorities that the slaves intended to rebel. In his trial he was defended by William Arrindell[1] and was sentenced to death. Wilberforce stepped in to arrange a reprieve, but, by the time it arrived, Smith had already perished as a result of the awful conditions in jail. His death was a major step forward in the campaign to abolish slavery.

References

  1. ^ The Solicitors’ Journal and Reporter. vol. VII. London: Yates and Alexander. 1863. pp. 266.
  • Costa, Emilia Viotti da (1994). “Crowns of Glory, Tears of Blood”. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508298-2

Mission Schools in South Africa

September 10, 2009

Talking about his older cousin Nelson Mandela states:  “We were both Methodists, and I was assigned to his hostel, known
as Wesley House, a pleasant two-storey building on the edge of the campus. Under his tutelage, I attended church services with him at nearby Loveday, took up soccer (in which he excelled), and generally followed his advice. Fort Hare, like Clarkebury and Healdtown, was a missionary college. We were exhorted to obey God, respect the political authorities and be grateful for the educational opportunities afforded to us by the Church and the government. These schools have often been criticized for being colonialist in their attitudes and practices. Yet, even with such attitudes, I believe their benefits outweighed their disadvantages. The missionaries built and ran schools when the government was unwilling or unable to do so. The learning environment of the missionary schools, while often morally rigid, was far more open than the racist principles underlying government schools. Fort Hare was both home and incubator of some of the greatest African scholars the continent has ever known.

Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 1994, p.52

What Would a Cultural Relativist Do?

September 10, 2009

When Wesleyan missionaries arrived in Fiji in 1835 they found a society “in which infanticide, human sacrifice and cannibalism were endemic”…in 1868 out of a population of 120,000 almost 106,000 were reported to be in regular attendance at public worship.

Brain Stanley, Bible and the Flag, Apollos, 1990, p.112

Presumably this ‘cultural imperialism’ was a terrible thing and the natives should have been left to engage in their ‘infanticide, human sacrifice and cannibalism’

What Would a Cultural Relativist Do? Time to make a few WWCRD bracelets?

(it is an illusion) that indigenous cultures prior to the missionary impact were in a condition of static perfection. This mythical view is itself a peculiarly arrogant form of cultural imperialism, founded on the notion that non-Western societies knew nothing of change or innovation until brought into contact with the modernizing West. On the contrary, almost all cultures exist in a state of perpetual flux, and represent an amalgam of diverse and often contradictory influences. The choice confronting  indigenous cultures has not ben between change and no change, but between a number of possible directions of change, som evidently more beneficial than others.

ibid., pp.170-171

The Missionary Legacy

September 10, 2009

Christian missions in India are routinely dismissed in contemporary Indian scholarship as simply an adjunct to colonialism. But, in fact, they were the soil from which both modern Hindu reform movements and Indian nationalism sprang. Most of the Indian intellectual and political leadership of the late C.19th and early C.20th emerged from Christian schools and colleges. Gandhi may have claimed to have been nurtured in the spiritual atmosphere of the Bhagavad Gita, but it was not from this text that he derived his philosophyThe deepest influences on Gandhi came from the “renouncer” traditions of Jainism and the New Testament, particularly the Sermon on the Mount as mediated through the works of Tolstoy. Christians in India have long been in the forefront of movements for the
emancipation of women, with missionary societies from Britain and the United States often giving the lead where the colonial government was hesitant to tread for fear of upsetting local sensibilities….  Some of the finest medical hospitals and training schools in India owe their existence to Christian missions. For many years the entire nursing profession was filled with Anglo-Indians and Indian Christians, as other communities regarded nursing as menial work fit only for uneducated girls and widows.  It has been estimated that, as late as the beginning of the Second World War, 90% of all the nurses in the country, male and female, were Christians, and that about 80% of these had been trained in mission hospitals.

Harold Netland, Encountering religious pluralism:The challenge to Christian faith, 2001 and Vinoth Ramachandra, Faiths in Conflict?, IVP, 1999, pp.78-79

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

The Gospel preserves indigenous culture

September 10, 2009

When we take the measure of Christian missionary involvement in translation work, we discover a new frontier of the modern world. More than 1,800 languages have been employed in translating the Scriptures. In many significant cases, these languages received their first breath of life from Christian interest. This is true whether we are speaking of Calvin and the birth of modern French, Luther and German, Tyndale and English, Robert de Nobili or William Carey and the Indian vernaculars, Miles Brunson and Assamese, Johannes Christaller and Akan in Ghana, Moffat and Sichuana in Botswana, Ajayi Crowther and Yoruba in Nigeria, and Krapf and Swahili in East Africa, to take a random list from many examples. A glance at the world map shows that the spread of Christian renewal overlaps significantly with the development of the vernacular. There is scarcely a language or culture of any significance that does not have some portion of Christian materials available in translation.

It is important to spell out what is the particular, specific Christian understanding of culture in the context of other world religions. It is clear that in their different ways Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism have a different status for culture, or at any rate regard the culture of origin as the universal paradigm. In so far as Buddhism conceives an ultimate reality which transcends human words, culture is of transitory value. For Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism, the founding culture becomes itself the sacral mode of encountering ultimate reality. Consequently, Arabic, Hebrew, and Sanskrit have become inseparable from the truth as seen by adherents of these religions. It follows from this that translating scriptures for canonical purposes in these religions is considered invalid, for the tones and sounds cannot be reproduced in other languages. Of these three religions, only Islam has emerged as a major missionary religion, with converts spread across innumerable cultural frontiers. It is, therefore, right to compare Christianity with Islam on this issue of translation. One fact is clear, namely, that the missionary success of Islam has never been fueled, or followed, by the translation of the sacred Qur’an for the purposes of salat, the prescribed five daily prayers. Since approximately 75% of the world’s 850 million Muslims are non-Arabic speaking, this implies a major downgrading of the mother tongues of these Muslims in the decisive acts of faith and devotion. For these non-Arab Muslims, Arabic is also the exclusive mode of religious orthodoxy.

Lamin Sanneh source

Not ‘My country right or wrong’

September 10, 2009

Hudson Taylor opposed British action in 1856 over the ship ‘Arrow’ and the British attack on Guangzhou.

Roger Steer, Hudson Taylor, p.128

The gospel is the rule that evaluates all cultures and societies – including one’s own. Relativism claims that all cultures are equal and Nationalism (nearly) claims one’s own culture is superior to others and is the judge of others. The gospel is the criterion that avoids both these errors.

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’.

Missionary Legacy

September 10, 2009

In Kenya, ten of the seventeen members of jomo Kenyatta’s first cabinet were old boys of the interdenominational Alliance High School in Kikuyuland.

It was missionaries who brought the atrocities in the Belgian Congo to the attention of the outside world. Rather than being complicit in Colonial sins, in this case in this case they tried to stop them.

Brian Stanley, Bible and Flag, p.16