Archive for the ‘missionaries’ Category

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 benefits of the gospel to China

September 10, 2009

During the 1894 China Japan war over Korea 200 severly wounded Chinese came to the CIM hospital in Chefoo (Yantai, Shandong) from Weihai. Arthur Douthwaite carried out emergency operations on 163 men altogether. At the end of the war a Chinese general came to the hospital, accompanied by a brass band and a unit of soldiers. He erected a gold-embossed inscription expressing the thanks of the Chinese army. When he heard that stone was needed to build a new school at Chefoo he arrnaged for it to be provided from an army quarry and transported by soldiers.

Roger Steer, Hudson Taylor, OMF, 1990, pp.339-340

Also, CIM missionaries John Jones and Hudson Taylor helped opium addicts break their addiction. ibid., pp.144, 156

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

Missionaries and Empire

September 10, 2009

In 1957, Nkrumah gave public honor at the Ghana assembly of the International Missionary Council to ―the great work of missionaries in West Africa, particularly those who had died ―for the enlightenment and welfare of this land…the need for devoted service such as they gave is as great as ever . At the same time, Nkrumah and other nationalist political leaders were vocally critical of missionary paternalism reflected in the continued presence of white Christian authority where national churches were already established.

See Brian Stanley, The Bible and the Flag, p.16 source

Amy Carmichael’s Vision

September 10, 2009

Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India, and one night in a village in India she wrote these words. Listen carefully: “I could not go asleep. So I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this: that I stood on a grassy sward and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth. Then I saw people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding onto her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step – it trod air. Oh, the cry as they went over!

“Then I saw more streams of people from all parts. They were blind, stone-blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, clutching at empty air. Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were far too great; they were wide, there were unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell.

“Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees, with their back to the gulf. They were making daisy-chains. There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries; but they found that very few wanted to go. Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relatives called, and reminded her that her furlough was due. Being tired and needing a change she had to go and rest for a while; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.

“Once a child caught a tuft of grass that grew on the very brink of the gulf; it clung convulsively and it called, but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over. And the girl who longed to be back in the gap thought she heard the little one cry and she sprang up and wanted to go, at which they reproved her; and then sang a hymn. Then through the hymn the pain of a million broken hearts rung out in one full drop, one sob. It was the Cry of Blood”.

online source


July 14, 2009

“Much of late 19th C. anthropology was devoted to so-called ‘scientific’ racism, which threatened the Christian insistence on the essential unity of all mankind, and whose exponents (such as the African explorer Richard Burton) regarded the attempts of missionaries to uplift the ‘savage’ as wholly futile.”

B.Stanley, Bible and the Flag, p.162 from D.A. Lorimer, Colour, Class and the Victorians (Leicester, 1978), pp.131-161


cf. Burton: “The African’s intellect (is) weak…(his) morale deficient, amiability strong, temperament enduring, destructiveness highly developed and sensibility to pain compartively blunt.’

Whereas the likes of (Victorian) Robert Moffat were evangelising the Africans.