R. E. (Robert Ethol) Welsh.

Challenge to Christian missions : missionary questions & the modern mind online

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social intercourse, to defer to native concep-

Political Complications 31

tions of etiquette and modesty. But most
missionaries have already learnt prudence in
these respects, and some misunderstanding
will be unavoidable until the Asiatic is brought
to a more just and enlightened appreciation of
the Christian domestic relationships.

Much offence has been given, at first un-
wittingly, by the choice of sites for mission
buildings where the feng shut or good luck
of a native house or grave has been spoilt.
In Tokio, Pekin, Canton, and elsewhere
cathedrals and churches have been erected
on high situations where they have been like
an "evil eye," offending the earth-supersti-
tions of the citizens ; and some of these have
had to be removed for this reason. Even rail-
way lines have had to make a detour in order
to escape any seeming dishonour to the graves
of the dead.

Most missionaries have learnt, a few may
still have to learn, to treat the sacred things
and even the superstitions of the people with
proper forbearance and without signs of brusque
contempt. On the other hand, what can the
missionary do to disarm the popular suspicion
that he bewitches his neighbours and is the
cause of their ailments and of droughts and
floods? Much of the hostility which the
censors ascribe to Christian missions cannot
be averted by the most prudent care, and

32 The Challenge to Missions

must be faced and weathered in patient

But is the Christian religion the real ground
of native hostility ? In some measure, especi-
ally at first when the missionary's motives are
not understood, it is. That is to be so far
expected, for reasons already indicated. But
that accounts for only a fraction of the
antagonism aroused, as the greatest journal
in the land, at a recent crisis, argued vigor-
ously and proved. For evidence take the fact
that, when native officials executed murderous
edicts and refused safe conduct to foreigners
taking refuge under their care, missionaries
who took flight were in many instances
harboured with the utmost friendliness by the
humbler classes of the people, and even
sheltered and helped on their perilous way
by minor officials and priests who in the act
were at their risk disregarding superior orders.
In short, there has been no popular fury visible
in such crises.

The missionary in certain countries is hated,
not usually to any appreciable extent on account
of his religion, nor on his own personal account
— he is found to be harmless and kind — but
because he is suspected of being an advance
agent of a conquering foreign power. The
people cannot easily understand his purely
benevolent aims — especially where he has not

Political Complications 33

been tried by time and experience. Why has
he come ? For business? If not, then for what
purpose? The answer, simple enough to us,
only breeds mystery in the native mind. As
Lord Curzon tells, the treaties by which the
missionary travels and resides in the country
were wrung from a reluctant government by
shrewd scheming or armed force — witness the
dishonourable interpolation in the Chinese text
of the French Convention made in i860,
"Christianity," says Mr Michie, "is therefore
inseparably associated with the humiliation of
the empire (Chinese). The missionaries bear
the brunt" of the animosity. Their presence
is a perpetual reminder of the hated " foreign
devils," and seems to threaten foreign domina-
tion. Like all strangers, et dona ferentes, they
are suspected of hiding treachery behind their
gifts, of creating a foreign disloyal party, and of
being spies and forerunners of the foreign army.^

^ Since these pages were composed a Secretary of Legation
and Acting Minister at Pekin, Mr Chester Holcombe, has
written: "It is far too commonly believed that missionaries
are at once the main cause and the special object of the anti-
foreign feeling so universal and so intense throughout China.
The facts sustain no such belief. Missionaries as such have
had little to do with this bitter hostility to foreigners. They
have suffered heavily from it, but it is not of their creation.
Christianity is objected to, not so much because it is Christi-
anity, as because it is a Western religion. And those who
preach it are objectionable to the Chinese, not as preachers
but as foreigners." {The Real Chifiese Question,)


34 The Challenge to Missions

No wonder they are looked on as political
agents. The molested or murdered missionary
has been used as the convenient excuse for
military interference or for demanding "con-
cessions." Under this false cloak Germany
concealed her policy of " grab " when she seized
Kiao-chau : would that she were solitary in
such practices !

France has openly employed the Roman
Catholic mission as a mere cat's-paw. Roman
Catholics have for two centuries sought political
power in China. With the sinister help of
France, they have lately compelled the Chinese
Government to grant them an independent
status and authority as high officials of the

Is it known to the British public that the
Roman Catholic clergy have secured the right
to sit on equal terms beside the Chinese judge,
to impose their own verdict on the magistrate
in every case in which one of their converts, or
even one of their friends, is involved ? When
certain Roman priests travel, they travel as
high officials, armed, and accompanied with a
retinue of armed supporters. They have
equipped many of their converts with arms.

It is to the Romanist missionary that the
shady character goes, who for his offences
wants protection against the strong arm of
the law. When the priest takes the offender

Political Complications 35

under his wing, the case must be disposed of
as he dictates. He can enter the courts and
defy native authority.^ " Bishops are entitled
to demand interviews and conduct affairs
with viceroys and governors, and priests with
prefects and magistrates, just as if they were
possessed of ministerial or consular rank."-
They have established an imperium in imperio.
Lord Curzon declares that this is the chief
fear of the Chinese Government. That in-
dividual missionaries of the Roman Church
deserve honour for their personal devotion
and work is not in question ; it is the policy,
not the individual, that is here accused.

^ See Appendix A., p. 175, for ample confirmation and still
graver statements given, since these pages were set up, in H.
C. Thomson's China and the Powers, A. R. Colquhoun's Over-
land to China, A. H. Smith's China in Convulsion. See also
Dr J. Ross's Situation in China, and The Chinese Crisis by
Gilbert M'Intosh.

- Referring to the resentment against powerful bodies creating
an imperium in imperio, the Times, in a remarkable pronounce-
ment on the above lines, declares that "a distinction must be
established between the missionaries of the different Protestant
denominations and those of the Roman Catholic Church." The
latter have displayed the same fortitude and devotion as the
former. " But the claims set up by France, and more recently
by Germany, to exercise a peculiar protectorate over Roman
Catholic Missionaries, and indirectly even over native Roman
Catholics, and the methods by which that protectorate has in
cases been exercised, must give some colour to the charge that,
under the cloak of religious propaganda, political objects have
not infrequently been pursued and achieved." (November
15, 1901.)

36 The Challenge to Missions

Such facts as the above are known to the
natives all over the land. And it was under
compulsion from France that these arrogant
claims were successfully pressed. Is it any
wonder that the people, who, at first, class all
missionaries together, see in their persons
political emissaries, and distrust and hate
them accordingly? Is it not natural that
some of the most shifty citizens should seek
admission to the convenient Roman fold ?

The hostility of the Chinese to the foreign
missionary, which is raised in the secular press
as the hue-and-cry against the whole work, is
ten times more due to this overbearing domina-
tion of native authority and insult to native
justice by the Roman Catholics, backed by
foreign forces, than to any other cause.

Let the blame be laid on the right shoulders.
Let it be known that Protestant missions have
never sought, and have refused to accept, privi-
leges so subversive of Chinese rule. " In China,"
says Lord Curzon, " it not infrequently happens
that a shady character will suddenly find salva-
tion for the sake of the protection which it
may be expected to confer upon him." But
Protestant missionaries have refused to take
up the legal cases of their converts ; they will
not have their churches turned into a cave of
Adullam. They will not champion even the
Christians whom they believe to have justice

Political Complications ^7

on their side, lest they encourage others out-
side to attach themselves to the mission for
the sake of the protection expected. Their
policy, however, does not avert the animosity
which the different tactics of the Roman Church
have brought down upon the whole missionary
propaganda. It takes the Chinaman some
time to discriminate between the innocent
Protestant and the Roman offender against
native authority.

It is charged against the missionaries that
they clamour for a gunboat and the avenging
sword when they are molested and in peril of
their lives. But comparatively seldom has such
an outcry been heard from Protestant mission-
aries. Quite as often it is the foreign Power,
whose subject the missionary is, which feels
compelled to go to his relief or to teach the
Chinese a lesson over his sufferings. It would
usually be as near the truth to say that the
foreign Power takes advantage of the mission-
aries' case for its own political ends.

Now that a new progressive and more
hospitable spirit is being displayed by the
best Chinese leaders, it is significant that they
are turning to enlightened missionaries for
their help, and making use of the works of
Western learning on history, science, and social
economics, which the missionaries have trans-
lated into Chinese or have specially written.

38 The Challenge to Missions

Already there are signs that enlightened native
leaders will call to their aid in certain social
and educational matters the best class of
foreign missionaries, as Japan availed itself of
the invaluable services of Dr Verbeck when
it awoke from its mediaeval sleep and opened
a new epoch in its history.

Political complications do indeed arise at
times as the indirect outcome of missionary
work in certain countries. But the converse
is not less true, and true, not in China alone,
but in every foreign nation.

The Christian cause is constantly complicated
by the action which governments, politicians,
armies, and civilians take in their relations
with yellow and dusky races. This has been
seen repeatedly in the making of treaties,
the waging of wars, and the general policy of
governments — in, for example, the French
conquest of Madagascar. To be more specific,
take for illustration the Government system
of education in India (of which more will fall
to be said later), the Cantonment system, the
opium trade forced on China (which now
cultivates the poppy but remembers the deadly
wrong), the Glen Grey Act in Cape Colony
and other laws which make it hard for the
Kaffir to hold land and which drive him into
locations, the settlement of the endless Native

Political Complications 39

Question in other countries besides South
Africa, and the Liquor Laws adopted by
the authorities. In these and many other
matters of political policy the interests of the
Christian cause are involved for better or for
worse. Every public action works round for
the benefit or the detriment of the moral and
social life of the people, and in many ways
affects the prospects of Christian work. It
is easy to see how, for example, any unjust
treatment meted out by Powers nominally
Christian to dark-skinned races of the world
conveys to their minds a hostile and false im-
pression as to the true character of Christianity.

Not with politics only, however, is the
missionary cause interlaced.

What experience have native races had of
foreign residents generally, of prospectors,
soldiers, and mercantile men ? How have
traders as a class behaved to them ? Some
industries have been started among them which
have become instrumental in their develop-
ment. On the other hand what has been the
effect of the cheap and fiery liquor supplied
to them on easy terms ? The Europeans and
Americans sent out to train native forces, to
act as magistrates, or as professors in colleges,
and to build railways — what influences and
habits, wholesome or deleterious, have they
carried with them ? Has the advent of public

40 The Challenge to Missions

men and men of business been accompanied
by the dissemination of sceptical literature,
creating the impression among the enlightened
that the modern white man does not really
believe in Christianity? Later in these pages
it will be shown how these questions have to
be put in the same breath with the missionary

Enough to indicate here that the Christian
cause, abroad as at home, is interlaced with
the entire political, civil, commercial, and pro-
fessional life by which it is accompanied. The
world needs, not only missionaries and Bibles,
but sound rule, honourable diplomacy, in-
dustries, and fair trading ; and upon these
hangs much of the success or failure of mission


" East is East and West is West "



"East is East and West is West"

Kipling, when he put in everyone's mouth the
dictum, " Oh, East is East and West is West,
and never the twain shall meet," condensed
what many silently think or frankly say — that
the gulf dividing different races cannot be
bridged, that the East has its own religions
which suit its peoples as our religion suits us,
and that it is not for us to interfere with what
they believe. Men of a philosophic turn call
in ethnic science to certify that the various
religions of mankind are racial products, and
cannot be transplanted and universalised. Like
their rice, clothing, and languages, the faith
that has grown on Asiatic soil is the proper
faith for Asiatics.

You will hear it under the punkahs and on
board ship — it is a sort of P. and O. theology :
"These Hindus, Chinese, and Japanese have
religions of their own that are adapted to their
conditions and mind, as we have one that fits
us. Why should we foist our ideas on them,
disturb their beliefs, and undermine their

44 The Challenge to Missions

customs and simplicity ? " Jonah was possibly
the first exponent of the principle !

This point of view commends itself to the
modern travelled mind by its look of liberal,
cosmopolitan wisdom. It places the religions
of mankind on the zone-system, relates them to
climate and latitude ; and it has all the more
attraction for the world-wise because of being,
in a double sense, latitudinarian.

I. But, to take first the practical answer,
solvitur ambulando : it is too late in the day to
bind Christianity within racial or geographical
limits. History has settled this controversy in
advance. To begin with, Jesus was not of
Aryan birth, with our white face ; His religion
was not a product of Western soil, native to
our land ; it was of Oriental, Semitic origin,
as foreign to Europeans at the time of its
emergence as it is to Bengal or Mongolia to-day.
When St Paul's vessel crossed the .^gean Sea,
it cleft asunder for ever the supposition that
Christianity is unsuited to different races. In
that short voyage it was transplanted as far as
the East is from the West, as far as Hebrew
thought was from the Greek and Roman mind ;
and that was as far as Thibet, Japan, and New
Guinea are from Great Britain. When the
Gospel bridged that Middle Sea, it potentially
bridged all racial distinctions all the world over.

We ourselves are among the alien races whom

Many Races, Many Religions 45

Christianity has conquered and suited. It was
the chief means of lifting our pagan ancestors
out of barbarism, and has transformed our
personal, social, and national existence. There
is something inept, cool, if not ridiculous, in
Britons viewing Christianity as an Anglo-Saxon
property and not suited to remote alien peoples,
when we, a foreign race, owe everything to it !
Those who oppose foreign missions on this plea
are hopelessly, gloriously in debt to missions
in past times for all the blessings funded in
their hearts, hopes, homes, liberties, and en-
lightenment. What if early Christians had
adopted this racial policy — the very policy of
the Judaising Christians who disapproved
preaching to the Gentiles — and had argued,
"Greece, Rome, and Britain have their own
religions which suit their conditions ; we have
no right to carry on a propaganda among them
and disturb their beliefs " ? Happy for us that
they saw deeper and ignored race-distinctions !
Of all races in the world the Anglo-Saxon may
well believe enthusiastically in what Christ can
do for every human race. What he has done
for us He can do for others — if we allow the
same number of centuries in which to reap
the slow harvest of moral regeneration. Let
it be reiterated, written in large, illuminated
letters : we ourselves are the fruit of Christian
missions, the living disproof of the race-religion

46 The Challenge to Missions

plea. That fact alone meets a hundred

And the past century's experience of mission-
ary work among every race of mankind goes
far to confirm our own experience. We have
taken many hundreds of years to ascend from
barbarism to our present state of enlighten-
ment; but already, within one or two genera-
tions, tens of thousands in all parts of the world
have been visibly elevated in personal character,
and in domestic and social life and economic

Here the objector to missions has shifted
his ground. It was first argued that it was
vain to offer the Gospel to raw, barbaric races,
that Christianity was too fine and exalted for
them to be able to appreciate and profit by it.
But after the transforming work effected in
Tierra Del Fuego — which amazed Darwin and
made him a subscriber to the South American
Missionary Society — and in Fiji, the New
Hebrides, Uganda, and elsewhere, the argument
is reversed, and it is now said that Christianity
\sjust fit for raising the savage races, but is not
suitable or required where ancient and philo-
sophic religions are rooted in the life and mind
of the people.

It is certainly the " publicans and sinners "
of the world-races that have been the first to
receive the gospel — the Bantus, and Ainus, and

Many Races, Many Religions 47

Karens, and low castes in Asia. It is among
the " wise " of the world-peoples that we find
the stiffest task. Yet among no people of the
earth has Christianity failed to win victories of
a decisive and convincing character — except
perhaps the doubtful case of the Jews and the
Mohammedans (is this because they are our
"near relations," or because it is a case
of "arrested development," or pharisaism
repeated ?). Signally in Japan, but in India
and China also, the racial barrier has been
successfully overcome, not only in the conver-
sion of tens of thousands, but also in the visible
transformation of the domestic and social life
of the little communities where Christ has
shown His renewing power.

There is indeed a sufficiently deep gulf
between the races, which needs to be kept in
view in adjusting the form of mission work and
the expression of the message to the several
races. The apostles to be sent out to the East
must have aptitudes for acquiring difficult
languages and wisely appreciating Buddhist
and Confucian modes of thought, able to
lay broad foundations for a slow process of
Christianising great nations. Those who evan-
gelise the child-races must follow simpler lines
and may be men of more limited intellectual
endowments. And possibly Christianity as
recast in the different mould of the Eastern

48 The Challenge to Missions

mind may turn out a somewhat different thing
from ours in its type and creed-language — as
witness the recent trend in the Christian Church
of Japan.

At the same time, as the English language,
built for the concrete Western mind, has not
resources enough to hold and express some of
the subtle ideas of the Asiatic mind, so that
full translation is sometimes impossible, it may
be that only the mystical Asiatic mind will be
able to interpret and fully realise the Oriental
and mystical quantity in the Scriptures, which
after all are of Oriental mould. The Eastern
races, seeing it on the side that faces the East,
may have their contribution to make to the
deeper comprehension of our own faith — each a
beam to bring for the great world-temple of
Christ. But all the more may we confidently
expect that they will be suited by a faith which
arose on their own soil. {Cf. Appendix B., p. 1 84.)

Yet, on a larger view, Christ is not the son
of the Jew, neither the son of the Orient nor of
the Occident, but the Son of Man, with an
appeal to the human instincts which are uni-
versal throughout the whole earth. Those who
argue that the religion of the West is not
adapted to the Eastern, and who quote Kipling's
catch-word, should hear him out to the end of
his verse ; they would find him swiftly reversing
their argument.

Many Races, Many Religions 49

"Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the
twain shall meet,

Till earth and sky stand presently at God's great Judg-
ment Seat ;

But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed,
nor Birth,

When two strong men stand face to face, though they
come from the ends of the earth."

The surface differences naturally strike us as
enormous ; but all are of one blood — for proof,
take the signal fact that children spring from
the union of a man and a woman of the most
diverse races. Miss Kingsley told the mission-
aries that the difference between the Africans
and themselves was a difference, not merely of
degree, but of kind. But when black and white
" stand face to face," when they get down to the
deeps of their being, they show ultimate identity
in their moral fibre, the same desire for love
and good and life, the same sins — in Byron's

" New times, new climes, new arts, new men ; but still
The same old tears, old crimes, and oldest ill," —

and the same craving to know the Unseen and
be delivered from death and from the fear of
its mysteries. With all differences of tongue,
there is one language they all understand, the
language of love, a bit of kindness. And it is
the discovery of a great Heart of Love reigning
in the Unseen, love that suffers in order to save,
love that cleaves the gloom of the grave with


50 The Challenge to Missions

the promise of "another day" — it is this in
Christianity which has its universal appeal for
all men of all breeds, for all wistful, weary
human hearts. If the advocates of the P. and
O. Theology had deeper insight into the naked
needs of all mortal men alike, and especially if
they had a keener sense and appreciation of
what Christ has been and is to ourselves as
our one Hope and the secret of our best life,
they would have full faith in the universal
address of the Christian message.

2. Moreover, under the theory that Eastern
religions are for the Asiatics and ours for
ourselves only, we should be landed in a sort
of Pantheon, and our faith in Christianity as
an absolute verity, even for us, would gradually
pale and die out. Buddha for Burmah, Con-
fucius for China, Christ for the West — that
is to create local divinities, and local divinities
are pagan, involving either veiled polytheism
or pagan pantheism. The Hebrews, who at
first conceived Jehovah as their race-god over
against other gods, escaped from polytheism
only by at last learning to universalise their
Jehovah as God of the whole earth. But they
failed to universalise the scope of their religion.
And when Christ revealed the universal Father
loving "the world," it was left to St Paul to
carry out the principle by proclaiming Christ
to be for the whole of Gentile heathendom —

Many Races, Many Religions 51

and it has taken the Christian Church nineteen
centuries to rise to the height of this world-

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Online LibraryR. E. (Robert Ethol) WelshChallenge to Christian missions : missionary questions & the modern mind → online text (page 2 of 9)