I read and reviewed four books on this subject a while back, so am re entering these articles here for a wider audience.
” The Cross and the Switchblade” by David Wilkerson.
This Mr. Wilkerson states on his first page that a photo in ” Life” magazine inspired him to drop everything and go barge into a New York City murder trial brandishing a bible. This was due to his unbounded arrogance that “God” called him to work for the saving of souls that were doomed to a life of crime and drug use whithout his intervention. This arrogance built on ignorance led this bored country preacher out of his small puddle of influence to the big city, life on the mean streets, a best selling book, and then to a movie.
The fact that he was restless and dissatisfied with his life and wanted a change was at least honestly admitted (pg.10). He looked for “signs” and heard “voices”. Now, if anyone claims to have direct communication with unseen forces and hears voices, we usually diagnose schizophenia. Why couldn’t he just be more upfront, say he was looking for a more challenging work, and offer his services to the proper social service organizations? I suspect that the answer to that is that anything connected with religous matters has to be cloaked in magical shamanistic sales talk, so the lightening of the parishoner’s wallets can be justified.
“On a Wing and a Prayer”, by Janet Benge and Geoff Benge
The advent of the latest faith promoting movie “End of the Spear”, reminded me of the story of nate Saint when it came out over 40 years ago. I thought at the time that here was another arrogant white man trying to push his culture off on primitive people who had no defense against airplanes and high technology except stone age weapons. He was trying to deliver the Gospel to Amazonian tribes by flying in and landing in the tribal areas.
Now that I myself am a trained pilot I have even less respect for any pilot who does not fly away and never return when people on the ground are shooting arrows into his plane’s fuselage. We have a saying- “There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old and bold pilots”. To that I would add, the Darwin Awards are given to arrogant prideful white missionary pilots.
Again, the family of this doomed pilot turned his terminal foolishness into a book and movie neither of which could be termed great writing or movie making.
“My Several Worlds” by Pearl S. Buck
I first encountered the missionary story of Western intrusion into China by reading Ms. Buck’s 1954 biography. In that book she reveals the trials of living in a family compound in China during the Boxer Rebellion.
The old Empress of China got it right when she claimed that white men and missionaries were”slicing up China like a melon”
Pearl’s family lived under siege in both Shanghai and the compound, and when the rebellion was forcibly put down by foreign intervention, the trust and ease with the local Chinese had vanished. Even the servants of the missionary family had to hide from reprisals.
What kind of man would endanger his wife and children to wartime conditions, tropical disease and homesickness?
According to Pearl’s maternal relatives all missionaries were ” unnaccountable fanatics”. They could not understand why any “sensible man” would leave home and family, not to mention his own country, and set out to preach to Chinese, who already had several ancient religions of their own? Missionary efforts were not productive in the long run, and the price paid by women and children were inordinately high.
“Pioneer in Tibet: The Life and Perils of Dr. Albert Shelton” by Douglas A. Wissing.
Dr. Shelton’s dream was to penetrate to the heart of the forbidden country, Tibet, and establish a foothold for Christianity in Lhasa. Despite having an invitation of the Dalai Lama at the time, he was welcomed only to the fringe of the disputed territory due to his medical service. He loved going on camping trips and buying up Tibetan artifacts for pennies, and succeeded in having this financed by the folks at home. He did a lot of fund raising in America to build a dispensary in western China, but all his efforts at conversion resulted in only 20 “rice bowl ” Christians, and no ethnic Tibetan was ever baptized.
Despite warnings of dangerous conditions, he insisted in traveling in bandit infested territory and nearly died when he was kidnapped and held for ransome.
A few years later he again tried to travel in bandit territory and was shot, robbed of his horses, and died of the wound. That’s what bandits did then in their country, so another white missionary was awarded the Darwin trophy.
It is very interesting to me to see how many true stories of the Christian missionary effort leads to violence and failure.