The Unquenchable Light by Kenneth Scott Latourette
Richard Heard, M.A., M.B.E., M.C., was a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge and University lecturer in Divinity at Cambridge (1950). This book was originally written as the William Belden Noble lectures at Harvard University in 1940.
Chapter Eight: The Latest Age (A.D. 1914 to the present)
Beginning with A.D. 1914, what may prove to be another major recession in the Christian tide came upon the world. Many would declare unequivocally that a major recession is upon us. Some would have us believe that Christianity is suffering the greatest reverse in its history, and that the ebb is eliminating the influence of Jesus from human affairs. That, however, is too early and too rash a verdict. Unquestionably the nineteenth-century world with which the remarkable expansion of the faith was closely associated is largely gone. Many of the factors which made for the extension of Christianity, both geographically and in its effect on civilization, have passed or are passing. Mankind has entered into a very different climate of opinion. Yet in these years Christianity, while retreating on some fronts, has advanced on others. In some respects, incredible though the affirmation may seem, it is more potent in the life of mankind than ever before.
It is as yet too early to make more than tentative appraisals of the era which was ushered in by the assassination at Serajevo in the fateful A.D. 1914. ‘What is sometimes called, although not with entire accuracy, the First World War, was followed by a peace, now more correctly seen as an uneasy truce, in which much of the familiar nineteenth century persisted. Indeed, that war seemed to be a victory for the ideals and forces which had characterized the nineteenth century. Democracy appeared triumphant and to be effecting, in the League of Nations, the beginning of a structure for world organization. The nations which had been the great nineteenth-century exponents of democracy, and whose empires had shown the largest territorial growth in that era, Great Britain, the United States, and France, had won in the appeal to arms. Yet scarcely had the guns ceased firing when it began to be clear that the nineteenth century had passed. In the succeeding years that fact became increasingly clear. The European war which broke out in 1939, while bringing most startling developments, in general merely gave additional speed to changes already in progress. These changes have by no means come to an end. Whatever the outcome from a military standpoint of the wars now being fought, and whoever may be the victors, certain basic alterations have already been made in the civilization of the world. It might better be said that they are being made. We can now begin to see what they are, but they have not come to an end. Indeed, they seem only to be in their early stages. The era appears to be only at its inception.
Whether, then, we are watching the beginning of another major recession of Christianity we cannot now know. If it should prove to be a major recession, we cannot yet tell whether it will conform to the trend of the Christian tide thus far and be less severe than the one before it. To date, as we have seen, each ebb has been less pronounced than the preceding one and has been followed by an advance which has carried the faith forward to a new high-water mark in its effect upon mankind as a whole. We ought not confidently to predict that this will always be the case. Apparently that will depend partly upon the nature and strength of the forces which are working against the influence of Jesus and partly upon the continuing vitality within Christianity. Of the latter, the past record of Christianity enables us to speak confidently. Concerning the former it is too soon to be dogmatic. We must essay, however, a description of the trends so far as they have proceeded, make an estimate of the current situation, and, from the experience of the past, endeavor to forecast the future. For this last we must remember how few prophecies are literally fulfilled by the event. We must not venture to foretell details. We must content ourselves with broad generalizations. This forecast we will postpone to the final chapter. Here we will attempt merely an analysis of the post-1914 period as it has thus far been unfolded.
it is so obvious as to be a platitude that we are in a marked transition from one age to another. If, however, we are to assess the bearing of the change upon the outlook for Christianity, we must, at the risk of repeating well-known facts, seek to summarize the chief contrasts between the new and the old.
Those features in which the post-1914 differs from the pre-1914 world seem at first sight to indicate that Christianity is retreating.
In contrast with the relative peace which characterized the nineteenth century, especially the generation immediately before A.D. 1914, the years beginning with A.D. 1914 have been outstanding for their wars and threats of war. The present wars are proving more destructive to the old order and to existing institutions than was the War of 1914-1918. The machines which in the nineteenth century were devoted chiefly to the creation of wealth have now been turned to the destruction of wealth. Between A.D. 1815 and A.D. 1914 no conflict that could be called a general European war broke out. Such wars as developed in Europe were brief and none involved more than four countries. Since A.D. 1914 we have had two general European wars and, since the possessions of Europe are scattered over the globe and mechanical appliances have tied mankind together, all the world has been profoundly affected. To these have been added an exhausting struggle between the two largest Far Eastern peoples.
These conflicts have unquestionably done damage to Christianity. They have disturbed the processes by which Christianity spreads. They have slowed down or disrupted communications between missionaries and the constituencies which support them. Some missionaries who are citizens of an enemy state have been expelled from the colonies of a belligerent or have been interned. Some have been called to the colors. In areas where actual fighting has occurred, notably in China, much of the regular work of the missionaries and of the churches has been suspended. In parts of Europe visited by the armies or threatened by them, normal church life has been disrupted. The attention and the funds of the philanthropically minded have been diverted from agencies for the spread of Christianity to the relief of the suffering brought by wars and to the spiritual and physical care of the fighting men and of prisoners. Moreover, war usually brings a sag in morals among the belligerents and deadens the life in the churches. Probably, although that is hard to measure, the wars since A.D. 1914 have worked harm in the morale of the Church as a whole.
With war has come the decline of the domination of Western peoples with which the nineteenth-century spread of Christianity was so intimately associated. To be sure, Western peoples control politically in square miles a larger proportion of the earth’s surface than they did on the eve of A.D. 1914. Notable have been the British and French mandates acquired in the Near East as a result of the War of 1914-1918, the extension of Russian influence in Outer Mongolia, and the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. Yet the prestige of the white man has suffered. The second largest body of non-European peoples, that of India, is loosening the bonds by which it has been tied to the British Empire; some of its spokesmen are demanding complete independence, and the British Government has already promised dominion status when once the present European war shall be over. Japan is enlarging her empire. Her "new order in Eastern Asia" threatens the position of the Westerner among the most numerous of non-European peoples, the Chinese, and in adoption of state pensions for the aged and the dole for the unemployed had heralded the approaching end of the old order. In the United States private corporations were being regulated and the state was entering upon extensive programs for irrigation, the conservation of forests, and the further control of banking. On the Continent of Europe government had proceeded far toward an all-inclusive assumption of the various activities of society and its control of the individual.
The War of 1914-1918 and its aftermath greatly accelerated this trend. In Russia the Tsarist regime, a representative of the older absolute monarchies, was supplanted by a communist state which took a much more thoroughgoing direction of all phases of life than ever the old had done. In Italy Fascism, while preserving some of the outward forms of the pre-1914 monarchy, brought in a totalitarian government. In Germany the republic which succeeded the monarchy had strongly socialist tendencies and was in turn displaced by the totalitarian Nazis. In the United States the New Deal enhanced the national government, but was simply speeding up the trends which were already apparent in earlier administrations. In Spain Fascism fought socialism and communism. Its victory probably brought as much power to the state as would the triumph of its chief opponents. In both the totalitarian and the professedly democratic countries, preparation for war and war itself increased the functions of the state and worked more and more curtailment of the individual.
This growth of the power of the state has been a pronounced menace to Christianity. We have earlier seen that the faith has thrived most in lands and ages in which the Church has had the greatest freedom from governmental control. This was the case in the first three centuries when, in spite of persecution, the Church arose and developed a virile community life. It happened again in Western Europe after the fifth century when the weakening of the Roman Empire left the Church as the strongest comprehensive institution, the one under whose aegis the culture of Medieval Europe came into being. It was true once more in the nineteenth century. Where, as in the Byzantine Empire, in Russia, and in the Spanish and Portuguese colonial empires, the Church was curtailed and under the control of the state, Christianity tended to be anemic or quietistic. This fate has seemed to be foreshadowed by the post-1914 augmentation of the state. In A.D. 1914 education was already largely in the hands of the state and civil marriage had become conimon. Since A.D. 1914 education has increasingly been taken out of the control of the churches. In totalitarian states efforts have been made to abolish the churches’ organizations for youth and to replace them with those of the state or of the dominant party. In Italy a compromise has been effected which leaves some powers with the Church, but leading Fascists have declared that Christianity and Fascism are incompatible. In Russia the function of the Church has been confined to worship, and even this is regarded with unfriendly eye. In Japan and its domains the government insists that Christians as well as non-Christians do obeisance at state shrines. Some Christians have complied on the ground that the rites are officially declared to be nonreligious and purely patriotic, but other Christians have unquiet consciences and in Korea the work of the Protestant missions has been largely disrupted. In the colonial possessions of totalitarian or near-totalitarian powers, religious liberty is either nonexistent or greatly curtailed, in contrast with the relative toleration in the British and American empires. Even where the Church remains comparatively free, the prevailing atmosphere of expecting the government to assume what private enterprise formerly undertook has tended to discourage fresh effort.
Patriotism, or, to give it a less pleasant name, nationalism, has become a religion, a rival to Christianity which has back of it all the authority of the government. This trend has been most obvious in totalitarian states, where patriotism is reinforced by ideologies which are in part or in whole hostile to Christianity. Even in Great Britain and the United States, however, where lip service is still paid to individual liberty, those who conscientiously feel that allegiance to God must lead them to refuse compliance with some of the demands of the state find their way hard.
The age-long conflict, at best at least latent and often chronic or acute, between Church and state, seems for the time to be going against the Church. In some ways the state is now more of a danger than it has ever been in what has traditionally been called Christendom. Appliances such as the telephone and the radio, and a school system from which the teaching of Christianity is excluded and the ideals of the nation and loyalty to them are stressed, give the state a more intimate access to all its citizens than at any previous time. There have been absolutisms before, but never have they possessed such mechanical facilities for enforcing their will. In what was once Christendom these are now fortified with ideologies which, as we have said, are in effect rival religions. The absolute monarchies of Europe of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries dominated the Church, but they were professedly Christian. They used the Church to reinforce their power, but they left to it many of its former functions, and so, while employing it as an instrument of government, honored it and preserved it fairly intact. The present state takes from the Church many of its activities. The existing totalitarianism seeks not to perform certain functions through the Church, as did the absolute monarchies, but to take them entirely away from the Church. In some respects Christianity is confronted with a greater menace than in the tragic decades when the triumphant Arabs, champions of a new religion, Islam, were establishing governments in what had been professedly Christian areas and through the machinery of the state were slowly strangling the churches and eradicating Christianity. The Arabs and their successors, the Turks, were no more fanatically enforcers of Islam than are the members of the parties dominant in the totalitarian states of their peculiar ideologies. The totalitarian regimes are better equipped to make their will effective. The new type of state is as great a threat as Christianity has ever faced.
With the rise of the totalitarian states has come the eclipse of democracy. Even the states which cling to democratic ideals are constrained to sacrifice some of their democratic methods to defend themselves against the others. The spokesmen of totalitarianism declare that they represent a forward step and that democracy is as outworn as feudalism. They point with scorn to the weaknesses of nineteenth-century political democracy, now become painfully apparent through long experimentation. The delays of parliamentary procedure, the endless party divisions and the rapidly shifting cabinets in Continental European countries, the selfish grabbing of pressure groups, the slowness in coming to a common mind and common action are only some of the frailties at which the finger of scorn is leveled. To be sure, some of the Nazis declare that their program is more truly democratic than the political and social structures of the professedly democratic peoples. However, they vigorously denounce the types of government which are usually termed democratic. Even in the democratic states voices have been heard insisting that democracy is passing. These have included some mature men who have been lifelong champions of democracy and liberalism. The peoples of democratic countries are ceasing to be sure of their own institutions.
In the nineteenth century, Protestantism, which had then been the most active and widely expanding form of Christianity, was intimately associated with democracy. The chief strongholds from which it had most of its spread, and in which the majority of the movements and organizations through which it affected civilization took their rise, were two of the leading democracies, Great Britain and the United States. Many of the Protestant denominations possessed democratically organized ecclesiastical structures. The decline of democracy would deal a serious blow to this Anglo-Saxon Protestantism.
Moreover, most of non-Anglo-Saxon Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, while generally not so close of kin to political democracy as has been Anglo-Saxon Protestantism, have enjoyed greater freedom in democratic lands than in the totalitarian type of state. Presumably they, too, have suffered.
Beginning about A.D. 1931 with the successful challenge which Japan gave it in the creation of Manchukuo, the League of Nations weakened and eventually all but disintegrated. The League of Nations and the institutions and processes associated with it were the product of the nineteenth-century peace movement which was largely a fruit of Christianity, and especially of Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christianity. Since at least A.D. i8i ~ the peace movement had been formulating procedures for the settlement of international disputes without recourse to war and for the development of international government. With occasional reverses, through the nineteenth century steps toward this goal had progressively been taken. After A.D. 1918 the goal seemed to be much nearer attainment. By A.D. 1941 most of the structure on which such hopes had been pinned appeared to lie in ruins. Here seemed a major defeat for Christian idealism.
The weakening of the peace machinery of the world has been intimately connected with another development of the post-1914 world, the disintegration of what was once known as Christendom. European peoples have been sufficiently molded by Christianity to have that faith as an active ingredient of their common culture. That culture has contained other elements, most of them inherited from the Greco-Roman world. The Church, however, was a vehicle by which they were chiefly transmitted. Out of the Christian impulse, although utilizing concepts derived from pre-Christian Rome and Greece, international law arose as a generally acknowledged set of customs for the regulation of intercourse between states. In the nineteenth century, in consequence of the expansion of European peoples, this was extended to non-Occidental nations and was at least nominally accepted by them as part of that .Western culture which they were eager to take over to win their entrance into the fellowship of the dominant Western world. If this international law were to be observed, it must be based upon generally accepted ideals and moral principles and be part of a common culture. In the Occident the necessary foundation was provided by Christianity and legacies from Greco-Roman culture of which the agents of that faith had been the transmitters. In Europe the unity was never complete. Long before the twentieth century it had been repeatedly menaced. The religious skepticism of the nineteenth century threatened it. However, the most serious blow which this European Christendom has suffered has been the rise to power of totalitarian ideologies in the post-1914 era. Russia was the first major defection, with the triumph in it of a communism which denied in theory and practice the validity of much of Christian ethics. Whereas after A.D. 1815 a Tsar of Russia had proposed to his fellow monarchs of Europe that they govern their states and their relations with one another on the basis of Christian principles, after A.D. 1914 a regime came into power which seeks to extirpate Christianity and to which some of the leading Christian virtues are anathema. Somewhat less openly, similar developments have occurred in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Japan, never so profoundly influenced by Christianity as Europe, has fallen in with the congenial trend in the totalitarian Western powers. None of these has openly and categorically repudiated international law, but by cutting themselves loose from the never fully accepted common Christian idealism they have rendered more difficult the building of a world order toward which, largely because of Christianity, a beginning has been made.
To these changes from the nineteenth century world, with which the expansion of the influence of Jesus had been intimately connected, has been added a deterioration in economic conditions which has undercut the financial support of the churches and their missions. The wars of the period have impoverished Western nations, added to the burden of taxation, and disturbed the financial, commercial, and industrial structure of the world. In Germany, France, and Italy, the decline in the value of the standard unit of currency has brought embarrassment and even suffering. The rising costs of gov emment as the state has taken over more and more functions and the mounting armaments have added to the tax load. The world-wide economic depression which began in A.D. 1929 was more severe than anything of its kind which the nineteenth century had known. Those in the middle and upper income groups from whom most of the funds came which supported the countless philanthropic and religious organizations through which the nineteenth century sought to extend and apply Christianity have felt acutely the pressure of the increased financial burdens. Incomes of hundreds of organizations have declined, and that in the face of rising costs. In the pre-1914 decades the growing wealth made possible fairly constantly expanding budgets for churches and missionary and other benevolent societies. Now sharp retrenchment has become common. Inflation and declining interest rates have reduced the value of the endowments which thousands of the privately organized societies and institutions have accumulated. Since a characteristic feature of the nineteenth-century spread of Christianity was its dependence on the gifts of many individuals rather than on the state, the effect of these altered economic conditions has been distressing.
What has amounted to a revolution in the climate of opinion has occurred. The nineteenth century was, in general, marked by abounding optimism. That, indeed, had been prominent even in the quarter of a century of war and revolution which preceded A.D. 1815. Now deep pessimism and despair have seized much of the human race. To be sure, in the new totalitarian states the governments officially profess optimism and seek to inculcate it among the masses. However, where anything approaching freedom of the press has survived, the printed page shows much of cynicism, fear, and discouragement. Among common folk as well as those highly placed, and among both victors and vanquished, are uncertainty, apprehension, and a search for security. There is a loss of confidence in human reason. Especially in the totalitarian states free thought and speech, associated with trust in the unhampered human intellect, have been repressed, and propaganda and reiterated dogmatic assertions by political leaders are the order of the day. Discussion and open-minded investigation are scorned and persecuted. The churches and Christian enterprise have inevitably been affected. In Protestantism, by its nature more responsive to current trends than Roman Catholicism, the optimistic liberalism of the nineteenth century has been partly replaced by crisis theology, and the confidence in reason and the intellect as competent in matters of religion has tended to be ushered out by a belief that God is so utterly different from man and man is so corrupted by sin that knowledge of God can come only by God’s revelation of Himself. The hope that human society can be made better which inspired much of the Christian activity of the nineteenth century has given way in many Christian quarters to a despair of the world. In such a world and encompassed by these attitudes Christian folk have found difficulty in reaching out to new enterprises, and often have been less than half hearted in supporting activities and organizations which their hopeful fathers brought into existence.
The religious skepticism born of the rationalism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, which had been a chronic threat to Christianity, has continued, in many quarters in aggravated and even belligerent forms. The cynicism and pessimism of the day have added to it. Among both intelligentsia and the rank and file a decline in Christian faith has seemed to be in progress.
In this transition from the nineteenth century, Protestantism has suffered more than Roman Catholicism. Since the nineteenth century was pre-eminently the Protestant century and Protestant Christianity was intimately connected with many of the movements and peoples which were then dominant, the fading of that century and of its distinctive features has proved a more severe blow to Protestantism than to Roman Catholicism. Indeed, taken the world over, Roman Catholic Christianity probably has gone forward since A.D. 1914 more markedly than has Protestantism. This has been seen partly in the rapid growth of Roman Catholic missions in non-European lands. It has been due to a number of causes. The mounting strength of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has been a large factor, and this in turn has been due to the faithful efforts in the nineteenth century which laid the foundations for that strength and to the rise to comfort, and here and there to affluence, of Roman Catholic emigrants and their children, who, coming poverty-stricken to America, have profited by the development of the virgin resources of the land. Probably, too, the reaction from democracy to totalitarianism favored a church in which nineteenth-century ultramontanism had augmented the power of the already absolute Pope. The distrust of individualism and of individual reason has led many to welcome the kind of external authority embodied in the Roman Catholic Church.
What has looked like extensive loss of territory has reduced the geographic boundaries of Christianity. Here not Protestantism or Roman Catholicism but the Eastern Churches have been the chief sufferers. The collapse of the Tsarist regime and its eventual replacement by the communist soviet rule dealt disastrous blows to all of the older religions in Russia. Displaying many of the features of a religion, communism has sought to eradicate its predecessors and rivals. Many churches have been closed and their pastors or priests killed or exiled. Those churches which have been allowed to continue are compelled to restrict their functions to worship. All religious instruction of the young and all social activities have been ruthlessly suppressed. The Orthodox Church, being the largest body, has been the main victim, but the various dissenting sects and the Lutherans seem proportionately to have been fully as badly reduced. In the portions of Poland and in the Baltic countries occupied by Russia in A.D. 1939 and 1940 the churches were vigorously dealt with. In Turkey during the War of 1914-1918 massacres and deportations all but exterminated the Armenian Christian communities. Protestants also suffered. After the war the expulsion of the Greek population largely eliminated, except from Constantinople, the Greek Orthodox from the republic. The new nationalist regime forbids conversions and has placed such restrictions on Christian missions that they have been brought to a mere fraction of their former numerical strength, and those missionaries who remain have found it all but impossible to do specifically religious work. The War of 1914-1918, too, decimated the small surviving remnants of the Nestorians. In Egypt the Coptic Church, on the stubborn defensive for more than a thousand years, has continued to lose members to Islam, sometimes at the rate of many hundreds a year. For a time in the 1920’s in China antireligious movements, fomented in part by communists and a feature of the nationalistic effort to eliminate the special privileges enjoyed by Westerners, slowed down the growth of the Church and actually decreased the membership of some of the Protestant groups. While Christianity has not been completely eliminated from any country, in some lands, notably Russia and Turkey, it has been severely weakened. By these developments Christianity has suffered in square miles greater territorial losses than in any other period.
If these discouraging features of the post-1914 years were the entire story the era would unquestionably be one of major recession of the Christian tide. The ebb would certainly be more pronounced than the one in the second half of the eighteenth century. In some respects the threats have been more serious than at any time since the disheartening four and a half centuries which followed A.D. 500.
Fortunately this is only the dark side of the picture. The shadows have been black enough, but there is also light. Indeed, the light has been so marked and in some respects so strengthened that, viewing mankind as a whole, the picture, while one of even more striking contrasts than in the nineteenth century, indicates a growth in the effect of Christianity and of the influence of Jesus.
The territorial losses, momentous at first glance, on closer examination prove not to be so serious. The Russian Orthodox Church had long been bound so closely to the state that it had become anemic and in the nineteenth century had been losing its grip on the nation. It speaks volumes for the vitality of Christianity that even so handicapped and decadent a representative should be the only important institution of the old regime to survive the communist revolution. Christianity is by no means extinct in Russia. Just how strong it is, we of the outside world cannot know. It is clear, however, that hundreds of churches remain open and are served by priests and visited by the faithful in spite of all the pressure of prolonged antireligious propaganda. Some reports seem to indicate an underground trend toward Christianity, both of the Orthodox Church and of the sects. In Turkey the Church has not disappeared, and a movement, small numerically but earnest, has set in among some of the younger Turks, which, while disavowing the designation of Christian, is intensely loyal to Jesus. In Nazi Germany the churches, although deprived of some of the means by which they gave religious training to their young, and faced with other restrictions, continue. New church buildings have been erected and others renovated, even in the war year, A.D. 1940. The numerically weak confessional elements in the Protestant churches have presented determined resistance to the efforts of the Nationalist Socialists at regimentation. For several years after the Nazis came into power the sale of the Bible exceeded that of Mein Kampf.
In a number of areas the years since A.D. 1914 have witnessed a striking growth in the numerical strength of the churches. In the United States the increase both in numbers and in the percentage of the total population which had been one of the features of the preceding century has continued, and that in spite of participation in the War of 1914-1918 and the backwash against religion and morality which usually accompanies and follows war. In Negro Africa, especially in Equatorial Africa, a rapid rise in the numbers of Christians has been recorded. The War of 1914-1918 was followed by an acceleration of the penetration of Negro Africa by white culture and by the progressive disintegration of native cultures. As a concomitant has. gone the acceptance of Christianity by many thousands. This would not have been, however, had not missionaries, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, been present. In the Belgian Congo the support of the government has aided the phenomenal growth of the Roman Catholics, but in other parts of Africa, where- such assistance has not been so markedly accorded, increase has also been registered in both Protestant and Roman Catholic circles. In India numerical advance has been recorded. This has been especially striking in the Protestant churches and among the outcastes.
Mass movements have carried tens of thousands of the underprivileged into the Christian fold. Much of this surge of the poor and uneducated toward the faith must be ascribed to a vaguely defined hope that from the Christian connection greater economic, educational, and social advantages will come to them and their children. Where baptism has not been preceded or followed by careful instruction, the Christianity of the converts has been nominal and superficial in the extreme. Yet the move has been actuated by some glimmering of an understanding of the larger life which the Christian faith opens to men and women. Instruction has been given to thousands. In many of the converts the moral, spiritual, and material improvement wrought has been so evident that some from higher social strata, impressed, also have become Christians. In the Netherlands East Indies, Christian communities, both Protestant and Roman Catholic, have grown. In French Indo-China, long almost exclusively a Roman Catholic field, the church has continued to advance. In China, in spite of the storm and stress of civil and foreign war and of the antireligious movement of the 1920’s, the number of Christians has mounted. The increase has been most marked among Roman Catholics. They have been represented in China much longer than have Protestants and since A.D. 1914 have greatly augmented their missionary staff. They have been, too, less the objects of anti-Christian agitation. However, Protestants have also shown a growth, although not so striking a one. In the face of the Japanese invasion and partial occupation, accessions to the churches have continued. In Japan the churches have grown. In Iran some advance has been made. Here, rather remarkably, a few converts have been gathered from Islam, a very rare phenomenon under a Moslem government. Full statistics are lacking, but it may be that, taken the world over, the losses in nominal Christians in the years since A.D. 1914 have been larger than the additions. However, the losses have been chiefly in Russia, whereas the gains have been widely distributed and have been partly in lands where Christianity has heretofore been weak. When one views the entire globe geographically, Christianity is stronger in A.D. 1941 and in a better position to influence the human race than it was in A.D. 1914. In most non-Occidental lands, especially the more populous, Christians are still in the small minority. These minorities have, however, in general become very much larger in the years since the outbreak of the War of 1914-1918. Christianity is not so nearly exclusively identified with the Occident as it was in A.D. 1914.
In leadership, even more striking progress has been made in establishing Christianity as the possession of non-European peoples. This is seen among both Roman Catholics and Protestants. Among most of the peoples where it is represented, the Roman Catholic Church is going to great pains to train a native priesthood. This effort has been meeting with signal success. Rome, too, has been raising non-Europeans to the episcopate. This is being done not only among civilized peoples such as the Chinese, the Japanese, and the Indians, where presumably it is possible to find those prepared by background for leadership, but a beginning is also being made among the Negroes of Africa. Never has the priesthood and episcopate of the Roman Catholic Church been so nearly inclusive of all races as it is in A.D. 1941. Lay brothers and sisters are also being recruited more than ever from non-Occidental folk. Protestants are likewise making rapid strides in developing indigenous leadership among non-Europeans. Clergy and bishops are being trained and appointed. Administrative posts of many kinds, ecclesiastical, educational, and medical, have been transferred from Occidentals to non-Occidentals. In both Roman Catholic and Protestant circles this devolution from the control by Occidentals to the indigenous Christians has been hastened and here and there forced by the rising revolt against white domination which is one of the characteristics of the age. It would have been impossible, however, if there were not Christians at hand who are competent to fill the posts. At the meeting of the (Protestant) International Missionary Council at Madras in A.D. 1938, among the regularly appointed delegates non-Occidentals were practically as numerous as Occidentals, the first time at one of these world-wide Christian gatherings where this has been the case. It was generally remarked by the Occidentals present that the non-Occidentals were on the average fully as able as those from the West, and that they were young, an indication of what is to be expected from the oncoming generation.
In other ways Christianity is being naturalized among non-Occidental peoples and cultures. Churches and chapels are being erected in styles which reflect indigenous traditions. Christian subjects are being painted according to non-Occidental traditions. Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the apostles are being represented as Chinese, Japanese, Indians, and Negroes. Hymns have been written in native poetic forms and to fit native tunes. Some of this has been done by Occidentals or under their direction and is not spontaneous. Much of it, however, has been by non-Occidentals as a genuine expression of their Christian faith.
In the post-1914 propagation of Christianity among non-Occidentals Roman Catholics have in some respects been making more rapid progress than Protestants. For reasons which must be apparent from the first part of this chapter, Protestant Christianity has been more jeopardized by the conditions which are making the new age than has Roman Catholicism. The Protestant missionary force increased for about a decade after A.D. 1914 and then, because of the difficulty of obtaining financial support, became stationary and in some areas declined. Th’e Roman Catholic missionary staff has increased and funds have been augmented. This has been due partly to the temper of post-1914 days, partly to the growing resources of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, and partly to the extraordinarily able and devoted leadership at Rome in the Papal chair and in the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. Yet in growth in numbers of adherents in non-Occidental lands and in indigenous leadership, the advance of Protestant Christianity has been about as striking as that of Roman Catholic Christianity. In traditionally Roman Catholic populations, but where the morale of the Roman Catholic Church has been low, in Latin America and the Philippines, Protestantism has had an amazing growth. It has been introduced from the outside, largely from the United States, and has not been spontaneous, but it has been increasing in numbers and in indigenous leadership and has been attaining ecclesiastical independence of the churches which initiated it.
In another respect Protestant Christianity has been making rapid strides. It has been achieving a comprehensive world-wide fellowship, a fellowship into some of whose expressions the Eastern churches are also beginning to be drawn. Steps in this direction had been taken before A.D. 1914. However, progress has been accelerated since that year. The International Missionary Council has come into being as a co-ordinating agency for the foreign missionary agencies of the Occident and for the "younger churches" which have arisen out of that missionary activity. As members of this Council, national and regional bodies have been formed. Those in the lands of the younger churches have brought together in the beginnings of national Protestant movements the disparate bodies founded by missionaries from the West. In addition to the International Missionary Council, the post1914 years have seen the World Conference on Faith and Order and the Universal Christian Council of Life and Work. The former has drawn Christians together to understand through discussion the positions on which churches have traditionally divided and to attempt to find common ground. The latter has sought a common mind on problems of state and society. Out of these two bodies has come the World Council of Churches, now in process of formation. In what are known for brevity as Life and Work and Faith and Order, and in the World Council of Churches, not only those in the Protestant tradition but also Eastern and Old Catholic churches are included. Roman Catholics would be welcomed, but the leaders of their church feel that officially they cannot consistently be represented. Here is emerging a world-wide Christian fellowship which is more inclusive ecclesiastically than any which has ever before been developed. In addition to these ecumenical bodies, Protestant groups have also coalesced in less all-embracing but still world-wide organizations. Some of these antedated A.D. 1914. Some came into being after that year. The Sunday Schools, the Young Men’s and Young Women’s Christian Associations, the Christian Student fellowships, and the Young People’s Societies of Christian Endeavor are movements which transcend both national and denominational boundaries. The Anglicans, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, and the Lutherans are prominent among the denominations which have achieved more or less loosely knit worldwide fellowships. While the nations of the world have, in such tragic fashion, been pulling apart, the non-Roman Catholic Christians of the world have been coming together. The mechanical appliances which nineteenth and twentieth century man has constructed have made it necessary for its own welfare that mankind the world over co-operate. By misusing those appliances the nations have been plunging the world into internecine strife. In the face of that disaster non-Roman Catholic Christians are beginning to achieve a fellowship which, like the Roman Catholic Church, reaches across national barriers. It is doubtful whether it can at any early date be strong enough to end the wars which wrack mankind. It can, however, ease tensions, allay suffering, and keep alive the vision and the purpose of a better world order.
Upon the cultures of mankind Christianity in the post-1914 age has been having striking effects. Among non-European peoples the contributions to education, medicine, and the warfare against famine and poverty have been marked. In China the government, with much larger financial resources than the Christian missions and churches, has made progress in building a modern educational system which has been rapidly outstripping the Christian schools in numbers and equipment. In medical training, too, state enterprise has begun to surpass in extent what was begun by the Christian missions. However, some of the best of the secondary and higher schools in China are still those under Christian auspices, and the best medical school in the country has been built on the foundations laid by Christian missions and has been financed by American Christian philanthropy. In an effort to remove the causes of famine, the outstanding pioneer school of forestry and agriculture in China has been developed in connection with a Christian university. In the Near East, Christian colleges and universities have been making a notable contribution in education. Among the majority of primitive peoples, notably in Africa and the islands of the Pacific, the major part of the modern schools which have been giving preparation for life in the ever-encroaching white man’s world have been under Christian auspices. Missionaries are still reducing languages to writing and preparing the beginnings of a literature in them. The Bible is being put into more and more tongues, and in many areas its circulation has been increasing. In these aspects of culture the contribution of Christianity has been chiefly that of pioneering. It has stimulated the creation of a large proportion of the earliest schools and hospitals, and has initiated efforts to develop better methods of agriculture and to introduce new grains and fruits. When the value of the innovations has been demonstrated and governments and non-Christian private agencies have become enthusiastic in adopting the new methods, the professedly Christian institutions usually become less prominent. Several of them still, however, with their freedom of experimentation make fresh contributions.
Upon the collective life of some of the largest of the non-European nations Christianity has increased in its effects. In India the outstanding figure of these years has unquestionably been Gandhi. Gandhi makes no profession of being a Christian. Yet he has been profoundly affected by his contacts with earnest Christians, both in the South African stage of his career when he was developing his methods and later in India itself. He counts the New Testament and especially the Sermon on the Mount as among the decisive influences upon his life. Through him Christianity has had an effect upon all India. The more active connotation given in practice to ahimsa, so widely appealed to in the Indian nationalist movement, adding to the older idea of passive harmlessness and non-injury to any living being that of positive self-sacrifice, seems to have come from contact with Christianity. The vast movements among the outcastes of India, with the demands for the lightening of their age-long disabilities, while reaching far outside the Christian communities, have undoubtedly been accelerated and possibly have had as a major source the ideals and hopes which have issued from Christianity. In China much of the most substantial and outstanding leadership in the unprecedented revolution and transition which have marked the life of the nation in these decades has been from the small Christian minority, and especially from the even smaller Protestant minority. The two most prominent and influential Chinese of these years, Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kaishek, have been convinced Christians, the former from his boyhood, the latter after his rise to power. More than any other one man Sun Yat-sen molded the ideals of the new China. By his courage and faith Chiang Kai-shek has been the chief organizer of Chinese political unity and of resistance to the Japanese invasion. Other Chinese Christians, although less prominent, have stood out in government and in education as more dependable, more enduring, and more public-spirited than most of their non-Christian colleagues. Through the New Life Movement and other agencies, not specifically Christian, but deeply indebted to Christianity, that faith has helped to modity the lives ot millions ot (Jhinese who have not been even nominally Christian.
In the War of 1914-1918 Christianity, especially the Protestantism of the United States, gave rise to efforts of unprecedented magnitude to relieve the sufferings which accompanied that struggle. Care for prisoners of war, relief for those threatened by starvation, and Near East Relief usually had at their head those who were motivated by their Christian faith and for the vast sums which maintained them depended chiefly on the free gifts of Christian folk.
Thus far in the wars of the past four years, relief enterprises have not attained the magnitude of those of the earlier war. The reasons for the disparity are not altogether clear. They may be in. part a weakening of the Christian impulse of helpfulness and a discouragement symptomatic of the pessimism of the age and so may indicate a deepening of the recession of the Christian tide.
The creation and the later near collapse of the League of Nations may have a similar meaning. The League of Nations, as we have suggested, was largely an achievement of Christian idealism. It represented a high-water mark in the effort for the peaceful and orderly regulation of relations between nations. Its tragic fate has undoubtedly been a reverse for Christianity, and especially for nineteenth-century Anglo-Saxon Protestant Christianity.
Less prominent than the League of Nations, but issuing more clearly from Christianity, has been the Institute of Pacific Relations, an unofficial body for the study of the problems of the Pacific, with the purpose of bringing the leading minds of all the nations involved to bear upon their peaceful solution.
Chiefly out of Protestant Christianity came the prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages in the United States, a movement which began in the nineteenth century but culminated after A.D. 1914 in national action. The repeal of national prohibition in the nineteen-thirties was a defeat for that branch of the Christian faith.
Aside from the relief enterprises of the War of 1914-1918 and the League of Nations, the most striking fresh effects of Christianity upon the life of the race since A.D. 1914 have not been among Occidental peoples, where the faith has been longest present in strength, but among non-Occidental nations and races. Here have been the largest proportionate numerical gains. Here have been the most marked increases in shaping culture and political life. These effects, too, have mounted as time has passed. In the Occident they have suffered major reverses.
However, before coming too quickly to what might seem the logical deduction, that Christianity is a waning force in the Occident, we need to remind ourselves that in the Occident the Christian faith still bears some of its most characteristic fruits. It has continued to modify and radically to change individual lives. It has nourished faith, hope, love, patience, inward joy, forthgoing kindness, forbearance, forgiveness of injuries, and self-control. It has supported charities, small and large. It has been at the heart of care for the weak, the unfortunate, and the sick. These results cannot be measured in any such fashion as to permit of accurate comparison between the pre-1914 and the post-1914 world.
We must recall, too, that in the Occident Christianity has contributed to some of the major social and political revolutions of the time. Russian communism is pronouncedly anti-Christian, but historically some of the dominant features of communism are derived in part from Christianity. The belief so prominent in Marxism that human history is governed by law and culminates almost automatically in the victory of the exploited majority over the exploiting minority seems indebted to the Jewish-Christian conception of history. Back of the New Deal’s professed concern for the "forgotten man" is to no small degree an attitude issuing from Christianity. As so often in the past, Christianity has contributed to movements which have been, as carried out, either contradictory to the principles of Jesus or have displayed some features which to him would be reprehensible.
In the methods by which Christianity spreads and by which it makes itself felt in civilization, the post-1914 years have not differed markedly from the nineteenth century. They have still been connected with the expansion of Western culture and with Western commerce and political imperialism. Governments have accorded even less support than before A.D. 1914, partly because the Tsarist regime which had so baldly used the Church to promote its ends has disappeared. Yet here and there, as in the Belgian Congo, the state has given pronounced aid, in this case through assistance to Roman Catholic education. Armed force has been almost entirely absent as a means of spread, except in so far as the police force has provided the kind of protection for missionaries that it would for the followers of any legitimate occupation. Private enterprise and support by gifts of thousands of individuals and by hundreds of organizations quite unconnected with the state are still the chief agencies both for the propagation of the faith and for seeking to make Christian precepts effective in society. Women constitute an increasing proportion of the staffs of foreign missionary enterprises. As in the nineteenth century, so since A.D. 1914, some of the most widespread effects of Christianity have been wrought through nonecclesiastical agencies. Especially in Protestantism, the influence of Jesus has not been channeled entirely through the Church. New organizations and movements have appeared. What is known as Catholic Action has grown rapidly in many lands as a means of enlisting laymen in the promotion of the faith and in its application to life. What is variously called Buchmanism, from its founder, and the Oxford Groups, or simply the Groups, has had wide vogue in some Protestant circles. New Protestant denominations have arisen, although all of them are small. Within Protestantism the main trend is not toward the emergence of fresh denominations but toward the union of existing ones and toward co-operation.
This continuation of pre-1914 agencies and methods into the post-1914 age may be a symptom of recession. The seeming failure to produce new means to meet what is in so many respects a radically different world may indicate an ominous lack of resiliency. Yet we need to recall that in most of the world nineteenth-century conditions persisted into the 1930’s, and that there has not yet been time for many new methods to emerge and become prominent. We must also remember that in producing non-Occidental leaders and in turning over to them more and more of the direction of the Christian movement in non-Western lands both Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity have displayed imagination and adaptability. In the rapid growth of what is often called the Ecumenical Movement, non-Roman Catholic Christianity has been creating something quite new in Christian history and is seeking to counteract one of the most dangerous features of a perilous age, the political and ideological animosities which are dividing the human race.
Great, then, as is the menace to Christianity and strong as seems the evidence that the Christian tide is displaying a major recession, the counter evidence is by no means negligible. If there is a recession, it is not, when the world is viewed as a whole, as marked as the other three major retreats of the Christian movement. It is possible that we are at the beginning of one which will prove more extreme than some or perhaps any of its predecessors. That, however, is as yet not the case. To jump to the conclusion that it will become such is to take cowardly counsel of our fears. As a whole Christianity is displaying less weakness of morale and more vigor than in any of the three recessions which thus far have marked its course. Moreover, since A.D. 1914 Christianity has become more firmly rooted among more peoples than ever before in its history. ‘While still having its chief hold, as it has since at least the tenth century, among peoples of Western European stock, in the past quarter of a century it has made striking progress among non-Occidental peoples not only in numerical strength but also in acquiring an able indigenous leadership and a growing independence of the tutelage of Occidental Christians. Tne Church is still divided, as it has been since its inception. No prospect is on the horizon of organizational reconciliation between the two most active wings, Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Yet, in spite of its inherent fissiparousness, Protestantism is drawing together and is finding fellowship with some of the Eastern churches. Striking gains are being registered which may later prove the basis of another advance of unprecedented potency. When the entire world is taken into consideration, Christianity is seen to have augmented its influence upon mankind.
Viewed 67959 times.