I. COLONIALISM AND EVANGELISM PREAMBLE Since our prehistory, human beings have tried to conquer and dominate one another. With the rise of religion—which began as an attempt to understand forces beyond our control (such as pain, disease, and death)—people then try to conquer one another’s mind, but without understanding their own. Those religions and cults that in some way attempt to dominate others have one common historical feature: they were born amidst violence, and sadly continue to use emotionally violent and physically violent means of converting others, or punishing and getting rid of those “who are not with us”. The idea is that if you are not with us, you are against us. There is no middle ground of walking humbly with one’s God, or simply walking at peace with oneself. When such a mental attitude dominates a society, its intolerance becomes destructive and stifles emotional and spiritual growth. Minds simply become mass-produced from the same mould; any misfit would be destroyed or, at best, mercifully marginalized. When such an evangelical attitude reaches a global dimension, the disasters and pains are global and protracted. The early 21st century is characterized by suicide bombings and mass destruction in the name of religion. Religious war and hatred, and evangelically motivated politics are still well and alive even today. Not surprisingly, such a legacy has deep roots. 1. THE INCA TRAGEDY When the European conquerors started coming to the East and the Americas around the 16th century, it was not for the good of the natives, but for "gospel, glory and gold". With the rise of population, power and knowledge in the West, the European adventurers vied with one another to claim foreign lands and heathen peoples in the name of their Christian rulers. In the Americas, the natives were horribly unfortunate. One of the most tragic and dastardly episodes of human history is perhaps the Spanish conquest of the Incas. In 1530 Francisco Pizarro landed with 200 men on the Peruvian coast. He had planned to make an easy conquest of the Inca empire as his countryman Hernando Cortez had done—Cortez had seized the Aztec emperor Montezuma and this conquest in due course led to the annihilation of the Aztec civilization. When the Inca (ruler) Atahualpa and his escort appeared in the square of Cajamarca, they found it deserted, for Pizarro had concealed his men in some large buildings opening onto the square. In other words, once the Indians entered the square, they had no avenue of escape. At a signal from Pizarro his soldiers, supported by cavalry and artillery, rushed forward to kill hundreds of terrified Indians and take the Inca Atahualpa prisoner. (2) TREACHERY The chaos that led to panic amongst the Indians was due to the following reasons: (a) the Indians were practically unarmed; (b) they had no chance at all against the Spanish firearms (the Indians did not have any such weapon then); and (c) they had never seen a horse (the initial sight of a man on a horse terrified them). The result of the fateful meetng was a glorious massacre. The only Spaniard hurt in the massacre that day was Pizarro himself who sustained a minor wound on his hand received from one of his own men! In an attempt to gain his freedom; Atahualpa offered to fill his spacious prison cell with gold as high as a man could reach. Pizarro accepted the offer; but when the room had been filled accordingly, he told the Inca that he was to remain in "protective custody". Later on, however, Pizarro was convinced that Atahualpa was organizing a resistance movement. After a farcical trial, a Spanish court found the Inca “guilty” of polygamy, idolatry, and the murder of his brother Huascar. Atahualpa was condemned by the court to be burnt at the stake; but the sentence was, out of Christian compassion, commuted to strangling when he accepted baptism! [W H Prescott, "The Conquest of Peru", rev V W von Hagen, New American Library, 1961:bk 3 chs 5-7; Encyclopaedia Britannica Macro 10: 693c] (3) GALILEO There is a very important reason that the sad story of the Incas opens this "answer to the evangelists.” The significance for this will be explained at the end of this pamphlet. One further comment however is in order here. The cruelty of the evangelists are not exclusively reserved for the heathen; even their own kind who dare to think differently suffer a cruel fate. The classic case is that of the famous Italian scientist Galileo Galilei who was cruelly threatened with torture for believing in and writing that the sun was the centre of the solar system (while the Church believed that the earth was the centre). As a result of this infamous holy crime against free thought, the hub of scientific learning shifted to northern Europe where there was more tolerance. Some evangelists may argue that they are not "Catholic" as those Spaniards were. Catholic or not, the above examples, illustrate what evangelists with power are capable of. If the early Protestants (and most contemporary evangelists) had enough power, they would have committed similar atrocities against non-believers and the local natives. Power tends to corrupt and, with the promise of "gospel, glory and gold", absolute power corrupts absolutely. Indeed it is quite clear that the evils of colonialism are due to the biblical injunction to "go forth and multiply" and "have dominion over" others that one practically never meets a Christian who "turns the other cheek". One native African writer lamented that when the missionaries came, the missionaries had the Bible in their hand and the natives had their land. Then, one day, when the natives had the Bible in their hands, they discovered that their land was in the hands of the missionaries!
The worst expression of colonialism, both political and religious, is denoted by the term WASP—"White Anglo-Saxon Protestant". Thanks to the independence of our nation and the security of our Constitution, we today are not only free to choose and practise our own religion (or none), but we are also not so easily harassed by the evangelists. II. PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS CAUSED BY EVANGELISM (4) GOSPEL OF FEAR When an evangelist lacks political power, he uses the weapon of subterfuge or fear. Some evangelists befriend others, especially those in universities and colleges, and under the guise of “surveys” and “discussions,” subtly apply their hidden agenda, trying to the “superiority” of the faith above all others.
As regards the use of fear, a classic case in point is that of John Wesley, the 19th century founder of Methodism. In his conversion technique, Wesley would first of all create high emotional tension in his potential converts. He found it easy to convince large audiences of his time that a failure to achieve salvation would necessarily condemn them to hellfire for ever and ever. Wesley learned in time that to capture an audience he had first to gauge its intellectual and emotional capacity. For the simple folk, his favourite approach was the subject of death and judgment on which he would preach with fire. It is reported that John Nelson (one of Wesley's most able lieutenants) was converted in this manner: "As soon as he [Wesley] went upon his stand, he stroked back his hair, and turned his face towards me where I stood, and I thought fixed his eyes upon me. His countenance struck such an awful dread upon me, before I heard him speak, that it made my heart beat like the pendulum of a clock; and when he did speak, I thought his whole discourse was aimed at me.” [Recorded by R A Knox, "Enthusiasm: A Chapter in Religious History," OUP, 1950] Indeed, so effective was Wesley's method that some members of his audience would be "trembling, weeping and swooning away, till every appearance of life was gone, and the extremities of the body assumed the coldness of a corpse. At one meeting not less than a thousand persons fell to the ground apparently without sense or motion”. (A witness account by R A Knox, op cit). Knox says further: "When attacked by the jerks, the victims of enthusiasm sometimes leaped like frogs and. exhibited every grotesque and hideous contortion of the face and limbs. The barks consisted in getting down on all fours, growling, snapping the teeth, and barking like dogs.... These last [who barked like dogs] were particularly gifted in prophecies, trances, dreams, rhapsodies, visions of angels, of heaven, and of the holy city”. [Quoted by W Sargant, "Battle for the Mind," Pan Books, 1959: 115] (5) IMMUNIZING ONESELF The best way to avoid conversion, possession and similar conditions is to avoid getting emotionally involved in the proceedings or give a cold shoulder to any advance from an evangelist. I remember an eyewitness account of an encounter with a charismatic group that "spoke in tongues." Some of the schoolboys, lured to the meeting refused to participate. Indeed, they found the proceeding so bizarre and amusing, that they could not help giggling. The uninvolved behaviour of the schoolboys distracted the whole proceeding—indeed no one was converted pr “healed” that day. The infuriated pastor’s threat of "The devil's everywhere and he can take any form!" and his cajoling of "Believe!" only tickled them further until they had to be thrown out! (6) BEWARE OF GUILT! Too fierce an anger or contempt for the evangelists is also unhealthy. For if one goes on condemning them, there may come a time when one feels very guilty about it all, and like Saul on the road to Damascus, one’s guilt would transmogrify into hallucinatory "visions" which may compel one to join them after all. In the 1970s, a well known Melaka (Malaysia) Buddhist temple, a couple of active Sunday School members used to fend off every evangelist advance with adolescent enthusiasm. But both of them were converted during their spell of studies overseas and became active evangelists. The contributory factor here, however, was that the Buddhist group they were involved in did not put proper Buddhist instructions or practice on a high priority. On the bright side, we have the example of an inter-religious forum (in Singapore), chaired by a Buddhist monk. Most of the major religions were represented. The various evangelists spoke fierily of their faiths almost with the hellfire tone of Wesley's. When the monk’s turn came, he spoke so calmly and happily that the audience was actually shaken by the contrast—from the fire of insecure religiosity and triumphalism to the inner peace of spirituality expressed! The population of the campus Buddhist society which sponsored the forum doubled after that event!
(7) WHY THE HIPPIES? In the 1960s the hippies arose in the West in protest against the establishment. The hippies were a counter-culture of long-haired young people who indulged in marijuana and hallucinogenic drugs, rock music, and communal life-styles. This social explosion that fragmented the younger generations of the West was a reaction against social uniformity dictated by Industrialization—and the rule of the Church in their private lives. But the roots of the hippies, one might say, go way back to the Renascance, short of the introduction of Christianity into the West. Renascence is the name for a rich cultural period in European history tasting from the 14th to the 17th centuries. It was a period of universal learning for the scholars, and great discoveries of new lands and wealth for the powerful—it was the birth of Western imperialism. Yet for the truth-seeker then, it was, consciously or unconsciously, a turning point away from the Church which vehemently denounced anything—even Science—If it were perceived as going against the Bible. If the coffin of Christianity was made during the Renascence, its nails were hammered tight in during the Age of Science. While the Renascence widely opened the doors of knowledge to the West, it also led to the Industrial Revolution in Britain. British imperialism fed its factories and mills with Malayan rubber, Indian spices and Kenyan copper. When the popularity of Chinese tea incurred a heavy deficit on the British, they dumped opium in China to get Chinese silver (which later led to the Opium Wars). Indeed, at the height Western imperialism—concurrent with the Victorian period of British history—Christianity was already deeply entrenched in most of Western society. But it was also the age of the duel between Religion and Science. (8) RELIGION AND SCIENCE Scientific progress and industrial advancement led to higher standards of living, a booming population and urbanization—which made the world "smaller". The improved communication system and mass media further reduced the "size" of world with radio, motion pictures, television, national magazines, record companies and universal advertising. The result of this new wealth was a growing cultural uniformity throughout the country that wiped out ethnic and regional differences and concentrated on the creation and preservation of "high culture"—literature, the fine arts, classical music and opera, philosophy and social thought—to a small, educated elite. The Church too had become very wealthy, though less powerful, but nonetheless determined to win souls. Invoking its ancient roots in the mediaeval universities and armed with these modern social expressions (printing, music, etc), the Church casts its net of missionary school education on foreign shores. What better way to evangelize the heathens than to teach them Western languages and culture, and Christian morals. Indeed the missionaries were so successful that their influence practically reached the highest levels of power right down to the privacy of the converts’ homes with their "missionary position"! III. SOCIAL PROBLEMS CAUSED BY EVANGELISM (9) THE MISSION SCHOOL One of the greatest Asian tragedies is the mission school. Those who think highly of missionary education fail to realize that all the good things that it offers—language, morals, health and culture—are just as good, if not, better given in our own vernacular. At least, we excel in what is really ours and are free to choose to learn whatever else we wish to. It is interesting to note that the average person who goes to a Chinese school (or any vernacular school for that matter) is generally more rooted in his or her own culture and more disciplined than the average mission school graduate. I had two childhood Chinese friends: one came from a family that regularly attends the Wesley church; the other attended a convent. The Wesley Church friend went on to marry an English girl and migrated to England. The convent girl, on the other hand, was in the habit of claiming that the mother superior (head nun) at her convent school was "better than my own mother," which might well be in some ways, but the statement was made in contempt. She later converted and married a Scot. I am not against mixed marriages out of love; but the point here is that the mission school is the main cause of our culture shock, generation gap, not to say, family fragmentation. There was a time when missionary school students had to study Latin, Bible Knowledge and attend chapel—over and above secular subjects. The pupils' own religion and culture were almost completely neglected. The true purpose traditional mission school system is not to so much to educate its students, as it is to put into them an agenda of evangelical or colonial values. Had the mission schools been truly successful we would have lost much if not all of our culture and religious freedom. The same applies to Christian “social work” and “world vision”: the idea is to make sheep and fishes of men (and women and children) to be herded and harvested for the evangelist’s dining table. An evangelical “people-helper” does not really help anyone (not even themselves), insofar as their real aim is to skew their helpees’ minds to become like their. When the blind lead the blind, they grow in confidence, thinking they would not fall into any ditches (when they are actually already rutted in big ditch themselves!) There is no true unconditional love in a Bible-thumping evangelist: it is really a selfish zest (conscious or unconscious) motivated by the desire to dominate. He has created God in his own image.
(10) INFERIORITY COMPLEX Any free thinking person who has some experience of Christianity, would at some point at least, realize that "brainwashing" is an essential tool of the religion. As long as people have to "believe," all seems well for the evangelists. The general idea is to "realize" that one is utterly evil "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". Then the way out is offered: "believe and be saved". This pattern of conversion reflects a great sense of psychological insecurity because it involves fear. It is like the local school bully who threatens smaller kids with violence if they do not “contribute" some pocket money to him. Indeed, in joining a religion, one in a way, invests one's whole being in it. But the dividends of this strange religious business is a great feeling, albeit conscious or unconscious, of inferiority—an inferiority complex. Hence, the desire to dominate others. The statement that "most Christians feel inferior and insecure" may sound rather strange; for one often notices that an evangelist looks modern and self-confident. But one should not be deceived by looks. The actions of the evangelists are very revealing to the astute observer. Despite their faith, influence and affluence, most Christians still feel that other religions are stronger and are eternally plagued by the problem of cults and sectarianism. We will come to this point again soon. (11) "CHRISTIANITY IS MODERN"? Many of our local people have the misconception that to be Christian is to be "modern"—whatever the term means. This attitude is the result of not understanding one's local history—especially the Colonial Period when foreigners (especially the evangelists) ruled our homelands. When we say that "Christianity is modern," we must remember what made it modern and what “modern” means. For Christianity is not the cause of what is said to be "modern"—if by the term one means speaking an international language, being well-dressed for church, saccharin sweet fellowship and, social work; in other words, a high standard of living. But we forget that it was only after the State was separated from the Church that modern Science, Technology and social philosophies paved the road to what we today see as "modern" in the Western way of life. Indeed Christianity, we have seen, for centuries has been hindering free development of knowledge and where they are involved in education, especially the mission school, pupils are almost always blinkered so that they see only the Church's view of the world. (12) LOCAL MISCONCEPTION Many local people have the misconception that Christianity is not only modern but has no problem. The Buddhists, they say, are often poor, uneducated and selfish. The Christians are wealthy, well-schooled and kind to one another, they argue. It almost sounds as if they are saying that Buddhism is the cause of poverty, ignorance and selfishness! Of course, these critics are neither Buddhist nor sympathetic to Buddhism. These critics forget that these "wealthy, well-schooled, kind" Christians they are talking about are enjoying the legacy of the colonial past. It is only in the recent past, with our country's independence, local education and religious freedom that we are able to begin picking up the pieces to start organizing ourselves so that we can study our own religion and discover our own culture. We have to begin by helping ourselves so that we can in due course help others—if they need and want our help, that is. Above all, one must never forget that Christians, too, have problems like any other religions—lack of commitment of the congergation, sectarianism, internal politics, self-righteousness, fanaticism, etc. (13) "VAMPIRE EFFECT" A real life example will illustrate the "vampire effect" and inferiority complex. This experience was related by a Western friend of mine. He was taking a walk in Petaling Jaya (a township in Selangor, Malaysia) one day when a young boy ran up to him and proudly announced "I'm a Christian!" The Westerner was dumbfounded for a moment and then replied: "I'm a Buddhist!" The main point here however is that the attitude that "Christianity is modern" reflects one's own feeling of inferiority to a religion well-publicized by public gospel rallies, colourful Christmas celebrations and Western movies. This is the "opium of the masses": one feels inferior because one fails to see the wealth of what is good in oneself. Indeed one is unable to see what is good in oneself because one as been uprooted by the evangelists through mission school education and the mass media. This is called the "vampire effect" because once one gets bitten by evangelist bug one keeps going back to it especially in times of crisis. IV. SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS OF THE EVANGELISTS (14) GLORIFICATION OF FAILURE The evangelist will sooner or later announce that his saviour died for mankind, or if we are to believe the biblical accounts—Jesus was crucified by the Romans. Most potential converts are not impressed by this statement which they neither understand nor accept. But religious conversion is like joining a club —one has sooner or later to accept all the rules of the game. It does not matter where one begins, the evangelists argue—the end justifies the means! One is far from wrong if one says that the evangelists celebrates the death of Christ; indeed, it is a glorification of failure. It would be more meaningful to say that a certain local soldier died for the country if he had defended the land. But to say the "Christ died for you" amounts to saying that death is better than life. Just because a charismatic person says that black is white does not mean he is right. Words have different meanings to different people, and we have to ask ourselves what do those words really mean to us. It is all right to think differently. A beautiful analogy of "the cow and the sheep" illustrates the gist of the argument here. A sheep lamented to a cow one day about how unpopular a sheep is: "People are always talking about your kind eyes, your gentleness and your usefulness. They say you provide milk, cream, buttermilk, butter and ghee. The early monks use your fermented urine as medicine. Even your dung is useful as wall plaster and fuel. But I give more—I provide mutton and wool, and give up my life for it! Still nobody likes me! Why is this?" The cow thought for a while and then replies: