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Time for us to examine, this time, Time's untimely treatment of former times. March 9, 1998...
Time Magazine has often transgressed with superficial, if not sophisticatedly callow treatments of things moral and religious. If it has any supernatural offshoots from the upbringing reported of founder Henry Luce, it might seem even more wary in showing them than might a 'Christian' convert in China today: assuming the conversion were merely superficial. Where faith is, legs follow... and mouths (James 2:18-20).
News ? Yes
This is not to deprecate the extraordinarily conscientious job the magazine often does in collecting the accounts of happenings world-wide. At reporting it is so far above its interpretation that it seems to hold fast to the statement attributed by it in its March 9, 1998 issue, to Luce. This ? that the world is a complicated sort of a place, but telling a story is (relatively) easy.
Not that Time Magazine cannot on occasion treat some of the deeper things with some aplomb; but alas, as the tide goes out, and a river to the sea, so Time is often so
Putting it one way ...
An excellent illustration of the problem has occurred in this week's issue. On the last inner page, 119, a writer does quite a good job, assuming his facts are sound, in saying: "Luce inherited a zeal to spread American values and Christianize the communist world. He was very up front about his approach." It may be that this partially misguided objective was Luce's. One who has not studied his personal history is in no position to contest it. 'Christianization' is not a Biblical concept. American values are very mixed, amorphous, difficult to locate as times and modes change; though there is some inherited trend, strengthened by not a few Christians still left, who value God and His word above the world altogether (James 4:4).
Yet it is still possible that this is what this individual and famous man believed and did.
But not the other!
On an earlier page, however, Time comes out with a disastrous piece of journalistic engineering using philosophic assumptions which certainly do violence to the facts. It appears more journalism by retrospective philosophic analysis, than by ascertainment of facts. It is almost as if history could be constructed by ... reflection!
Why should one bring this up? Because it is not easy to have a letter published in Time Magazine, and it would not seem likely that this one would reach its pages! It is no less an issue to be raised because such an appalling statement as that to which we now come, MUST for the interest of truth, Christ and restraint, be exposed.
"The contrast," says Time - p. 56, "between the ordered world of the missionary community and the harsh social and physical landscape outside it reinforced the assumptions driving the missionary project in China: the unquestioned belief in the moral superiority of Christianity and the cultural superiority of America; and the commitment to show the way not just to the love of Christ but also to a modern, scientific social order."
Now you may say, 'But ONE interpretation of this is again merely that this is how LUCE'S parents saw things.' However, the 'missionary community' does not sound like a household. It would be more than ponderous! After all, we have just heard reference to "like most missionary families", in terms of their living quarters. The scope cannot with any pretence at clarity, be less.
It would be not fitting for such fulsome generalising; but even if it were, what follows is wholly unambiguous, and it DOES follow on in the same vein: "The image of America that Luce had as a child was the idealized one his father and other missionaries created to justify their work." You will notice "created" and "justify their work"! Here we have the motivation and activation: this is the way things went, we learn.
History, how do you lament at this caricature! On this basis, Luce's father with other missionaries - no exemptions or exceptions are noted: had an image of AMERICA to hold as 'idealized', and it was THIS which in effect, they used to 'justify their work'. Now ostensibly, their work, as the writer appears to realise somewhat, was not at all this.
SPRINGS OF ACTION ?
It was something quite different. It was to preach the Biblical gospel, and to reclaim sinners through it to the Almighty and Living God, in the name of Jesus Christ. Yet perceptively? the Time writer is able to tell us that IN FACT, as the journalism runs, it was an IDEALIZED bit of the world, called America which was the object used in justifying what they were doing.
It is of course true that many culturally servile substitutes for missionaries may indeed glorify their countries, cultures, backgrounds and so forth; and that some who do NOT do this, yet seek most strenuously to raise the living standards of those to whom they go, sometimes to the detriment of the Gospel, which can be compromised; while others of course seek to raise their spiritual standards, amidst kind deeds, realising that eventually, as Christ taught in the sermon on the Mount, the rest will follow.
This, it would be made to appear, was the way it was. "His father and other missionaries", the "missionary community" would not appear to mean, "his father and some other people who were acting as missionaries"; and "missionary community" would not seem to relate to odd parties. No allowance for exception is made, and all is exposed as to the nature of this body of people, as if it were by some expert psychiatrist, some most acute historian who holds secretly in his vaults, millions of documents able to demonstrate his claim.
Psychiatry itself however is not apt for such accuracy in retrospective analysis; and motivation is not so easily assessed of a whole category of numerous people, often highly individual, and ostensibly of a very different inspiration, motivation and characterisability.
In view of some of the missionaries like David Brainherd, it is an incalculable insult to Christian missionaries so to intone; it is unnecessary and inadequately researched. Even if MANY were found in this mould, as they may well have been, what research has even covered all the lives involved, painstakingly pursuing every aspect, phase, approach, individual, diversification, emphasis; and to what research is one directed ? what that is adequately comprehensive to render characterisable without qualification, the lives which demonstrates the point being made.
When you make unqualified statements about American missionaries of an era, you need to know your missionaries - all of them. This is language available for the MANY lesser degrees of journalistic or other analysis of evidence, and the MANY deftly put characterisations which such knowledge as is available, would make both scholarly and restrained.
GARDENS, SLUMS AND
LOOKING TO HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE
Certainly a slum may from a distance give a banal appearance; but when one walks in it, one may find some gardens, flowers and even parks. There doubtless have been slums in the spiritual performances of some missionaries, and it is to be confessed that I have myself seen one American missionary lady who seemed near to the mould noted; though at that, I could not so dispense with the rest of her approach as to generalise in this way. It would involve an assessment of her inward motivation and conception to which I do not have access.
Slums there may be. However these are not the only spiritual cities which have been built. Nor are all cities characterisable by such elements; and some are amazingly free of them, in degree. Indeed, many Christians follow the word of God daringly, seeking a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10,16), a "better city" contrasted expressly with anything offered by this present world. They proceed as with Moses, as "seeing Him who is invisible", being what, on this earth ? "This: "strangers and pilgrims". Nor is this surprising, since it is expressly held up as an example, as a principle, as a process and procedure which is of the essence of faith, without which no man can please God (Hebrews 11:6).
THE ACME OF THE FANCIFUL
But let us return to what is before us. When a NEWS magazine engages in this sort of religious indoctrination, for that is what it is functionally, whatever the intention - and editors should be alert to dismiss such laxity of generalisation - it parallels only too well the almost inconceivable failure of Time magazine to have any exposed idea of the
Certainly in this case, it is also a matter of faith; but I can find no reason which can withstand it. Long have I held out opportunity in University and this country and that. No reply of sustained reason and scientific method, seems ever to come.
The case there is far different with this social generalisation about missionaries - to which one must, in Christ's own name, object - in the latest edition of Time magazine. Freedom of ideas must make better allowance for ALL the facts.
The judgments of those who are morally "neutral" are most amusing. How often those who have no values, know how wrong must be those who have certain values, in terms of their own 'non-existent' values. Judging values yet without values, they are the leading contortionists amongst many circus goers. See The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 374-386.