Things to contemplate for 2012 – thing one

The Thinker, Rodin.jpg
 Auguste Rodin – Wikipedia

After my blog, “Who is responsible for the nine-year war in Iraq? It is not George Bush or Barack Obama; no embarrassingly I must admit that I am!” on December 15th, I got quite a bit of feed back.  Feedback from people relating to the issues that they had failed to think about in a timely way; others were shocked at how I had ignored such important issues and continued with my “willful ignorance” and there were those who challenged me to explore other topics that we as a society should be facing more openly.

Off and on for the last month I have been thinking about that challenge, trying to look into the secret and dark corners of my own mind and looking for the dark and secret corners of our collective mind.  Periodically this year, I am going explore some of those dark places.  American diplomacy and foreign policy seems like a proper dark place to begin, in 2012 North Korea, China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Libya and Egypt, at minimum, will each force us to reexamine and probably alter our previous policies .

I am not exactly in the Ron Paul camp, but I do agree with him that we need to rethink our foreign policy in its entirety. First, I would like to suggest that our policy is built on a 200-year old strategy, developed by English missionary societies for the spreading of gospel; in my opinion for 200 years we have treated democracy, as those 18th century English Christians treated Christianity, as the true faith, without which people were doomed to eternal damnation; we have felt as obligated, as those Christians felt, to go out preach our faith, convert the heathens and do a little business while we were there.  Simply, our foreign policy is based on another time and other issues, it is past time to rethink it.  We need to revisit our strategic intent and goals for our foreign policy and bring those inline with the 21st century, not the 19th.

In that spirit, I am including part of an essay of mine on the Church Mission Society and the missionary movement in general to illustrate my point.  Unconsciously, I beleive the Church Missionary Society has served as a model for our foreign policy, it was formed about the same time as our government; for 200 years we have assumed, as the CMS did, that there was only one true way to govern.  All else was ignorance and folly, as true democrats it was our moral obligation to bring truth and enlightenment; to help those on the wrong path to walk the true path.  The Christian missionaries failed to convert the world and so have we; it may just be that neither faith is the only possible faith – the true faith.  Awareness of that fact should lead both the religious and political missionaries to a policy of co-existence instead of conversion.

Africa has been traditionally a continent of mystery, for thousands of years all of the colonies were in North Africa, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Romans and Arabs each in their time established cities and even empires in Africa, but always along the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic and Indian oceans and the Nile River north of the mysterious inner continent. Even the evangelistic Arabs stopped short of penetrating the lands south of the familiar deserts, the hot, damp land full of unknown animals and an endless number of tribes, languages and cultures.

 However, in the 18th century Europeans became very interested in Africa, they wanted to mine its resources, colonize its land and Christianize its inhabitants (at the time they called it the three Cs, civilization, commerce and Christianity), that is those natives that were not killed, captured and sold into slavery. In one way or another, slavery was very much the engine that drove the 19th century European efforts in the interior of Africa.  Long before the United States came to grip with the moral conflict of a free and society and slavery, England and other countries were struggling to free themselves from its shame.

 England was in the midst of a religious reform, the atmosphere engendered a renewal of the belief that it was the moral obligation of every Christian to bring the gossip to heathens, pagans and marginal Christian – such as Catholics, Eastern Orthodox believers and Coptic Christians; the list of candidates for a proper “reeducation” of course included Muslims. In the last days of the 18th century, some leaders of English Christianity (and that did not include the Church of England until much later) got together to plan an attack on slavery, a campaign to convert the ignorant to the true faith and in the process develop the commercial opportunities they found along the way.  With the kind of genius that marks English intellectuals of the 18th and 19th centuries, they came up with a strategy, that with minor alterations, has survived for 200 years.

 The strategy was relatively simple; first it was necessary to send missionaries to preach the true faith and show by example the superiority of their brand of Christianity over the page gods and beliefs. Those first missionaries would preach, teach and convert – of the converts the best would be selected to train as native missionaries, preaching the gospel to members of their own tribe and neighboring tribes. The very brightest of native converts would be sent to England to train, they would return to establish native churches with native preachers, totally self sufficient; they would not need any English missionaries to help them, nor would they need English pounds to fund them.

 The program ran into serious and immediate problems – ninety percent of the first missionaries succumbed to tropical diseases, the rest returned home weak and disillusioned – they made very few converts.  However, the Church Missionary Society persisted and sent more missionaries, the next wave was bolstered with better medicine, more money and British military power. That wave suffered disastrous loses also, including most of ships and men England sent to ferry the missionaries and their supplies up the Niger River. However, with a stiff upper lip, the society and its soldiers kept on marching – and the song really does come from the Church Missionary Society and its efforts; Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war.


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