The Religious Outlook in China

A reply

All this is, of course, not without reason. The success of Christianity, if it has been a success, has been due to extraneous causes. Christianity has the fortune – or the misfortune, according to the different points of view – to be associated with those Western ideas and institutions which have exerted such a potent influence upon all branches of Chinese society. The people had gazed with awe and horror at the conflict between what is their own heritage and what had been introduced from the Western nations, and had been taken aback by the efficiency of the foe, which ultimately compelled them shamefully to yield and surrender many of their rights and privileges. This is the side of Westernism that will continue to have its appeal – its merciless onslaught, its temendous might, its terrible ruthlessness is this glamour that has completely dominated their minds. They may have a very hazy idea of what the Western nations really are; but one thing is palpable to them – that their country is impotent when it strives to complete with the foreigners in science and mechanical inventions.

To them, of course, it makes very little difference what Christianity really means. They are not interested in all the intricacies of its theology, in the meaning of its different denominations and sects, in its historical relations, or lack of relations, with the development of Europe and America: in short, they are not interested in the religion as a religion. They are interested in the fact that Christianity is the religion of those powers which have humiliated them in their wars and their political struggles. It is very doubtful, therefore, whether, unaided by these favoring circumstances, Christianity would ever have gained the foothold that it has at present. In any fair competition with all the different religions that China has already embraced in her long history, – Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and others, Christianity could probably, at best, hope to win an equal position with the rest. But the fact that it happens to be the Western religion has, of course, given it an added impetus. It is by virtue of this prestige that it is turning out ‘converts’ in different parts of China; but it is difficult to say that these converts have really been won for the cause of Christianity, for the principles which Jesus had in mind. The merits of the religion itself have scarcely been apprehended, but its relations have very tellingly influenced the minds of the converts. It is as if a lady is chosen for wife, hardly upon the strength of her own endowments and qualifications, but upon the strength of her having affiliations with millionaires and successful business men, whose worldly honors and glory will always have a universal appeal to the masses of the people. A union of this type does not, however, ensure future happiness to the husband. The fascination of her relations and a possible support, from their resources are not likely to develop his personality and procure him a truly happy life. These have to depend upon the fascination and the inward beauty of the lady herself. She may have them; but the man, his attention fixed upon the shining gold of her relations, has not taken the trouble to discover them and appraise their value. This may be the source of future unhappiness.

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