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A CHINAMAN’S VIEW OF CHRISTIANITY
The following extracts from a paper in the North American Review by Wong Chin Foo, a Chinaman, and evidently a graduate of one of our New England colleges, gives his reasons for preferring the religion of his fathers to Christianity. True Christianity and its teachings he of course does not comprehend and against it his pointed sarcasm has no power; but against much, very much, nay, against the generality of what is called Christian it strikes a sharp blow which should have some good effect in stimulating thought on the part of many who feel that their religion only must be an unreasonable matter. And yet we know that this educated heathen man voices the sentiment of thousands of sensible thinkers, who, merely because they have less moral courage than he, do not express themselves. How much need there is, then, to „Lift up a standard for the people”—the truth—and how energetic all should be who have been entrusted with the honor of being standard bearers in this time „when the enemy shall come in like a flood.”
Wong Chin Foo says:—
The main element of all religion is the moral code controlling and regulating the relations and acts of individuals toward „God, neighbor, and self;” and this intelligent „heathenism” was taught thousands of years before Christianity existed or Jewry borrowed it. Heathenism has not lost or lessened it since. Born and raised a heathen, I learned and practised its moral and religious code; and acting thereupon I was useful to myself and many others. My conscience was clear, and my hopes as to future life were undimmed by distracting doubt. But, when about seventeen, I was transferred to the midst of your showy Christian civilization, and at this impressible period of life Christianity presented itself to me at first under its most alluring aspects; kind Christian friends became particularly solicitous for my material and religious welfare, and I was only too willing to know the truth. But before qualifying for this high mission, the Christian doctrine I would teach had to be learned, and here on the threshold I was bewildered by the multiplicity of Christian sects, each one claiming a monopoly of the only and narrow road to heaven.
I looked into Presbyterianism only to retreat shudderingly from a belief in a merciless God who had long foreordained most of the helpless human race to an eternal hell. To preach such a doctrine to intelligent heathen would only raise in their minds doubts of my sanity, if they did not believe I was lying. Then I dipped into Baptist doctrines, but found so many sects therein of different „shells,” warring over the merits of cold-water initiation and the method and time of using it, that I became disgusted with such trivialities; and the question of close communion or not, only impressed me that some were very stingy and exclusive with their bit of bread and wine, and others a little less so. Methodism struck me as a thunder-and-lightning religion—all profession and noise. You struck it, or it struck you, like a spasm,—and so you „experienced” religion. The Congregationalists deterred me with their starchiness and self-conscious true-goodness, and their desire only for high-toned affiliates. Unitarianism seemed all doubt, doubting even itself. A number of other Protestant sects based on some novelty or eccentricity—like Quakerism—I found not worth a serious study by the non-Christian. But on one point this mass of Protestant dissension cordially agreed, and that was in a united hatred of Catholicism, the older form of Christianity. And Catholicism returned with interest this animosity. It haughtily declared itself the only true Church, outside of which there was no salvation—for Protestants especially; that its chief prelate was the personal representative of God on earth; and that he was infallible. Here was religious unity, power, and authority with a vengeance. But, in chorus, my solicitous Protestant friends beseeched me not to touch Catholicism, declaring it was worse than heathenism—in which I agreed; but the same line of argument also convinced me that Protestantism stood in the same category. In fact, the more I studied Christianity in its various phases, and listened to the animadversions of one sect upon another, the more it all seemed to me „sounding brass and tinkling cymbals.”
[The following portion shows the great evil of calling things what they are not—of calling civilized nations Christian nations and calling the worldly, unbelievers and the unconsecrated Christians, because they outwardly respect religion and draw nigh to God with their lips while their hearts are far from him.]
„Call us heathen, if you will, the Chinese are still superior in social administration and social order. Among 400,000,000 of Chinese there are fewer murders and robberies in a year than there are in New York state. True, China supports a luxurious monarch whose every whim must be gratified; yet, withal, its people are the most lightly taxed in the world, having nothing to pay but from tilled soil, rice and salt; and yet she has not a single dollar of national debt. …
Christians are continually fussing about religion; they build great churches and make long prayers, and yet there is more wickedness in the neighborhood of a single church district of one thousand people in New York than among one million heathen, churchless and unsermonized. Christian talk is long and loud about how to be good and to act charitably. It is all charity, and no fraternity—”there, dog, take your crust and be thankful!” And is it, therefore, any wonder there is more heart-breaking and suicides in the single state of New York in a year than in all China?
The difference between the heathen and the Christian is that the heathen does good for the sake of doing good. With the Christian, what little good he does he does it for immediate honor and for future reward; he lends to the Lord and wants compound interest. In fact, the Christian is the worthy heir of his religious ancestors. The heathen does much and says little about it; the Christian does little good, but when he does he wants it in the papers and on his tombstone. Love men for the good they do you is a practical Christian idea, not for the good you should do them as a matter of human duty. So Christians love the heathen; yes, the heathen’s possessions; and in proportion to these the Christian’s love grows in intensity. When the English wanted the Chinamen’s gold and trade, they said they wanted „to open China for their missionaries.” And opium was the chief, in fact only, missionary they looked after, when they forced the ports open. And this infamous Christian introduction among Chinamen has done more injury, social and moral, in China, than all the humanitarian agencies of Christianity could remedy in 200 years. And on you, Christians, and on your greed of gold, we lay the burden of the crime resulting; of tens of millions of honest, useful men and women sent thereby to premature death after a short, miserable life, besides the physical and moral prostration it entails even where it does not prematurely kill! And this great national curse was thrust on us at the point of Christian bayonets. And you wonder why we are heathen? The only positive point Christians have impressed on heathenism is that they would sacrifice religion, honor, principle, as they do life, for—gold. And they sanctimoniously tell the poor heathen: ‚You must save your soul by believing as we do!’ …
We heathen are a God-fearing race. Aye, we believe the whole universe-creation—whatever exists and has existed—is of God and in God, that, figuratively, the thunder is His voice and the lightning His mighty hands; that everything we do and contemplate doing is seen and known by him; that he has created this and other
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worlds to effectuate beneficent, not merciless designs, and that all that He has done is for the steady, progressive benefit of the creatures whom He endowed with life and sensibility, and to whom as a consequence He owes and gives paternal care, and will give paternal compensation and justice; yet His voice will threaten and His mighty hand chastise those who deliberately disobey His sacred laws and their duty to their fellow-men.
‚Do unto others as you wish they would do unto you,’ or ‚Love your neighbor as yourself,’ is the great divine law which Christians and heathen alike hold, but which the Christians ignore. This is what keeps me the heathen I am! And I earnestly invite the Christians of America to Confucius.
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What can the nominal Christian Church answer to this charge and arraignment of heathenism? Nothing; they themselves have counted in under the name Christian, millions of the unregenerate, wholly opposed to the true principles of the doctrine taught by the Founder of Christianity and his apostles. They have with pride acknowledged all the civilized nations of earth as Christian nations, even going so far as to speak of them as Christendom (Christ’s Kingdom); and hence to be consistent they must bear the Chinaman’s reproach as against Christianity, for the nefarious acts of these kingdoms which the Scriptures declare to be beastly and subject to the machinations of the devil, the prince of the power of the air who now worketh in the children of disobedience, but is to be dethroned, bound, and finally destroyed by the true kingdom
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of Christ, when he shall take his great power and reign.
How pointed, too, are the thrusts of this heathen man: He agrees with Paul who says—While one saith I am of Paul, I of Apollos, I of Peter, etc., are ye not carnal? So the Chinaman wants to know whether the various sectarian claims—I am of Wesley, I of Luther, I of the Pope, I of Calvin, Knox, etc., etc., does not imply gross carnality among Christians to-day.
And how well merited are this heathen’s strictures upon what has come to be the fundamental doctrine of „Christendom?”—that all but a small handful of humanity are on their way through a world of sorrow, pain, disappointment and tears, to a place of untold and everlasting agony, prepared for them by a God of love, whose unerring wisdom saw this to be their fate and portion before they were born.
Oh! what blasphemy upon the wisdom, love, justice and power of our Creator. What a terrible misrepresentation of his gracious plans. It is creditable indeed to the fairness and justice of the heathen world, that they spurn such—bad tidings of great misery, to all people. It is a shame, a disgrace to the intelligence of the civilized world to-day, that such an unreasonable, cruel misrepresentation of God and his plan finds credence among them, and has their millions for its support and spread. Even if the real plan of God were not seen by them, the civilized mind like that of its heathen brother, should be able to recognize such a hideous distortion, and should regard the teachers of such things, as would the heathen—”as insane, if not liars.”
But the fact is that the majority of the intelligent people of „Christendom” do not believe in this doctrine, that God’s chief work is to create men by the billion for eternal torment. The trouble is that they are not honest, not righteous, not upright. They are willing to sail under false colors, from selfish motives. They are lovers of self more than lovers of God, and hence are willing to join in this blasphemy of his character and plan. They, like Baalam, love the reward of unrighteousness, and hence practise deceit to get that reward. Verily, they have their reward!
Oh! for more noble men and women whom Satan cannot rule by either fear or favor. Honesty is a pre-requisite to growth in grace and knowledge; for „Light [truth] is sown for the RIGHTEOUS and gladness [such as comes from confidence, inspired by the true plan of God] for the UPRIGHT in heart.” Since the truth is only for the upright, the honest, is it any wonder that so many morally dishonest people of intelligence fail to find the truth? How can they believe who seek honor one from another and seek not (exclusively) that honor which cometh from God only?
— October, 1887 —