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Review: The Bible and the Gun

Review: The Bible and the Gun

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Published by Jedi Ninja
The Bible and the Gun by Joseph Tse-Hei Lee attempts to map a conceptual framework of the history of late nineteenth century Sino-Christian relations in Chaozhou. Focusing on the English Presbyterian and American Baptist missionary movements, Lee incorporates the first hand accounts of missionaries and Chinese Christians into his “grassroots history” – a retelling of the story of Christianity in China that overturns several commonly held assumptions and clarifies several commonly believed misconceptions. As the title of the book suggests, Lee argues that Chinese Christians were attracted to the church not only because of their interest in spiritual matters (the Bible) but also for protection from enemies (the gun). Lee explores four case studies of anti-Christian violence in late nineteenth century Chaozhou, and concludes that in each case, the violence stemmed not from religious persecution, but from property and family disputes. Lee argues that nineteenth century Chaozhou was deeply divided along class and family lineage lines. As the Christian missionaries entered Chaozhou, they converted entire families at a time, and therefore they unknowingly took sides in age-old family feuds. In small village communities, many families threatened by disputes with other families often converted to Christianity to take advantage of the protection that the church offered, only to leave the church when the dispute was settled, or when the church failed to provide the protection they expected. For example, many Chinese Christians left the church in early 1900, when it was rumored that the Boxers were about to drive all of the missionaries out of China. The defeat of the Boxer Rebellion bolstered the prestige and power of the foreigners and led to the strengthening and growth of the church. According to Lee, “the immediate attraction of Christianity was not religious at all. There were strong political elements that attracted people to affiliate with the church. The treaty protection and provision of security… transformed the churches into powerful predatory and protective organizations.”
The Bible and the Gun by Joseph Tse-Hei Lee attempts to map a conceptual framework of the history of late nineteenth century Sino-Christian relations in Chaozhou. Focusing on the English Presbyterian and American Baptist missionary movements, Lee incorporates the first hand accounts of missionaries and Chinese Christians into his “grassroots history” – a retelling of the story of Christianity in China that overturns several commonly held assumptions and clarifies several commonly believed misconceptions. As the title of the book suggests, Lee argues that Chinese Christians were attracted to the church not only because of their interest in spiritual matters (the Bible) but also for protection from enemies (the gun). Lee explores four case studies of anti-Christian violence in late nineteenth century Chaozhou, and concludes that in each case, the violence stemmed not from religious persecution, but from property and family disputes. Lee argues that nineteenth century Chaozhou was deeply divided along class and family lineage lines. As the Christian missionaries entered Chaozhou, they converted entire families at a time, and therefore they unknowingly took sides in age-old family feuds. In small village communities, many families threatened by disputes with other families often converted to Christianity to take advantage of the protection that the church offered, only to leave the church when the dispute was settled, or when the church failed to provide the protection they expected. For example, many Chinese Christians left the church in early 1900, when it was rumored that the Boxers were about to drive all of the missionaries out of China. The defeat of the Boxer Rebellion bolstered the prestige and power of the foreigners and led to the strengthening and growth of the church. According to Lee, “the immediate attraction of Christianity was not religious at all. There were strong political elements that attracted people to affiliate with the church. The treaty protection and provision of security… transformed the churches into powerful predatory and protective organizations.”

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Published by: Jedi Ninja on Jun 28, 2012
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06/28/2012

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