A lot of people prefer to steer clear of this fact but it’s true that evangelism and the evangelical outfits executing the same across the globe are also on the rise. The situation, in this context, is getting worse with each day it passes in
In the following, there is an excerpt of his interview taken recently.
What led you to write this book?
I grew up in an agnostic family with respect for spirituality of all kinds — from animism to true Christianity. I suppose one of my strongest incentives for writing the book was to show how, in the West, inherently decent things like liberal secularism and Christian spirituality (no necessary conflict here!) are so deeply corrupted by political power and so dishonestly vaunted as marks of cultural superiority.
Not many would want to come out in the open and talk about the issues raised in your book. Was that a concern for you?
In the West, certainly, there is a reluctance to enquire too deeply into the affairs of organized Christianity — both at home and overseas. Western culture is a deeply, subliminally Christian culture, and even committed secularists have trouble avoiding Christian parameters in their arguments, and recognizing the Christian capacity for wrong-doing. Among other things, this leads to a rather benign view of the behavior of our missionaries overseas — fed partly by ignorance, and partly by a sense that the Christian mission can be equated with civilization. And such myopia has increased dramatically over the past 40 years, as the secular West has managed to define a global order largely in its own terms, with decisive help from its Christian missionaries. By contrast, of course, the behavior of non-Christians (especially Muslims) is scrutinized ruthlessly, misunderstood, and demonized.
Academics who have attempted to study the work of missionaries in
The glib response to this would be to say that religious extremism of any kind needs to be exposed. But it is more complex than this. There is a need to go beyond the purely religious objection to Christian missionising, and examine the global forces which define it, and which are subverting countries like
A key contention of my book is that the extremism of Christian evangelicals is no more benign than the extremism found in non-Christian religious groups. Indeed, its local impact can be hugely destructive — precisely because of its ability to draw upon a vast global network of forces (including powerful secular ones), and its ability to penetrate and shape local forces, whether they be ethnic, religious, political, or social, according to alien priorities.
You speak at length of the
Most Western leaders (not just Bush and Blair) will claim they are inspired by their Christian beliefs. Sometimes, as with both Reagan and George W Bush, they quote chapter and verse in support of policy, although usually it is not so blatant. Certainly, deep in
Of course, one can debate whether
But there is no doubt at all that
Most of the major evangelical corporations (like World Vision, Campus Crusade, Youth with a
This means that evangelization is an intensely secular pursuit, as well as a religious one. In turn, of course, the secular powers, whether they be departments of state or corporate businesses, find such evangelicals to be very effective partners.
Indeed, most missionaries are not obviously religious. A case in point is the Success Motivation industry. Many of the most popular ‘leadership gurus’ — Zig Ziglar, Paul Meyer, Os Hillman, Richard DeVos, John C. Maxwell, and Ken Blanchard, for example — are not just management experts, they are also evangelical Christians and conscious agents of US-style evangelization. Conversely, groups which, on the face of it, are primarily religious, may also serve a powerful secular agenda, such as the collection of intelligence, the grooming of political or commercial elites, or the manipulation of local conflicts.
Some accuse the church of fomenting dissent among poor tribals by exploiting them; others say the church is a liberating force. This debate has gone on for decades in
The situation of
But there are many cases, too, of evangelical missions which go into tribal areas with little respect for local realities, and with an agenda far removed from tribal welfare. In this, they may be no better and no worse than the home-grown oppressor. But there is an important difference. Such missionaries often belong to an evangelical network whose strategic purpose is defined elsewhere, and which has little loyalty to the local population, its cultures, its communities, and its welfare, let alone to the nation as a whole. This is particularly true of the new breed of US-inspired evangelicals, led by Baptists and Pentecostalist/Charismatics, who have spearheaded evangelization over the past 50 years. It is the working of this wider, and self-consciously global, structure of behavior which is of concern.
It is unfortunate that missions doing good work in tribal areas have their efforts tarnished by others whose approach is more opportunistic and exploitative. For the new evangelicals, distaste for paganism is just part of the equation — oppressed tribal groups are a relatively easy target to penetrate in a much wider war against non-Christians generally, and for influence in strategic (especially border) areas. In this respect, even a relatively long-established Christian presence — as in Nagaland — has utility as a strategic outpost.
These are turbulent times for
It certainly seems, sometimes, that evangelicals thrive on suffering and disaster.
But evangelicals court the wealthy and the powerful of a society with equal passion. One of the most telling features of the new evangelism is the way it has turned Christianity into a force for protecting the rich and powerful. US Protestantism, in particular, has worked hard to undermine the impulse in the church towards social justice and reform. A measure of its success has been the defeat of Liberation Theology and the remarkable expansion of US Pentecostalism in Asia, Africa, and
In these, as in most new evangelical churches, great attention is paid to a ‘theology’ of economics which stresses individual profit, corporate obedience, the sanctity of making money, and the power of “miracles, signs, and wonders. “This ‘theology’ is a key part of modern imperialism: it offers something to both rich and poor, it is safely counter-revolutionary, and it ties tightly into the wider global network of more secular influences (in business, government, education, the media, the military) which underpins Western expansion.
So the evangelical church has a key role to play in a society as disparate as
A recent issue of the Texas-based magazine, Gospel For Asia, says: “The Indian sub-continent with one billion people, is a living example of what happens when Satan rules the entire culture...
There are two important points here. First, we must not assume that the ‘developed’ West is free from willful ignorance. Indeed, willful ignorance is often a very useful weapon. We need enemies, and, as religious people, we need demons. The utility of Islamophobia is a case in point. Besides, there’s a useful role for such bigotry within the system: as a foil for the liberal powerful to prove their liberal credentials.
But such attitudes are nothing new, of course. Christians have waged such ‘spiritual warfare’ against their enemies for centuries, and with the same kind of language. What is new is the vastly increased facility, offered by the electronic media, for fighting such a war. And this is the second point.
New technology is spreading, and hardening, such bigotry. Since the mid-1960s, the evangelical movement has systematically computerized its entire global operation, creating huge databases of information on its non-Christian enemies, centralizing administration, and linking some 500 million ‘Christian computers’ worldwide for the purposes of fighting ‘spiritual warfare’ against non-believers in strategic places. And ‘spiritual warfare’, for the evangelical Christian movement, is not just a matter of prayers and metaphor: it is also, very decisively, a matter of ‘virtuous’ troops, tanks, and drones.