100 Years Ago… – Success of Christian Missions in India

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The Review of Religions (English), October 1920

The report of the India Survey Committee to the Inter-church World Movement of North America contains the following:

“It is among the low caste and the poor, depressed outcaste that Christianity has thus far had its most marked success. Despised, reviled, oppressed by their high caste neighbours, denied the privilege of worshipping in the village temple where the high caste man worships, these poor people have gladly heard the gospel and found in it satisfaction for their soul and a way out of their social and economic troubles that their own religion has denied them. No wonder that they have turned to Christianity as their only hope and little wonder that the missionary finding them so needy and responsive, has devoted himself very largely to them …

“Thus far Christianity has made little progress in winning the middle and higher castes in India …

“We are on the eve of a mass movement into Christianity on the part of the Sudras which may even eclipse the mass movement amongst the outcaste peoples.

“Converts from Brahmanism are indeed few thus far.” (The Harvest Field, [August 1920, pp. 304-305])

The above is a plain admission, in other words, that so far Christianity has failed to make any impression on the real life of India. The success among the “outcaste” population, who belong to a social strata even lower than that of the lowest caste of Hindus is due to the fact, as the report says, that Christianity offers them “a way out of their social and economic troubles.”

They came to Christianity because they were “needy”. To say that their people found in Christianity satisfaction for their souls is mere moonshine. A true faith attracts first the thinking classes. The mass to whom Christianity has appealed hardly knows to think.

We do not deny that it serves a useful purpose to work for these people to improve their social and economic condition, but what we say is that a religion whose main success is confined to this class of people furnishes little proof of its high spiritual qualities. The middle class is the backbone of human society and every genuine religious movement always finds its greatest support in the rank of this class.

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