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Missionaries et al. SINGLE PAGE

Introductory and General Information
  Christian Missionary Treatment of Islaam
Source: Prepared for Spubs by an anonymous writer
Article ID : MSS020002  [28261]  
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The English dictionary defines 'lie' as: intentional false statement, imposture, be deceptive, convey a false impression. If one were to say it is the methodology of the Christian missionary to lie about Islam, this claim would have a ring of truth to it. Their endeavours have not only left Islam as a misunderstood religion in the West, but also one that is mistreated. This methodology has as its origin a seldom-publicised statement of Paul in which he is happy to proclaim: 'If through my falsehood God's truthfulness abounds to His glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner.' (Romans 3:7) Paul felt little reluctance in spreading 'falsehood' so long as the end result achieved the greater glory of God. One will never know, therefore, whether his claimed vision of Jesus on the Damascus road, his appointment as preacher to the Gentiles, and the other teachings he propagated in the name of Christianity were all part of this use of 'falsehood' or not. He would have done well to take into consideration another Biblical text: 'A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.' (Proverbs 14:5) Paul, by his own admission, proves himself not to have been a faithful witness. How much better later Christian missionaries fared as 'faithful witnesses' will be discussed below. Nevertheless, this does not make for a promising start: Paul, the champion of Christianity, admitting to the use of falsehood.

Missionary efforts in preaching the Gospel are hardly worthy of emulation. In 1795 the London Missionary Society was formed, its immediate attention focused upon the Pacific; two years later a convict ship bound for Australia put the first missionaries ashore on Tahiti. It was four years before any of them learned enough of the local language to be able to preach a sermon to a puzzled though sympathetic audience. The Tahitians built houses for them, fed them, and provided them with servants galore, but after seven years not a single convert to Christianity had been gained. The missionaries opted for a more brutal tactic and gained the upper hand by helping to reduce the local chief to an alcoholic and then offered him backing in a war against other islands chiefs by supplying firearms (the enemy having only wooden clubs to defend themselves). Assistance was provided, however, on the condition that all the islanders would have to accept Christianity once victory had been gained. The whole nation was converted in a day! With their power base firmly established in Tahiti, the missionaries moved swiftly to the outer islands. The methods they employed were as before. A local chieftain would be baptised, crowned king, introduced to large quantities of alcohol and left to the work of converting his own people. Chieftains who put up any form of opposition were quickly shown the might of the missionary forces. Where no resistance was found, a native teacher supported by a half dozen missionary police would take over an island within a week. (Norman Lewis, The Missionaries, Arena 1989, pp.10-15)

The missionaries had little need to take recourse to the use of falsehood in Tahiti. The natives were easy prey for the military strength the missionaries were able to muster. Where, however, the target audience was not so easily convinced or where little or no inroads were being made, it was time once again to make use of Paul's motto - 'falsehood' - in whatever form was most appropriate. The missionary attack on Islam, for the most part, was to follow this strategy.

The earliest Christian reactions to Islam were much the same as they have been in modern times. The approach often takes a severe attitude in condemning whatever a Muslim believes, including the whole of what he believes about God and, in particular, what he believes about Jesus Christ. Regarding some of the early authors who wrote against Islam, Normal Daniel asks: "It is natural to ask how authors whom we can neither patronise as foolish nor condemn as unscrupulous could consistently have misrepresented facts, regularly crediting ridiculous fantasies. This applies particularly to their treatment of the events of Muhammad's life, but to some extent also to the whole of their attitude to Islam. We cannot just excuse them as ignorant." (Norman Daniel, Islam and the West, Oneworld Publications 1993, p.255)

It was the works of authors of this calibre that Christianity was to use in its attacks on Islam, authors who 'misrepresented facts' and worked within the sphere of 'ridiculous fantasies' - Paul's motto comes to mind yet again! There is very little that the neutral observer can do under such circumstances. Who does he believe?

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