Contrary both to common parlance and to what Dipak Basu writes in “What need for missionaries?,” I think that rather than describing Christianity as “Western,” it is more accurate to describe all three of the main monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — as Asian religions. Mesopotamia, Arabia and the Levant are, after all, part of the Asian continent, albeit the western edge of it. There might even be intellectual space to frame Judaism as an African religion since its great prophet, Moses, was an Egyptian Jew. But to control definitions means control of the debate, and to consistently frame Christianity as Western distorts the picture.
It is true that Christianity, for better or worse, has endured a preponderance of European cultivation, and on the back of Euro-centric historical trends like imperialism, for example, it is European Christianity that was exported globally to the regret of many but to the benefit of many, as well.
To read Basu, it sounds as if its export was only for the worse. As Basu is an economics professor, not a theologian, historian or pastor, his views, to which he is certainly entitled, are amateur and clearly partisan. It is his partisanship that moves me to write now.
While freely admitting all the wrongs committed — and still being committed — by various Christians in the name of their church and their God, it strikes me as naive to insinuate, as Basu and others do, that it was malice that motivated Christian missions. On the contrary, it is love, not malice that motivates the Christian message of hope, not violence, to the world.
Basu notes that under Hinduism and Buddhism “Humans … are instructed to accept nonviolence as the supreme principle.” Stated another way, those religious/philosophical traditions instruct people to accept passivity toward the toils of existence, which might be called the root of their problems to begin with.
I don’t see much hope in passivity and, therefore, I might say there is a great and continuing need for a Christian witness.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.