by G. Thompson Brown ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 1, 1983
A vivid, frankly pious history. Brown was born in China (1921) of a Presbyterian missionary couple and grew up there. He is unabashed about his love for the country, his enthusiasm over its Christian past (though he grants that some missionaries were arrogant and narrow-minded), and his hopes for Chinese Christianity, which has been flourishing, in a modest way, since the Cultural Revolution. Brown begins his account with the Nestorians, who spent at least 250 years in China, starting around 635, but were suppressed and vanished almost without a trace. Then there were the Franciscans in the late 13th century, following on the heels of Marco Polo, and the Jesuits, whose highly promising rapprochement with the late Ming and early Ch'ing dynasties was destroyed by papal fiat in 1742. The first Protestant missionary arrived in 1807; and from then until World War I (despite such intermittent calamities as the Boxer Rebellion), Presbyterians, Baptists, and other denominations were active and often successful in education, health care, social services, and, of course, proselytizing. But though Brown chronicles all this, sometimes nostalgically, his main focus is on China since 1941, when most missionaries were interned (to be later evacuated). He describes such indigenous developments as ""the Protestant Three-Self Patriotic Movement"" (self-government, serf-support, self-propagation), founded in 1950, and the fury unleashed against Christians by the Red Guards. No one knows how many Christians there are in China now (the figure for 1949 was 5,000,000, one current estimate runs as high as 25,000,000), but Brown agrees with a government tour guide that religion in China today is ""no big thing."" Still, it remains an interesting phenomenon, and despite Brown's strongly theological perspective (he compares the Chinese Communists, for example, to biblical Assyria, the ""rod"" of divine anger), his book opens up some intriguing vistas into Chinese life.
Pub Date: May 1, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: John Knox
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983
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