I came across this ancient magazine article (ancient, at any rate, as magazine articles go) and it struck me on several levels as ironically symbolic of the White Christian Westerner's view of the "Third World" and its people -- a few strategically placed references to the brownness of the people, and the presumptions that their poor conditions are a product of their lack of Westernization and Christianization.



1. The nearness of India. From London to Bombay, by Brindisi, seems a marvelously short journey, occupying little more than a fortnight broken up into four sections,— London to Brindisi, Brindisi to the Suez Canal, thence to Aden, and thence to Bombay. There is something fresh to be seen every day as far as Aden, and on reaching Bombay you wonder that you have arrived so easily and speedily.

Actually, a fortnight does indeed seem a swift journey to go from London to Bombay in the era before air travel.

2. Its strangeness. In Asia you seem to enter a new world. The tropical strength of the sun, the dark skins and foreign dress of the people, their languages, shops, trades, houses, and ways, all impress you as utterly different from anything in Europe or America.

Here we go with the darkness of the people. Funny also how a traveler in another country thinks to refer to the native garb of the locals as "foreign."

3. Its vastness. India is nineteen hundred miles in length, and also in its greatest breadth. It is itself a continent. England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, put together, would scarcely make so large a country.

4. Its populousness. There is an overwhelming impression of almost countless multitudes, with needs and destinies as important as our own. One is stirred to compassion, for they are still as sheep without a shepherd. India contains one fifth of humanity, and the bulk are still utterly unevangelized.

First, funny that the dude needs to point out that the "needs and destinies" of these people are important. Second, "sheep without a shepherd" -- I suppose a Muslim would feel compassion for their need to be converted to Islam, and a Zoroastrian for their want of Zoroaster.

5. Similarity of race. Unlike many others, the people of India belong to the same race as those of England, America, and Europe. Their languages and features prove them to belong to the Aryan race. This fact gives a feeling of kinship with the people.

Convergent evolution, more likely. Kind of a sad statement in the inverse, as it implies a lack of a feeling of 'kinship' with people of other races.

6. Intelligence. This is true of the people generally, and of the Brahmans, and of the Parsees in particular. No audiences of students in England and America seem to me brighter or quicker in apprehension than the Hindus I have spoken to here.

Dude, maybe you should convert to Hinduism then.

7. Gentleness. Hindus exhibit an amount of suavity, docility, and submissiveness never seen in the natives of England and America, with a remarkable absence of strong, self-reliant assertiveness. Their gentleness attracts and awakens sympathy, for it is largely due to prolonged oppression.

Or maybe its due to a belief system that prizes peacefulness over warmaking.

8. Affection for children. This is manifest in fathers as well as mothers, and parental affection is returned. Deep and touching exhibitions of filial love are met with.

People love their children. Surprise! Also, are met with what?

9. Oppression of women. They are treated as beasts of burden. They pass by thousands, carrying fuel, fruits, manure, and loads of grass, or other vegetable produce, on their heads. They are mostly short, thin, worn looking, lightly clothed, with bare arms and legs, brown as a berry, walking with short, quick steps and upright carriage. In the home the wife is a servant, and often little better than a slave. The treatment of widows is infamous. Woman is crushed here, and knows not how to raise herself out of ignorance, oppression, and degradation.

Sad, but also a bit ironic -- wasn't much longer before that women got the same treatment under Christendom. Folks, this is like twenty years before women even get to vote in the USA. And also, "brown as a berry" -- seriously, what berries have you been eating?

10. Absence of home life. For the majority of the people the houses are all open to the street. The rooms are rude in construction, often of unpainted boards, without ornament, with scarce any furniture, mere eating and sleeping places. The people sit in the streets. Privacy can hardly be said to exist, except in the dwellings of the rich. The effect of this on family life must be tremendous. The inmates swarm like bees in a hive, or ants in an anthill. Virtue and morality are thus loosened at their foundations, and independence and self-respect must suffer in proportion.

Makes me wonder if the dude ever saw poverty-stricken neighborhoods in London. Real poverty is poverty wherever it goes on. And whose virtue and morality are loosened, here?

11. Defective drainage. The sanitation of the towns seems deplorable. The plague at present desolating Bombay has its cause in this. It is no easy thing to get three hundred millions of people, who have lived without proper drains, to mend their ways. The country is hot and dry, or the results would be much worse. Still, under English rule, a better state of things is gradually being brought about.

Um, hooray for English rule of India? Well that worked out well.

12. Signs of progress. Magnificent buildings, good shops, railways, post offices, telegraph stations, hospitals, libraries, schools, colleges, abound as evidences of immense progress. English rule in India is rapidly transforming social habits and civilization. The people breathe a free air, live under just laws, are protected from civil wars and cruel massacres; education is spreading; and, altogether, a new nation is being born.

....a new nation that will eventually kick out the English.

13. Presence of idolatry. This vast people is wholly given to idolatry. Temples, small, dark, dirty, ugly, and repulsive, stand open everywhere. Vile images of men, monkeys, bulls, and elephants are adored. The mind and conscience of the people are in abject slavery to the vilest superstitions. The darkness of India can be felt. It is a world of moral night. Religion has become animalism. The immoral priest washes his senseless idol, and worships it before your face. The Brahman stands there to argue in his defense. The fakir sits naked in the sun, smeared with ashes, with wild, uncombed locks, like a beast from the woods, and deems himself the most religious of mankind. India worships three hundred millions of divinities. To her, God is everything, and everything is God, and, therefore, everything may be adored. Snakes and monsters are her special divinities. Her pan-deism is a pandemonium. The things she sacrifices to idols she sacrifices to devils. O for light! light! Millions grope at noon, and stumble into perdition without a warning voice. They know not the true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. And we in England and America are content to preach and press the gospel, time after time, with measureless labor and expense on our home thousands, and leave these millions untaught, unwarned, unshepherded! How is this? Our missionary societies send them a few missionaries; but what are our churches doing? What right have the churches to delegate this tremendous work of raising up the entire heathen world to a few overburdened societies? Let every church arise and do its share directly for the salvation of mankind, and the problem of the world's evangelization will soon be solved. Let every pastor, every elder, every deacon, every church-member, every Sunday-school teacher, every individual Christian, be taught to feel, "This work is mine. I am personally responsible to give the gospel to some part of this unevangelized world. I have my share to attend to in this sacred business. No other can do my work, or answer for me before the judgment seat of God. Let me do my personal part in the work of saving mankind, or renounce the name of Christian."

Priceless -- condemning the native idolatry while calling for the introduction of the preferred foreign idolatry. The India described here, where "God is everything" is closer than many theisms to a rational pandeistic view, but its "pan-deism is a pandemonium."

14. Wide-open doors. No door is shut in India. The cities are open, the towns, the villages, the streets the shops, the zenanas, the halls, the market-places, the whole country and population. You may go where you will, and say what you will, none daring to make you afraid. The people sit by the wayside waiting for you. They wait, with their meek eyes looking out for the advent of the messenger of saving truth. A change has come over their thoughts. They have begun to scorn their priests and suspect their idols. They are willing to hear God's word when it is brought to them. But there are few to bring it. Scarce one Christian in a thousand has the heart to help them. Mammon is too mighty for our pity and piety. Our small home interests hide from us the immeasurable interests of a perishing world. The millions of the heathen to most of us are as though they had no existence whatever. Who shall roll away the dark reproach? Let each one roll it from his own door. Our responsibility is individual. As individuals, let us meet it in all its magnitude.

At last it occurs to me that the whole point of this article is not to describe India so much as to convince Christians -- any who might read it -- that India is safe and convenient, and worth the trip because 'unevangelized' native yearning to convert are ripe for the plucking. I can only imagine the converse journal entry, by a Hindu visitor to the US or England fretting over the materialism of the natives and their worship of only a handful of the available Gods, their ripeness for conversion to Hinduism, and their need for Indian missionaries to warn them of the dangers of a poor reincarnation.


The article is by Reverend Henry Grattan Guinness, apparently originally published in a mag called Missionary Review. This copy of the article is taken from a collection titled The Medical Missionary by no less a persona than John Harvey Kellogg, put together by the International Health and Temperance Association in 1897, occupying pages 125-127 of that work, the bulk of it being on page 126.

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