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Guns and the Gospel

HONG KONG (SE): A newly released book by Hong Kong-based Father Ambrose Mong op, Guns and the Gospel: Imperialism and Evangelisation in China, explores the moral dilemma of accepting the protection of foreign guns or packing up and getting out faced by missionaries in China in the mid- to late 19th century.

The dilemmas arising from Christian theories of the relationship between Christianity and commerce were greatly magnified, especially when, slaves, arms, gin or opium were the products on the market table.

Father Mong says that this issue forced missionaries to choose between challenge, connivance or silence.

In his forward to the book, Father Mark De Stephano sj describes it as the fascinating journey that is the history of modern Christianity in China as seen through the prism of western missionary activity.

Father De Stephano says that the analysis made in the book of the Protestant enterprise is considered in the light of the early Jesuits of the 17th century, whose demise is a strong reflection of what he calls the greatest weakness of the western missionary endeavour, the plague of cultural arrogance, as demonstrated in the rites controversy.

Father Mong maintains that this continues to be the supreme barrier to the effective preaching of the person of Jesus Christ in Asia to this very day.

Father De Stephano describes the book as “an interesting examination of the causes of the widespread rejection of Christian missionaries by the majority of the Chinese.”

He continues saying that Father Mong “skillfully presents the tensions, toils and tribulations of these evangelists, who sought to impart those western values they considered essential to a civilised way of life and which would lead to the acquisition of the material and spiritual benefits enjoyed by developed nations of the west.”

He said that all this added up to a western presence in China that managed to upset almost everyone from every class in society, as well as breed resentment against the Qing Dynasty which seemed to be powerless to halt the rampaging foreign aggression.

Guns and the Gospel gives an insightful account of the first attempts of the British to introduce their manufactured goods to the Chinese market and the trade imbalance that eventuated from their thirst for a good cup of tea at low cost, which lead to the Opium Wars and the Unequal Treaties.

But Father Mong has a sage word of advice for missionaries of today as well, arguing that dialogue and cooperation with the Communist regime are essential if Christianity is to continue to flourish in China.

In speaking of the author, Father De Stephano says, “His many books on interreligious dialogue, his propounding of the need to openness and his scholarly inquiries into the ways in which Christianity might be made more understandable and attractive to Asians of all stripes, make him one of the foremost intercultural theologians in China today.”

It is a worthwhile contribution to understanding a past that has many lessons for the present.Father Mong, who is based at St. Teresa’s parish in Kowloon, says that he can order copies of the book directly at a 35 per cent discount, which at between $252 and $388 a copy is a worthy saving for interested readers. 


ISBN : 9780227176252


Published by Luterworth Press