Monday, August 02, 2010

CIM and American Foreign Policy

“The most significant period in the history of modern missions was in the five years following World War II, when the door closed on nearly one quarter of the world’s population as China, the largest ‘mission field’ in the world, came under a Communist government,” claims the cover copy on Phyllis Thompson’s book China: The Reluctant Exodus.

I picked it up as part of my ongoing study of the China Inland Mission (now OMF) whose history seems to have remarkable parallels to situations I see in the world today. This one is still in print, too, though I have a tattered paperback version that’s almost as old as I am. Checked it out from the OMF library.

In addition to wanting to learn from the CIM, I have a secret (OK, not so secret) ambition to be the next Phyllis Thompson. A writer, she spent a number of years in Asia and continued to serve her mission by recording and telling its stories in a winsome way. Her work inspired others and including them in what God was doing and had done in ministries across Asia and beyond.

This volume explains the rise of Communism in China, how this affected the local believers and the Christian missionaries who had been serving there, and how the CIM experienced and responded to those unfolding realities.

I knew some of the story, but hadn’t realized the role U.S. foreign policy of the time played in the situation. This seems quite unfair. Relatively few of the missionaries were Americans, and none of them agents of the American government; the CIM was a British mission, too. But those disclaimers are easily dismissed or drowned out when a touchy political situation comes along. And when can we expect life to be fair?

It had to do with the war in Korea. Headline news in China at the time. Then there was a Chinese government initiative called the Peace Petition.
“This, on the face of it, was innocuous enough. People all over the country were invited to affirm that they were against aggression.

“Against aggression? Certainly they were against aggression! They would sign their names to that.

“This led to a concrete case. Were they against aggression in Korea? Yes, they were against aggression anywhere.

“Being against aggression naturally involved being against the aggressor. That seemed logical.

“America was the aggressor! Therefore they were against America?

“America was using Christianity to further her own ends – therefore they were against Christianity?

“America was using missionaries as agents – therefore they must be against missionaries. Slowly the net was tightening.” (p. 49)

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