April 25, 2007
April 27, 2007

April 26, 2007


My religion writer friend Eric Gorski has done an intriguing piece about a new study that gives us a glimpse into the future shape of religious trends in the U.S. as Hispanics become a larger part of our culture. Are you seeing these trends in your own faith community?

* * *


I've been slowly reading Vincent A. Smith's classic, The Oxford History of India, which has been added to by Percival Spear.

IndiaI'd have been a much smarter kid had I read more about religion in India before I lived there for two years of my boyhood, but it's too late to worry about that now. (The map here today, by the way, shows India in its current form, not the way it was divided under the British.)

At any rate, in a section Spear wrote, I ran across a really intriguing notion having to do with religion in India and the reason the British were able to conquer the land and colonialize it in ways other nations, especially Portugal, had failed to do. It has to do with the way the Brits treated religion in India:

"A final factor in the British success was the nature of their objectives. There was no head-on collision between British imperialism and Indian society. . . Indian society, whether in its Hindu or Muslim forms, was centered round religio-social systems which showed little trace of political nationalism in its modern sense. The affections of the peopel were fastened upon social and religious ideals rather than upon political freedom.

"Freedom for the Hindu was a matter of inner release, for the Muslim of freedom to worship the true God in the right way. No doubt both Hindu and Muslim preferred their own rulers to others but what both would die for was their religious ideals and social patterns.

"The Mughul empire was accepted by Hindus as long as it was both tolerant and strong. The Portuguese made no headway in India because they attacked both parties where they felt most deeply, in the religious sphere. The British came for trade and went into politics to preserve their trade. They eschewed religion.

"So to the Hindu they were preferable to the Muslims and to the Muslim more acceptable than the Hindu. And this was the case in spite of general dislike of most British customs and many British individuals. The British attack was a glancing blow which left the vital centers of Indian life untouched. Religious toleration and social non-interference were more powerful weapons than the rupees of the (East India) Company or the guns of its troops."

I'm sort of divided about all of that. First, colonialism was a disaster almost everywhere, perhaps less so in India than in many countries, but even there. Britain and other colonial-era powers did the world no favors by ruling (misruling, really) the lands they conquered. And yet the British left behind some useful political systems and ideals that still play a part of Indian life today.

At the same time, what does it say about a people who "eschewed religion," in Spear's words? Was money more important to them than God? And, thus, did the Indians have their priorities straighter than the English? And yet can a modern nation survive on a shrunken globe if it does not also develop geopolitical skills while at the same time preserving its people's central focus on religious and social institutions?

And what is there about this history that might apply today to the U.S. and its international misadventures?

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.



Colonialism will forever exist as long as there are groups that have institutions that allow them to expand over others. Because British colonialism was a relative success in contrast to the Belgians or the French, I think they show a right way to do it. Offer them your institutions, rule justly, respect traditions. People forget that a lot of the lands of Africa and Southern Asia desired Western import of just about everything. This self-determinism stuff didn't come up until Wilson used it as a pretext to invade a peaceful land with the intent of destroying them. As important as religion is to people, law and legal institutions can change the religious framework of a nation, for good or for bad.


This was in yesterday's Star. http://www.kansascity.com/255/story/81832.html
Sort of on the topic of today's post. I can't make it to the lecture tonight, so if anybody attends, I would be interested to hear about it.


Bill wrote: "At the same time, what does it say about a people who "eschewed religion," in Spear's words? Was money more important to them than God?"

It's easy to eschew religion when that religion is not your own and you can view it as inferior to your own (just as you can view its practitioners as inferior to yourself).

Most of the British viewed Indians as little more than heathens who could be exploited and used. The idea that money might be more important to the British than God probably never occurred to them any more than concerns about Native Americans entered the minds of Americans who believed populating this country from coast to coast was a matter of manifest destiny.

I doubt that the British - secure as they were in a smug sense of superiority - ever gave a thought to whether they were serving God or mammon while they were controlling India.

Dolores Lear

On the web:

This tells about how America has a vast network of military bases on every Continent except Antarctia.
I still think 'Christian' America with their biggest war chest, is the power of the Last Days, called Babylon in Revelation.

I am a child of God as well as an
American, and I do not think I am disrespectful of my country, when I am against war, but concerned about the direction Children of God have been taken, to accept killing as guided by God for our government and our leaders.

Jesus also rebelled against the religion of his time, for their materialism. I do not know about the Jewish military at that time, or if they gave their allegiance to their country also.
Most religions in the past were mouth worship, and their members fought in wars for their religion or their government.
That seems to be the Planetary History of War for Fallen Humans.

Does Fallen Man 'serve' God or Mammon? Is Killing our Brothers/Sisters of Life, and War Serving God?
Why are we Killers instead of Peacemakers and Caretakers of our Planet's Eco System and the Life on it?

Stephen Lewis

Corbin, there was no such thing as the British ruling justly. They were successful by being more aggressive than the other Europeans.
If one is a student of history, it's very easy to point out their faults in India. How about the time they let 8,000,000 people starve in southern India because they thought if they gave them wheat(which they had in surplus) it would effect the world price of wheat. And how about the number of Gaundi supporters killed or crippled while in peaceful protest.

The English learned their cruelity in Ireland by enslaving the people from the 1500's on. And they were old hands at it by the time they got to India.
Many people laud the Magna Carta as one of English's greatest writing. Yet no one mentions the Sedition Acts which was also of English authorship and about the most Godless writings ever by a "Christian" country.


Well Stephen,
Maybe I should become a student of history. Where does she teach? I didn't say there weren't abuses, but I think that the British did it better than anyone else. I am pretty fond of the United States too though I am not fond of our imperialistic efforts of the 20th c. including Europe and Asia.

Oh, and the whole Ireland thing. Things weren't bad because the English ruled them, they were bad because certain specific actions were bad. But they did get a terrorist organization to represent them so maybe they do deserve self-rule. Yeah, just as much as the Serbs or Hmong.


"This self-determinism stuff didn't come up until Wilson used it as a pretext to invade a peaceful land with the intent of destroying them."

Just a couple of notes. This "self-determinism stuff" came up as early as our Declaration of Independence(and some could argue even earlier), although Wilson may have launched it into the world.

I assume you are speaking to Wilson's invasion of Mexico? While I don't think there is anyone who would deem Wilson's foray into MX, anything but a disaster, it's not really fair to depict him as invading a "peaceful land". Mexico was a land in the throes of civil war. That civil war spilled over and across U.S. borders when Villa harassed and finally brutally executed a number of U.S. citizens and then launched an assault on a U.S. border town.

Wilson's foray into MX might be compared to ours into Afghanistan. Possibly righteous in looking for a terrorist leader; guided by a lack of understanding and disdain for the country and people themselves; and ultimately incompetent and failing in its mission to capture Villa.

Dolores Lear

A response to a Born Again e-mail of mine.

"Christ is our older brother tasked to help unscrew us from this wooden world. Through Christ's Grace it becomes much easier to 'get out' of the neverending sin cycles by divine forgiveness, a kind of circuit breaker is thrown interrupting it. This 'saves' us by shutting off the foundational or root cause of things we have committed (or charged on our Book of Life). - Sins of Commission are pardoned; however we still have to live with the consequences."

Have we lived as if our sins of war are pardoned, even if we still have to live with the consequences of losing our loved ones. What is going to be the consequences of our nuclear arsonal and preemptive war, that we think God has let us have with our free will?
Are we serving God or Mammon?



I am talking about WWI. I know he didn't start it, but he was bent on the destruction of the monarchs of Europe. I am of course talking about the great Bl. Emperor Karl I of Austria. I don't know about reading self-determinism into the Declaration either. Wilson's (as well as George Bush's) notions I believe have their roots in 19th century Puritanism, WASP hegemony in New England, and the abolitionist movement.


Viva Los Cristeros!!!


Regarding India........I remember reading that the British "strategy" was to educate and indoctrinate an elite ruling class of Indians, who could in turn do their bidding and help govern in way beneficial to the Brits. The material pointed to the fact that they really did intervene in the social and religious values of these folks(trying to make them very British), while mainly ignoring the multitudinous poor.

I think that perhaps the very British-friendly work by Smith might be balanced by some Indian perspective. There's plenty out there that depicts British rulers as brutal racists.

As for whether money trumped God for the Brits; I think it normally does for (wo)men of power. If they can't trump God with money, then they buy out and shape religious institutions that will support greed.


There's a big difference between "I know he didn't start it" and Wilson using a pretext to invade a "peaceful" land.

Austria was the first to declare war because of the assassination that was essentially perpetrated by a Serbian terrorist group. Austria(and her ally, Germany) simply miscalculated the response of Russia and the rest of the world to her actions. No matter how you cut it, the war was begun by that "peaceful land" and her rather stupid monarch.

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