Charges leveled against Christian missionaries…

Perhaps the most bizarre of all the charges leveled against Christian missionaries (along with colonialists in general) is that they “imposed modernity” on much of the non-Western world. It has long been the received wisdom among anthropologists and other cultural relativists that by bringing Western technology and learning to “native peoples,” the missionaries corrupted their cultures, which were as valid as those of the West. This “cultural imperialism” is defined as imposing Western tastes, beliefs, and practices upon non-Western cultures. Admittedly, the English may have committed an abomination when they converted so many colonials to the game of cricket, and the worldwide popularity of Coca-Cola may not have made the world a better place. But to embrace the fundamental message of cultural imperialism requires that one be comfortable with such crimes against women as foot binding, female circumcision, the custom of Sati (which caused widows to be burned to death, tied to their husbands’ funeral pyres), and the stoning to death of rape victims on grounds of their adultery. It also requires one to agree that tyranny is every bit as desirable as democracy and that slavery should be tolerated if it is in accord with local customs. Similarly, one must classify high infant-mortality rates, toothlessness in early adulthood, and the castration of young boys as valid parts of local cultures, to be cherished along with illiteracy. For it was especially on these aspects of non-Western cultures that modernity was “imposed,” both by missionaries and by other colonialists.

Rodney Stark, from How the West Won, kindle location 6774

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