Christianity Today published an article earlier this month entitled “The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries” which I thought was excellent. I was a little surprised this article was produced as many media organizations, even ones professing a Christian point of view, seem to bow to political correctness at all times, no matter what the facts are. The article reported that according to a long-term study by a sociologist named Robert Woodberry, the work of Protestant missionaries is the single largest factor in ensuring the health of nations. According to Christian Smith, who oversaw Woodberry’s dissertation committee, Woodberry “collected really rare, scattered evidence and pulled it together into a coherent data set. In one sense it was way too big for a doctoral student, but he was stubborn, independent, and meticulous.”
The article also stated:
What began to emerge was a consistent and controversial pattern—one that might damage Woodberry’s career, warned Smith. “I thought it was a great, daring project, but I advised [him] that lots of people wouldn’t like it if the story panned out,” Smith says. “For [him] to suggest that the missionary movement had this strong, positive influence on liberal democratization—you couldn’t think of a more unbelievable and offensive story to tell a lot of secular academics.”
This is interesting and something I can relate to – what happens if you find some actually inconvenient truths. Isn’t it sad that in today’s supposedly enlightened world that the truth will damage people’s careers if they tell it?
The article stated that:
“Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.
In short: Want a blossoming democracy today? The solution is simple—if you have a time machine: Send a 19th-century missionary.”
The historical and statistical work of Woodberry is finally receiving its due. The article also declared: “A summation of his 14 years of research—published in 2012 in the American Political Science Review, the discipline’s top journal—has won four major awards.”
Although the Christianity Today article didn’t come out and say it, unlike Protestantism, Catholicism therefore has not been a force for democracy or against corruption, for example. Not really surprising though when you consider statements like the one emanating from the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Pius IX’s Encyclical Letter, which the New York Times published on January 13, 1865. As I pointed out in Who Killed Abraham Lincoln?
“In the letter, the Roman pontiff showed the Church’s opposition to democracy and freedom by railing against, among other things, the principle that ‘Liberty of conscience and of worship is the right of every man’ and ‘that the will of the people, manifested by what is called public opinion or by other means, constitutes a supreme law superior to all divine and human right’ ”
Kind of adds up with Robert Woodberry’s significant work.