The faith of the Christ-God is a living paradox in the Asiatic world. Christianity has long survived in Asia’s periphery, especially in the Near East and to a lesser extent in India, but it has never thrived in Asia’s heart, the Orient.
Generally speaking , the farther east one moves across the Eurasian continent away from Constantinople to Beijing, the more mystical and relative philosophy and theology become. The absolute and ridged dynamics of evil versus good and the rationality of the Abrahamic religions fade away in the face of subjective, Vedic traditions. Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Islam naturally then fit as oil to Vedic water.
When Christianity comes to the Vedic world, it presents a monotheistic, good-evil dichotomy that is completely foreign to the natives of the Orient. Therefore when many Buddhists, Hindus, Taoists, Shintoists, and Confucianists are confronted by Jesus, He does not fit into their historical paradigms.
Regardless of the temporary irrelevance of Christianity in the East, other than as a means of American political elites to con conservatives into supporting a third invasion of Iraq, the coming future of Christianity is to move eastward and take root in Beijing, instead of Rome. Twenty-first-century Christianity will be dominated by the Oriental peoples, with China serving as its political sword, much like France under Charlemagne. With the demographic time bomb inevitably going to burst in Europe at present course, the demographic time bomb of Christianity bursting to take over China is also inevitable—curiously enough, almost at the same time in the mid-late twenty-first century.
Presenting Christianity to the Oriental peoples has always been a very difficult issue, given that the Christian faith has been carried by the standards of European powers. Christianity has always had a long presence in the Orient, especially China, since the mid-600s. But in the late 900s, Emperor Wuzong, in a spirit of what could be considered hyper-Chinese nativism, expelled Buddhist, Christian, and Zoroastrian teachings and initiated a massive persecution of Christians that nearly exterminated Christianity altogether in the East. Under the Mongols, interestingly enough, Christianity returned to China and much of the rest of the Orient though the free-moving economic zone of the Mongol Empire.
Christianity has always had a difficult presence in East Asia, especially China and Japan. In China, the difficulty came in Christ’s Gospel’s clashing with the words of Confucius, whose philosophy was similar to Christianity in that man worships the God of the heavens. The only problem is that for the Chinese, heaven was transcendent to earth, whereas heaven and earth are two separate entities in Christian teaching. Therefore the message of Christ turned into a force of insurrection against the Mandate of Heaven that guided the state, since Christ was the King of all kings. A similar story is true in Japan, where the Shogunates were always suspicious of Christianity because it undermined the supremacy of Shogun rule by divine authority.
In the modern age, now that Maoism has decimated China’s ancient identity and traditions with atheism, Christianity is making a new stunning emergence in the nation that has historically rejected it, as the Gospel of Jesus Christ brings deeper meaning and faith to a people perhaps even more wed to materialistic philosophy than the Americans.
In South Korea, Christianity is exploding and is now the single largest religion in the Republic of Korea. Much of this conversion came after the Second World War, when the United States sacrificed its blood to protect the Republic from the communists of the north. The United States then needed a powerful force on the Korean peninsula loyal to its interests and consequently, after fifty years of economic support coupled with intense missionary activity, South Korea is now Asia’s leading Christian country.
A tragically opposite story exists in Japan. After the war, the Japanese mythology of the god-emperor was over and the Japanese were searching for something new to believe in. Rather than following the advice and model of General MacArthur to convert the Japanese to Christianity, America instead gave them a different god to worship: capitalism. Granted, it helped Japan rapidly modernize so Sony, Toshiba, Honda, and Toyota could own the American economy, but Christianity has been utterly stagnant in a nation that worships the god-dollar rather than the god-emperor or the one true God.
If current conversion rates continue, the center of Christianity in the twenty-second century is going be Beijing and Seoul, rather than Rome or Westminster, with perhaps a sort of interregnum period where Moscow serves as the Third Rome. Japan’s future is uncertain, but if what happened to Rome happens to China and South Korea, a Christian Orient is quite likely. So if the West cannot resolve the Islamic question in the twenty-first century, imagine what an empowered, militarized Christian China could accomplish.
According to Sacred Tradition, Christianity was introduced to India by St. Thomas the Apostle in 52 AD in Kerala; hence they are now known as St. Thomas Christians. India was already partially Christianized before Scandinavia, Russia, and the British Isles ever had significant populations of Christians.
Christ from an Indian perspective must be viewed though the Hindu worldview. According to Hindu thought, every human being possesses some element of the divine inside of him. Some people learn to manifest it more, but some do not, and it is not necessarily the duty of an ecclesiastical body or school of thought to claim a monopoly on the exact means and path to moksha (enlightenment).
Therefore, for Christians to arrive in India and claim that Jesus Christ is the one true God-Man stands in stark contrast to the pantheistic views of Hindu society. This presets a conundrum of how Hindus view Jesus. For when a Christian emerges to declare that Jesus Christ is God, the Hindu is inclined to say, “Well yes, of course.” This is a very similar dilemma that Christians encountered in their interactions with Roman and Nordic pagans, where worshiping the Christ-God was allowed next to the worship of the old gods.
To the Hindus, however, the teachings of Jesus Christ can and do resonate with Indian society. The tempered notions of Jesus as an enlightened teacher automatically give Indians an inclined ear, given the history and prevalence of many different enlightened teachers who have populated India’s historical landscape. Remember, it was India which produced the Buddha and which in turn gave us the Dali Lama. This legacy of producing deep religious figures is a major part of India’s identity.
The presence of Hinduism presents a difficult conundrum for Christian evangelization in India. By presenting Christ as God to the Hindus, the Christian is already affirming the reality of Hinduism. Only by establishing the supremacy of Christ as a chosen prophet can the Hindu come to reject Hinduism and become a Christian. However, despite these challenges and centuries where Christianity has occupied a low position in Indian society, India is becoming one of the fastest-converting Christian nations.
To be an Arab Christian is to be condemned as a persecuted minority, yet such Christians are a gateway to the past. Many mainstream Arabs are Christian, and Christians have historically been in many elite positions of power, most notably in Ba’athist regimes. Yet, amongst the commoners, many still find themselves on the periphery of society, due to their loyalty to ancient historical groups. Most noteworthy of these are the Copts of Egypt, the Assyrians of Iraq and Syria, the Kurds, and the Maronites of Lebanon.
Arabs were some of the first peoples to encounter Jesus, see His miracles, and even watch Him crucified and resurrected from the dead. The growth of Christianity in the Arab world was perhaps one of the most organic growths of the Faith. There were not many great expeditions of evangelism inside the Arab world, as the Faith took off very naturally. The violent arrival of Islam onto the Arab scene has dealt a very damaging blow to the Christian identity of Arabs, but yet, to this day, many Christian Arabs are direct descendants from the first generation of Christians who walked with Christ Himself.
To many of these Arab and even non-Arab groups, often times being a Christian is a way to keep the ancient folkish traditions alive in the face of jihadist Islam, which seeks to undermine folkish traditions and blend all peoples into a universalist identity of the ummah. The sad reality regarding Arab Christianity is that it is on the verge of extermination. In 1948, the Holy Land was 18% Christian, and now it is only 2%. The dual problem of a rising jihadist Islam and hostile Israeli policies forces Arab Christians to either depart or stay and be persecuted. Without a vibrant Christian Europe or United States to stand as a bulwark against a rising Islamism or force the hand of Israel to be more tolerant, Christianity’s future in its home region looks bleak.
Notwithstanding Jesus’s fulfillment of their own prophecy, Christ for the Hebrews has been one of the most difficult encounters in the Christian faith. To an extent it has already been decided, when in Matthew 27:24-25 the Jewish mob declared, “His blood be on us and on our children!” The Jews had then rejected their promised Messiah and therefore condemned themselves to spiritual exile. That being said, this does not render it impossible for Jews to become Christians.
For the Jew that becomes a Christian, he is meeting the fulfillment of the God of his ancestors that was never fully revealed to him. The prophets gave the Jews glimpses, but even the patriarchs and prophets in the Old Testament did not clearly know the Messiah, but rather believed on the promise of the Messiah. So the Hebrew that comes to Christ is receiving the fulfillment of his patrimony.
Sadly, most Hebrews stand in fulfillment of the Jewish mob’s pledge and take great pride in scorning Jesus. To the majority of Jews, Jesus is a renegade, the most dangerous false Messiah to ever curse the Jewish people. By rejecting the divinity of Jesus Christ, the breach with Christianity is complete.
When the Hebrews were exiled and began to live amongst Christians in Christian lands, the Talmud was constructed in order to provide Jews with the ways and means to be Jewish while not being in the Holy Land. This required Jews to develop a coherent doctrine regarding Jesus Christ and the Christians. The Babylonian Talmud provides this, cursing Jesus as a practitioner of witchcraft, reviling Mary as a fornicatress and whore. Though it affirms Jesus’s crucifixion, it asserts that He deserved it as a criminal who is now burning in hell in His own excrement. There is no other religion where Jesus is treated with such hostility. Though Islam does not treat Christians with much dignity, it does regard Jesus Christ as a prophet, and the Koran pays great honor to the Virgin Mother.
Jesus to the Hebrews, then, is either the greatest fulfillment of history or their greatest enemy, because Jesus Christ presently, just as He did in His era, poses the greatest threat to Jewish earthly power. The Jews have turned their history, symbols, heritage, and so forth into such an idol that they cannot and could not recognize Jesus when He came to them. Therefore Christianity becomes the most heinous of all enemies to the Jews, because it is the perversion of their faith and must consequently be treated with the greatest resistance.
Unlike European paganism, in which the paradigms of Christianity made it much easier to present the Christ as a fulfillment of Greek philosophical thought or a stronger chieftain than Odin, the Jesus of the Orient is much more confrontational. To an extent He is yet to resonate with Oriental thought patterns and folkways. He is an outside figure with an outside message, mainly identified with the political power of the white-man. This notwithstanding, in due time we can await a Christianized Orient as the Gospel goes forth.