*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 24th of June 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.
On the 24th of June in 1900, Empress Dowager Ci-Ci of China continued her assault on foreign influences in China by ordering that all foreigners remaining in the country were to be killed. This would intensify the ongoing Boxer Rebellion and help solidify China as anti-Western and anti-Christian (in fact, to be western was to be Christian in the way that we sometimes make Arab or Persian synonymous with Muslim).
Few things are more daunting than diving into 19th and early 20th-century Chinese history. Let me tell you why: it’s a vast country. Gigantic and varied in population and geography such that talking about Chinese culture would be similar to talking about American Cultures while lumping together a Manhattan socialite and southern gator farmer.
Secondly, we have the problem of foreign missionaries and missionary literature. While Hudson Taylor and others in his China Inland Mission took special care to assimilate and defer to Chinese customs, many did not. Once the foreign scramble for trade and influence began, many missionaries would become indistinguishable from government officials. In some regions, pastors and priests were given the same status as local officials and immunity on account of their foreign status.
The toxic blend of imperialism and missionary work upset Chinese traditionalists, so they took a break from fighting each other to fight the Westerners. This is essentially the plot of the Boxer Rebellion. The Boxers, or society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists, had fiercely opposed the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century. They were a mysterious group with their red and yellow ribbons and sashes. They claimed that their physical and spiritual exercises made them invincible to foreign weapons.
Their hatred of the foreigner made for a common cause with the Imperial army such that they would unite against the Western and Christian influence. And in the summer of 1900, things reached a fever pitch. Boxers and the Chinese army burned down Christian churches and buildings. The heads of Christian leaders were put on stakes as a warning to others.
And just as the Boxers and Chinese Empress made common cause despite their differences, so did the Western powers- British, Russian, Japanese, American, and German troops entered Beijing later in the year and ultimately forced China to pay reparations for its rebellion.
Two things of note: while a hundred or so foreign Christians were killed, it is essential to remember that also Chinese Christians suffered. 10s of thousands of Chinese Christians died in comparison to the hundreds of westerners.
The story of missions to China is the story of 19th-century imperial and foreign policies. Highlighted by Hudson Taylor, the story of Chinese missions begins with great promise. Between the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and the Chinese Civil War and Cultural Revolution in the next century, the Chinese Christian presence would be forced underground and into exile. Essentially we’ve made our way back to the status quo before
Today we remember a tipping point in Chinese history and church history with the imperial decree to kill foreigners from the Empress CiXi on this day in 1900.
The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary- finishing up Psalm 77:
The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of June 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who is no fan of the dowager empress Cixi but is a fan of the all-you-can-eat buffet-style pizza chain. He is Christoper Gillespie
The show is written and read by a man still scarred from the events inside a Cici’s somewhere in the deep south in 2007. I’m Dan van Voorhis
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.