Page 4, 28th January 1949

28th January 1949
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Page 4, 28th January 1949 — China : Test-Case For Communism
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China : Test-Case For Communism

By Michael de la Bedoyere

THE surrender of China to the conquering Communists must mark one of the saddest and most tragic dates in the history of Christian missionary activity. Not since the great missionary work of St. Francis Xavier in Japan was crushed during the 17th century, thus destroying a Church whose numbers may have approached the half million, has there been a comparable missionary blow. In China, there are over three million Catholics (not to mention the many other Christians), gained, not by conquest, treaty or descent, but by the ceaseless individual labour of heroic missionary priests.

Some may say that it is too early to write off this wonderful Christian harvest as lost, and indeed we have no doubt that just as Christianity was preserved in Japan through the era of persecution, so will it survive in a Communist China. But it would be mere wishful thinking to suppose that the new lords of China will tolerate the open service of God in their domains or the educational and other apostolic activities which are an essential part of Christian freedom. If persecution reigns in Europe itself, where even the worst of Communists realise the need to move warily with human beings who have inherited the spiritual and moral values of hundreds of years of Christian civilisation, we pannot expect the Russian-trained Communists of China to refrain from the severest measures to destroy once and for all what they will call an alien source of opposition to the new order for Eastern man.

Communising Christians

IT is of some interest to consider

the still persistent attempts in some quarters to work for a rapprochement between Christianity and Communism in the light of a missionary country like China. Readers of our national press have just heard of the appeals of the Anglican Bishop Barnes which seem to echo the notorious campaign of the Dean of Canterbury. But we need not turn to the queerer leaders of the Established Church. In France there exists a Catholic movement which openly seeks to ally the Church with the Communists, a movement called the Union of Progressive Christians, under the wellknown editor of Esprit, Emmanuel Mounier.

Now the force of all these attempts to re-orient Christianity in a Communist direction lies in the accusation that, historically, Christianity has been closely linked with the evils of capitalism and imperialism, and, in protest against this betrayal of Christ, Christians should look to C:ornmunism as clearing the way for the relinking of Christianity with the fortunes and sufferings of the exploited masses.

This is an argument not without a certain plausibility, and we have no doubt that a number of Christians even in this country have at least the germs of a bad conscience when they watch Christians wholeheartedly committing themselves to secularist forces in the bid to destroy Communism.

The truth, of course, is that even allowing for the worst accusations about the historic tie-up between Christianity and capitalism, capitalism has never claimed, as a matter of doctrine, that it must control and use religion in its own interests, whereas Communism, even allowing for the sincerest social idealists within the movement, has always claimed that its materialism is incompatible with a spiritual philosophy, and that the latter must be destroyed to make way for the former. In other words, if in fact Christianity has been the instrument of exploitation, that is the fault of Christians who have failed to live up to the teaching of Christ and have submitted to the temptations offered by capitalism. But a Christian tie-up with Communism would involve the submission of Christianity itself to the materialist philosophy of Communism and its ultimate absorption, whether voluntarily or by force, to this contradictory ideal.

The Fate of Missionaries

THESE truths are brought home ^ to us when we consider the apostolic work of Christian missionaries, or indeed the Christian Lives of innumerable priests and laypeople in capitalist or capitalistdominated countries. It is fantastic to suppose that these lives of Christian self-sacrifice, according to the Gospel injunctions, are in any way, except purely accidentally, linked with the vaales of capitalism or

In capitalist countries, especially in modern times, there is freedom for the Christian apostle, not only to preach the word of God but to labour for such reform of capitalism as will make it more consistent with the social spirit underlying the spirit of Christianity. Indeed, where such freedom is hampered or denied, as for example in education, it is nearly always the result of social reforms inspired by Marxism itself or by Rationalism.

On the other hand, all this is impossible under Communism. Where Communism is in power, the most saintly or most social-minded of orthodox Christian apostles suffers precisely the same treatment as the laxest or most selfish. The test of any toleration is never the genuineness of the Christian spirit, but the readiness or not to compromise dogma and moral teaching in the interests of the Communist rulers. Not surprisingly, therefore, we find in practice that it is the worst, not the best, type of Christian who can make some sort of accommodation with Communism.

It will be worth while following the future history of the missions in Communist China with such considerations in mind. We shall surely find that purity of intention and heroic labours for Christ will not prove to be any defence against the tyrant, but rather the contrary. And realising this, we can dismiss as irrelevant to the real issue (though

not unimportant in itself) the claim made by some Christians that Communism offers a liberation from the so-called historic collusion between Christianity and the exploitation of the masses,

RENT CONTROL

RENTRENT Control is a subject on there really should be no controversy between the Parties. The principles are simple. So long as there remains a shortage of proper accommodation, the State should see to it that all rents payable, whether for furnished or unfurnished accommodation, whether for first lettings or sub-lettings, are not determined by the ordinary laws of supply and demand, which would make tenants suffer heavily to the proportionate advantage of landlords, but at " fair" price. This price should roughly correspond to the price which would rule, were the whole business settled naturally by the provision of sufficient housing within the country to meet current needs. And rents payable obviously include the value of premiums, key money, token furniture and so on.

Obviously this is far from being the case to-day. On the one hand there are all sorts of tricks by which this principle can be legally evaded, and the Landlord and Tenant Bill fails to cover many of them. On the other hand, it is neither equitable. nor calculated to solve the ultimate problem, namely, the provision of more housing, to enforce rents which bear little relation to the present value of money and may actually involve heavy losses to good landlords who want to keep their property in decent repair. Though the Minister of Health in Monday's debate tried to excuse himself for presenting a small Bill which only tackles some of the abuses (at the further expense of good landlords, according to the Opposition). the public may well ask itself whether any better use of the present Parliament's last months could have been made than by tackling the whole question in a consolidating Bill which would honestly attempt to play fair with all the interest involved, and thus do a great deal towards encouraging the only real solution, namely, enough houses for the people—and particularly enough houses to enable the people to bring up families.

LYNSKEY REPORT

IT must be said that the country

comes out with great credit from the findings of the Lvnskey Tribunal. The tumours which led to the Inquiry suggested a state of affairs not unknown in a good many countries—and by no means unknown in earlier English history-but unthinkable in modern times in Britain. The Inquiry, when it came —and the Government is wholly to be congratulated on the speed and thew oughness of its action—made it pretty evident that this was not a case of " bribery and corruption," but of weakness and inexperience on the part of individuals untrained to high and responsible public offices and too easily made the victims by self-seeking men of the possibilities of glamour and a cheap kind of high life. The impression conveyed was the stupidity of people who could be thus tempted to fall short vl the high standard of public life in this country for so small and so distasteful a reward offered by such unsavoury customers.

Recalling the snatches of evidence which he had read, the man in the street may even think the findings rather severe in the case of two people as compared with some others, but probably only the members of the Tribunal have any right to make a judgment, for they alone can have sufficiently studied the endless evidence. These are comparatively small matters. What counts in the end is the establishment of the truth that our public de, despite the great evolution and widening which it has experienced, has remained sound, and that these unhappy events are themselves the results of almost amiable and humorous weakness rather than of maliciousness. The light thrown on the activities of the circles within which the affected public servants moved is a far more unhappy one, but such people have always existed and always will. The question is whether the present type of centralised, planning State with its attempt to control every aspect of the people's life does not end by offering to such people greater opportunities of mischief than ever before ?

MR. BEVIN'S CONTRADICTION

IN his speech at the Foreign Press

Association luncheon, Mr. Bevin proved to be extremely sound and hard-headed in insisting that European unity must be a practical, concrete, working affair, and not a mere talking shop. Hence the need for a slow and cautious approach with careful testing and study at every step. It is a pity then that the same Mr. Bevin in an earlier part of the speech suggested that the good life for the working men and women of the world could be sought and achieved irrespective of ideological differences " whether it be Marxism or the Lenin theory." Not only plain reason, but all recent experience proves that the achievement of the good life is wholly dependent on agreement about the basic spiritual and moral nature of man. and that therefore no progress can be made towards peace and plenty for all unless agreement on certain essential principles is forthcoming. On this matter Mr. Bevin was speaking as a lifelong Labour tub-thumper; on European unity he was speaking as an experienced man of affairs.




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