Why Christianity Failed to Spread in the Sub-Continent despite 200 years of British Rule

Jesus was perceived as a "White God"
Jesus was perceived as a "White God"
Church in tribal area
Church in tribal area
Gandhi
Gandhi
Inside an Indian Church
Inside an Indian Church
White Missionary with converts
White Missionary with converts

Background

The British ruled India for close to 200 years. Generally it is accepted that the Battle of Plessey (1757) under Robert Clive which the British won, marks the start of British rule. By a policy of divide and rule the British became the paramount power in the sub continent. This continued till 1947 when the British had to leave India very reluctantly. The retreat from the sub continent was brought about by Adolf Hitler who severely weakened England that it just could not hold on to its colonies. In short the victory in the Second World War was a Pyrrhic victory.

British Rule and Missionaries

During the almost 200 years of British rule, a lot of good took place as the British laid the framework of a modern nation. This also fuelled a nationalism which went beyond caste and religious lines. Gandhi and Bose successfully channelized this nationalism as well as instituted a sense of pride in the culture of the sub continent which was dominated by a vast Hindu population and minority Muslim believers.

The British being the paramount power also allowed Christian missionaries to come to India. Their purpose was to civilize the people of the sub-continent and convert them to Christianity. A lot of impetus was given by the Pope who made unlimited funds available for the missionaries to facilitate the conversion of the Hindus and Muslims to Christianity.

The Role of the Missionaries

The missionaries spread out in the hinterland of India concentrating on tribal areas and poor Hindu and Muslim residents. These were given ample gifts and were told that these were sent by Jesus Christ and as such they should convert to Christianity. This inducement by the church marked the hall mark of the thrust under guidance from Rome to convert as many as possible to the Christian faith. I will add that the main trust was from the Catholics from Rome and in comparison the Protestants were not that zealous in their attempt to convert Indians to Christianity.

Failure of the Missionaries

Despite unlimited funds and food aid, the missionaries made little headway in the sub continent. They did do some good also as they set up schools and hospitals, but the overall framework was to spread the gospel. In this they felt anything including inducements was justified. Fr the missionaries the end justified the means. But despite a vigorous thrust for 2 centuries the missionaries could barely convert 2% of the population to the Christian faith. The reason is not far to seek as Christianity came face to face with Muslim and Hindu religion and the missionaries just could not , despite all the inducements counter the appeal of Hinduism and to a lesser extent Islam.

Reasons for Failure

One of the reasons which I think stand out now is that all the missionaries were whites and these appeared to the people as Alien. The Christian god Jesus was thus associated with white race and most people in the sub continent were averse to being ruled by whites. Another reason was that despite the concerted attack on Hindu ideals and philosophy the people felt that Christianity as a religion lacked the deep spiritualism of the Hindu faith. This was a major reason as despite preaching the gospel along with inducements, the locals never converted to Christianity. In fact there were cases of missionaries being attacked and many were killed. Many people felt that if the Church was sincere, why it was not advocating freedom from British rule.

This was a major flaw and like in America a where the church condoned and supported slavery, the church in India also never advocated an end of British rule. In fact with the protection of the state they penetrated deep into India but the result was an abysmal failure.

Last Word

One other reason for the failure of Christianity is that the rulers were Protestants and they looked at the actions of the missionaries with askance. In fact most Protestants were keen to revive Indian culture and many studied Hindu philosophy, but Protestants made no concerted attempt to convert the local people to Christianity.

The failure of the Church and Catholic faith to convert Hindus and Muslims to Christianity will remain a discussion point. It will not be wrong to say that Christianity in particular the Catholic faith met its waterloo in India.

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Comments 26 comments

ologsinquito profile image

ologsinquito 2 years ago from USA

That's a very interesting perspective on the perception of India's reluctance to convert to Christianity. I've never been to India, so it would be really hard for me to comment on the atmosphere over there and the general perception of Christianity.

From my perspective here, I can see that a minority did convert. I've met some very devout Indian Catholics.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you ologsinquito for commenting. It was nice of you


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Great article. I think you did a great job pointing out that it was/is a whole lot of factors. But for me, I look at it and think, it is how it is supposed to be.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Eric for commenting


Harishprasad profile image

Harishprasad 2 years ago from India

MG Singh, you have brilliantly elaborated on various reasons behind less acceptance of Christianity by the populace of the sub-continent. The one more important factor is to do with the different eating habits that persist to this day. It is well known that this resulted in a few rebellions in the masses and ultimately to the outbreak of great mutiny of 1857. Another reason is that the Britishers never regarded the sub-continent as their home but always remained as guests or outsiders. Had they assimilated themselves in the masses, they would have penetrated deep roots of Christianity into the sub-continent. On this front, Islam outsmarted them and succeeded in spreading it's wings to a great extent. You have raised an interesting subject and sometimes I had also been thinking along these lines. Thank you for bringing it forth through this fine piece.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Harish. So nice of you to have commented. Its a real pleasure


jainismus profile image

jainismus 2 years ago from Pune, India

Nice analysis, thank you for writing this.

One another thing I observed that the missionaries tried to change the dress code, language and local culture of the converted people. This automatically created a rift between them and the masses. But now the missionaries have changed their style and they do not like to do this mistake. That is why now it is not possible to identify whether a person is Christian or not just by knowing his name, which was possible in case of people converted in older times. In case of the people who were converted in older days, and had got European type names and surnames, now are using Indian first names for new generations.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Jainismus, but the fact remains that the missionaries could not convert India like they did in Africa and Philippines


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Informative and interesting on this topic with many facts to think about.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you DDE


Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah-Diane 2 years ago from Orange County, California

I believe that the world will be a better place when we make a genuine effort to accept and respect people of other faiths. This was a very interesting article!


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Deborah-Diane for commenting and giving your opinion


Rudra profile image

Rudra 2 years ago

Interesting and well written


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Rudra for appreciating and commenting


suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 2 years ago from Taos, NM

I have to agree with your analysis of why Christianity did not take hold in India. There is no 'right' or 'one and only religious belief.' I don't blame the Indians for staying with Hinduism etc. when the Christian God is always portrayed as a white man and very foreign to them. There is nothing wrong with the Hindu or Sikh religions or spiritualism. I don't know much about these two beliefs, but I admire the Indians for maintaining what is true to them. Interesting and thought provoking hub.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you suzettenaples for a very relavent comment


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Such an interesting hub. I like your viewpoint here and it makes sense to me--


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Audrey, I am glad you find the hub makes sense


Romeos Quill profile image

Romeos Quill 2 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

Interesting Hub article MG Singh.You may find the following free book useful, which cuts through all of the garbage. It certainly helped me clarify a few important matters:-

http://rcg.org/books/ttjc.html?s_kwcid=TC%7C19911%...

Regards;

R.Q.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Romeos Quill


Hackslap profile image

Hackslap 2 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Quite an interesting hub mate.. .. makes a lot of sense of why some of the backward and less aware sections of the Indian diaspora are still a bit anti-Christian ..


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Hackslap for commenting. Its always a pleasure to read an intelligent comment


Au fait profile image

Au fait 2 years ago from North Texas

Very interesting analysis. I will have to agree with ericdierker; everything coalesced to bring about what was meant to be. Appreciate your insight.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Dear Au Fait, so nice of you to have commented


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

Christians have been far from perfect. Jesus was born a Jew which would have made him a dark man but there is no races in the spirit form according to the Christian belief so it is too bad the missionaries could not have gotten this across. Many Christians even today can be very prejudice not considering the race their savior was born into to fulfill prophesy. Interesting history; thank you for sharing this.


MG Singh profile image

MG Singh 2 years ago from Singapore Author

Thank you Jackie for an illuminating comment

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