I recently read a book I want to recommend published earlier this week titled The Missionaries, written by the pseudonymous Owen Stanley (Historically, the European surveyor who explored Papua New Guinea in the Nineteenth Century). I was drawn to the book because of its setting on an island similar to Papua New Guinea, a British possession, while my mother was born a British subject in the British Protectorate The Cayman Islands, which remains under British control to this day.
The Plot of The Missionaries
The Missionaries is a biting (and hilariously funny) satire on the moral failures of colonial rule over the British Empire’s vassal states juxtaposed against the even more spectacular failure of the Social Justice Warriors of Secularism to deliver on their promises to remake the uncivilized World into a shiny godless utopia, lifting the indigenous peoples of the world out of their impoverished cultures and into Western-style democracies with similar values and ideals to those of the secular elites of the United Nations.
The Missionaries is set in the mid-Twentieth Century, as far as I can tell, and centers around Roger Fletcher, the Resident Magistrate appointed by the British to oversee Elephant Island, a wild lush tropical island populated by a few dozen tribal villages of culturally backward natives collectively called the Moroks. Fletcher is a thoroughly corrupt man, symbolic of the corruption of the historic British Empire that indeed profited off of and took advantage of the states it oversaw in previous centuries. Yet he is a capable administrator, and he manages to minimize the bloodshed of the almost ceaseless battles between the neighboring tribes, while maintaining an outpost of Western civilization on the island.
Enter Dr. Sydney Prout, Ph.D. of Sociology, who has been appointed by the United Nations to take up the governance of the Island from the evil Fletcher and prepare the Moroks for their independence from Western Rule and to take up their rightful place at the table as one of the independent Democratic Nations of the World in one year’s time. His and his colleagues’ subsequent attempts to indoctrinate the native population in Western values such as sanitation and sexual equality, change their way of life to make it compatible with Western society, expect the Moroks to change their system of tribal governance to a bicameral parliamentary government within a year, combined with the savagery and incomprehension of the cannibalistic and brutal Moroks makes for an almost perpetual comedy of errors.
Not a Christian Novel, But a Powerful Book
This is not a book for children. There are sexual scenes, foul language, violence, cannibalism, and villainy both on the part of the Westerners and the Moroks. Its more visceral sections remind me of the sometimes graphic descriptions of human evil in That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, or Voltaire’s Candide . This is not an explicitly Christian book. So why do I recommend it?
I recommend it not because of the hilarity–although it had me laughing almost from the first page, and I sped through it in an evening–but first because it removes the fig leaf from the naked emperor that is the irrational secular religion that dominates so much of both academic thought and foreign policy today. Secondly, it is also skillfully and poignantly written, so that I suspect it actually may have the potential to become a classic work.
The Political Themes of The Missionaries
The title says it all: The emissaries of the United Nations and indeed the members of many governments around the world are missionaries of a secular religion that takes no account of the inconvenient fact that Western Civilization is superior in very obvious and tangible ways to other civilizations, as well as the fact that to provide other civilizations with the benefits of Western Civilization without being completely inhumane and utterly destroying them and disregarding their human rights, takes centuries of time and is a process of many generations.
The secular elites who run organizations like the UN believe that there is no such thing as Original Sin, that all the evils of the world are the fault of Western incursion and that with the proper education and environment they can remake the natives in their own secular image, and furthermore, they believe that they have the right to do so in the name of inevitable “progress”. Their self-hatred of the West and its ways combines with a strange need to “help” other cultures to improve themselves materially and socially, which is just one of the deep contradictions of Liberal Progressivism.
Broader Implications of the Social Justice Religion
To move now beyond the book, the war in Iraq is a good example of this strange need to evangelize. The objective of the war, to bring Democracy to Iraq, was completely unrealistic as a result of the same secular religion which is the butt of most of the jokes in this book. Somehow the American President at the time and his government believed that cultures that had either been oppressed under brutal dictatorship or placed under theocratic governance for the entirety of their existence (as the mainstream interpretation of the Qur’an demands), that had no history of limited government, distinction of church and state, or equality of all citizens under the law, would willingly reform themselves into a Western democracy. The result is that in exchange for a Saddam Hussein we have ISIS and a major terror attack somewhere around the globe on average every two weeks.
To cite a similar example, the rulers of the European Union in Brussels have permitted invasion of Europe by Muslim migrants. In the minds of the European elites, this is the way that they will replace their shrinking populations of Europe and pay the pensions of those who cared so much for their own comfort and so little for the propagation of the next generation. Their myopic accounting of humans as mere economic units, believing that their religion, culture and social values are completely irrelevant to their social utility highlights the fundamental Error of modern Europe: They think they can have the Civilization that Christianity created without the Christianity. They are in for a rude awakening. The departure of Britain is only the beginning.
A Brief Glimmer of the Truth Amid Errors
About halfway through the book, there is brief mention (although sadly we never meet him) of a real Catholic missionary who spends his life ministering to the indigenous people of another island in the South Pacific region. His work is slow, and he has spent many decades trying to improve their lot and to teach them Christianity. The book does not dwell too much on this man, but I found his appearance to be the lone bright star to shine through, hinting at a correct answer to the problem of what to do, how to actually help the benighted peoples of the world, rather than exploiting and ruling over them like Fletcher, or futilely trying to improve their physical state without concomitant improvement of their spiritual state, like Prout. Fletcher only cares for his lusts. Fletcher is a lecher. Prout is too proud to realize he’s not really helping his charges. The humility of the true missionary is to realize the true magnitude of mission work and the fact that one’s work will likely not see significant returns even in one’s lifetime, let alone the paltry year within which Prout predicts he will elevate the Moroks to a democratic Republic.
That is the secret of Western Civilization. In order for it to propagate itself, it needs religion. Without that catholic, monolithic religion to unify the people, record and treasure its history and culture, and provide leadership in the faith and morals of which secular humanism is only a counterfeit, not only are the Papua New Guineas of the World lost. Western Civilization itself is lost.
This excellent book shows us the folly of buying into the double myths of the noble savage, and the false priesthood of secular humanism. But it also rejects colonialism as a sufficient solution. The only organization or cause that can save the indigenous peoples of the world, or us for that matter, is Christianity. This book doesn’t come out and say that. No, by the end, little has changed for the Moroks of Elephant Island, and Prout has spectacularly failed to civilize them or even to save himself from their predations. Fletcher, the stand-in for colonialism, can’t do it either although he can at least keep them at bay and maintains his power. But the Moroks do not need Fletcher’s lecherous and greedy parody of masculinity any more than they need the weak, limp attempts of the SJWs from the UN to try to “save” them. Their tribal leaders need to come to know true sacrificial masculinity as demonstrated by a man like the priest ministering on a neighboring island, willing to do the long-term hard work of evangelization in a real religion, who exemplifies the true masculinity of Jesus Christ.
As C.S. Lewis said, “The key to the missionary’s work is the authority of Jesus Christ, not the needs of the lost.”
This review was reproduced from my blog Defense for the Hope, which is linked below in my Bio. Stop by some evening for a chat. If you enjoyed reading, leave a comment below.