7. THE CHRISTIAN ONSLAUGHT
No sooner had Swamiji left Detroit than the orthodox divines began, as one writer put it, “to pound the dust all out of their pulpit cushions.” The five public lectures and the many informal talks he had given, together with the favorable comments in the press, which attested to his strong influence, were more than many a clergyman could endure. Swamiji had undermined the very ground upon which the Christian missionaries had stood for so long. Not only did he teach that no one religion was superior in essence to another, but he pointed out the hypocrisy of Christianity as it was practiced both at home and abroad. Added to this, he repudiated every story of immoral “heathen” practices by which missionary societies had heretofore justified their existence – and Christian nations their right to colonize. Idolatry, the Juggernaut, under the wheels of which Hindus were reputed to be in the habit of flinging themselves, infanticide, the tragic plight of women, the burning of widows – indeed every tale over which Christian missionaries had become hysterical, Swamiji either explained in rational terms or denied utterly.
But the fiction of a degenerate India was the very lifeblood of the more narrow missionary’ circles, and they had little intention of parting with it. The obvious move was to attack Swamiji with every* weapon available. “Vivekananda, the Hindoo monk, served at least one good purpose by his recent visit to Detroit,” said the Detroit Journal of February 26, “for his name and ideas furnished a dozen or more local ministers with themes for their discourses yesterday.” Some ministers ranted against him without restraint, others spoke more obliquely, brash oratory being no longer fashionable.
“Some of them Smite Kananda on Hip and Thigh,” the
Detroit Journal quaintly expressed it in headlines. The reader, however, should not be burdened with the full texts of those Sunday sinkings. The main points made against Swamiji’s lectures revolved around the insistence on the part of the orthodox clergymen that India was not moral but degenerate and that Christian missionaries were heroes and saints to whom the benighted Hindu should bow down in gratitude and whom the American people should support.
Every tactic was used. One Baptist clergyman, irate over Swamiji’s attack on the Christian mode of praying, sentcntiously declared that the reason “Kananda and his people do not pray at all,” is because ”their God, Brahma,’* being without attributes, has no ears.
The Reverend Mr. Newman of the Central Christian Church summed up the attitude of his brethren in the following paragraphs which have been taken from the Detroit Journal report of his Sunday sermon:
”I preach this sermon,” he said by way of preface, “because there are many who stand ready to accept as true anything and everything Kananda said Vhile here.
I will give the monk credit for believing his own theories, but I do not believe they represent either Hindooism or India.” In support of this belief Mr. Newman read numerous extracts from Hindoo authorities. … “I am astonished,” he went on, “to see the way in which the women of this city ran after Kananda and lauded him to the skies when, if they had been women of his own country, they would have occupied a coop at the rear of the house.
“It is said that a nation’s morality may be judged from the condition of its women, and I intend to read to you the condition of women in India.” [There follows a long misinterpretation of Hindoo customs, after which the Reverend Mr. Newman concludes triumphantly:] “And still Vivekananda says it would be a good thing for our missionaries to go over there and take a few lessons on morality.”
In Ypsilanti, a city in Michigan near Detroit, not only
Swamiji but his friends, the Reverend Mr Stuart of the Unitarian Church and Rabbi Grossman, came in for a long sermon. It will be remembered that in his talk on Sunday, February 18, Rabbi Grossman had highly praised Swamiji and had rebuked the Christian churches for squandering the good money and good will of the American people in proselytizing work far from home, “wh’ile all along our poor were at our door” “How in this good and sympathetic country of ours,” the rabbi had said, “such an illusion, I will not say delusion, could enthrall the robust and sound-sensed citizens, I do not understand.” This, together with the Reverend Mr. Stuart’s equally high praise of Swamiji and equally damning criticism of the Christian missionaries, could not be lei pass without rejoinder. Forthwith the Rev. H. M. Morey of Ypsilanti, who had evidently been reading the Detroit papers, delivered a Sunday retort. I will spare the reader the full text of his sermon, which was given in the Detroit Tribune of February 26, for it was long and filled with the usual indictment of Hinduism and the usual praise of the missionary “heroes” who “have told us of the sufferings -and sorrows of humanity, not in the self-righteous spirit suggested by the Brahmin, but with tenderness in the voice and with tears in their eyes.”
The Rev. Mr. Morey accused Swamiji and his supporters of telling only “half-truths,” which “may sometimes do the work of lies and slanders.” For instance, both Rabbi Grossman and the Reverend Mr. Stuart had suggested that there was as much immorality in America as in India – if not more. Said Morey:
“There are half-truths here, but these men of thought should have discriminated. Drunkenness and licentiousness and cruelty exist in Detroit under the shadow of churches. They exist also in Calcutta. Here they are contrary to Christianity and are the remains of the native barbarism not yet extinguished by Chris- * tianity. There they exist in the temples of the gods, sanctioned by their example and precepts. In India the people have only to follow the examples of their gods to become drunken and licentious. I wish to deal fairly in this matter and not to deal in half-truths.”
According to the Reverend Mr. Morey, Swamiji also dealt in half-truths:
“Vivekananda was asked some questions which he answered in the pulpit. He answered with a display of humor and apparent frankness that may deceive. ‘Do the people of India throw their children into the jaws of crocodiles?’ ‘Do they kill themselves beneath the wheels of Juggernaut?’ ‘Do they burn widows with their husbands?’ He ridicules the ideas, and denies the fact except in exceedingly rare and exceptional cases.
He has told a truth or a half-truth and in such a way as to justify the claim of the rabbi that it is a ‘delusion’ to send missionaries to India.”
The Reverend Mr. Morey went on to say that while these “horrible rites” (upon which he enlarged at length) no longer exist, their suppression has been due solely to “the direct and indirect influence of the ‘delusion’ as the rabbi calls Christian missions.” Indeed, by the time Morey was through, India had nothing whatsoever in her favor except the presence of Christian missionaries.
The following Sunday an editorial which fan in two papers, the Detroit Tribune and the Sunday News Tribune, evinced some surprise that the ministry had reacted to Swamiji with so much hysteria:
No hurt can yet come to any truth by stirring up the turbid streams of opinion. No evil has resulted to humanity since the days of creation by agitating the sources of religious belief. The pool of Bethesda had no healing power till the angel had troubled its waters, and no doctrine, dogma, creed or item of faith is too sacred to be troubled by the spirit of inquiry and,exam-ined with a view of finding, upon what it rests.
It does not seem to the secular intellect as though
Christianity could be imperiled by the public lectures of a single benighted Hindu who stands up and in good queen’s English gives some reasons why he thinks the religion of his country has hardly been judged fairly by the missionaries who have been sent to India. The natural man can hardly perceive why a dozen or score of talented and orthodox divines, brightest examples of Christian learning and culture, should consider it needful to pound the dust all out of their pulpit cushions in declaiming against one poor pagan who stands alone to defend his ancestral religion in a country where he is surrounded by millions upon millions of Christians, and where the fixed habits and customs and social and religious life of the people have been moulded by generations of Christians and Christian teachers.
It ought to be very safe for Christians who know what they believe and why they believe it to hear Vive Kananda or anybody else. If they carry their faith around on a plate and it is liable to slip off at the least joggle, it is high time for it to be joggled.
Plainly speaking, it does not seem to be worthy of the dignity of Christian clergymen in a great city to leave all other topics and cry out with one voice against any unbeliever who may chance to speak publicly against the prevailing religion of the churches. It is not worth while for a clergyman who respects the intelligence of his hearers to declare that there is only one religion in the world. Most men carry brains around with them all through the week, and they can be trusted to cling to the doctrines which they understand and believe.
It is vain and foolish to undertake to smother discus
sion. It is ridiculous for a protestant clergyman to lay down a rule that the faithful of his flock shall hear only those preachers with whom they are in entire accord. There may not be much use in religious controversy, but there is a great deal of use in getting at other people’s thoughts and ways of thinking. A late revered and admired bishop in Michigan said in connection with his reading of books upon oriental faiths that “the
time had come yrhen religion must be studied comparatively.” Vivekananda has helped us in such a study.
Clearly, the writer of the above editorial did not grasp the main issue. There was every reason for the more narrow clergymen to declaim against Swamiji, for theirs was a creed from which the age itself was moving away. The American people were, on the whole, searching for a more liberal and more rational faith, one which would be applicable to an expanding world and Swamiji was the very personification of that faith. He himself later wrote: “The orthodox section of this country are
crying for help. … they are mortally afraid of me and exclaim, ‘What a pest! Thousands of men and women follow him! He is going to root out orthodoxy! ‘ ” The word “pest” was an understatement. To every narrow mind, Swamiji was a bete noire to be eliminated at any cost.
With this aim in mind, the Baptists of Detroit held a mass meeting on March 5. Among the speakers was a Dr. W. E. Boggs of Cincinnati, Ohio, who had spent several years in India and could therefore, it was presumed, speak with authority. “India is the most idolatrous land on the face of the earth,” he declared. “The land is full of idols, not only in the temples, but by the wayside, on the tank embankments, at the public wells, in the fields, in their houses, idols of all sorts representing gods and goddesses, fabulous creatures, and beasts and reptiles. Many of these images are monstrous, repulsive, obscene. . . . All the foulest crimes that have ever entered into the imagination of man are to be found in the characters of some of the divinities, that they worship.”
Dr. Boggs next took up the caste system, “one of the masterpieces of Satan,” wherein he found a weapon with which to deliver a blow at Swamiji. “The Brahmans,” he said, “look with unconcealed disdain upon those of the lower castes and will tell you it is ‘physically nauseating, etc/ And these are the men that will come to this country and talk with mellifluous words about the ‘Brotherhood of Man/ It is just as consistent for a Brahman to talk about the brotherhood of man as it would be for a Japanese to boast that chastity and moral purity are a distinguishing characteristic of his nation. . .
“There is no saving light in Hinduism” concluded Dr. Boggs. “There is no Savior in Hinduism. Christ alone can save India. . . . The need of Christian missions in India was never exaggerated and never can be. The need was never greater than it is today”
A Dr. Mabie and a Dr. Gordon spoke in somewhat the same vein at the Baptist mass meeting, Dr. Gordon concluding his talk with the following remarks: “I never believed in parlia
ments of religion because all forms of religion aside from Christianity are counterfeits. There is every evidence that all religions except that which treats of the one Christ are bogus. We had better stand by the religion of Jesus Christ. We must still send out missionaries and have an abundance of faith.”
This was the crux of the matter: the missionaries not only must go out, but must go out as God’s elect. That a heathen should be preaching religion in the West, that he should be followed and revered by thousands, was an intolerable, unforgivable affront.
There was perhaps no meeting of missionaries in Detroit which did not discuss and attack Swamiji during his absence. One such meeting was reported in the Detroit Tribune of March 8:
MIGHT AS WELL BE BURNED
Another Indian Missionary Talks of Kananda’s Ideas.
The Missionary Society of the Fort Street Presbyterian Church held its annual meeting at the residence of Allan Sheldcn, West Fort street, yesterday afternoon. Rev. J. F. Dickie read the scripture lesson and Rev. Mr. Edwards led in prayer. …Mrs. Harvey, the president, made a short address and then introduced Rev. Dr. Thackwell, who has been a missionary in India for 45 }ears, under the presbyterian board.
Dr. Thackwell said he thought that the work of the foreign missionary was the greatest work in the world. … In speaking of the former habit of burning
widows alive, he said that some of them question whether their condition was changed any or not by the law. Before they knew their fate, but now it is a living death. Some people may come over here, as did Kananda, and say that the widow’s position is improved, but if it is true then the word of all returned missionaries is untrue. The widow is stripped of her jewels and her finery and a coarse garment placed upon her and she is thenceforth the Cinderella of the family. The belief in regard to their being burned was that the gods were displeased and to insure the husband’s salvation his widow must die.
Many female babies are strangled to death, in some cases by their mothers. Marriage and death are principal causes of the national poverty. The son is not exempt from the debts of his forefathers. The girl upon marriage has to be furnished a dower and in order to avoid it, the females are murdered by the thousands. The Brahmins have never tried to prevent these atrocities, but the English government is using its influence to stop them. The Brahmins have not much power in the cities but flourish in the outlying country, where the missionaries have not yet established themselves. . . .
The women uphold their religion because they have more religious fervor and are entirely sincere. The mother brings her little ones to the idol and teaches them to worship it and thus through a mother’s constant devotion and influence another idolator is reared. It is the women that must be reached and when they are converted to Christ they will bring up their children in the new faith.
The greatest men of India will attend receptions given by the viceroy. They will come in their richest costumes and chat with the Europeans, but on going home they divest themselves of their clothing and bathe, to rid themselves of the pollution. . . . The Hindu idea of God is that He is wrathful and thirsty for human blood, that He is ready to wreak His vengeance and they must appease Him. Among various methods to
attain His pleasure is to lie naked on a plank studded with sharp nails, to hold an arm or leg up until the limb becomes withered. They punish their bodies for the sin of their souls. If they will come over to the side of Christianity they will become a power for good. [And so on.]
But rant as the missionaries would, it was too late. Swamiji had cast a doubt upon all their false tales, and few who had heard him were willing to listen to the old cry. A letter printed in the Detroit Journal of March 15, in answer to Rev. Dr. Thackwell, gives an idea of how things were faring.
FROM THE MAIL BAG
Editor Journal. – It seems that Kananda, the Hindoo preacher, has stirred up the antagonism of many Christian ministers. At the home of Mrs. Shelden last Wednesday, the ladies of the Foreign missionary society met and listened to an address by Mr. Thackwell, a missionary from India. He contradicted Kananda’s statement that it was the Hindoos who abolished the custom of burning widows in India. Who would be most likely to know best? One who has been there as a missionary, or one who was born on the banks of the Ganges, traveled all over the country and lived there all his life ; a man of learning, who could have no object in making a false statement? We have been told again and again, that the overthrow of that custom was one of the blessed effects of Christian missionary work. But here comes a native missionary from India, who tells us it was the Brahmins who put a stop to the horrid custom.
We have also been taught from our early youth that Hindu mothers throw their children to crocodiles in the river Ganges. But now a man who was born on
the banks of that river tells us that there was never a crocodile in the Ganges. It is possible that the Rev. Thackweirs statement that Hindu mothers strangle their own babies has no more foundation in truth. Mr. Thackwell says it was the English government that abolished the custom of burning widows in India. But we all know how ready Christian England is to credit herself with any good done, or evil overthrown in her provinces. If England put a stop to that wicked custom, it must have been because she could make no money out of it. She sends out shiploads of liquor with agents to distribute and sell it. She could gain more dollars by making widows through the liquor traffic. India did not want her liquor any more than the Chinese wanted her opium, but she forced the opium trade on China at the mouth of the cannon, and her liquor trade through distributing agents in India. England is a field greatly in need of missionary work and the foreign missionary society ought not to pass it by.
It costs on an average twenty-five to thirty thousand dollars a head for every heathen convert made. This is very expensive and we do not wonder that every available means are resorted to for the purpose of raising money. Collections of pennies from Sabbath school children, and missionary collections in churches, after listening to a sermon in which the sad condition of the poor heathens who strangle their babes and feed the crocodiles with their children are pictured and the sympathies of the audience are aroused. Dr. Gordon, a member of a church in Boston and an officer of the Foreign missionary society, tells us how they manage to raise money. They pray every day for a month and then take up a $ 20,000 collection. He boasts that by this means they get from poor servant girls $ 50, and from one poor old lady living in a tenement house, who only had a thousand dollars to live on all the rest of her days, they managed to get. $ 800 – see the Journal of March 6. Now if there is a spot on God’s green earth
where missionary work is most needed, it must be Dr. Gordon’s church in Boston.
The means employed to obtain this money might be prayer, sympathy, hypnotism or the muzzle of a revolver. In a moral point of view it is equally wrong and no more justified than highway robbery. It is at home where true Christian missionary work is most needed, not only in the slums of our cities, blit among the 400 in Boston, Chicago and New York ; not only among our heathen Indians, who have been robbed and destroyed by American Christians, but many of the professed Christian churches of this land need to be taught the first principles of a true Christianity, justice, righteousness and brotherly love.
The Student Volunteer Missionary Movement held its second international convention in Detroit shortly after Swamiji had left. The convention, a gathering of no small proportions and no little significance, was in full sway from February 28 to March 4. According to the Michigan Christian Advocate of March 10:
… Never before had Detroit been favored with a convention so large in point of numbers, and at the same time of so wide scopp and far-reaching significance.
As a missionary convention it was not only the largest and most important ever held in Detroit, but the greatest ever held on this continent, and one of the greatest distinctly missionary gatherings that has ever convened in the world… . The registration lists showed a total of 1,187 accredited delegates present, representing 294 separate institutions of learning, and 38 different denominations. Besides these, some 50 secretaries or representatives pf missionary societies; over 50 returned missionaries ; representatives of the Y.M.C.A.
and other organucaions, swelled the grand total of registered members of the convention to 1,357. . . .
Meetings took place in the Central Church, which overflowed with missionaries and spectators until, after the first day, additional meetings were held in other churches ‘to accommodate the crowd. “The local committee, says the Michigan Christian Advocate, “were taxed to their wits’ end to find entertainment for so many, but the Christian people of Detroit arose to the occasion and all were comfortably taken care of.” The article continues:
It was indeed a grand sight, and one calculated to quicken the pulse and stir the blood of any person interested in the great missionary movements for the world’s evangelization, to look into the faces of those 1,200 earnest young men and women, all turning toward the foreign mission field for their life work. These young people represented about 300 institutions of learning, including every such institution of any importance in the United States and Canada. They were in an important sense the picked men and women of these institutions. Seldom does one see such a body of young people. A high intellectual average, intense earnestness of purpose, and a deep consecration to God and his work were marked characteristics. It was manifest that they were here, not on a mere holiday outing, but on serious business – to gain inspiration and learn how to best prepare to take theft: place in the work of winning this world for«£hrist.
It was a formidable gathering. And whether or not the delegates mustered in such large numbers as an answer to the Parliament of Religions, they considered that their convention in Detroit was an answer to Swamiji. The Christian Advocate editorialized:
What a splendid antidote the convention was for Vivekananda and his lectures! Came just in the nick ‘
of time. The glamour produced by his suave sophis
tries vanished like mist before the stalwart faith and living experience of men who have met and coped with heathenism on its own ground. Vale Kananda!
Vale Kananda, indeed! The fact was that, although the convention may have sought to counteract Swamiji’s influence, it was itself not uninfluenced by him. A new note, commented upon by the missionaries themselves, sounded throughout the proceedings. Far less emphasis than had been customary at such meetings was laid upon the external aspect of Christian missionary endeavor in foreign lands and far more upon the inner spirit. To quote again from the Christian Advocate of March 10:
The watchwords of the movement were set forth in large printed letters stretched along the galleries: “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations” ; “Let us advance upon our knees.” . . .
Among the features that marked the convention, there was none more prominent, or that more profoundly impressed all in attendance, than the intensely spiritual lone that pervaded it. This stood out above everything else. Education, culture, methods, finance, and all the other secularities, were remanded to their rightful and subordinate places, and from first to last, by every speaker with scarce an exception, the thought was kept uppermost that the indwelling Christ and the baptism and fullness of the Holy Ghost constitute the one essential fitness, the prime necessity, the only source of power and guarantee of success. . . . From first to last, the clarion call was for Spirit-filled men and women. A Methodist could almost imagine himself in a holiness convention throughout the whole meeting. This emphasis laid upon the spiritual side in this great missionary movement is full of significance and* fraught with momentous promise. A movement that thus honors the Holy Ghost cannot but succeed….
Even from the missionaries in India the message came that the spiritual side of things was in order. “That was a stirring cablegram read by Chairman Mott at the farewell meeting, from Wilder and White in Calcutta,” commented the Christian Advocate: “‘India needs now 1,000 Spirit-filled volunteers/”
It is not too difficult to believe that this sudden surge of spiritual earnestness both at home and abroad was due to Swamiji’s many reminders that something of the sort was called for in missionary activity. If the watchword, “Let us advance upon our knees,” was an “antidote” to him, it was one that could only have gratified him, provided it was carried out in the true spirit. It was, however, not the convention’s only answer to Swamiji. Although public repudiations of his views are not available, they were unquestionably delivered by the delegates, for, as will be seen, they were at least partly the cause of Swamiji’s return to Detroit.
In the meantime, his first visit to the city was already bearing fruit. In the very teeth of the missionary convention the Evening AJews of March 1 published a long illustrated article that unmercifully ridiculed the tall talcs of missionary propaganda – particularly those in Caleb Wright’s book, “India and Its Inhabitants,” a book which liad been published in the 1850’s and which formed part of the mental framework of the generation that had grown up under its spell. “India and Its Inhabitants” has been referred to before (Chapter Four) as one of the most potent weapons of the Christian missionaries. Its lurid illustrated tales of heathen mothers throwing their newborn infants to the crocodiles and of wild-eyed Hindus flinging themselves beneath the crushing wheels of the Juggernaut had been read and reread, had been believed as gospel truth and had deposited a good deal of debris in the American mind, which only a hard jolt could dislodge. Swamiji had delivered that jolt; whereupon the Evening News, which was known in those days as a “sensational” paper and which took delight in shocking its subscribers out of their accustomed grooves of thought, followed up with an expose of Caleb Wright and his ilk. The article need not be quoted in full; the closing paragraphs will, be sufficient to show that public opinion was undergoing a’ radical change and also that, now and’ then, a modern American missionary gave testimony to the truth of, Swamiji’s assertions. The editorial concluded:
In a work written by Rev. A. D. Rowe, an American missionary, and published by the American Tract society, his introduction says:
“There is an India of the books and there is a real India, and so diffcicnt are the two that the student of . the one would hardly recognize the other, if without a guide he should suddenly hnd himself in a Hindoo village. These books,” he says, “have been written by European travelers, who con lined themselves to main routes of travel, the cities and the larger towns, where they see but little undisguised Hindoo life. Many of these books seem to have been made with the aim of astonishing rather than instructing the reader, and they leave on the mind an impression that India is a country where women are caged up like parrots, where widows are burned alive, and children are hung up in baskets to be eaten by birds, or thrown into the Ganges to be eaten by crocodiles ; that it is inhabited chiefly by voluptuous native princes, self-torturing religious devotees, powwowing Brahmin priests, jewel-bedecked dancing girls, and ferocious Bengal tigers. Of the millions of soberminded, toiling fellow human beings, with hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, sympathies and ambitions common to all mankind, little or nothing is said.
“The school children of America know more about the burning of widows and the drowning of infants in India Ilian do the fathers of an ordinan Hindoo village. These things are as surprising to the young Hindoo as they are to the young American. I do not say that these accounts are literally untrue, but they put too much stress upon characters and topics that are of comparatively little importance to the life of the masses.”
A captain of one of the Peninsular fc Oriental steamers told Thomas W. Knox that an American passenger on board his ship was very much disappointed when he heard that he would not sec a widow burned or a pilgrim crushed by the car of Juggernaut. He was very angry, and said all the poetry of the east was gone, and he wished he had never left home.
Appearing on the same page with the above article was poem entitled “Christian and Heathen” by J. W. W.
CHRISTIAN AND HEATHEN
When Chapman waved the Christian banner In a mild and graceful manner,…
Stirring souls of men and women Up against the dreadful foeman.
“In hoc signo vinces” shouted,
Showed that dangprs all were scouted ;
That the foe was wholly routed.
But, alas! that prince of evil,
Most properly yclept the devil,
Sly old barbed-tailed, split-hoofed minion,
Issued from his hot dominion Full of argument and knowledge,
Gathered in Experience college,
Came within these precincts urban,
Wearing flowing robes and turban;
Hoofs and tail beneath them hid he,
Called himself Kananda did he,
Put his Hindoo logic neatly,
And overthrew our force completely.
All was silence round about us –
The heathen monk, by George, did rout us –
And we were feeling rather sickly ‘Till other forces gathered quickly.
They rose like locusts in the air,
Aspiring like a heartfelt prayer ;
And here they are from hills and prairies, Bold-hearted College Missionaries!
Hip! Hip! Hur – stay, our great Rejoicing May have a slightly hasty voicing;
Our solid front may still be hollow,
As who knows, brethren, what may follow?… Therefore let us wait the ending,
Our posts most quietly defending.
What followed was Swamiji’s reappearance on March ninth after a two-weeks’ absence. This was an unscheduled visit – neither planned by Swamiji nor expected by the missionaries. To all intents and purposes, Swamiji had left Detroit for good, possibly to return to India. Thus his reappearance must have come as a shock to many of his adversaries. He was greeted by various articles and letters in the Detroit newspapers, which reflected the general excitement over the return of the warrior monk. The following item appeared in the Evening News of March 10:
Very likely they don’t do these things any better in India; but it must be confessed that it is a little awkward to have that Hindoo turn up again in Detroit the same week that three policemen had to be on duty at a Christian church for the purpose of keeping order among its members, seated in hostile array and ready for an outbreak on opposite sides of the room. Then, the policemen, at the request of one of this flock, went round with him to the house of his shepherd to pay him a month’s salary, but evidently afraid to do so without having witnesses to his act. Perhaps he wanted the protection of the strong arm of the law lest his minister should assault him and take away the money and fhen refuse to give him an acknowledgment of the payment. The Lutheran minister did refuse to give him
a receipt that evening because, as he put it, these dissatisfied parishioners had long withheld his pay and it would be no great hardship to make them wait for the receipt overnight at least.
There are thousands of peaceful congregations, millions of Christians in and out of the church, that trust each other respectfully; confide in each other’s honor; pay their debts and need no policemen to regulate the conduct of their religious affairs. But at the same time, suppose this casual Hindoo should mistake the exception for the rule, and hold Christianity responsible for all its failures. What a nuisance he might make of himself!
An open letter welcoming Swamiji was published in the Detroit Critic of March 11. It was written by O. P. Deldoc, the same who had earlier written letters to the Free Press in Swamiji’s defense and who had a flair all his own for the English language. O. P. Deldoc was evidently a pen name, for it cannot be found in the Detroit registers for 1894. But whoever he may have been, his pen was prolific and vigorous and, to judge from the fact that the Detroit Critic published his letters and articles, he was known in literary and intellectual circles. In any case, Deldoc’s outlook upon the current state of civilization in the United States was by no means singular, but represented the liberal thought of the day. His welcoming letter, which gives a picture of the unrest of the age, illustrates the fact that the voices which cheered Swamiji were every bit as loud and angry as those which decried him. Feelings ran high in Detroit. The letter, too long to present here in all its verbosity, began as follows:
The Christian Religion Has Very Many of Them
Who Hide Their Heads behind Its Convenient Cloak.
Hail Vivekananda, the Hindoo.
A Nervy Writer Discusses the Abase of Kananda With a Very Bitter Pen.
Some Truths Which are Very Hard to Swallow.
An Open Letter to Vivekananda.
I rejoice to see that you are in the missionary field again in this part of our immoral vineyard. Truly “the harvest is grcaL, and the laborers are few.” We need more laborers in the harvest.
“There’s a cry to Macedonia, come and help us, The light of the Gospel bring ; oh! come.”
True, we have had the great Chapman revival here, bat the sheaves that were garnered would not fill one stall of the bam where his services were held. Missionary Stead has just shaken the dust of the most noted and wickedest city on earth from his brogans, and by this time is half seas over, and Chicago is unconverted. ‘The Baptist brethren have failed to make cold water converts out of Detroit’s ardent Spiritualists. The missionary convention brought forth a small army of raw recruits for service, but they were too green to make palatable roast missionary of, though they thought themselves capable of “roasting the heathen.” Soon we are to have the Christian Endeavor Society, to endeavor to see what they can do, but alas! all their endeavors are directed to foreign shores. They want to send more missionaries to convert more heathen, and they want to raise more
money to purchase more tracts, plug hats, and suspenders for “those poor men benighted, where only man is vile.”
In their eagerness to go abroad, they forget that both man and woman are vile in their own country, and require much missionary work right at home. I rejoice to sec that you are in the held. We need you, . . . and we find by more than eighteen hundred years of past experience that we cannot depend upon our own missionaries. . . .
You don’t begin to know how vile the heathen are here, even though they dwell in the light of the nineteenth century. . . . We want some missionaries from India and China, and we want them bad, or rather, we want them good, ours are bad enough. … Your religion for thousands of years has been one of mercy and love. Of humility and truth. Of science, logic and law. Ouis is one of bigotry, persecution, war, blood and hatred. One of fable and fallacy. Of fraud and hypocrisy. “Proc it”; why certainly. . . .
Deldoc then proceeded to catalogue most colorfully the iniquities of American civilization. “In the first place,” he says, “we worship idols. The idols are in silver and gold. . . . Other idolaters worship at the shrine of Venus and Bacchus. . . . Murder, bloodshed, riot, anarchy, cruelty to animals ; yes, and cruelty to wife and children, whom they treat as slaves. . . . Patriotism wades knee-deep in human blood. Blood is the fundamental basis of our religion.” He goes on to enumerate and castigate many a practice of nineteenth-century America: Child-murder, so common as to be unnoticed. Female slavery and child slavery. “Sweathouses,” suicides; caste in society,state and church. Bribery and corruption in politics, press and
pulpit. “We hang, burn and torture criminals. We suffer mob law and violence to rule over us. We build prisons and mad houses, and keep them full to overflowing. . . . We have opium eaters in our most fashionable circles.” Highway robbery, polygamy, prostitution alarmingly prevail. Vile dens of infamy are rented by pew-holders. “Our clergymen are hot all sain’ts ; they too frequently ‘fall from grace” but when they lose caste here, they can be utilized in foreign missionary*service. Our females are in such abject slavery that they have to organize Women’s Rights societies to petition legislature to redress their wrongs…. As a result of all this moral depravity, we have starvation, beggary, and crime. Strikes and labor riots are common everyday occurrences among the lower caste….” Deldoc, having left American
civilization little cause to raise its head, concludes his letter with a finishing blow:
Besides, we find the clerical cloak, like charity, covers a multitude of sins. One minister recently said, when asked what he thought you would do with the money gained from your lectures, that “you would probably stick to it.” How well he knew the inner mysteries of missionary work ; but it was unwise to give the snap away. Their whole attention now seems to center in India, instead of among the cannibals, possibly for the reason that your people don’t eat flesh, and they are safer among the mild-mannered natives of India.
These, dear Swami, are a few briefly noted facts, susceptible of ocular demonstration, which even in your short sojourn amongst us you must have noticed. Our watchmen on the walls of Zion have reviled you, figuratively speaking, have kicked you behind your back, and are “bearing false witness” against their neighbor in your own and other lands. . . . Where shall we look for help in this our time of need? we hopefully turn with anxious eyes to the Orient, or to the “wise men of the east,” where the Star of Bethlehem arose, and where God’s bright sunlight ever dawns. If you have a purer religion than we, and surely you can have none practically worse, I beseech you come over and help us.
Yours, for human brotherhood,
O. P. Deldoc.
The equally vehement opposition was represented by ‘”Occidental” whom readers will remember as a friend of the
missionaries who did not deem it necessary to hear Swamiji speak in order to judge him. Occidental appears, to say the least, somewhat fanatical; yet one cannot on this account ignore his, or her, letters, for they were as representative of contemporary thought as were the writings of Deldoc. The following was written on March 10, the day after Swamiji’s return to Detroit, and appeared in the Free Press of March 12:
Kananda Again In Our Midst.
To the Editor of The Detroit Free Press:
“That ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, and )ct to stand.”
Is it reasonable to suppose for an instant that among 360,000,000 of Vishnu’s followers, clever volunteers were not offered or selections made according to the eastern standard of wilincss or craftiness for representatives to the “World’s Congress of Religious Bodies?”
“We wrestle against spiritual darkness in high places.” Be not deceived. You will not (though this being your purpose appears questionable) be able to convert Kananda. Such is my sincere belief, but he may do incalculable mischief. “Judge of the trees by their fruits.” Compare the fruits of Christianity with those of Brahmin ism. On the one hand, enlightenment, progressiveness, joy, comforts and good will towards men ; not absolute but comparative. On the other hand, darkness, dreariness, misery, and for good will towards men, good will towards*<logs, cats and cobras; not absolute, but comparative.
That any intelligent person can for a moment give greater credence to the statements of a Hindoo (educated or not) than to the numerous counter-statements of our own educated men and women, travelers, missionaries or what not, surpasses strangeness. And yet many are ready to argue that the stories we hear of infanticide, widow immolation, and other conditions of misery among the Hindoos, are greatly exaggerated. In this
connection please bear in mind that rri&ny of the stories we hear only claim to relate to periods prior to England’s control of India’s affairs ; and we all know or should know, of their improvement since.
For my part my fears have been aroused recently so as to have produced a well-grounded belief that some of these stories are rather minimized than exaggerated at this time. . . . Within a week a man told me that when he was an officer of a vessel some years ago, at the mouth of the Hoogley river, about thirty miles below Calcutta, he was obliged to have his mooring lines cleared of the floating bodies of dead infants. For those unfamiliar with the facLs, it is necessary to state that the mouth of the Hoogley river swarmed with crocodiles then, 1854, much as our own Mississippi did with alligators twenty-five years ago, when the writer saw at one glance of the eye say twenty alligators when there was a chance of their getting anything to eat, in the moat at Port Jackson, half of them large enough to swallow an infant. Whether the river outside the moat was as thick with them or not, he is unable to say, but one scarcely ever rode along this part of the Mississippi on warm days without seeing one or more of them roll off the logs into the river. The number of infanticides in Calcutta and-along the river above and below can only be approximated by persons for themselves from these data ; taking into consideration the time necessary for a body to rise to the surface and float thirty miles more or less, and the uncertainty of its even reaching the mouth and there becoming stranded on a vessel’s mooring lines, in order that eight infant’s bodies should thus have become stranded in the seven weeks time that the vessel was there.
One of the missionaries in our city last week, being interrogated on the subject of shocking infanticide in India now by another lady, answered thus: “Why, of
course it is true, how could it be otherwise? Don’t you know that the words virtue and morality have no meaning with the Hindoos, they are as much worse than the
Chinese and Japanese as you can imagine” For those who may not appreciate this comparison, we must speak plainly. In Japan, when a man takes a fancy to a flower girl or tea girl he can negotiate with her parents for her services as a concubine about as we might negotiate for the services of a young girl as a domestic. The inquirer then said, “But Kananda denies all this” to which the missionary replied by smiling, shrugging her shoulders and saying, with as much doubt in her looks as possible, “Perhaps he doesn’t know.”
Horror of horrors! Wholesale infanticide, cobras, crocodiles and wilful falsehood? Does the witches’ cauldron in Macbeth equal this? One hardly knows though, whether to find greater fault with the educated heathen for deliberately falsifying, or with the missionary for failing to state plainly that such was her belief.
“False in one thing, false in all.” Therefore, unless you have confirmatory evidence from other sources, please take all Kananda’s statements cum grano salis (with salt); and for the love of heaven, let us have the plain truth.
The above letter is so palpably malicious that no comment is really called for. Perhaps, however, the inconsistencies involved in it should be pointed out. One finds it difficult to understand, for instance, why Occidental thought it necessary to dwell at such length upon those swarms of crocodiles in the mouth of the Hoogley River and of alligators in the Mississippi in order to prove his thesis that the Hindus had a propensity to commit infanticide. It would seem that those crocodiles showed a marked indifference to the infant bodies. Or did Occidental mean to imply that the bodies were so numerous that hundreds of crocodiles were unable to cope with all of them? Actually, all that one can gather from the officer’s story, assuming that it was true, is that some bodies of infants had floated down the Ganges and had found their way to the officer’s moorings. It is a mystery, however, how the officer, or for that matter, Occidental, knew in what manner those infants had met their* death. Any one who is not eager to prove the terrible character of Hindu mothers can manage to think of causes of death other than murder and of causes for those bodies having been in the river other than infanticide. But since reason was not a prominent ingredient in the concocting of missionary propaganda, it is perhaps too much to expect a rational statement from Occidental and his friends. One thing, however, is clear: Swamiji’s second visit to Detroit was by no means welcomed by everyone.