Thursday, May 7, 2009

Conversion of the Native Virginians – A sign of 'end times' – and that’s a good thing?

George Benson (c.1568-1648) was another preacher loosely associated with the Virginia Company enterprise. Like Robert Gray, almost nothing is known about him. His single book is A Sermon preached at Paules Crosse the Seaventh of May MDCIX. London, 1609. In this sermon of May 7, 1609, Benson adds another tweak to the growing list of proposed reasons to emigrate, colonize, and evangelize the New World. Benson cites Revelation from the New Testament in claiming that the conversion of the American Indians is a sign of the end of the world, and kingdom come! And that’s supposedly a good thing. Here’s what Benson said:

“These signs are past and gone: when the sun will be darkened, and the moon turned into blood, we cannot tell: but for the publication of the Gospel over the world, it may be proved by many instances. One most pregnant, most fresh, is that of Virginia which now (by God grace) through our English shall hear news of Christ, the gospel of Christ shall be published, no doubt the sound of the preachers will go out into that corner of the world, and make it as a well watered garden. There were a people of the like quality (with the natural inhabitants of Virginia) poor and naked things, (I call them so, the more to indeare your affections) when they were conquered, there was that cruelty used unto them, that scandal was given unto the name of Christ, the name of Christianity grew odious unto them, by reason of that cruelty they would let it have no room in their thoughts. I hope our English are of that metall that having in their hands the key of the kingdom of God, they will not keep those weake ones out, but rather make way for the Gospel (as I hope they may) by their gentle & humane dealing.”

Again we encounter a historical phenomenon that has a modern echo. Benson warns that if the English conquer the world with cruelty, and without true Christian compassion, that such colonialism would bring scandal to the name of Christ. Today, the issue is inhumane treatment of state prisoners. In the USA, these might be suspected Muslim terrorists, or even suspected Christian-Identity “Liberty movement” American citizens. Bottom line, don’t bring the gospel with force and violence, and don’t impose “democracy” with the tools of fascism!

Just a thought.

Still, one cannot help but notice the funny paradox in Benson's logic. It's bad to evangelize by force and violence, but if conversions are done with compassion, then the glorious End of the World is Near!


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