CONFLICT IN CHINA
An opposition to Buchman had, in fact, been steadily growing. Many missionaries objected to his concept of personal work, and his style and personality also came in for criticism. There was, as well, the awkward fact that wherever he went people queued up for talks with him, which was not the case with all the others.
The opposition finally came to a head over Buchman's part in the 1918 summer conferences at Kuling and Peitaiho. He had been an invited observer at the 1916 conference, and had been asked to conduct the sector on 'Personal Work' in 1917. Now, along with Miss Paxson and Tewksbury, he was to lead the conferences. He was determined that they should not be a repetition of the previous years, and for two reasons. The first was that concentrated work with small groups of missionaries had convinced him that their moral and spiritual needs were a good deal more basic than he had previously suspected.
The second was that he wanted conferences which could both bring greater effectiveness to the missionary community and give hope to men like Hsu Ch'ien. Hsu saw Christianity as a potentially revolutionary force. The best way of feeding that faith, Buchman felt, was to demonstrate that it was true. 'It will be no ordinary conference,' he wrote of his plans for Kuling. 'There will be men like Cheng Ching-yi and Hsu Ch'ien who believe that Jesus Christ is the only hope of China; another group who feel that the returned students must become a force in the present political crisis... They will come from all over China and one of the results will, we hope, be an endeavour to laicise the Chinese Church.' There were to be no 'bench-warmers', no 'grand-stand quarter-backs'. Kuling was no longer to be a private event for the missionary community. It was to be a 'fully personalised' training centre for the national leadership of China.1 All this, of course, totally upset the traditional pattern of the summer conferences.
At first, Buchman appeared to be getting his way. At a conference in Hangchow before Eddy left China, there was 'unanimous approval' from the missionary leaders both for the idea of inviting carefully selected foreigners and Chinese to Kuling and Peitaiho, and for the notion that both conferences should be intensive and selective.2 Buchman concentrated on Kuling. He sent personal invitations to leading Chinese and other 'marginal men'* whose presence would ensure that the conference there would be in touch with the actual needs of the country.
(* 'Marginal men', in the jargon of the day, meant people who were not already committed Christians or full-time Christian workers.)
One May morning in Changsha Buchman wrote in the flyleaf of his Bible, 'I have prepared you to help these men. You will release many. I will be with thee.' On Whit Sunday he wrote, 'I am calling you to a mighty and far-reaching work.' And on the Monday, 'Begin the conference by dealing with sin. Clear up everything in our lives. Activity versus reality.'
Some missionaries, however, disliked the idea of delegates who were not 'Christian workers'; others objected to the absence of major addresses in the old style; others again may reasonably have resented the fact that their summer conferences had been taken over by this brisk man of 40 who, after a fraction of their time in the country, claimed to know exactly what China needed.
By the time he arrived in Kuling early in July to make preparations for the conference, it was abundantly clear that all was not well. Harry Blackstone, who, as Trustee of the Stewart Fund, had undertaken to finance the conference, had been away in the United States and had still not provided the necessary guarantees; and neither of Buchman's co-organisers felt the need to arrive in Kuling until a week before the conference began, despite Buchman's persistent requests. Tewksbury delayed in Japan to meet Blackstone on his way to China, ostensibly about money, but Buchman suspected other reasons.
Buchman, by contrast, arrived a full month in advance, convinced that meticulous preparation was essential, not least to avoid a repetition of the conditions in which the previous year's conferences had been held. The conference buildings, he wrote to Tewksbury who was in charge of practical arrangements, were scantily furnished. Ought they not to invest in some long chairs for the foreign ladies? Then there were the beds. There had been bed-bugs the previous year, and his own bed had been 'impossible, just a succession of ridges'. He was equally unhappy about the food, and listed people who had fallen ill after previous conferences because of it. The flies and chipped crockery had certainly not invited delegates to a comfortable meal. The Chinese, too, he added, must have ample food of their own - 'we want a fine sense of fellowship and equality'. Unless they were careful about such details, they would alienate the very people they wanted to win. A sense of rest must pervade everything, because many of the delegates would come tired after a winter's work. It was the hotelier's son speaking.
Nor did he sympathise with Tewksbury's concern that so many of the delegates did not come into the 'Christian worker' category. 'You cannot standardise the Kuling conference,' he replied. 'The provision for marginal men will keep it from being academic... you can have Peitaiho, but I must keep Kuling.'3
Blackstone - who also by this time had serious, if undisclosed, reservations about Buchman - had still not pledged financial support by the time the conference began and, in his absence, Buchman wrote to his wife declaring that he was quite prepared to do without help from the Stewart Fund. 'I know what it means to live by faith and prayer,' he told her, 'and to be chargeable to no man's silver and gold.' Aware that he was being criticised for extravagance, he also sent Mrs Blackstone a personal cheque to cover anything, including medicine, which could be regarded as personal expenses.4
On the day before the conference opened, Buchman had a full-scale row with Tewksbury about who was running it, and was further burdened by a recent letter from his mother telling him that his father's illness was becoming increasingly serious. He nonetheless sailed full-tilt into a venture where, Sherwood Day being ill and Walter having returned to India, he was taking on a large section of the missionary community almost single-handed.
There were 200 at the first meetings on 5 August. Among them were Hsu Ch'ien, now acting Prime Minister in Sun Yat-sen's absence in Japan; General Wu, another of Sun's senior advisers; and S. T. Wen, former Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, as well as other Chinese and many of the leading missionaries. Their first job, said Buchman briskly, was to find out what real life there was in the conference.5 Such life, he added, was spurious unless it was expressing itself in converting power in the lives of other people. What problem of life, he asked the delegates, who included bishops like Logan Roots of Hankow, did each of them want met during the conference? It might, he said, be a personal problem.
Later the same day, Hsu Ch'ien spoke, and made it clear that he was not interested in pious discussions which did not seek ways of tackling China's moral evils, which he described as 'despotism, militarism, autocracy, opium-smoking, liquor traffic, concubinage, foot-binding and slavery'. 'We have to discover our national sin,' he said, 'otherwise we cannot save our country. If we cannot save the country, we cannot save the world, but the Christians today are powerless in China because of their private sins.'
'I have the salvation of a nation in mind,' Hsu went on, 'therefore I consider this conference a very serious matter. I want to know the method for saving China. The foreign leaders of the church do not quite understand how to save China... we have been too slow. I believe we will save the nation by the direct method, that of personal work.'
During the next eight days Buchman spoke no fewer than thirteen times. It was a full exposition of what he had learnt during the Penn State years, illustrated by stories of his own experience both of failure and success. He also said that he had recently told a man a lie which he had just owned up to; that he had failed to meet a certain man's spiritual need because he had not had the courage to be drastic enough with him and was going shortly to see him; and that, during that very conference, he had realised that for some years he had availed himself of a reduced fare privilege on the Pennsylvania Railroad to which he was not strictly entitled. He had that morning sent a cheque for $150 to the railroad. He had been tempted not to sign his name because the vice-president of the railroad was a personal friend, and not to tell the conference because he, as its leader, would lose face.*
(* Buchman at that moment was in financial straits, but a cheque had just come from a Miss Woolverton in New York, and turned out to be the exact amount needed for this restitution.) (Buchman to Mrs William H. Woolverton, 21 November 1918.)
He remarked one day that it had only been in China that he had become convinced that the confession of one's own shortcomings privately or publicly was an important way to help others. 'My message is not mine; it is God's. It grows as various people contribute to it,' he said. 'When I came to China this last time, for example, I wasn't fully convinced that "a confessing Christian is a propagating Christian". It became a reality in my life when Bishop Moloney opened our retreat in Hangchow and said that if a Christian is to have power he must confess. A servant in his family had come and told him that he had taken "squeeze". The bishop then remembered that he had failed to pay a physician's bill which the physician was prepared to forget because of his position. He told his servant that he too had taken "squeeze", and then paid his bill. This had been the beginning of a revival in his diocese.'
All this was woven in with his theme that 'only one thing in the world can keep us from being miracle-workers - sin'. 'There is nothing else, absolutely nothing else,' he continued. 'You can't see sin in the life of the other person unless you see sin in your own.' 'It is not because you are better than anyone else that you can help another,' he added. 'It is because you are tempted like the other person, but through honesty you have power from Jesus Christ, who has the only power to save from sin.'
'There are certain things we will do,' he said on another day. 'We will come to China; teach in colleges, hold secretarial posts; but when it comes to intimate personal dealings with men we say, "No, I can't do that, I'm not built that way." You will never know the real need, the real China, unless you are willing to untie the bandages of the people around you. And you can never untie bandages for dead men about you unless you have untied bandages first in your own life.
'The first year I was here I merely touched the surface, last year I scratched it, and I hope that this year I will get down deeper... I thought I knew something about individual work when I first came to China. I am beginning to find out how little I actually know.'
When he first went to Penn State, he told them, he had found 'twenty-five uninteresting Christians in that university. They were regular rounders of the American YMCA. They had the form of goodness, but no power …' The thing to do, he continued, was go after the interesting sinner. He had gained the confidence of twelve fellows who went out stealing chickens together. Now they were interesting sinners. 'Some of you will say, "Oh, he's talking about himself,"' Buchman added tartly. 'If you feel that way, please go out of the room. One person can ruin a group.'
The twelve young men, he went on, had organised a Bible group, which they called the Royal Rooster Bible Class and which sometimes went on until 2.30 on Sunday morning; and one of them had eventually become student president of the YMCA. Some people, said Buchman, objected to using marginal men of that kind in Christian work. He wondered what they thought St Augustine was when he was in Milan in his early days. The Christian community in China as it was could not assimilate the marginal man.
The other thing he had done at Penn State, he went on, was to bring in contagious personalities from outside to help win the students. 'There are,' he declared, 'few people in this room who would have qualified.'
The effect of these comments was certainly not marginal. Some missionaries accepted what Buchman said, others were infuriated: Buchman, they told each other, was not merely arrogant and presumptuous, he was also an egoist who constantly paraded his own successes.
Buchman felt the force of the opposition to him keenly. In one of his later talks, on the subject of entering into the sufferings of Christ, which would come to all who took the path of total service, he referred to the temptation to drink the cup of peace and joy and happiness but shirk the cup of suffering. 'We decide for ourselves just how far we are willing to go. Our service ends when we begin to suffer,' he said. 'When a person says all sorts of things about you and is quietly scheming against you …. have you victory in Christ? No man can do it, only Christ can. At times I haven't the victory for things that are difficult. I just have to go away.' Indeed, one evening at this time he took a walk in the neighbouring hills and came upon a lake. For a moment he thought how peaceful it would be to lie at the bottom of it, away from the conflict. Nonetheless, he did not soften what he had to say, some of which seemed to discount the professional expertise of the missionaries. Effective Christian living, Buchman declared, was not a question of how much one knew or how much training one had had: it depended entirely on how much one was willing to co-operate with God. There were, he said on another occasion, too many who sat at their desks and were not in touch with people's real needs.
The Chinese present took much the same line. Christians, declared General Wu, had to revolutionise the church. Some pastors stood up, repeated prayers and then thought their work was finished - so the layman had to be his own pastor. 'I have decided to do personal work among the officials,' added General Wu. 'Many are rotten. We need to help them all to forge a new regime, a new force and a new army.'
Buchman also raised what proved to be an even touchier issue. 'When I came to China last year', he said, 'a man* who is a real physician of souls told me of one of the bandages which bind. He said, "Do give a strong message wherever you go on 'absorbing friendships'." He used a word that was new to me, "crushes". On these hilltops I have seen "absorbing friendships". I can't judge. I can only say this, they may be unhealthful. He knew far more than I do. I cannot do other than give you that word of caution from an old tried physician of souls.'
(* It was, in fact, the Methodist Bishop Lewis.)
This time the reaction was explosive, and Bishop Roots was inundated with protests. The day before Buchman left Kuling, Roots complained to him about the offence he had caused. Two days later, apparently unabashed, Buchman wrote to Roots saying how surprised he had been that some of the 'Y' Secretaries should have taken personally what he had said.* He also told Roots that, insofar as his criticism of 'the God-given message' had been inconsistent and destructive, it was indicative of Roots' own need.6
(* Throughout his life, when Buchman objected that a friend had taken a remark of his 'personally', he meant that the person had missed the love behind the criticism, which was intended not to depress but to liberate. He expected people to take the matter to God and find out from Him whether there was any truth in what he had said. His remarks were sometimes so vigorous, however, that this reaction was understandable.)
Meanwhile, some of those present at Kuling were writing him grateful letters. 'I was very near to breakdown when God sent you to help me gain victory,' wrote one, while a Chinese added, 'I shall never forget our refreshing time on the Pines Rock ... I can never thank you enough for what you brought into my life.' A third thanked him for his 'clear message on sin', while a 'bishop's daughter' said that several who were resentful for some days stayed to hear him right through and were 'won'. She added that some must have a mighty lot hidden away in their lives to be so afraid of Mr Buchman and his message.7
Buchman set out for the second conference, at Peitaiho, knowing that he had left turmoil behind him. He sensed that a storm was brewing, while not suspecting that Blackstone, whose letters were friendly, was stirring it up.
In fact Blackstone, newly arrived from Japan, wrote from Peitaiho a confidential letter to Bishop Roots, the Chairman of the China Continuation Committee, who was now back in Hankow. He had heard, he said, that the Kuling conference had been a great blessing. On the other hand, a few things he had been told about Buchman's relation to the conference had raised serious questions in his mind as to the advisability of Buchman doing any further work in China for the moment.
'It has long been apparent to me', Blackstone went on, 'that there were certain disqualifications in Mr Buchman in the line of egoism, selfishness and extravagance, and yet ... I have stood behind him with all my strength, sometimes even against my own judgment and the opinion of others.'
Blackstone asked Roots whether he felt Buchman's work in China was finished for the present, and whether he thought something had come into Buchman's personal experience which was a hindrance to his message. 'I may say', remarked Blackstone, 'that there is a serious gloom cast over this conference because of his present condition, and I hardly find him to be the same man whom I left in the spring.' Could Roots please send his reply by telegram?8
The following night there seems to have been a noisy confrontation between Buchman and the other conference organisers on the porch of Blackstone's bungalow. The immediate issue was probably a complaint that Buchman was behaving as if he were running the conference single-handed. In any event, he said something which 'grieved' Tewksbury, and told Ruth Paxson in the heat of the moment that he never took orders from a woman. Nor did he feel able to agree to three points which the others put to him, more or less as an ultimatum. One was apparently that the word 'sin' should no longer be mentioned.9 Another was a demand to return to the 'old meeting plan'. Tewksbury accused him of 'egotism', to which he replied that most of his message was derived from Henry Wright.*
(* Three weeks later Buchman wrote to Wright: 'I am experiencing what you forecast - persecution. Much of the best of my message is yours…. You come nearer than any other man in the sphere of my acquaintance (to the one) who actually incarnates the principles of Christ' (20 September 1918). Professor Wright's influence on Buchman is discussed in Chapter 8.)
The next day, however, he fell ill with dysentery and for several days ran a high fever, so the issue of who was supposed to be running the conference was no longer relevant. A few days later, on 31 August, a telegram came to Blackstone from Bishop Roots in Hankow, carrying the code phrase Blackstone had suggested, 'Discontinue work'. A following letter set out his views in more detail.
He wanted, he told Blackstone, to bear witness to the value of the work Buchman had done in China. The life of the Christian community in Hankow had been 'permanently elevated and inspired'. Buchman's work had also 'been of inestimable value to me, and I shall never cease to be grateful to Buchman for it'.
On the other hand, he went on, he shared Blackstone's misgivings. The Kuling conference had done a great deal of good, particularly among those who had not encountered Buchman before, but all the older missionaries were disappointed. He had also observed in Buchman 'a kind of censorious and dictatorial attitude of mind'. One of Buchman's chief limitations was the difficulty he had in working with others, although he did seem to have co-operated 'in the most perfect fashion' with Eddy.
Roots added that he was 'deeply grieved to observe the change in Buchman himself of which you speak. What its cause is I am not wise enough to judge,' but at Kuling they had suffered from the same gloomy atmosphere to which Blackstone referred at Peitaiho. 'I am afraid, to speak with great frankness,' he concluded, 'that Buchman is in danger of a serious breakdown if he continues longer in China at the present time.' Buchman's work in China thus far had been 'a glorious success', but it ought in his view to be discontinued.10
It must have been a shattering blow for Buchman to be asked to leave China after fifteen months' passionate campaigning. Yet, whatever it was which had made Bishop Roots believe he might be in danger of a breakdown seems to have evaporated very rapidly. He and two friends, his secretary, Hugh McKay,* and Sherwood Day, had planned to take a month's complete rest and recreation after Peitaiho at Port Arthur, across the Gulf of Chihli, and since they now had two days to spare, they took the chance to visit en route the Great Wall of China and the Ming tombs. Within days Buchman was sending cheerful letters home, and on 12 September he wrote Blackstone to say that he had just been for a ten-mile walk and 'topped it off with a good sauerkraut supper'. He asked Blackstone, in passing, to deny the false rumour that he had 'physically gone to pieces' and had been sent back to America.11 Blackstone replied warmly, but did not mention his part in getting Bishop Roots to take the action he had.12
(* The grandson of Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission.)
It is hard to reconcile Bishop Roots' estimate with the impression which Harlan Beach, once Professor of Mathematics at Penn State and later the first Professor of Missions at Yale, had of Buchman in China. Notes taken of one of his lectures give a very different picture: 'No flourish of trumpets, no rhetoric, a great human, strong personality ... A friendly man who cheers, is conversational, talks like a brother, no parson lording it over us. Tells funny stories, jolly, yet most earnest and serious ... He has a new conception, talking to one instead of masses …. People criticised that he emphasised sin, that he was too severe. He talked about real things which are fundamental... He had generalship and he could work with a team ... Whole total summary - the best thing that ever happened in China.'13
Reviewing at Port Arthur his last weeks in China, Buchman realised that he had treated Tewksbury and Miss Paxson badly and sent letters of apology to both;14 but on the central issues which he felt were at stake, and particularly his attempt to deal with sins which he believed made the work of many of the missionaries ineffective, he remained totally unrepentant.
'The people at headquarters have never been won,' he wrote to Howard Walter in India, 'and the opposition was evident in most subtle forms. They have been trying for some time to use every conceivable means to get us out of China, as the shoe pinched harder and harder and we got deeper into the personal lives of men.'15 In a second letter to Walter, Buchman said he was convinced that there were far deeper reasons for what had happened than they had yet fathomed.16
His letters to Bishop Roots were also far from apologetic. He conceded that the burden he was carrying at Kuling might have caused a certain 'harshness' in him, but only the harshness of one who was concerned about the failure of the churches and had applied that same harsh judgement to his own life first.
As for Kuling, he went on, he was more than ever convinced that he was merely 'scratching the surface'. Terms like that and 'spiritual bankruptcy' had been objected to, but nothing less expressed the real need. What made his heart heavy, he declared pointedly, was that as God had given him an increasingly clear diagnosis of conditions and his message had more nearly met the actual needs, 'there were some Christian leaders who turned back'.
He would, he concluded, respond warmly to the friendly tone of the Bishop's letters if he did not feel there was a danger of clouding the fundamental issue, and he warned Roots against thinking that their disagreement in Kuling had been purely a personal one. 'It is far deeper,' declared Buchman, 'a matter of principle which vitally affects the progress of the Kingdom.'17
To Blackstone he wrote explaining that he had not felt able to join in the picnics and the lighter side of the Kuling conference partly because he had a sense that his father's illness was growing much worse.18 Buchman had, in fact, known for many months that his father's condition was deteriorating. A letter from his mother the previous Christmas had made it clear that his father's behaviour was now totally irrational and that she herself went in fear of what the old man might do to her.
'I cannot see how I can hold out any longer,' she had written in December 1917, 'it is so serious I don't know which way to turn. This week he was ready to go off and they kept him back from the train. I am in constant fear, the only hope I have is the Lord.'19
By the summer of the following year, the tone other letters had become even more desperate. In June she wrote that 'your father left this morning with his suitcase, he told me he did not know when he would return. I am writing this with tears. I never thought I could go through what I am now …. your mission is at home.'20 At the end of July one of their neighbours in Allentown wrote to confirm that his mother was no longer safe at home. Something, she said, would have to be done.21
Then, while he was in Port Arthur, his mother wrote to say that the old man had been taken into hospital on doctor's orders. 'We had to take him,' she explained, 'this is hard to tell you, Frank, to take him out of his good home. He chased me through the house Monday morning in my nightclothes from one end of the house to the other and threatened. I left home and hid at Hirner's that day. They took him away very quietly, without a scene but, oh think of it, out of his home.'22
The astonishing thing is that, even now, Buchman did not set out post-haste for Allentown. One factor was the length of time which mail and travel, both by surface, took in those days. Partly because of this, there was also a tradition among Americans and Europeans, serving either as missionaries or in a civil capacity, to stick to their work abroad whatever the difficulties at home. Certainly, Buchman felt convinced at the time that he was where God meant him to be. 'I know just how much you want me,' he wrote to his mother from Peitaiho in August 1918, 'and I just want to do God's will.'23 He sent fond letters regularly, often accompanied by presents or gifts of money - $300 for his mother's birthday - but never gave even the slightest hint that he was in any uncertainty that he must stay in the East. Indeed, at one point he suggested that she join him in China, presumably putting his father under suitable care.
Now he wrote from Port Arthur telling his mother that he had cabled Dr Willard Kline, a well-known Allentown specialist, to ask what could be done for his father. He also sent $600 to help pay for a male nurse. 'It is clear', he said, 'that the strain is too great for you, and you ought not to bear it any longer.' In his quiet hours God had given him real assurance 'that He will be a husband to you and that you are safe in His keeping'. He was, he added, starting out with a small party of friends on an evangelistic programme of his own. There had been invitations from both Korea and Japan. 24 'We are going forth on faith and prayer', he wrote to Howard Walter in India, 'with nothing but the Almighty's bank to draw upon. All of us are richer for these days of trial through which we have passed.'25
It seems likely, in view of his letter to Blackstone, that a subsidiary motive in undertaking the tours in Korea and Japan was a desire, conscious or unconscious, to make it quite clear that he had not been 'sent home' from Asia and to re-establish that, unhampered, his message could achieve wide acceptance. He was indeed enthusiastically received in both countries, and through the friendships he then formed laid the foundation for work which came to fruition in later years. In Japan, in addition to his usual work, he became friends with two of the creators of modern Japan, Baron Morimura and Viscount Shibusawa, who chaired a meeting of the Concordia Society at which Buchman gave a talk on 'Human Engineering'.
To Buchman's great sadness, Walter died of influenza in India that November, and there was constant anxiety about his parents; but otherwise these months in Korea and Japan seem to have been both happy and fruitful. Dr Kline's reply to his letter, through one delay and another, did not reach him till 8 February 1919. Thereupon he cancelled various engagements, and in March 1919 sailed for the United States.
He had not, as it turned out, heard the last of some of the leading characters in the drama of his departure from China. Harry Blackstone, it became known, had a weakness for Eurasian secretaries and, when one of them spoke publicly about their relationship in 1924, he was disgraced and left the church to go into business. In his misery, he wrote to Buchman for help.26 'I am so very sorry that all this has happened,' Buchman replied in April 1924. 'You can have anything at my disposal and I shall do all in my power to do what you want me to do. I shall stay straight by you to help, even though you say the sky is black as midnight. .. Do feel free to make any demands upon me and I will do my utmost to fulfil them.'27
As for Bishop Roots, Buchman never (according to Roots' daughter) mentioned the matter again either to him or to any of his family, although the Bishop and all his family, both before and after his retirement, came later to work closely with Buchman. 'You have forgiven us much,' the Bishop wrote to him in 1942. 'In particular you have forgiven me so much. I am slowly beginning to realise how much.'28
Hsu Ch'ien gradually became disillusioned with what he saw of Christianity in China. At Kuling he and a colleague had had a talk with Buchman, during which the 'National Society for the Salvation of China' had been conceived. After Kuling, he had had a three-hour talk with Sun Yat-sen who thought it 'a sincere and very deep idea' and later confirmed that he 'believed this fundamental principle is the only way China will be saved'. But early the next year Hsu wrote sadly to Buchman, 'At present the missionaries are only preaching about the individual righteousness but nothing about society and nations as a whole. Why should people be only righteous individually but not in political affairs?'29 In 1923 an agent from Moscow called Michael Borodin arrived in Canton and, in due course, became adviser to both Sun Yat-sen and Hsu. Hsu felt that Borodin really appreciated his ability and idealism whereas, according to his daughter, 'he got little co-operation from the formal Christians in his large national schemes of applied Christianity'.30 By 1925 he was living in an apartment in the Russian legation.
Many have wondered why Communism was able to capture the leadership of China so easily in spite of the vast missionary investment, both American and British, put into the country during the previous half-century. Arthur Holcome, Professor of Government at Harvard University, gives full weight to the Chinese disillusionment at their treatment by the 'Christian' Allied powers at the Versailles Peace Conference where the German concessions were handed over to Japan and the Allies retained their own, in spite of promises to the contrary. To this, he acids three more deep-seated reasons: 'the failure of Western missionaries to treat the Chinese as equals', their 'lack of unity' and their 'ignorance of China and the Chinese'. The missionaries, he says, were intent on changing Chinese culture, while the Russians, and particularly Borodin, sought to understand and use it.31 All these three attitudes were ones which Buchman was trying to tackle while in China.
One can speculate what would have happened if there had been significant alteration on any or all of these points among the missionary community. If a considerable body of the Chinese leadership, with such backing, had set themselves to remedy the ills which Hsu and General Wu articulated, it is at least possible that there might have been an alternative dynamic enough to withstand the atheistic revolution which Borodin imported.
As it was, Hsu Ch'ien, Sun Yat-sen, Chiang Kai-shek, Mao Tse-tung, Chou En-lai and others succumbed to the persuasive personality of Borodin.* In their search for the unifying and cleansing principle, which Hsu and others had seen in the revolutionary Christianity offered by Buchman, they turned to Communism. Some later broke with it. Some were confused. Some were captured by it heart and soul.
(* A young American journalist, one of Bishop Roots' sons, then writing for the New York Times in China, knew Borodin well. It was Chiang Kai-shek who introduced them in 1926. 'Borodin spoke of revolution,' he recalled later. 'He had worked his way several times through the New Testament. He said, "That man Paul, there was a revolutionary!" Then he suddenly turned with a distorted face, pounded his fist on the table till the teacups flew on to the floor, looked me in the eye and shouted, "But where do you find men like him today? Give me one example. No, you cannot."' (John M. Roots writing in Morgenbladet (Oslo), 2 January 1962.) Partly as a result of this conversation, John Roots decided to work full-time with Buchman, and was later joined by the Bishop and several others if his family.)
For Buchman himself, the consequences of his Chinese experience were considerable. He had found himself in conflict with a sizeable part of the Christian establishment and had lost, but had learnt a good deal in the process. It was a great surprise to him. 'Simply because I attacked sin in China,' he noted when he arrived home. Of the reaction to his mention of 'absorbing relationships', he added, 'Had no idea such sin existed except in isolated cases. Being misunderstood opened my eyes. There is a clique that is impure.' In passing on Bishop Lewis' warning, he had simply thought that he was offering the assurance of inner freedom and of spiritual effectiveness to Christian workers who would be glad to receive it. In relating the story to Hartford President Douglas Mackenzie, he added, 'I believe that some of the criticism is traceable to the fact that the men felt I knew more than I actually did.'32
As he came back to America, ignorant still of Blackstone's manoeuvring, he felt that wider opposition to him was crystallising and he expected that rumours would have found their way not only to Hartford but to YMCA headquarters in New York. Meantime he wrote to Sherwood Day, 'I am not returning to Hartford tied in any way. I must have liberty of speech and action.'33
1 Buchman to E. G. Tewksbury, 21 June 1918.
2 Buchman to Harry Blackstone, 25 April 1918.
3 Buchman to E. G. Tewksbury, 18 July 1918.
4 Buchman to Mrs Harry Blackstone, 6 August 1918.
5 Quotations from Buchman and others at Kuling are taken from verbatim transcripts of the meetings.
6 Buchman to Bishop Logan Roots, 16 August 1918.
7 Letters in this paragraph quoted in Mrs Adams to Buchman, 23 August 1918.
8 Harry Blackstone to Bishop Roots, 24 August 1918.
9 From unpublished memorandum by Frances Roots Hadden, daughter of Bishop Roots.
10 Bishop Roots to Harry Blackstone, 30 August 1918.
11 Buchman to Harry Blackstone, 12 September 1918.
12 Harry Blackstone to Buchman, 18 September 1918.
13 Martin MSS.
14 Buchman to E. G. Tewksbury and Ruth Paxson, enclosed in letter to Harry Blackstone, 12 September 1918
15 Buchman to Howard Walter, 12 September 1918.
16 ibid., 1 October 1918.
17 Buchman to Bishop Roots, 8 October 1918.
18 Buchman to Harry Blackstone, 18 October 1918.
19 Mrs Buchman to Buchman, 17 December 1917.
20 ibid., 27 June 1918.
21 Laura E. Heiner to Buchman, 29 July 1918.
22 Mrs Buchman to Buchman, 17 August 1918.
23 Buchman to mother, 23 August 1918.
24 ibid., 10 September 1918.
25 Buchman to Howard Walter, 1 October 1918.
26 Harry Blackstone to Buchman, foreshadowed in letter of 1 January 1924; confirmed in Maxwell Chaplin to Buchman, 20 April 1924.
27 Buchman to Harry Blackstone, 3 April 1924.
28 Bishop Roots to Buchman, 20 December 1942.
29 Hsu Ch'ien to Buchman, 26 February 1920.
30 Holly Hsu to Frances Roots Hadden, quoted in Hadden MS.
31 Arthur Holcome: The Spirit of the Chinese Revolution, The Lowell Institute Lectures 1930 (Knopf), p. 87 ff.
32 Buchman to Douglas Mackenzie, 21 May 1919.
33 Buchman to Sherwood Day, 21 April 1919.