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“The Peaceful Conquest of the World”* Circa 1929

“The business of philanthropy is thinking through the way to change something. It’s just this simple: You have some money, and you have some things you’d like to see different.”
(Bill Gates, Sr., at a reception at the recent Aspen Institute gatherings,
quoted in Bob Buford’s recent newsletter)

To understand the significance of this year’s Aspen Institutes which were attended by evangelical leaders (see Herescope post 7/21/06), view this webpage from last year when Rick Warren attended. This is a world of elite thinkers, political strategists, corporate executives, bankers and philanthropists. (Note a photo of Bob Buford of the Leadership Network and his wife on the opening page.)

Truly there is “no new thing under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The foundation for religious leaders interlocking arms with the pillars of the corporate/philanthropic world was actually laid several generations ago. What follows is a brief but eye-opening history.

With the rise of the 20th Century there was a new entity in the world — the Corporation. This new era was characterized by excesses, abuses, and monopolies. The rich families controlling the burgeoning corporations soon learned that their money could be used in creative ways to amplify their profit-making goals. They began to put their family fortunes into philanthropic activities. In turn these philanthropic activites would benefit their financial goals, and further the extension of their empires.

The Carnegies, Rockefellers, DuPonts, Fords, Morgans, etc. all began to put their money into charitable operations that would extend their political, corporate, social and ideological goals. For the Rockefeller family especially this included the funding of missionary pursuits.

The following historical account is taken from Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil by Gerard Colby and Charlotte Dennett (HarperCollins, 1995, pp. 32-34). As you read this, note the stunning parallels to the current activities of marketplace “apostolic” transformation, Bill Gates, Rick Warren, mission dominionists and the New Apostolic Reformation.

“In December 1929, Junior [John D. Rockefeller, Jr., ed.] received an urgent letter from one of his more trusted envoys. John Mott had just returned from a tour of Protestant missions in Asia, and he was quite agitated. Mott was a millenarian who hoped to hasten the Second Coming by evangelizing the world ‘in this generation.’ But he was not a Fundamentalist; he believed that science was the probing of God’s mind, and the student proselytizing he had witnessed among Fundamentalist missionaries in China deeply worried him. Unless more tolerance and social concern were shown by American missionaries throughout the Third World, the missionaries would find themselves facing the same kind of angry nationalistic reaction he just witnessed.

“After popular revolutions had broken out in both Mexico and China in 1910, Junior sent Mott to set up a China Medical Board to blend medical science and religion into a powerful new institution, the Peking Union Medical College. ‘If we wait until China becomes stable,’ Mott told the members of Junior’s China Medical Board at the board’s first meeting, ‘we lose the greatest opportunity that we shall ever have.’ Mott understood that the Rockefeller fortune could shape the political future of the world’s most populous nation. ‘That nation will have only one first generation in its modern era,’ he wrote after the proclamation of the Chinese Republic in 1911. ‘The first wave of students to receive the modern training… will set the standards and the pace.’

“To realize his vision, Mott becamse a shrewd fund-raiser among rich men like the Rockefellers. He incorporated the sales pitch of a Wall Street broker. ‘To ask money of a man for the purposes of the world-wide Kingdom of God is not to ask him a favor,’ he once wrote. ‘It is to give him a superb opportunity of investing his personality in eternal shares.’ Money was ‘so much stored-up personality,’ he argued, accumulated days of human labor that survived its owners and therefore could be used after death to extend the owner’s life on earth.

This concept of the transubstantiation of money into an immortal soul bore a striking resemblance to the family’s rationale for a perpetual Rockefeller Foundation; indeed, Standard Oil was Mott’s organizational model. He incorporated the culture and methods of corporations into the missionary movement. Over the years, millions of Rockefeller dollars poured into Mott’s pursuit of a streamlined, efficient evangelism.

“Two significant factors lured Mott into locking himself firmly within the Rockefeller orbit. One was the global vision of Senior’s [John D. Rockefeller, Sr., ed.] closest adviser, Baptist minister Frederick Gates. The other was China and its huge potential harvest of souls, which had obsessed the mind of American Protestantism since its first missionaries boarded the clipper ships of the China trade sailing out of New England’s harbors.

“Gates had been captivated by the thought of the family fortune moving into foreign markets. With Standard Oil taking the lead, he argued that the advance of the American corporation represented the Will of God. Standard Oil’s kerosene had literally lit the lamps of China since the 1890s, inspiring the company to commit its own form of blasphemy by lifting its product’s slogan from the New Testament: ‘the Light of the World.’

“To Gates, the growing cultural interdependence of the global market and the accompanying spread of ‘English-speaking’ Protestant missions bore evidence of ‘one great, preconceived plan.’ A ‘study of the map of the world’ disclosed to the cleric that the different missions were really a single ‘invading army,’ whose ‘masterfulness of strategy and tactics… [was] controlled and directed by one master mind,” God.

“If Senior was put off by this unreconstructed Calvinist doctrine of predestination, Gates’s empahsis on the relationship between missionary efforts and commercial conquest had a more practical saving grace:

“‘Quite apart from the question of persons converted, the mere commercial results of missionary efforts to our own land is worth, I had almost said, a thousand-fold every year of what is spent on missions….

“‘Missionaries and missionary schools are introducing the application of modern science, steam and electric power, modern agricultural machinery and modern manufacture into foreign lands. The result will be eventually to multiply the productive power of foreign countries many times. This will enrich them as buyers of American products and enrich us as importers of theirproducts. We are only in the very dawn of commerce, and we owe that down, with all its promise to the channels opened up by Christian missionaries…. The effect of the missionary enterprise of the English speaking peoples will be to bring them the peaceful conquest of the world.'” [all emphases added]

The Truth:

“Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.” (Isaiah 56:11)

*actual subtitle of this excerpted section from Thy Will Be Done.