Source Book for Sociology

Author: Kimball Young  | Date: 1934

17. Christian Missions and the Spread of Western Culture6

Organized religion has long played an important part in spreading culture traits and culture patterns from one society or world area to another. Frequently the missionary carries with him not only his religion but many other features of his own culture as well: his language, his educational devices and educational curricula, particular kinds and manner of wearing clothes, the use of firearms, and all sorts of material products. Christianity has been particularly active in foreign missions during the last century or two, with the result that the spread of Western culture over the world has been greatly enhanced by Christian missionary zeal.

Vigorous missionary movements have long been supported by Christian churches of Europe and America. In 1929 there were 12,485 Protestant American missionaries and about 500 Catholic missionaries in foreign lands, an increase, at least in the former, of about 81 per cent over the figures for 1909. Nearly every church of any strength at all has its body of foreign missionaries spreading its particular gospel to the heathen. In Eastern Asia this increase was 70 per cent, in Western Asia 45 per cent, in Africa 140 per cent, while in Oceania in 1909 there were but 32 missionaries as against 223 for 1929, an increase of nearly 600 per cent.

Missionaries engage in direct preaching of their dogmas, and in the establishment of schools, hospitals, social work, and recreational programs. As a result of this activity the number of Protestant communicants in foreign countries expanded from 1,215,000 in 1900 to 3,565,000 in 1923. The Roman Catholics report a growth from 6,540,000 in 1907 to 12,522,000 in 1927.

Huge sums of money are poured into these enterprises. Charles H. Fahs has shown that the annual receipts for 15 important American Protestant churches rose from $5,300,000 in 1901 to more than $29,800,000 in 1921, and while subsequent figures show a decline from this peak to $26,780,000 in 1928, and while the purchasing power of 44 the dollar declined somewhat in this period, the total sum spent each year is truly impressive.7

6 Selection prepared by Kimball Young.

7 These data are summarized by C. Luther Fry, "Changes in Religious Organizations," Recent Social Trends, chap. XX, pp. 1048–49.


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Chicago: Kimball Young, "17. Christian Missions and the Spread of Western Culture," Source Book for Sociology in Source Book for Sociology, ed. Kimball Young (Cincinnati: American Book Company, 1935), Original Sources, accessed September 30, 2022,

MLA: Young, Kimball. "17. Christian Missions and the Spread of Western Culture." Source Book for Sociology, in Source Book for Sociology, edited by Kimball Young, Cincinnati, American Book Company, 1935, Original Sources. 30 Sep. 2022.

Harvard: Young, K, '17. Christian Missions and the Spread of Western Culture' in Source Book for Sociology. cited in 1935, Source Book for Sociology, ed. , American Book Company, Cincinnati. Original Sources, retrieved 30 September 2022, from