Saturday, March 7, 2009


In the mid 19th century, missionaries from the West traveled throughout the world sharing Christianity and their faith in Jesus Christ. Missionaries from many denominations also entered what was then Siam and established a significant presence in the country. Today, Thailand boasts many different Christian denominations, has large Catholic presence and of course has literally hundreds of Buddhist temples and shrines.

Because of the huge cultural differences between the east and the west and the strength of the Buddhist religion in Thailand, many of the early missionaries found evangelism very difficult. The language alone was enough to slow down many of these intrepid Christians. This, coupled with the restrictions which were placed on the earliest missionaries meant that they were not free to travel anywhere at any time without the permission of the ruling monarch.

Unfortunately, some of the missionaries tended to take a rather unilateral approach as to what was truth and what was error and since error was never in their thinking about themselves, a missionary might deliberately or inadvertently antagonize those he needed to placate in order to open up areas for evangelism.

Still, the missionaries persevered, people of Siam were 'converted' to Christianity. Many of the college age converts were assisted to attend institutions of higher learning in America or Europe which provided better understanding between Christians of both countries.

Early Christian churches in Thailand were deliberately designed with three things in mind. First, the churches needed to be simple structures due attempts to construct them quickly and get the Thai people attending services. Sometimes East and West collided over the issues of location and design, since there was a great deal of spirit worship in the rural areas of Siam and the young believers did not want to offend the spirits that the missionaries disdained.

Second, the churches in Thailand tended to be built as much as possible to look like the New England structures which the missionaries were familiar with. Again, this design may not have been the wisest choice because of the vast difference in climate. New England church buildings did not have to allow for air flow during hot and humid weather, nor deal with torrential rains during monsoon season.

Third, the missionaries felt that they must make their churches as different as possible from the Buddhist temples and shrines to demonstrate the differences between Christianity and Buddhism. This let to some difficulties with earlier believers, who believed in showing reverence by providing highly decorated and expensive statues and accouterments in the worship structures.

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