American Protestant missions and the Vietnam War
The thesis examines two American Protestant Missions - the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) and the Mennonites - in the light of the Vietnam War. The CMA was chosen because it was the oldest and largest Protestant Mission in Vietnam. It was a typical American evangelical mission which mentally divided the world into two spheres: the realm of the spirit and the realm of matter. Therefore it understood its primary task as spiritual: to verbalize the Christian message with the hope of establishing a Vietnamese Church. It accomplished this in the birth of the Evangelical Church of Vietnam in 1927. The missionaries assumed a role of non-involvement in politics but had no qualms about revering the American government and its policies, or in being patriotic citizens. This was a paradox. The Mennonites stood essentially in the evangelical tradition (Anabaptist) but stressed service to all people in need; suffering as an essential mark of a Christian and the necessity for a peace witness. They entered Vietnam in 1954, specifically to administer relief to the refugees who had fled from the North. The Mennonites did not compartmentalize the world into two neat spheres as they believed that the affairs and dictates of the state had implications for the Church. Thus it had to contend with any moral or ethical issue. The Vietnam War brought to light the differences of these two Missions. The CMA believed in the war and identified with the American war effort in order to pursue its spiritual task of preaching the gospel. The Mennonites believed that the CMA's close identification with the American war effort distorted the image of Christian missions. They boldly testified to the evils of the war but recognized their primary task as service to the suffering people. The tragedy of the American missions in Vietnam was the failure of both Missions to understand the other's beliefs and premise. The differences between the CMA and the Mennonites and the tensions that arose between them created the basis for a comparative study.