Monday, January 5, 2009

Carey: An Unlikely Ally

I just finished S. Pearce Carey's biography of William Carey, and was surprised time and time again with some of the positions Carey took on issues.  It seems the new monasticism has got nothing on this guy.  Here are a few:

-  Carey refused to eat sugar because, at the time, it was grown, harvested, and produced by slaves.  

-  Carey was absorbed in the politics of his time.  As a Brit he supported the American and French revolutions.  

-  Carey was an avid gardener and horticulturist.  When he first moved to India he supplemented the money he was receiving from England by being an indigo farmer.  This infuriated the people that sent him to India, because of the potential for him to get too involved in "worldly affairs".  He later founded an agri-horticultural society in India.  He lamented that, 
"in one of the finest countries in the world the state of agriculture is so abject and degraded, and the people's food so poor and their comforts so meagre.  India seems to have almost everything to learn about the clearing of jungles, the tillage of wastes, the draining of marshes, the banking of river courses, the irrigation of large areas, the mixing of composts and manures, the rotation of crops, the betterment of tools and of transport, the breeding of stocks, the cultivation of new vegetables and herbs, the planting of orchards, the budding, grafting and pruning of fruit trees, and the forestation of timbers.  Their only orchards are clumps of mangoes crowded together without judgment.  The recent introduction of the potato and the strawberry suggest what might be done.  Many British farms have quadrupled their produce, since they pooled their information and experience through agricultural societies."  

-  6 years or so after Carey's ship had landed on India 3 families joined his mission.  The families decided that they should all live together, and hold everything in common for the sake of minimizing expense and also to promote Christian fraternity.  

-  Despite translating parts of the Bible into 35 different languages, Carey also translated many works of Indian classic literature.  One of these works is the epic Ramayana, more or less the Indian equivalent to the Iliad.  This was a projected 10 volume work, but all their work was destroyed in a fire after they had completed 3 of the volumes.  After the fire it had to be put down.  The Ramayana project was wildly controversial in England, with Baptist pastor and friend of Carey, Andrew Fuller, calling it, "that old piece of lumber."  Yet, Carey and his companions saw it as an essential element of their work.

-  During some delirium Carey was having because of a leg infection he chided his doctor for wearing a red coat, thinking him to be a military officer.  Carey yelled at the doctor, "How dare you come to me in that read coat?  Don't you know that God Almighty has decreed that all war shall be abolished."  The doctor withdrew, and returned in a black coat, but he was immediately recognized and rejected.  Though he was delirious Carey never accepted that this exclamation was out of line.  "There were truths in my delirium whose force I wish to feel, and for whose triumph to strive, to the end of my life."  

All this, and yet his name is so rarely brought into the current holism/prioritism conversation.


david gentino said...

Wow, I had no idea about this. What an incredible man.

John Paulling said...

He really was, and there is so much more. For example, his first wife died (the one that went to India with him), so he married a Danish woman who happened to be an invalid. She would go months without being able to leave the couch, so Carey would pick her up most nights and carry her to his garden. He would sit there with her, and talk for hours. Also, his relationship with the other men he lived with was remarkable. Since those men came to India 6 or so years after Carey did, it would've been understandable for him to take a kind of "house father" role, but he refused to do that. He demanded that there be complete equality amongst them, and apparently he stuck by it (his friends all attested to it).

John Paulling said...

Also, in forty years he never took a furlow.

jim thompson said...

there just aren't guys like him anymore. didn't he also love geography and maps and stuff. what about the time when he kicked everybody out of his church? so good.