Christianity in the World Today

The Literacy-Literature Movement

This special article is written forCHRISTIANITY TODAYby James W. Carty, Jr., Religious News Editor of The Nashville Tennesseean, one of the South’s outstanding newspapers. Mr. Carty has taken part in literacy-literature and adult education projects in Egypt and Tanganyika. He taught religious journalism for two years at Scarritt College, and has contributed book reviews and articles to 35 journalistic, educational and religious journals.

Christian literacy and literature represent the most promising—but probably the most underdeveloped—channels of missionary work in a period of rapid social change. In many Asian and African countries, between 70 and 90 per cent of the adults cannot read. In South America, several nations have illiteracy rates of 20 to 50 per cent and in Bolivia it reaches 80 per cent.

It is a tragic paradox that Protestant followers of Calvin and Luther have lagged in teaching millions of adults overseas to read, the main prerequisite for gaining direct access to the Bible.

Christian leaders now realize that literature is one of the main hopes of the church at this time when doors are closing to western missionaries in the non-Christian countries. Many nations are denying visas for new missionaries and they have placed restrictions on traditional mission methods of education, preaching and personal evangelism.

Moreover, new life is surging in the old faiths of the Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, and animists. Communism is spreading—and largely on the wings of attractive and appealing literature, widely distributed.

American mission boards and younger churches abroad are awakening to their mutual responsibilities to provide the written word of God for ...

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