Imperial Reliance: A Comparative Missiological Consideration of Emperor Figures and Missionaries in Christianity and Buddhism

Ken Bieber, Jaco Beyers


The institution of formal empire is not limited to studies of the past, but shows itself as a present possibility. This article employs the new discipline of comparative missiology in order to examine the relationship between missionary religions and empire. As Buddhism and Christianity parallel one another as two global religions that have spread beyond their communities of origin due to the sending of proselytizers, or missionaries, they have relied on the frameworks, features, and power dynamics of empire, whether intentionally or not. Early in their respective histories, each tradition had an emperor who converted to the faith and then promoted the religion by patronizing missionaries. This dynamic continues in the example of the propulsion of the figure of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama onto the world stage. The historical examples in both the ancient and recent past serve to demonstrate the reliance of the missionary endeavors on empire for the spread of their respective religions.


comparative missiology; empire; Constantine; Ashoka; Erik Prince; Donald Trump; Dalai Lama; Xi Jinping

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