Coincidentally: East Meets West

Anglo-Sino-Jewish connections form a triangle that dismays only those who sniff conspiracies in the Trilateral Commission and the fluoridation of water. I offer a few meager examples of the ties between these gifted races, like the English broadcaster who gives such useful information about the Hong Kong stock market on the Bloomberg News Radio.

The “No-Popery” excitement in London from June 2 to 8 in 1780, forever stigmatized as the Gordon Riots, sacked Catholic chapels and even attacked the Bank of England. Lord George Gordon (1751-1793), third son of the third duke of Gordon, was a man of extreme commitments, to the point of stoning Papists. He had maintained that the Established Church of England was all that Moses had really wanted religion to be, purged of the ritual idiosyncrasies of the Book of Leviticus. When reality knocked loudly enough on the parts of the brain that govern reason, Lord Gordon modified his views. Mercurial as his forbearer, the sixth earl of Huntly who converted from the Church of Rome to the Church of Scotland, Lord Gordon libeled Marie Antoinette and soon thereafter became a Jew.

The cadet branch of the Lord Gordon’s house of Huntly gave mankind Charles George Gordon (1833-1885) whose rapturous career got him the tags “Chinese Gordon” and “Gordon Pasha.” The general had been hired by the khedive Ismail Pasha to develop the equatorial province of Africa in the years from 1874 to 1876, during which time the khedive’s interest in the Suez Canal was purchased for Britain by Benjamin Disraeli. The prime minister’s father, in converting from Judaism, had taken a course opposite Lord Gordon’s, wandering through romantic deserts until he decided that Canterbury was the New Jerusalem. His son writes in his last novel, Endymion, that “the Athanasian Creed is the most splendid ecclesiastical lyric ever poured forth by the genius of man.” Young Disraeli drank so deeply draughts of Anglican waters that he vigorously opposed Gladstone’s relaxation of restrictions against Catholics. He also locked horns with Gladstone over General Gordon, whom he supported from mixed motives.

The general so distinguished himself in China that he was made a Mandarin of the First Class in 1865, the same year that the Occident saw him dubbed a Companion of the Bath. As “Chinese Gordon,” he returned as governor to the Sudan in 1877, where he confounded the slave trader Suleiman, suppressed slavery, and established British justice. Providence was bountiful in 1877, for in that very year Boris Tomashefsky (1864-1939) arrived in the United States, where he began his life’s work of translating Shakespeare’s plays into Yiddish. When “Gordon Pasha” fell at the hands of the Mandi’s men in Khartoum on January 26, 1885, Gladstone was shamed and Disraeli posthumously vindicated. Gordon was born in the year Newman wrote Lead Kindly Light and died with a copy of Newman’s Dream of Gerontius in his pocket.

Demurral from Jewish belief had different consequences in the parallel lives of Benjamin Disraeli and Karl Marx. In 1883, the apikoros Marx died while Gordon was in Palestine mistakenly thinking he had discovered the real site of Christ’s death and resurrection. “Gordon’s Calvary” saved Protestant tourists the awkwardness of milling about with Greeks and Armenians and Franciscans in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Nineteen years earlier, as Tomashefsky was being born, Marx held his first public meeting to organize the International Workingmen’s Association.

A random set of threads finally forms an astonishing pattern with the birth in Anhwei of Feng Yu-hsiang in 1880, being both the 100th anniversary of the Gordon Riots and the year of Disraeli’s resignation as First Lord of the Treasury. Having converted from Confucianism, Feng was known as the “The Christian General” in counterpoint to “Chinese Gordon.” And a very good general he was, too: A Field Marshall in 1923, in the following year he defeated Wu P’ei-fu and Hsuan T’ung and was largely responsible for the presidency of Tuan Chi-jui. Feng died as the nationhood of Israel was being proclaimed.

Henceforth, the reader should not be able to see an English cottage in some Cotswold dale without imagining pagodas in jasmine gardens and synagogues in busy byways. When Anglo-Saxons and Chinese and Jews can form a fellowship of mind and heart, the mental lights and spiritual powers let loose may give new meaning to the weary word “civilization.”


  • Fr. George W. Rutler

    Fr. George W. Rutler is a contributing editor to Crisis and pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. A four-volume anthology of his best spiritual writings, A Year with Fr. Rutler, is available now from the Sophia Institute Press.

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