HerbSwanson.com ...A Resource for the Study of the Thai Church



The quotations found here are from a variety of sources, and most of them have something to do with history, church history, or the church in Thailand. While the titles I have assigned to each quotation are in alphabetical order, there is otherwise no particular rhyme nor reason to the order. They are simply statements that I find meaningful, insightful, or even just worth a chuckle, and I hope you too will find meaning in some of them and maybe get a smile out of some others. Enjoy!

Now, while I have your attention, this is a good place to pound the pulpit about the proper use of the words "quotation" and "quote." The word "quotation" is a noun; "quote" is a verb. It is a sloppy, lazy, ignorant, and irreverant usage of the English language to use "quote" when "quotation" is meant. On the day when all the creatures in the Garden were named, God gave the divine name of "quotation" to a "passage that is quoted" ( American Heritage Dictionary ). God did not, most particularly, call "quotation" by that ugly, benighted misnomer,"quote." This section of herbswanson.com , therefore, does not contain "quotes" because "quote" is an action, not a thing. We do not, that is, quote quotes but quote quotations.

Aim of the Church

The aim of the Church is not to win the world, but rather to identify with the world, even to loose itself in the world, in such a way as to bring nearer the kingdom in which the distinction of Church and world will be lost. What is important is the manifesting and propagating of Christ's self-giving love, and the awakening of this in ever wider areas of human society.

John Macquarrie

Principles of Christian Theology, 393.


Nothing is so delicate and fugitive by its very nature as a beginning.

Teilhard de Chardin

The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1959), 120.

The Bible & Being Better

It seems to be a good book; strange that the white people are not better after having had it so long.

Chief Yonaguska

Quoted in William G. McLoughlin, The Cherokees and Christianity, 1794-1870 (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1994), 12.


The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network. And this network of references is not the same in the case of a mathematical treatise, a textual commentary, a historical account, and an episode in a novel cycle; the unity of the book, even in the sense of a group of relations, cannot be regarded as identical in each case. The book is not simply the object that one holds in one's hands; and it cannot remain within the little parallelepiped that contains it: its unity is variable and relative. As soon as one questions that unity, it loses its self-evidence; it indicates itself, constructs itself, only on the basis of a complex field of discourse.

Michel Foucault

The Archaelogy of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language Translated by A. M. Sheridan Smith. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1971), 23.

Christmas in Prison

For a Christian there is nothing peculiarly difficult about Christmas in a prison cell. I daresay it will have more meaning and will be observed with greater sincerety here in this prison than in places where all that survives of the feast is its name. That misery, suffering, poverty, loneliness, helplessness and guilt look very different to the eyes of God from what they do to us, that God should come down to the very place which we usually abhor, that Christ was born in a stable because there was no room for him in the inn--these are things which a prisoner can understand better than anyone else.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Letter, dated Advent Sunday, 28 November 1943. In Letters and Papers from Prison (New York: Macmillan, 1962), 77-78.

Doing Good in Siam

I am heartily sick of trying to do good among persons of high rank in Siam. My business it seems to me is properly with the poor and the helpless.

Dr. Dan Beach Bradley

"Journal of Doct. Bradley at Bangkok," Missionary Herald 33, 4 (April 1837): 141.


Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires.

Edward W. Said

"Orientalism 25 Years Later," Counterpunch.org website, 4 August 2003.


It is worth keeping firmly in mind that we almost always wish to say more than the available evidence actually allows. These are urges which, if not resisted, will almost surely lead our studies astray.

Jonathan A. Silk

"What, If Anything, is Mahayana Buddhism? Problems of Definitions and Classifications," Numen 49, 4 (October 2002), 367.

Great Empires & Little Minds

A great Empire and little minds go ill together.

Edmund Burke

In an address to the House of Commons, March 1775. Quoted in Don Cook, The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Coloniess, 1760-1785 (New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995), 5.

History & Irony

History is replete with irony, at least for historians with ironic sensibilities.

Stephen Prothero

American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon. (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003), 106.

Heaven of Freedom

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depths of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action? Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Rabindranath Tagore in Gitanjali


I go to Asia, 'you are there!' I go to Africa, to the Americas, to Europe, 'you are there!' I visit the New York Harlem Children's Hospital's AIDS ward. Among these suffering little ones, 'you are there!' I go to the Sing Sing Prison north of New York City along the Hudson River, 'you are there!' I sit in the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur among Muslims, 'you are there!' I sit among the faithful in the Royal Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, 'you are there!' I visit the graveyard inside the 'township' in South Africa to say my prayer for the little children whose lives were snatched away by the evil apartheid policy, 'you are there!' I go to a Tokyo maternity hospital to say a word of joy to a woman who just became a mother, 'you are there!' Even in the Nazi Auschwitz camp 'you are there!' says the survivor Elie Wiesel (NIGHT). In astronomy 'one light year' means the distance of 6 trillion miles. You are the creator of the universe of many billion light-years. But at the same time you 'formed my inward parts, you knit me together in my mother's womb' (Ps. 139:13). What an awesome surprise!

Kosuke Koyama

Keynote Address, Programme for Theology & Cultures (PTCA) Consultation, Chiang Mai, 10-18 January 2000.


Gravity doesn't care.

C. J. Cherryh

Defender (New York: Daw Books, 2001), 248.

Herb's Benediction

Go out into the world in peace; have courage; hold on to what is good; return no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint-hearted; support the weak; help the suffering. Honor every person that you meet. and Love and Serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Herb Swanson

Adapted from the Presbyterian Worship Book and the Bible. Used as interim pastor at St. John United Church, Columbia, Maryland.

Judging Missions in Siam

Neither Catholic nor Protestant mission work should be judged by the number of their nominal converts but by their imponderable and far-reaching influence. The expenditure of energy, time and money are obviously far out of proportion to the tangible results.

Virginia Thompson

Virginia Thompson, Thailand: The New Siam (New York:Macmillan Company, 1941), 672.

McGilvarys' Motivation

We were willing to do all we could for the bodies of the people and to advance their temporal interest. But still all the king's money would not have induced us to come here for any other purpose than to teach Christianity.

Daniel McGilvary

From the Records of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, McGilvary to Irving, 24 March 1870, v. 3.

More Asian, More Thai

Christianity here in Thailand should be more Asian, more Thai, and it should show more respect for Thai culture.

Sulak Sivaraksa

In a comment to The International Conference on Religion & Globalization, Payap University, July 27 - August 2, 2003.

Postmodern Challenge to the Church

It appears that postmodernism increasingly represents the cultural air that we breathe. The challenges before the church are becoming clearer. It will either learn to contextualize the gospel and church into this new cultural setting, or it will find itself increasingly marginalized and irrelevant to the next generation. While generational adjustments have always been somewhat normative for the church, it appears that the scope of change in the present shift is calling for some fundamental rethinking of how we understand both the gospel and the church.

Craig Van Gelder

"Postmodernism and Evangelicals: A Unique Missiological Challenge at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century," Missiology 30, 4 (October 2002): 492.

Presbyterians are Tough

We know the Presbyterians are tough
because their way of life is rough;
they know that sin and death are fated
and all their acts predestinated.


Quoted by Edmund W. Starling, Starling of the White House (New York : Simon and Schuster, 1946).

Religious Harmony

We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.


Buddhadasa, Christianity and Buddhism , 2nd ed. (Bangkok Life Mission, 1977), 15. Quoted in Peter A. Jackson, Buddhadasa: Theravada Buddhism and Modernist Reform in Thailand (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Press, 2003), 93.


The sweetest and most inoffensive path of life leads through the avenues of science and learning; and whoever can either remove any obstructions in this way, or open up any new prospect, ought so far to be esteemed a benefactor to mankind. And though these researches may appear painful and fatiguing, it is with some minds as with some bodies, which being endowed with vigorous and florid health, require severe exercise, and reap a pleasure from what, to the generality of mankind, may seem burdensome and laborious. Obscurity, indeed, is painful to the mind as well as to the eye; but to bring light from obscurity, by whatever labour, must needs be delightful and rejoicing.

David Hume

An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Seven Blunders of the World

Wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principles.


Quoted in Wesley Ariarajah, "Religious Diversity and Interfaith Relations in a Global Age," a Paper delivered to the International Conference on Religion and Globalization, Payap University, Chiang Mai, July 2003.

Third Culture Kids

David Pollock, Executive Director of Interaction, Inc., defines a "TCK" as "an individual who, having spent a significant part of developmental years in a culture other than that of his/her parents' develops a sense of relationship to all cultures while not having full ownership in any?" a Third Culture Kid. This condition often caused me to feel separated, so different that it was embarrasing. Yet, as I matured, and, finally, now I can say that there is a transcendent relationship, a condition giving meaning, foundation, energy, and peace with who I am."

Helen Knox Murphy

Common Nobility: A Family Story (Houston: Kitchen Table Top Publishers, 2002), vii. The author is the daughter of H. Gaylord & Lela Knox, missionaries to Thailand, 1920-1941, 1947-1961.


Truth of any kind is food for the soul.

Rev. Jesse Caswell

letter dated 1 October 1841, printed in Missionary Herald 38, 7 (July 1842): 281.