Did Christian Missionary Activity Have A Modernising Tendency

“ Modernization implies change: frequently understood as coming to conform to new thoughts or ways, a signifier of transition. ” ( Study Guide 2, p. 14 ) . For the white European missionaries it was the confrontation with the ‘other ‘ , the really nature of the religious faith of the indigens that presented them with the challenge of Christianizing without patronizing and minimizing the civilization of the other.

In the context of 19th missional activity in West Africa, modernization for African merely meant: ‘equipment to work out the jobs and run into the challenges of modern times, with a position to guarantee all-around advancement in future ‘ .

Shri Dattopant Thengadi, on hypertext transfer protocol: //www.hindunet.com/home/general_sites/bsrinivas/modwest.html ) .

In this essay I will seek to demo that the part to modernization from Christian missional activity to Africa ‘s economic, politic and societal life in the nineteenth century fluctuated largely harmonizing to the involvements of the former instead than the latter and that the ‘double vision ‘ of the missionaries coined by Anna Johnston which she understands as being “ the coincident belittling of non-Christian civilizations and defense mechanism of their capacity for betterment ” resulted in frequently controversial actions and ultimate treachery of their political orientation. ( Anna Johston, on www.jstor.org/stable/4142021 ) .

I will seek foremost to lucubrate on what the ‘missionary dual vision ‘ agencies in the context I have chosen which is the Slave Coast and Niger part of West Africa in the nineteenth century. I will besides concentrate on Education chiefly and endeavor to show what all the chief agents involved in the missional activity understood and desired from western modernization.

Harmonizing to Comaroff, the industrial revolution had forged the peculiar sociological context from which arose the clerical ground forces of Nonconformist missionaries to the settlements. Their place as the “ dominated fraction of a dominant category ” within British society was to hold a profound consequence on the function of these work forces in the imperial strategy of things. But more pervasively, the fact that they came from this context, from a societal niche wrought by the procedure of category formation and by an ethos of upward mobility, was besides to impact their mundane traffics with “ the Other ” . ( Comaroff, 1991, p19 ) .

With its roots steadfastly in the lower to middle societal orders the campaign to salvage the pagan and work for the resurgence of the true church of God was to pave the manner for the land of God.

Evangelical motions were causes and effects of European modernness replying the call for the constitution of the Empire of God and the regeneration of Africa through the Christianisation and lift of its people to western criterions.

The chief end for those non conformists who fought to mend the wickedness committed by European against the continent of Africa and its people was the regeneration of Africa and the redemption of its people through conveying to them the Gospel of God and consequently civilization.

Henry Venn born into a prima evangelical Anglican household was one of the most influential statemens of the nineteenth century and an fervent advocator of the ‘indigenous church ‘ controversy for a church that would self propagate, ego finance and ego govern itself and believer in ‘racial equality ‘ ( Olsen, 2003, p3 )

Yet, the general consensus amongst the missionaries was a profound contempt and incomprehension towards the indigens ‘ faiths and it would take until the terminal of the nineteenth century to recognize the importance for missionaries to hold some thoughts of the beliefs and imposts of the indigens they were to change over.

The job of comparatively hapless instruction of the aspiring missionaries had been of some concern to Venn but they all had an ceaseless committedness to rational self-reformation and “ what they wished to see was a orderly merger of three idealized universes: the scientific, capitalist age in its most ideologically rosaceous signifier, wherein persons were free to break themselves and to draw a bead on to of all time greater highs ; an idyllic countryside in which, aboard agricultural estates, hardworking provincials, equipped with suited tools, might bring forth gainfully for the market ; and a autonomous Empire of God, whose temporal personal businesss would stay firmly under the oculus, if non the day-to-day direction, of godly authorization ” . ( Comaroff, 1991, p 59 ) .

Missions abroad were expensive and lobbying for the evangelisation of the indigens of Africa demanded a changeless flux of information from the terrain to feed the turning appetency of the British Population for these hapless enslaved and wretched animals.

Rev. T. B. Freeman on one of his Tourss back in England addressed the church assembly in those footings: “ the victory of the Cross amongst the plants of pagan religion ” , a address that describes the attitude and feelings of Evangelists at the clip: “ His head had frequently been pained and disheartened when he attempted to pull a comparing between the province of those to whom the blest word of the Saviour had been made known and the atrocious province of those to whom it had non. Nothing could be more painful to a Christian head that scenes of this sort. And what could be more dismaying to see in the thick of these just parts, work forces who are incapable of organizing any thought of the beauties of nature around them, ignorant of the God who made them, and alternatively of adoring the Saviour and offering up the incense of supplication amidst these bright and beautiful scenes, their psyches cleave to the dust and they bow down to idols, the work of work forces ‘s custodies ” . Scenes picturing blood thirsty and despotic native heads, greedy and demonic imposts followed and were the prototype of the evangelical discourse on Africans ” . ( unknown writer, at hypertext transfer protocol: //find.galegroup.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk/bncn/downloadDocument.do? contentSet=LTO & A ; workId= & A ; inPS=true & A ; tabID=T012 & A ; prodId=BNCN & A ; docId=R3212007573 & A ; actionCmd=DO_DOWNLOAD_DOCUMENT & A ; callistoContentSet= & A ; userGroupName=tou & A ; downloadFormat=PDF & A ; pageIndex=0 & A ; docPage=article.

The construct of modernization and regeneration of Africa which was at the base of the evangelical motion inspired the creative activity of the black settlements of Sierra Leone and Liberia and their Christian population have played, under the counsel of the white missionaries, an indispensable function in the extension of Christianity and the airing of western values in West Africa.

Sierra Leone was the first West African topographic point to foster a black Christian community who kept turning from a changeless inflow through the nineteenth century of slaves from ships intercepted by the British Squadron Patrol and the Gallic fleet operating in the West seashore and other freed slaves from Brazil and the new universe. “ Although it was typical in many respects of the West African provinces, it was untypical in that it exerted a great influence on the others. It illustrates good both the restrictions and successes of missional work in the part ” . ( Lindenfeld, 2005, p 352 ) . Their peculiar state of affairs that set them apart from their native brethren made them the perfect campaigners for the realization of the theory of the ‘indigene church ‘ which was by and large prevailing amongst the non conformist during the first portion of the nineteenth century. Their engagement in prophesying and distributing Christianity amongst their brethren was priceless. In reprobating and contending bondage Christianity “ appealed ab initio to the people who were marginalized in one manner or another, as Chinua Achebe ‘s fictional history, Things Fall Apart, portrays. this meant an entreaty to adult females that increased over clip ; among the Yoruba, for illustration, three-fourthss of those who came to one mission seemingly to get away persecution were women.108 The really prominence of the recaptured ex-slaves ( or “ Saros, ” as they were called when they returned ) as missionaries indicates the importance that victimization could play in the procedure of going a Christian. One of the most outstanding and god-fearing African Christians of the 19th century, James “ Holy ” Johnson, was born a duplicate boy of two receptive slave ” . ( lindenfeld, 2005, p 360 )

But the ultimate end was to travel where no white adult male or western authorities had gone earlier and they wanted their campaign for evangelisation to travel farther inland transporting the Gospel of God to the pagan, like the apostles had done before them.

The first portion of the nineteenth century saw a coevals of missionaries unprepared, uneducated and full of the duty for Christianity to liberate the Africans through faith, moral and the acceptance in all to go Western African Christians.

Commiseration and complete belittling of the civilization of the native societies they met along, they, for the bulk could non grok the specialness of the pagan ‘s ‘religion ‘ .

“ Spirit ownership was an about cosmopolitan phenomenon of African faith, an on-going revelatory experience. There was nil seen as evil about it, it was merely as such a primary manner ( though there were of import other ways excessively, largely manual ) for communicating between the seeable and unseeable universes, aˆ¦ Religion was aˆ¦ much less a affair of divinity than of ritual, rites intended to command the present and safeguard the hereafter in both the societal and physical orders: rites of induction and affinity, of birthrate and rain, of illness and decease. ” ( Study guide 3, p 19 ) .

Yet evil is what they were seeing and harmonizing to a long tradition in the Christian tradition of fighting they set to destruct and eliminate those ‘insidious forces of demonic immorality ‘ operating within the pagan.

In disputing the really nucleus of African society, particularly on facets like Circumcision and polygamy, they could non but make tenseness and the breakage of traditional society ties.

They set to alter the person, his values, beliefs, imposts and domestic life. Christian regulations and ethical motives were rough:

In the instance of Congregationalists which I will take as a common footing for morality and behavior for all other non conformist denominations at work in West Africa the bottom line was:

“ The entry to the congregational order was equated with obeisance to God: Christian life de facto boiled down to the observation of regulations that, ideally, were internalised. Membership in the Christian fold was confined to a individual “ who is baptized on the name of the Trinity, who lives harmonizing to the Gospel, and who obeys the order valid in the fold ” . ( Study Guide 3, p95 ) .

Entire negation of the African native population civilization and beliefs were advocated every bit good as cutting societal ties with their non Christian household ( “ although rupture with household and line of descent imposts might be sustainable for a piece under the first flower of transition, but prove much more hard to continue at critical times such as at matrimony or decease in the household ” . ( Lindenfeld, 2005, p363 ) . nocturnal dances, or any other associated activities were forbidden because their practicians were step ining with the occult.

Insistence on the slang was non destined to enrich the corresponding native linguistic communication and promote civilization and integrity but instead: “ grew out of the missional desire to develop a group of catechists who could pass on with the local people in the slang and would non exhibit pretenses to European civilization which would estrange them from the nonreader multitudes ” ( Berman, Dec. , 1974, p 530 )

As first contact with the European universe and Christianity, they came to be associated with modernization, instruction and engineering.

“ Elementss and facets of western civilization were greatly desired, whether in the signifier of acquisition of western warfare engineering for the many warring folks involved in differences, conquerings and break one’s back trade or in the signifier of instruction and engineering, the acquisition of English, the medium of the governing European elite which was the linguistic communication of power ” . ( Berman, 1974, p 531 ) .

Education had become a ‘laissez-passer ‘ for the missionaries to work their manner inland. Their place between the turning influence of the British authoritiess ‘ influence and involvements in the part, the representatives of traditional African society, involvements in trade ( including their ain as missions frequently needed to be self financed ) and their ain evangelical involvement could non be done by anything but political machinations and confederations and the usage of a population that was drawn more and more into entry to the mighty British Empire.

The work on the creative activity of the brotherhood IBO is every bit an illustration of the importance attached to the production of common Bible interlingual renditions and catechisms. Another, moralistic, ground for this involvement in linguistics in line with what Johnston call: “ defense mechanism of their capacity for betterment ” was that “ African grammars and literature would show the indispensable humanity of African linguistic communications and African peoples. African linguistics would therefore function in the human-centered run against the slave trade which was being waged in Britain ” .

“ The impression of the one shared Igbo linguistic communication was subsequently taken up by others who began to advance the grasp and usage of Igbo linguistic communication and civilization ” .

It has to be said that the promotion of common linguistic communications to propagate the message of the Gospel and reading and authorship was besides to hold a profound impact on the consciousness of Africans and their societies.

“ In making the first written versions of many linguistic communications, missionaries exerted a enormous influence that went good beyond transition. As in all written linguistic communications, the act of transliteration elevated peculiar idioms to cultural primacy, and contributed in the long tally to a sense of national individualities ” . ( Lindenfeld, 2005, p 354 )

But “ The desire of the emerging African educated category to come in the elect ranks of the bureaucratism and take part in cardinal political establishments and the constitution of European-style “ autonomous ” was cardinal in the 19th century ” . Nwowa, 1999, p 108 ) .

When “ missionaries proved loath to mind the desires of their parishioners ( and possible converts ) , Africans seized the enterprise and organized their ain schools. Such was the instance at Cape Coast ( Ghana ) in 1876 when a secondary school under the nominal sponsorship of the Wesleyan Methodist mission opened its doors ” .

On the whole, higher instruction was denied to Africans and “ as quinine became effectual as an counterpoison against malaria, and as colonial subjection subsequently became inevitable, colonial functionaries began to experience that there was no demand for the continued enlargement of the educated category. The educated category of Africans was shortly to be seen as unwanted ” . ( Nwauwa, 1999, p113 ) .

African Christian missionaries every bit good as their co-workers Western Indians besides found for themselves that alternatively of being seen in the spread of western civilization and Christianity both mission and colonial decision makers had began to pass on them more and more to junior places in the colonial order and experience inequality of wage and rights. ( Seraile, 1972, p2 ) .

Johnston besides a clergy adult male and Yoruba alumnus of the Fourah bay college wrote shortly after Crowther ‘s decease: “ In the work of promoting Africans, foreign instructors have ever proceeded with their work on the premise that the Negro or African is in every one of his normal susceptiblenesss an inferior race, and that it is needed in everything to give him a foreign theoretical account to copy ” . They were standing between two extremist civilizations and different universes Harmonizing to him, racism in the mission churches had clouded and hindered the edifice of the land of God. It must be said that missionaries have been accuse of distributing

“ .

In the defeat experienced by the educated category in their attempts to set up universities in West Africa, it is clear that: “ European missionaries and Africans frequently had differing ends. The former tended to presume that Africans would profit most from proficient and practical topics such as agribusiness or trades, while the latter frequently desired European humanistic and literary instruction ” .

Inland, African traditional society had no less chiseled thoughts refering the economic utility of missionaries and missional instruction.

“ King Eyo Honesty II, the Efik swayer of Creek Town in the Niger Delta during the 1840s, sought missionaries to assist him procure control over a rival town whose wealth and moneymaking trading stations he had long coveted. In 1848 the head of Bonny, another of import trading town in the Delta, wrote to Liverpool inquiring for missionaries. These swayers were really specific in their outlooks of the missionaries, who should “ be capable of teaching our immature people in the English linguistic communication. And so enthusiastic were the Delta leaders to hold missionaries, who they felt would supply accomplishments which would better their commercial places, that they even agreed to the payment of one-half of the initial cost of mission constitutions ” . ( Berman, 1974, p 529 ) .

In 1874 the Yoruba Bishop Samuel Crowther proceedingss to London Church Missionary Society ( CMS ) central office that the trading head of the Niger Delta, who had solicited missionaries, did non desire them to leave spiritual direction ; instead, they wanted missionaries to learn their kids “ how to estimate palm oil and other mercantile concern every bit shortly as possible “ ( Berman, 1974, p 528 ) .

In West Africa, before the Great Scramble and the start of the colonization, the non conformist Protestant denominations had managed to maintain a comparative independency from the British Government ( which in any instance corresponded with their accent on separation of church and province ) every bit good as profiting from their support and strength on the terrain as a bargaining power to derive influence and entree to the assorted and diverse type of African societies bing inland and on the seashore. In their committedness to assist raise the African to western criterions of civilization and supply him with an economic system that would easy render bondage unneeded they brought on Africans extraordinary alterations to their economic system, profiting a minority and immersing a bulk in drastic socio economic alterations.

Imbued of the high quality of their faith and civilization, every bit full of commiseration and disdain for the ‘other ‘ , they strove to do converts whatever the cost. Of class, it must be acknowledged that manners of spreading Christianity and attacks to native civilization varied greatly from one person to the other. Indeed some missionaries, work forces and adult females have dedicated their lives to Africa and have succeeded in set uping a true and equal relationship with the people they came to change over.

“ Reflecting on the manner Christianity was changed doctrinally and denomination-ally in assorted states of Europe, Lord Birkenhead one time said that it is non faith that changes a people ‘s character but a people that change the character of the faith they adopt. In Anglophone Africa he might hold good reflected on the paradox that Christianity changed the educated African elite while the less educated Africans changed Christianity ” . ( Subramaniam, 1979, p131 )

Cw: 2005

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