Full Text for Church History 3 - Volume 14 - Colonialism and Missions (Video)

ROUGHLY EDITED COPY CH3-014 PROFESSOR LAWRENCE REST PROFESSOR WILL SCHUMACHER Captioning Provided By: Caption First, Inc. P.O. Box 1924 Lombard, IL 60148 800-825-5234 ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. ***** >> PAUL: Perhaps my awareness of the history in Haiti has made me sensitive to this, but I can't help but notice that there is a correlation, at least in time period, between some of the mission activity that you were describing and the rise of European exploration and colonialism. Is this correlation direct? Were the early missions connected somehow with the expansion of European colonial power? >> SPEAKER: Paul, that's a really perceptive question. And the answer is yes, absolutely. Missions were connected with the expansion of European colonial power in several ways. Let me start with the most obvious. I've already referred to explorers like Columbus and Vasco da Gama, who took with them Christianity, sometimes took with them priests. The arrival of these priests didn't always make an immediate impact. Obviously, there are barriers of language and culture that have to be overcome to some extent. But the long-term result was that as European colonial influence made itself felt, Christianity was also established. The rulers who were in charge of these colonies understood themselves as Christian. They offered official protection to Christian missionaries, the priests and monks who went as missionaries, and they offered official support in the form of money and other kinds of aid to make it possible for these Christian missionaries to do their work in these areas that came under European control. So yes, there's clearly a connection between the expansion of European colonial control and the Christian mission. For another thing, the European rulers who acquired these new colonies and established new trade routes understood it as part of their responsibility as rulers to see to the Christian or spiritual care of peoples in their territories. This had been true in Europe that the ruler had a responsibility for the spiritual well-being of his people, and it became true as European rulers extended their influence to other places around the world. So you have at least three different kinds of European influence being extended in the world at the same time. One is, of course, the economic influence as trade routes were established. And this was certainly prominent in the minds of European rulers, the exploration of the Americas, after all, was largely one big treasure hunt. They were looking for gold. The second kind of influence was military influence. European armies equipped with European military technology, including gunpowder, were sent to protect European economic interests so the economic interests and military interests certainly overlapped. And with those, came the influence of Christianity to some extent protected by the European military power and in other ways working against that as we saw in the case of Bartholomew de las Casas. My point is that this relationship of Christian mission work with the extension of European colonial power is a really complex relationship. It's not as simple as saying the Europeans went and conquered people and, of course, made them Christians. That did happen. It's also the case that missionaries would sometimes work against the evils of colonial domination. They were frequently critical of the slave trade, for instance, although they didn't stamp it out. They often would stand up for the rights of the people who were subject to European rulers, although they didn't really question the legitimacy of the whole program of colonialism and extending European rule. So it's not surprising that the Haitians that you know have some memory or echo of this connection between colonialism, colonial domination on the one hand, and Christianity on the other. My own ministry experience before teaching at the seminary was in southern Africa, and African Christians certainly understand that Christianity was brought by white men and along with that Christianity came a lot of other things to Africa that haven't had the same positive history as Christianity. In the minds of some, of course, Christianity is just wrapped up in this package of European domination. It's the domination by the European´┐Żs economic system, domination by European or white military power, domination by European religion. That's a little too simplistic and doesn't really capture all the complexities and ambiguities of this relationship between Christianity which arrives, for better or worse, through the mouths and lives of European missionaries and the rise and extension of European colonial domination. It's not all a pretty picture. It's very complicated at times. But there's a definite connection, and it's very important to keep in mind that there's more than one thing going on during this period of the history of the church as Christianity is being spread outside of Europe. ***** This text is being provided in a rough draft format. Communications Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. *****