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Religion and Society in America


Missionary programs experience triumphs and severe defeats ... Two distinct stages of missionary efforts to Native Americans: ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Religion and Society in America

Religion and Society in America
  • Week 6 Lecture 1
  • Americas Missionary Zeal
  • The Paradox of Native American Missions

Americas Missionary Zeal The Paradox of Native
American Missions
  • Americas Changing Errand
  • Tensions Among 19th Century Missionaries
  • Missions to Native Americans

Americas Changing Errand
  • Foreign missions reaches its heyday circa 1880
  • At nadir, missions effort was a massive affair
    involving tens of thousands of Americans
  • Benevolent organizations in antebellum are modest
    in comparison, but prevalent nonetheless

Americas Changing Errand
  • Antebellum mission efforts largely influenced by
  • Generally inward, not outward looking when it
    came to reforming societies
  • 1820s 1860s Formation of cultural nationalism
    and hemispheric thinking among Americans

Americas Changing Errand
  • Approximately 2,000 foreign missionaries
    dispatched to foreign countries during a sixty
    year period (1800 1860)
  • Countercyclical gesture to nationalism of the
  • Missionaries were obliged to report back to home
  • Reports both inspired and shamed those able
    bodies not willing to carry out the charge of the
    Great Commission

Americas Changing Errand
  • Missions understood, in part, not simply as the
    improvement of pagan or heathen populations,
    but also for the health and fulfillment of
    churches in the United States
  • This understanding of mission becomes subtly
    wedded to zeal of nationalistic expansionist
    ideals. Missionaries seldom, if ever, divorced
    missionary arguments from nationalist ideology

Americas Changing Errand
  • William Hutchinson One can best chart a path
    through these mission ideologies, can begin to
    organize the varied prescriptions without doing
    violence to them, by calling attention at the
    outset to the ways in which mission theories
    affirmed Western and American culture and then
    to the ways in which they either disavowed
    elements of both, or attempted for practical
    reasons to divorce the Christian message and
    outreach from the cultural trappings.

Tensions Among 19th Century Missionaries
  • Internal tensions that were significant.
    Considerable division within mission boards and
    among missionaries concerning the character of
    mission and its relationship to commercial,
    military, and diplomatic efforts

Tensions Among 19th Century Missionaries
  • Prophetic voices within movement, often rare,
    critical of the assumptions of missionary
    program--particularly the means employed by some
    missionary boards

Tensions Among 19th Century Missionaries
  • Nagging question To what extent must Western or
    American values be transmitted to subjects of
    mission program?
  • Missionary programs experience triumphs and
    severe defeats
  • Missions to Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) were met
    with spectacular success (1810 1850), unlike
    those efforts to Native Americans

Missions to Native Americans
  • We are not commanded to teach schools in order
    to undermine paganism…If this is our duty, the
    command must be found in another gospel it is
    not found in the gospel of Jesus Christ
    Francis Wayland, 1853

Missions to Native Americans
  • Francis Wayland (1796-1865)
  • Pastor of First Baptist Church, Boston 1821-1826
  • Pioneer in progressive ideas concerning higher
  • President of Brown (1827-1855)

Missions to Native Americans
  • American Board of Commissioners for Foreign
    Missions (ABCFM) founded in 1810
  • ABCFM accounted for 80 of all missionary
    activities in America
  • Reformed bodies (Presbyterians and
    Congregationalists in particular) make up nearly
    40 of participants during antebellum

Missions to Native Americans
  • Two distinct stages of missionary efforts to
    Native Americans
  • 1817 ABCFM establishes missions and schools to
    four principal tribes in the Old
    SouthwestCherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and
    Creeksalso work among Osage tribes of Missouri
  • 1830 President Jacksons Indian removal policy

Missions to Native Americans
  • Missionaries follow westward movement of tribes
    and also begin work among the Pawnee, Nez Percé,
    Sioux, etc.

Missions to Native Americans
  • First stage 1817 1830
  • Heartening results
  • Thirty-three mission stations (apparent
    receptivity of missionaries among native
  • 900 Indian converts
  • 1,000 Indian students attending schools
  • Literacy rates nearly 50 in some tribes

Missions to Native Americans
  • Western assimilation of Indian culture marks
    the first stages missionary effort
  • 1816 - Samuel Worcester described boards
    objectives (ABCFM) as Civilizing and
    Christianizing in that order
  • Westernization was proposed alternative to
  • Jedidiah Morse speaking of increasing
    intermarriage opportunities suggested They
    would then be literally of one blood with us,
    merged in the nation, and saved from extinction.

Missions to Native Americans
  • Morses notion is soon tested showing the limits
    of Northern tolerance for racial equality
  • Cornwall School, Cornwall Connecticut
  • Cherokee leader Elias Boudinot marries a white
    women in 1825
  • Vocal opposition was led by Reverend Lyman
    Beecher and area residents
  • ABCFMs board takes virtually no action
    concerning the marriage to the dismay of many

Missions to Native Americans
  • Jeremiah Evarts, the boards secretary, delivers
    a written response asking, How does it appear to
    be the will of God that individuals of different
    tribes and nations not intermarry? Is there
    anything in the Bible, that asserts or implies,
    that man and wife be precisely the same
  • Cornwall School closed two years later

Missions to Native Americans
  • By the 1830s and in light of Jacksons removal
    policy, missionaries find themselves in a
    troubling position
  • To civilize their subjects, the tribes must
    live near the American majority culture. Yet,
    the Federal government is pushing them farther
    West where the closest encounters are the
    American frontier

Missions to Native Americans
  • Some missionaries resist the governments removal
    policies and face imprisonment in the state of
  • One episode resulted in the missionaries
    championing of intermarriage among the races, now
    viewed as an extremely radical position
  • Apprehensions build both internally and
    externally concerning missions

Missions to Native Americans
  • Restrained enthusiasm for missions becomes
    apparent in both theoretical and practical issues
  • Societies apprehensive to invest monies into
    practices seemingly contradictory of U.S. policy
  • Growth of American colleges provides alternative
    training grounds
  • Those hoping to civilize native populations
    concerned with showiness of missionary efforts

Missions to Native Americans
  • Mission schools concentrated populations and
    the spreading of disease
  • Initial success of missionary efforts in native
    languages by the 1830s creates hurdles for a
    generation of new missionaries facing budgetary
    cuts, new languages/tribes to encounter, and
    emphasis of evangelicals concerning conversion

Missions to Native Americans
  • Forced and voluntary removals coupled with
    pressures of white settlement create nearly
    impossible conditions for missionaries
  • 1880s missions to Indians closed
  • Bewilderment for many involved