4.1 A History of Christianity
4.1 A History of Christianity
4.1 A HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY
Imperialism and Missionary Activity
Who benefitted most from Christian
Missionaries accompanying explorer and
traders to the East and the New World?
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
Europe in the 16th and 17th
centuries not only faced a
new church and many new
ways of being Christian.
The Church and people
alike faced a new social
order: expansion of the
known geographical world;
explosions in knowledge,
especially in science, and
middle class wealth built
on trade, including in
SALVATION AND CIVILIZATION
European exploration and
discovery, especially of Africa,
Oceania and the Americas
operated out of a world view of
It was motivated by a thirst for
new ideas and knowledge, a lust
for wealth and a genuine desire
to bring (European) Christianity
to these new worlds.
There existed no double
standard in the minds of
explorers, traders and
missionaries between the twin
intents to convert and enslave;
to colonise and destroy existing
cultures and replace them with
a white, European, medieval
version of Christianity.
CORTEZ: PIOUS MASS MURDERER
A good example of this
dichotomy of the message of
Love delivered at the point of a
sword is Hernan Cortez, Spanish
Conquistador, who with a
handful of men destroyed the
Aztec Empire which initially
believed him to be the God
Cortez was a pious Christian
who prayed daily, attended Mass
and confessed his sins with
tears in his eyes.
Yet he was also a mass
murderer, thief and scheming
opportunist in the name of God.
Everything in the new lands
“discovered” and colonised by
European explorers, including the
peoples, were at the service of the
Slavery of captured peoples,
especially in the Americas, was
common. In the New World, there
were slaves in every colony.
The Dominican Friar Bartolome de
las Casas in 1514 wrote of seeing
slaves worked to death, branded,
murdered, roasted and fed to dogs.
Churchmen in Portugal, Spain,
France, England, Holland and the
American colonies stood by and did
little about slavery.
THE AFRICAN SOLUTION
Fra de las Casas did attempt a
solution to native slavery: he
suggested the use of African
“prisoners of war” who had fought
against their colonial invaders.
This was considered more morally
Millions of African slaves were
imported into the Americas and
were treated just as appallingly.
De las Casas realised his mistake,
and set out to have all slavery
banned. But legal success in
Spain was un-enforcible in the
Slavery was officially abolished in
Britain in 1833 and 1865 in the
THE GREAT AWAKENING
While Europe remained bitterly
divided by the Reformation, in
the American colonies, a more
tolerant society was being
George Whitfield was a powerful
preacher who in the 1740’s took
the American colonies by storm
and ushered in what is known as
The Great Awakening.
It was the beginning of the
Evangelical movement in North
America, which was more
egalitarian and represented the
difference between the Old
Europe and the New Americas.
In 1607 the separating Puritans,
Calvin followers, fled England and
persecution, for the New World.
There, in New England, they hoped
to build Calvin’s City of God, out of
the “blank slate” of the New World.
Despite the intolerance shown to
them in old Europe, they allowed no
toleration in the New World- dissent
was a threat to the City of God.
Initially in the colonies, each sect of
Christianity- Puritans, Presbyterians,
Lutherans, Anglicans, and Catholicswas given their own territory.
FREEDOM OF WORSHIP
The change from tolerance to
freedom of worship in the
American colonies came with two
personalities: Roger Williams and
Roger Williams came to America
in 1631 preaching Freedom of
Religion and in 1682 William
Penn established Pennsylvania
with an inclusive Constitution
guaranteeing freedom of worship
for anyone believing in the One
The Capital, Philadelphia- the City
of Brotherly Love- became a
refuge for all kinds of people.
EQUAL STATUS, SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND
The War of Independence (177581) and the Writing of the
Constitution (1791) not only
guaranteed the separation of
Church and State, but also went
beyond tolerance to give all
religion equal status- that is the
freedom to practise all religions.
This attempt to avoid the religious
wars of Europe did not result in
chaos or rejection of religion, but
rather an explosion of all kinds of
religion and produced one of the
most religious and Christian
nations in the world.
The United States was first to
divide Church and State and
became a model for the world.
OTHER BRITISH COLONIES
In other British colonies such
as Australia and New
Zealand, however, the nature
of the settlements resulted in
the old hostilities of Europe
being transported with the
The Australian (penal)
colonies, structured around
Anglican British overlords and
Irish Catholic convicts,
resulted in bitter sectarian,
social divisions which lasted
well into the twentieth
THE SECOND GREAT WAVE OF MISSIONARIES
The first wave of missionaries
after the Reformation were the
Catholics, led by the Jesuits.
By the 19th Century, the Church
of Rome was in retreat from the
world and under attack from
The ascent of Protestants had
begun. By the end of the 18th
century, voluntary missionarieslaity, couples, families and entire
communities flowed into Africa,
Asia and Latin America.
Their message was of an
accessible God; of freedom of
thought, speech and religion.
Women were directly involved for
the first time. They were
respectable, adventurous and
influential, especially with
SAME OLD PROBLEMS
Protestant ideals became
intertwined with colonialism and
As with the Catholic
Missionaries, the Missionary
Movement became the other
arm of colonialism – subjecting
the natives and “civilising” them.
David Livingstone’s African
dream of being a Missionary
General was a perfect example.
association with the scandal of
slavery and the superiority of
European culture meant that
there were very few conversions
of African slaves.
In the 1820’s in Utah, Joseph
Smith founded the Church of
Jesus Christ of the Latter Day
It was a response to the modern
world, which they believed was
going to hell.
They were convinced the
Kingdom of God on earth was
Banning tea, coffee and alcohol
and promoting polygamy and
tithing, the Church quickly
gained power and wealth.
By the end of the 19th century,
they numbered a quarter of a
million and were present in 150
THE CHURCH AND THE REPUBLIQUE
In 1793, the victors of the
French Revolution placed a
statue of a prostitute, named
the Goddess of Reason- on
the altar of Notre Dame
Cathedral in Paris.
It was a repudiation of the
excesses of the Catholic
church and a declaration of
the backwardness of religion.
Churches in France were
closed. Church land was
requisitioned by the state to
fund the revolution. This
represented some 10% of
It represented the end of
institutional Christianity in
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH VS THE STATE
In 1798 the French army
marched into Rome and
demanded a protection fee
from Pius VI.
Napoleon Bonaparte took the
In 1799 the Pope died in a
former sheep pen.
But within a year, the Papacy
had risen from the ashes, in
a church which now was antirepublican and against
democracy and the equality
of all citizens.
END OF SECTION 4 PART ONE
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