The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home: Explorations in North American Cultural History (Religion & American Culture)

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9780817312459: The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home: Explorations in North American Cultural History (Religion & American Culture)

This volume is the first to examine at length and in detail the impact of the missionary experience on American cultural, political, and religious history.

This collection of 15 essays provides a fully developed account of the domestic significance of foreign missions from the 19th century through the Vietnam War. U.S. and Canadian missions to China, South America, Africa, and the Middle East have, it shows, transformed the identity and purposes of their mother countries in important ways. Missions provided many Americans with their first significant exposure to non-Western cultures and religions. They helped to establish a variety of new academic disciplines in home universities—linguistics, anthropology, and comparative religion among them. Missionary women helped redefine gender roles in North America, and missions have vitalized tiny local churches as well as entire denominations, causing them to rethink their roles and priorities, both here and abroad. In fact, missionaries have helped define our own national identity by influencing our foreign, trade, military, and immigration policies over the last two centuries.

Topics in the collection range from John Saillant's essay on the missions of free African Americans to Liberia in the 19th century to Grant Wacker's essay on the eventual disillusionment of noted writer Pearl S. Buck. Kathryn T. Long’s essay on the “Auca martyrs” offers a sobering case study of the missionary establishment's power to, in tandem with the evangelical and secular press, create and record the stories of our time. William L. Svelmoe documents the improbable friendship between fundamentalist Bible translator William Cameron Townsend and Mexico’s secular socialist president Lázaro Cárdenas. And Anne Blue Wills details the ways many American groups—black, Protestant, Catholic, and Mormon—sought to convert one another, stead-
fastly envisioning “others” as every bit as “heathen” as those in far-off lands.

The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home is an insightful, provocative collection that will stimulate much discussion and debate. It is valuable for academic libraries and seminaries, scholars of religious history and American studies, missionary groups, cultural historians and ethnographers, and political scientists.

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About the Author:

Daniel H. Bays is William Spoelhof Chair and Professor of History at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and author of Christianity in China: From the 18th Century to the Present. Grant Wacker is Professor of Church History at Duke University and author of Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture.

 

From Publishers Weekly:

Though its high price may keep it out of the reach of individual scholars, this collection of academic essays about the missionary movement should be on the shelves of every college and university library. High-profile scholars such as Grant Wacker, Edith Blumhofer and Laurie Maffly-Kipp investigate how the foreign missionary enterprise changed people on the home front, arguing that "the standard textbooks on U.S. history have virtually ignored the missionary's domestic significance." How did missionaries who served abroad change the course of American social and cultural history in the 19th and 20th centuries? Memorable essays explore the evolution of race consciousness, drawing from the experiences of black missionaries to Liberia and Haiti; Protestant missionary efforts to Roman Catholics, African-Americans, and Mormons within the boundaries of the United States; and the waning of the missionary impulse after WWII, using missionary-author Pearl S. Buck's gradual liberalization as a barometer for the evolution of the entire Protestant missionary movement. This is a weighty and worthy anthology.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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