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The Changing Face of ChristianityAfrica, the West, and the World$
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Lamin Sanneh and Joel A. Carpenter

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780195177282

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0195177282.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 02 December 2020

Interpreting Karen Christianity:

Interpreting Karen Christianity:

The American Baptist Reaction to Asian Christianity in the Nineteenth Century

(p.135) 7 Interpreting Karen Christianity:
The Changing Face of Christianity

Jay Riley Case

Oxford University Press

This chapter recounts American Baptist missionaries’ and church leaders’ responses in the mid-nineteenth century to the Christian conversion of the Karen people, a tribal group in Burma. Christianity preceded civilization among the Karen people, and their culture appeared to be more hospitable to Christianity than the “higher” civilization of the dominant Burmese. The Karen people apparently did not have to become westerners to be good Christians. This news made little sense back in the United States, where western hierarchical notions of society had no place for Christianity flourishing in so-called primitive cultures. Moral philosopher Francis Wayland reconciled these facts to American Baptists’ populist and democratic ideas about the ability of ordinary people to understand God’s truth and organize churches. Yet the idea that Asian Christianity need not adopt western civilization made little headway in mission theory for decades thereafter.

Keywords:   American Baptists, Asian Christianity, Burma, Karen, missionaries, mission theory, primitive cultures

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