The Foreign Missionary Enterprise at Home
Explorations in North American Cultural History
Religion and American Culture
324 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.90 in
- Published: March 2010
- Published: July 2010
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.