American Missionaries Cultural Imperialism

1391 Words6 Pages
During the course of this year we have covered several articles and books talking about American missionaries and their beliefs. They visited Hawaii, India, Middle East, Asia, and even targeted the Native Indians. Missionaries made huge alterations for the good and bad of the world in various places. We will see how they are remember today as we take a look how historians have viewed American Missionaries from past to present. Were American Missionaries Cultural Imperialist? Starting in the 1960’s historians described American Missionaries as cultural imperialists, changing around 1980’s some labeled missionaries as too weak and powerless to be imperialists, today historians can agree that American Protestant missionaries were in fact cultural…show more content…
Schlesinger does a great job answering the question more directly in his article and provides some excellent arguments. He also starts off with a powerful quote form the American Board defining their goal towards Indians, noting “English in their language, civilized in their habits, and Christian in their religion” (Schlesinger 1974, 348). From the beginning this quote screams cultural imperialists. Their goal was not only to “save their souls” but to teach English and civilize them. Cultural imperialist is describes as purposeful aggression by one culture against the ideas and values of others. Missionaries showed this aggression by targeting the Indians’ culture and values and claiming they are not civilized. In 1823 the American board ordered its missionaries to “abstain from all interference with the local and political views of the people” (Schlesinger 1974, 350). This was the views of Rufus Anderson, a corresponding secretary of the American board from 1832 to 1866. Anderson wanted Missionaries to focus on saving souls rather than changing culture and politics because it was against the illusion that such intellectual, moral, and social changes could happen in such a short amount of time (Schlesinger 1974, 350). The Social Gospel reform went against Andersons new regulations and gave way for much more social and political interference. As…show more content…
Published in 1993, Hutchison uses a diachronic history approach by analyzing the evolution of American missionaries’ overtime. According to Hutchison, the reason why so few historians have studied missionaries is because for some people the missionaries seemed embarrassing, arrogant, or bossy (Hutchison 1993, 2). John Eliot, a missionary working with Indians attempted to convert Indians by establishing a “praying town”. With this approach Eliot found more appreciation for Indian personal life and culture than other missionaries, however, he warned the Indians on “the pain of death against the blasphemous”. He petrified the Indians of denial of the Christian god. Eliot not only made Indians forsake their beliefs and medicine, but also was forced to cut their hair, learn to read, and learn trades (Hutchison 1993, 28). According to Hutchison, during the revolutionary period, missionaries viewed mission work as an obligation to both God and the United States. They felt this way because of all nations, American and England were the only nations on earth that had the resources for foreign missions. They wanted to emphasize the connection between godliness and a happy, successful civilization. Eventually the missionaries moved on from the Indians because it had cost too much and produced too little. Around the 1860’s missionary work became

More about American Missionaries Cultural Imperialism

Open Document