Chapter

Interpreting Karen Christianity:

Jay Riley Case

in The Changing Face of Christianity

Published in print April 2005 | ISBN: 9780195177282
Published online October 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780199835812 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195177282.003.0008
Interpreting Karen Christianity:

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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

Chapter.  10392 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Christianity

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