American Baptists and the “Wild” Karen People of Burma

Jay Riley Case

in An Unpredictable Gospel

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199772322
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932528 | DOI:
American Baptists and the “Wild” Karen People of Burma

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This chapter explains how Christianity quickly emerged among the preliterate and marginalized Karen people of Burma. This new movement of Christianity resonated deeply with a Karen oral tradition centering around a “lost book” brought by another people. Even though Baptist missionaries such as George and Sarah Boardman intended to work primarily among the Buddhist Burman people who appeared to have produced a higher civilization, they found themselves being pulled by Karen evangelists into remote Karen villages, where a process of translation embedded Christianity within Karen culture. The evangelistic effectiveness of Karen evangelists such as Ko Thah Byu challenged Baptist missionaries to reconsider their perceptions of “uncivilized” people, while simultaneously cementing Burma in the American evangelical mind as a land of evangelical missionary success.

Keywords: Baptist; missionary; Burma; Karen; Ko Thah Byu; translation; civilization

Chapter.  13280 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Christianity

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