Chapter

The Challenge of Karen Christianity

Jay Riley Case

in An Unpredictable Gospel

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199772322
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932528 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199772322.003.0003
The Challenge of Karen Christianity

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In the 1840s, circumstances cut the Baptist missionaries off from direct contact with and supervision of most Karen Christians. Karen evangelists persevered under persecution and proved themselves to be effective evangelists. This compelled Baptist missionaries to reassess the relationship between civilization and Karen Christianity. Drawing on democratization within American evangelicalism, missionaries such as Elisha Abbott saw Karen Christians as a people who were fully capable of effective leadership. By promoting Karen ordination, Abbott not only promoted Karen evangelists to the highest position of authority in Baptist polity, but he also set a precedent for further Baptist missionary work. Other missionaries such as Francis Mason argued that Karen Christians needed more education and argued for the establishment of seminaries and normal schools in Burma. In their support for Karen capabilities, both impulses countered powerful American cultural conceptions of race that posited that uncivilized nonwhites could not match the intellectual capabilities of whites.

Keywords: Karen; Baptist; evangelicalism; missionary; ordination; education; race; democratization

Chapter.  12168 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Christianity

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