Previous Scholarship on the Rise of Christianity

To my knowledge, this is the first comparative study to pursue McNeill's provocative suggestion that epidemic disease may have played a dynamic

15 Giles Constable, Three Studies in Medieval Religious and Social Thought (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

16 W. H. C. Frend, Religion Popular and Unpopular in theEarly Christian Centuries (London: Variorum Reprints, 1976), 17; E. A. Thompson, Romans and Barbarians: The Decline of the Western Empire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1982), 231.

17 Hoare, The Western Fathers, 43.

role in the rise of Christianity in both Europe and America.18 Scholars have ignored or dismissed the possibility of New and Old World parallels.19 Many it seems have assumed that the first, postapostolic Church was unique.20 The study of the early Church in Europe has traditionally focused on Christian theology and theologians. Much has been written about men such as the Apostle Paul, Iraneus, Eusebius, Augustine, Cassian, and Gregory the Great. We know relatively little about the millions of "ordinary" people who embraced Christianity during the late Roman Empire.21 Historiography, in general, has emphasized "great men." As Voltaire remarked, "For the last fourteen hundred years, the only Gauls, apparently, have been kings, ministers, and generals."22

Similarly, the study of Christianity in Latin America has emphasized "great men" and "great ideas." The great man theme is prominent in the earliest histories written by missionary authors,23 who cast the friars

18 Stark has pursued in persuasive fashion McNeill's argument as it pertains to the Old World. Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, A Sociologist Reconsiders History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996).

19 For instance, Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints, Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 29.

20 Jonathan Z. Smith, Drudgery Divine, On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity (London: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1990), 143.

21 T. Barnes, "Pagan Perceptions of Christianity." In Early Christianity Origins and Evolution to a.d. 600, ed. Ian Hazlett, pp. 231-244 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991); Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (a.d. 100—400) (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984), 8; "What Difference Did Christianity Make?" Historia 35(3) (1986): 322-343, 322-323; R. A. Markus, The End of Ancient Christianity (Cambridge University Press, 1990), 4;A. D. Wright, Catholicism and Spanish Society Under the Reign of Philip II, 1555-1598, and Philip III, 1598-1621 (Lewiston, Australia: Edwin Mellen Press, 1991).

22 Quoted in Marshall Sahlins, Islands of History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 32.

23 Mendieta and Lopez de Gomara were some of the earliest New World authors to advance the great man theory. See John L. Phelan, The Millennial Kingdom of the Franciscans in the New World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966), 37. With respect to the Jesuit authors, see Juan de Albieuri, "Historia de las missiones apostólicas, que los clerigos regulares de la Compañía de Jesús an echo en las Indias Occidentales del reyno de la Nueva Vizcaya," Mexican Manuscript #7, Hubert H. Bancroft Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley; Juan E. Nieremberg (with Andrade Cassini), Varones Illustres de la Compañia deJesus, 3 vols. (Bilbao, 1896 [1666]); Andrés Perez de Ribas, Coronica y Historia Religiosa de la Provincia de la Compañia de Jesus de Mexico, 2 vols. (Mexico: Sagrado Corazon, 1896 [1653]), History of the Triumphs of and black robes as great civilizers, combating idolatry, drunkenness, warfare, laziness, and polygamy. During the Enlightenment, this discourse was accepted uncritically by the philosophes, who cited the Jesuit mission enterprises of the New World as proof of how the application of reason could create societies where once there was only chaos or uncertain relations.24 This idea of the Jesuit missionary as the vanguard of civilization persisted well into the twentieth century and was taken up by Frederick Jackson Turner and his influential student, Herbert E. Bolton.25 Throughout much of the twentieth century, anthropologists as well as historians cast the Jesuit missionary in a role analogous to a modern-day extension agent, the source of new crops, tools, cattle, and other innovations that purportedly attracted Indian converts and "revolutionized" aboriginal culture.26

In recent decades the pendulum has swung from a largely laudatory Church history to a poststructural, postcolonial history, which has been decidedly critical of the Church in both Europe and colonial Mexico. The Church of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages increasingly has been seen as a sexually repressive and exploitive institution that "talked" endlessly and glowingly of suffering and continence, convincing the masses to accept deprivation, all the while bishops lived comfortable,

Our Holy Faith; Ruiz de Montoya, Conquista Espiritual; Jose Cardiel, Breve relacion del regimen de las misiones del Paraguay (Madrid: Graficas Nilo, 1989 [1767]), 51.

24 Magunus Morner, The Political andEconomic Activities of the Jesuits in the La Plata Region: The Hapsburg Era (Stockholm: Library and Institute of Ibero-American Studies, 1953), !95.

25 Herbert E. Bolton, "The Mission as a Frontier Institution in the Spanish-American Colonies." American Historical Review 23 (1917): 42-61. For a discussion of Bolton's influence, see David J. Weber, "John Francis Bannon and the Historiography of the Spanish Borderlands." Journal of the Southwest 29 (1987): 331 -336; David Sweet, "The Ibero-American Frontier Mission in Native American History." In The New Latin American History, eds. Erick Langer and Robert H. Jackson, pp. 1-48 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

26 Clement J. McNaspy, S.J., Conquistador without a Sword (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1984), 190; Alfred Metraux, "Jesuit Missions in South America, Part 2." In Handbook of South American Indians, Volume 5, ed. J. Steward, pp. 645-653 (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1949), 646, 651; Silvio Palacios and Ena Zoffoli, Gloria y Tragedia de las Misiones Guarantes (Bilbao: Mensajero, 1991), 191; Edward H. Spicer, Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1962), 285-298.

incontinent lives.27 Similar arguments have surfaced in the last twenty years regarding the Jesuit and Franciscan enterprises in Nueva Espana. What were previously seen as "great men" on a mission of God and progress,28 now are understood as sexually repressive agents of colonialism, exploitive, abusive and perversely hypocritical in their avowed concern for the Indian: "Missionaries had everything supplied to them, and they got Indians to work for them. They were never in want of anything: they had good horses, cattle, clothing, and sexual access to Indian women."29

27 Peter Brown, The Body and Society (New York: Harper & Row, 1988); Michel Foucault, "Sexuality and Power." In Religion and Culture, ed. Jeremy R. Carrette, pp. 115-130 (New York: Routledge, 1999 [1978]; Ramsay MacMullen, "What Difference Did Christianity Make?," 322-343; Judith Perkins, The Suffering Self: Pain and Narrative Representation in the Early Christian Era (London: Routledge, 1995). Elsewhere, Brown went so far as to suggest that clerical affluence was such that bishops in the West "... had to invent new ways of spending money." Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints, Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981),

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