Info

of outward liturgical forms, and which ideally was complemented by indifference to worldly concerns such as wealth and political security. The 'material' religion of the people of the Middle East (Christians as well as Muslims) was characterised by the importance of outward appearance: the correct forms of prayer, the languages of the liturgy, the icons and church buildings, as well as by worldly concerns such as safeguarding regular income and security and well-being for the community as a whole. This negative view of the religious state of the Christians of the Middle East underlay the missionaries' conviction that reformation of these churches towards an evangelical model was of the utmost importance.

Whereas in the early days mission work among Muslims was not a priority, the reformation of the Eastern churches was worked for wholeheartedly. Especially among the Armenians and the Assyrians of the Church of the East, the missionaries' efforts seemed to bear fruit: educational initiatives were welcomed, preaching by missionaries in the Eastern churches was accepted and, in the 1840s, revivals took place in which Eastern Christians appropriated evangelical spirituality. Many of these early converts, young men and women, became missionaries among their own people and contributed to the spread of the evangelical message. These successes, however, led to reactions from the church hierarchies, who were disinclined to transfer power to foreign missionaries or their own lower clergy. Such opposition stimulated the formation of separate Protestant churches, and mission work in the second half of the nineteenth century in many respects centred on the extension and consolidation of the resulting Protestant congregations, not unlike Roman Catholic mission work, which aimed first and foremost at strengthening the Uniate churches.

Another possible motive for mission in the Middle East was what the missionaries thought of as the region's 'backwardness'. Judging from their publications (both at home and in the Middle East), the missionaries propagated a form of modernity which included good education for all, domestic hygiene, efficiency in the household as well as in the public domain, fair dealings in commerce, democratic institutions instead of authoritarian governments, a free press, equal relationships in marriage, and women's active participation in public life through education. American Protestants were the most typical proponents of such views on modernity; Europeans often tended to be somewhat more conservative. However, in line with the assumption that Islam was not easily compatible with modernity, the missionaries usually did not consider modernisation as a goal in itself, and for most ofthe century, in the Middle East as in other Protestant mission fields, 'civilisation' was seen more as a logical

0 0

Post a comment