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The Equality of Believers: Protestant Missionaries and the Racial Politics of South Africa

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From the beginning of the nineteenth century through to 1960, Protestant missionaries were the most important intermediaries between South Africa’s ruling white minority and its black majority. The Equality of Believers reconfigures the narrative of race in South Africa by exploring the pivotal role played by these missionaries and their teachings in shaping that nation’s history.

The missionaries articulated a universalist and egalitarian ideology derived from New Testament teachings that rebuked the racial hierarchies endemic to South African society. Yet white settlers, the churches closely tied to them, and even many missionaries evaded or subverted these ideas. In the early years of settlement, the white minority justified its supremacy by equating Christianity with white racial identity. Later, they adopted segregated churches for blacks and whites, followed by segregationist laws blocking blacks’ access to prosperity and citizenship—and, eventually, by the ambitious plan of social engineering that was apartheid.

Providing historical context reaching back to 1652, Elphick concentrates on the era of industrialization, segregation, and the beginnings of apartheid in the first half of the twentieth century. The most ambitious work yet from this renowned historian, Elphick’s book reveals the deep religious roots of racial ideas and initiatives that have so profoundly shaped the history of South Africa.

ISBN-13: 9780813932736

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: University of Virginia Press

Publication Date: 10-03-2012

Pages: 448

Product Dimensions: 6.60(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.30(d)

Age Range: 18 Years

Series: Reconsiderations in Southern African History

Richard Elphick, Professor of History at Wesleyan University, is coeditor most recently of Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social, and Cultural History and World History: Ideologies, Structures, and Identities.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: The Equality of Believers 1

Part I The Missionaries, Their Converts, and Their Enemies

1 The Missionaries: From Egalitarianism to Paternalism 13

2 The Africans: Embracing the Gospel of Equality 26

3 The Dutch Settlers: Confining the Gospel of Equality 39

4 The Political Missionaries: "Our Religion Must Embody Itself in Action" 52

5 The Missionary Critique of the African: Witchcraft, Marriage, and Sexuality 65

6 The Revolt of the Black Clergy: "We Can't Be Brothers" 82

Part II The Benevolent Empire and the Social Gospel

7 The "Native Question" and the Benevolent Empire 103

8 A Christian Coalition of Paternal Elites 116

9 The Social Gospel: The Ideology of the Benevolent Empire 132

10 High Point of the Christian Alliance: A South African Locarno 149

11 The Enemies of the Benevolent Empire: Gelykstelling Condemned 163

Part III The Parting of the Ways

12 A Special Education for Africans? 181

13 The Abolition of the Cape Franchise: A "Door of Citizenship" Closed 202

14 The Evangelical Invention of Apartheid 222

15 Neo-Calvinism: A Worldview for a Missionary Volk 238

16 The Stagnation of the Social Gospel 258

17 The Abolition of the Mission Schools: A Second "Door of Citizenship" Closed 279

18 A Divided Missionary Impulse and Its Political Heirs 297

Conclusion 319

Notes 327

Bibliography 387

Index 417