Missionary Christianity and Local Religion
American Evangelicalism in North India, 1836-1870
Studies in World Christianity
344 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 4 b&w photos, 1 b&w illus, 1 map
- Published: September 2017
The first Christian communities were established among the population of Hindi- and Urdu-speaking North India during the middle of the nineteenth century. The evangelical North American Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries who arrived in what were considered the Hindu heartlands discovered a social and religious landscape far more diverse than expected. With its Hindu majority and significant Muslim minority, the region also proved home to reform and renewal movements both within and beyond Hinduism. These movements had already carved out niches for religious difference, niches where Christianity took root.
In Missionary Christianity and Local Religion Arun Jones documents the story of how preexisting indigenous bhakti movements and western missionary evangelicalism met to form the cornerstone for the foundational communities of North Indian Christianity. Moreover, while newly arrived missionaries may have reported their exploits as totally fresh encounters with the local population, they built their work on the existing fledgling gatherings of Christians such as European colonial officials, merchants, and soldiers, and their Indian and Eurasian family members. Jones demonstrates how foreign missionaries, Indian church leaders, and converts alike all had to negotiate the complex parameters of historic Indian religious and social institutions and cultures, as well as navigate the realities of the newly established British Empire.
Missionary Christianity and Local Religion provides portrayals and analyses of the ideas, motivations, and activities of the diverse individuals who formed and nurtured a flourishing North Indian Christian movement that was both evangelical and rooted in local religious and social realities. This exploration of new Christian communities created by the confluences and divergences between American evangelical and Indian bhakti religious traditions reveals the birth and early growth of one of the many incarnations of Christianity.
1. The Religious Context in North India: Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity
2. The Religious Context in North India: American Evangelicalism
3. The Missionaries: Religious and Social Innovators
4. Indian Workers and Leaders: Negotiating Boundaries
5. Theology in a New Context
6. Community in a New Context
As a student and advocate of Christian indigeneity, I find this scholarly yet readable book a delight to recommend to students as well as practitioners including scholars of religion, historians, theologians, missiologists, Christian educators, pastors, and church leaders.~Roger E. Hedlund, Missiology
In his captivating study, Arun Jones describes continuities between pre-existing religious movements of North India and the Christianity brought by Methodist and Presbyterian missionaries.~Chandra Mallampalli, Studies in World Christianity
Interrogating the religious ethos and the ‘landscape’ in which conversion movements were located and tracing disruption and continuity in the lives of nineteenth-century North Indian converts, Arun Jones locates the various subjects of his inquiry, especially the ‘native’ voices, within the broader social, cultural, and religious histories of the region without shying away from carefully considered reconstruction that thoroughly engages the material at hand and goes on to offer possibilities of understanding people and situations that are plausible and fosters ongoing discussion.~J. Jayakiran Sebastian, Dean of the Seminary and H. George Anderson Professor of Mission and Cultures, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia
Arun Jones explores a new understanding of the Christian landscapes that were connected and divided in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries: Hindu and Muslim India, British India, and America. He traces the emergence of an Indian Christianity that formed a ‘third space’ within the religiously diverse colonial Indian landscape. Bringing new and overlooked materials into focus, Missionary Christianity and Local Religion skillfully offers a kaleidoscopic perspective on how multiple American, British, and Indian evangelical Christianities established and negotiated new locations from the early Raj to the present.~Paul B. Courtright, Professor Emeritus Emory University
Missionary Christianity and Local Religion is not the first publication to note similarities and draw historical connections between Evangelical Christianity and the bhakti (devotional) religious movements that preceded its arrival in North India, but it is easily the most detailed and thorough. Jones is a careful, conscientious historian, never running ahead of his evidence or oversimplifying the story for effect. The result is an argument of admirable subtlety, precision, honesty, and erudition about how bhakti religious traditions in North India opened up space for the development and growth of Evangelicalism.~Chad M. Bauman, Professor of Religion and Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, Butler University
An insightful analysis of the beginnings of evangelical Protestantism in what is today Uttar Pradesh state in north India.~H. L. Richard, Reading Religion
Jones deserves our appreciation for his systematic and coherent presentation of the history of evangelical Christianity in nineteenth century north India against the background of bhakti movements…a groundbreaking contribution in the study of world Christianity.~Joshua Samuel, Church History
Although this is a historical work, Jones makes some insightful comparisons between the missionary approaches of the period and today – such as that the colonial-era missionaries saw Indians as in need of help and not as their enemies. The book will have wide appeal to church historians, missiologists and researchers in world Christianity.~Kirsteen Kim, Journal of Ecclesiastical History
Readable, well documented, and very broadly contextualized, Missionary Christianity and Local Religion is based on careful and extensive research. Arun Jones highlights two especially important sources of influence affecting the ethos and character of mission communities: bhakti ideas that were popular in the towns and countryside of North India and the influence of mid-nineteenth-century Princeton theology on the North Indian Christian leadership. Jones’ argument that these ideas emanating from both India and the United States helped create two distinctive Christian communities somewhat different from those in the West reinforces the view that some form of ‘indigenization’ is basic for the survival and progress of the Christian movement, not only in India, but elsewhere as well.~Geoffrey A. Oddie, Honorary Associate in the Department of History, University of Sydney