Christianity and Politics in Doe's Liberia

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This study analyses the socio-political function of Christianity in Liberia under the corrupt and oppressive regime of Samuel K. Doe (1980-90). Paul Gifford discusses all branches of Christianity in that country: the mainline, the evangelical, the new pentecostal, and the independent churches. He argues that the mainline churches, although they sometimes spoke out, were tamed or co-opted by Doe, and in general lacked the moral authority to challenge the iniquitous system. Most evangelical churches taught that calamities were to be expected in these end times, advocated obedience, together with a passive acceptance of hardship and a pietistic retreat from worldly concerns, and attributed all evils to demonic causality; such emphases diverted attention from Liberia's ills, and left Doe unchallenged in his corruption and mismanagement. The modern pentecostal churches, with their faith gospel of health and wealth, went further still, teaching that God himself would bring about any necessary changes. The independent churches increasingly sought links - as a result of Liberia's economic collapse - with American churches, and came to absorb those churches' evangelical/pentecostal theology. Gifford shows that Liberian Christianity was devised in the USA and promoted by American missionaries, many of whom unconsciously identified God with America, the divine will with American interests. This Christianity therefore furthered the regional economic and political objectives of the US government, which was Doe's greatest source of support. This is the first comprehensive study of the role of Christianity in a modern African society; and the small size of Liberia means that Gifford is able to treat, in very sharp focus, trends evident throughout the whole African continent.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a must for all interested in African Christianty and politics and their interplay wth American Christianity and politics. Not only is this a representative case study but also a very wide-ranging one....To Paul Gifford and Cambridge University Press, a thousand thanks." Jan H. Boer, Calvin Theological Journal

"...a chilling but vivid analysis of the role of the Christian church in Liberia....Overall this is an absorbing book, based on personal experience and a wide range of sources. It is, also, to say the least, contentious, particularly with regard to the strictures on American evangelists, past and present. Undoubtedly, this book is certainly bound to generate spirited debate in some circles." Felix K. Ekechi, African Studies Review

"...a welcome addition to the literature on Liberia." D. Elwood Dunn, Journal of Church and State

"It is well written, clearly argued, and provides a very useful case study of African Christianity since the Pentecostal explosion." - American Historical Review

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Product Details

Table of Contents

General editors' preface
List of abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 The historical context 9
2 The mainline churches 47
3 The evangelical churches 98
4 The faith gospel of health and wealth 146
5 The independent churches 190
6 The geopolitical context 231
7 Conclusion 286
Select bibliography 318
Index 343
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