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Taking Christianity to China: Alabama Missionaries in the Middle Kingdom, 1850-1950

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Beginning early in the 19th century, the American missionary movement made slow headway in China. Alabamians became part of that small beachhead. After 1900 both the money and personnel rapidly expanded, peaking in the early 1920s. By the 1930s many American denominations became confused and divided over the appropriateness of the missionary endeavor. Secular American intellectuals began to criticize missionaries as meddling do-gooders trying to impose American Evangelicalism on...

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1997 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Signed by author. Hardback in like new condition. Text is clean and tight. Signed by Wayne Flynt on Title Page. DJ is not price clipped. ... Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 424 p. Contains: Illustrations. Audience: General/trade. Contains bibliography and index. Read more Show Less

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Overview

Beginning early in the 19th century, the American missionary movement made slow headway in China. Alabamians became part of that small beachhead. After 1900 both the money and personnel rapidly expanded, peaking in the early 1920s. By the 1930s many American denominations became confused and divided over the appropriateness of the missionary endeavor. Secular American intellectuals began to criticize missionaries as meddling do-gooders trying to impose American Evangelicalism on a proud, ancient culture.

By examining the lives of 47 Alabama missionaries who served in China between 1850 and 1950, Flynt and Berkley reach a different conclusion. Although Alabama missionaries initially fit the negative description of Americans trying to superimpose their own values and beliefs on "heathen," they quickly learned to respect Chinese civilization. The result was a new synthesis, neither entirely southern nor entirely Chinese. Although previous works focus on the failure of Christianity to change China, this book focuses on the degree to which their service in China changed Alabama missionaries. And the change was profound.

In their consideration of 47 missionaries from a single state--their call to missions, preparation for service in China, living, working, contacts back home, cultural clashes, political views, internal conflicts, and gender relations--the authors suggest that the efforts by Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian missionaries from Alabama were not the failure judged by many historians. In fact, the seeds sown in the hundred years before the Communist revolution in 1950 seem to be reaping a rich harvest in the declining years of the 20th century, when the number of Chinese Christians is estimated by some to be as high as one hundred million.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This study provides new perspectives by which to assess missionary work in 19th- and 20th-century China as well as the impact of such efforts in the United States. Not only do the authors delineate the complexity and difficulty of such work in the field with little understanding back home, they also trace the creation of both negative and positive impressions of Chinese by Americans and of Americans by Chinese and the impact or lack of it on U.S. foreign policy decisions."
—Adrian A. Bennett, Iowa State University

"A well-researched, insightful, and informative piece of work."
—Alan Neely, Princeton Theological Seminary

Booknews
Examines the lives of 47 Alabama missionaries whose service in China, according to the authors, defies common stereotypes about arrogant western missionaries. They argue that the missionaries soon learned to respect Chinese culture and emphasize the degree to which service in China changed the southern missionaries. B&w photographs. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780817308339
  • Publisher: University of Alabama Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1997
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Wayne Flynt is Distinguished University Professor at Auburn University. Gerald W. Berkley is Professor of History and Director of East Asian Studies at the University of Guam.

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Table of Contents

Preface
1 The light of science and revelation: The Mission 1
2 You can see all nations here: Alabama Culture and the Missionary Enterprise 21
3 The intense longing of my heart: Preparing for China Missions 32
4 One of the hardest things I ever undertook: First Contact with China 54
5 The peculiar customs are so bewildering: Understanding Chinese Culture 72
6 The best way is to live one day at a time: Missionary Life in China 103
7 Oh, for one day's quiet retreat: Reporting Home about China 129
8 A trip of preaching, healing, and teaching: Missionary Work 148
9 I was a different person - my girlhood was past: Woman Consciousness among Alabama Missionaries 191
10 Error is propagated along with truth: Conflict among Alabama Missionaries 238
11 Jesus Christ had nothing to do with the French: Missionaries and Chinese Politics 281
12 You who drink the water, do not forget the person who dug the well: The Legacies of Alabama Missionaries in China 329
App Missionary Biographies 349
Notes 359
Bibliography 405
Index 416
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