In the Name of God: The Making of Global Christianity

In the Name of God: The Making of Global Christianity

Paperback(New Edition)

$25.00

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802840172
Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date: 12/28/2011
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Edmondo Lupieri holds the John Cardinal Cody Chair of Theology at Loyola University Chicago, where he teaches New Testament and Early Christianity. The series editor of Italian Texts and Studies on Religion and Society, he has also written The Mandaeans: The Last Gnostics and A Commentary on the Apocalypse of John.

Read an Excerpt

In the Name of God

The Making of Global Christianity
By Edmondo Lupieri

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2011 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8028-4017-2


Chapter One

Faith and Discoveries

Los Conquistadores

Therefore, I urge and ask of all Spaniards,who inmy company will participate in this war, for which we are now getting ready, ... that their principal motive and intention must be to separate and eradicate from all natives of these lands the above mentioned idolatries and to bring them—or, at least, to wish their salvation and that they may be brought—to the knowledge of God and of His Holy Catholic Faith, because, if this war were made with another intention, it would be unjust and, with it, everything gained by it would be illicit and subject to obligatory restitution. The first reason, for which it is licit that the natives of these lands serve us, is that, by staying with us, they may be led to the knowledge of our Holy Catholic Faith and be separated from the idols and superstitions they have. [For this reason] first of all, you will make them understand, through an interpreter they may comprehend, that from that moment on they must not have idols and they must not do any of the things they used to do for their cult and worship. Reading these words by Hernán Cortés (1485-1547) today, more than 450 years later, cannot but provoke an uneasy feeling.

When he was dictating the first passage (December 22, 1520), he was in trouble, since he had been driven away by the Aztecs' insurgence, had suffered severe losses, and was in the process of reorganizing the army, not without fear of defections (both among the Spaniards and the Indios who were their allies). We can, therefore, think that the summons to action coupled with an appeal to religious motives in some way would solidify a guarantee for his enterprise in the eyes of God and other people. At the time when he was dictating the second passage (1524), on the contrary, he had just returned from a victory such as no Christian commander had been able to claim for a very long time. He had just conquered the heart of Mexico, having in the process subjected the power structure of the Aztecs, which, though technologically inferior to the Spaniards', nonetheless had been able to develop an enormous, tried, and effective military force. If it is true, though, that the white invaders had appeared to the Aztecs like divine beings—arousing the same kind of utter shock that the landing of extraterrestrials with humanoid features would engender in us — accompanied by monsters never seen before and armed with lethalweapons of unlimited power, it is also true that the land of Mexico, for that scanty number of Spaniards, was farther away from the motherland than the lunar soil was from Earth for Neil Armstrong.

And yet Cortés did not have the slightest intention of stopping to enjoy the advantages he had acquired, but continued to advance towards new lands, new gold, new Indios, new women, for as long as his strength and the political and legal quagmire would allow.

As it happened for Cortés, some kind of conquest-fever dominated the hearts of the other conquistadores, pushing them to unbelievable deeds that were often extremely cruel and always hazardous. We must think, for example, of Alvarado (c. 1485-1541), the ruthless right arm of Cortés in Mexico, named Tonatiu, "The Sun," by his Indios, the conqueror and later governor of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, who, even if he might have been the Empire's richest man, second only to Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor and king of Spain, kept on fighting until the arrow of a native stopped him.

The desire for power and wealth, the concrete possibility of appropriating with no apparent limits gold, women, land, and slaves, was the motor that drove the greatest number of conquistadores to their enterprises, which were always conducted as private activities.

Texts such as the ones quoted above — which we must believe were written with at least some degree of good faith—force us to individuate a religious and Christian dimension in the very act of this war of conquest.

In case someone still might think that the Americas had been wickedly discovered by the wrong nation, these words by Thomas Thorowgood, published in 1650, should suffice to dissuade him:

Not to satisfie humane curiosity, but to promote mans salvation ... if such be the aime of our Nation there, we may with more comfort expect and enjoy the externalls of the Indians, when wee pay them our spirituals, for their temporalls, an easie and yet more glorious exchange, the salvation of the salvages.

Surely, the Anglo-Saxon colonial expansion, at least at first, was based in good part on trade with the natives, since the whites were exchanging distilled spirits and worthless stuff for the hides procured by the native hunters, so that even our good pastor understands the Christian mission in terms of an exchange, even if not that of a truly "free market." The substance, though, is the same, and when the Northern American colonists were no longer aiming at the hides but at the lands, and the natives began trying to acquire powder and guns, the policy would become extermination, possibly foreseen by Deuteronomy 32:26: "They shall be scattered abroad, and their remembrance shall cease." The religious motive, therefore, always seemed to be present.

On the other hand, did not Christopher Columbus depart towards the West with the clear and explicit aim of arriving in Jerusalem from the East, overthrowing in the process the Islamic world? And isn't it true that many, besides Columbus, upheld the idea that the gold of the Americas had to be used to arm the Christian kings for an immense, definitive crusade against the Moors, in millennial expectation of the end-times?

It is important to remember that 1492 is indeed the year when the last Muslim lords were driven away from the Iberian peninsula, thanks to the conquest (reconquista, according to the Christians) of Granada (January 2).

This event was lived and felt as an epoch-making event by the Christian world, which, after the failure of the preceding crusades and the Turkish conquest of Constantinople, perceived the breaking of the Islamic encirclement as a vital necessity. In the same year, 1492, in fact, the soldiers of the Ottoman sultan pushed forward up to southern Austria and Slovenia, showing how fragile the eastern boundaries of the Catholic kingdoms were, even if the battle of Villach ended in the Christians' favor.

The fact that the various Western lords dealt and trafficked in anything with the Great Turk is demonstrated by the squalid story of sultan Bayazid's brother,who, having survived the slaughter of all male relatives when the former came to the throne (1481), tried at first to resist him with arms, but later sought refuge with the Knights Hospitaller (the future Knights of Malta).

These knights, instead of helping the fugitive in undertakings of dubious prospects, in a very pragmatic move accepted from the sultan an annual tribute of 45,000 Venetian gold ducats in exchange for not defending his brother's dynastic claims. The brother was later placed under the protection of the pope, who started to pocket the tribute and kept the unfortunate hostage in a sort of gilded cage in the papal kingdom. Finally, Alexander VI, the new pope, would be forced to hand him over to King Charles VIII of France, who had recently marched through the Italian peninsula and become king of Naples, and who wanted to embark on a crusade in 1495. But Charles would not receive the captive until after the pope had already alerted the sultan to the king's plans.

The same pope, however, after having contributed in every way to the failure of the crusade desired by the king, launched one of his own, which also failed, in 1499. For quite some time, though, the money collected to finance these failed crusades was diverted to other uses. For his part, Bayazid, after defeating Venice on land and sea and taking its bases in Greece and Dalmatia and, after laying waste to Friuli, reconfirmed to the Republic of Venice all commercial privileges in the Ottoman Empire. Even the Turks had to sell their spices to somebody.

No matter what the economic and political motives were that might promote war or peace with the Muslims, the religious motive for war was in the mind of all Western people. Besides, for centuries already, a goodly number of merchants, such as the Polos, and friars, both Franciscan and Dominican, had braved the feared Muslim grip in order to go mostly eastward. From those faraway countries, after voyages often fraught with unspeakable dangers, these courageous people brought back to Europe not only the silkworm and the proof of faraway riches, but also reports of more or less real Christian domains beyond the Muslim world. Ethiopia, independent and Christian, was a reality and, at the time of the great geographic discoveries, was of great interest to the Portuguese, who hoped to establish relations with the Negus, the ruler of the Ethiopian kingdom. The Portuguese were always fixated on pursuing a military alliance with Ethiopia in order to march together to the conquest of Jerusalem, the common spiritual fatherland. More elusive was the "Kingdom of Prester John," once identified with Ethiopia, then with Cathay (China), then with a territory halfway between China and Islamic Persia.

In the opinion of everyone (Columbus, the Portuguese, the popes, and the Christian intellectuals) it should — or at least it could — be attempted to unite with the Christian communities of the Orient; from there, the united Christians could attack the Muslims from behind, breaking forever their power. This plan would lead to winning back Jerusalem with the result — according to many — that the Infidels, the Jews included, would convert, having been defeated and convinced by the definitive Christian triumph. Two events could then take place: the end of the world and the advent of Christ's kingdom.

With these and other similar ideas in their heads, Vasco da Gama reached India and Christopher Columbus reached America.

Rights, Authority, and the Land

Cortés's words, however, besides indicating the Christian expansionism at the beginning of the sixteenth century, demonstrate that he and his contemporaries were fully aware of a significant problem: What ethical and legal rights did the Spaniards have to make war on a people that nobody before had ever known or seen? Europeans could certainly not claim that the Indios, who were living in their own territories, had attacked them, when in fact the whites were the aggressors. If a just war could not be fought against these people, it would also be unjust to enslave them. In addition, if it was not morally and legally licit to transform the Indios into slaves, then the colonial system itself did not have a basis for its subsistence.

Let us not doubt that the learned Europeans of the time, in whose universities the fruit of centuries-old studies on the subjects of law and morality could be found, did not ask themselves how to confront the problem. The problems, indeed, were more than one.

The first was strictly theological in nature. Just as the Mexican Indios were rather amazed to be facing white, bearded beings, covered in very hard clothing, who had arrived in floating pyramids and were able to sit on enormous tapirs whose voices were thunder,19 in the same way the Europeans, insofar as they realized that the West Indies were not the islands of Cipangu, i.e., Japan—as Columbus kept stubbornly believing—and dry land was neither China nor India, were amazed to be facing new people and a new world. Was it possible that the Bible did not make any mention of them? Could it be that Christian revelation had ignored them? Who were they and from where did they come?

The attempts to find an answer, which were elaborated with various and contrasting hypotheses on the Indios' origins, initiated discussions that lasted for centuries, building the bases on which modern ethnology is founded. We shall talk more about this subject in the next chapter; for now we shall limit ourselves to observing that it would have been convenient for the conquistadores to be able to demonstrate that the Indios were not human beings at all (so that they would not have legal rights either on the land or on themselves). That they were human beings, however, and not hairless apes became clear to almost everybody and, in fact, the pope, with an appropriate bull, officially declared that the Indios were human beings with a soul. The legal problem then became how the Catholic sovereigns had to consider the Indios (being non-Christian people) and their land.

In the medieval perception a "no man's land" could not exist, since the whole cosmos belongs to God. After the angels' and Adam's sins, Satan took possession of almost all the world, giving origin, with his Satanic myrmidons, to the pagan cult from which only the people chosen (by God) and the promised land (also created by God) have remained immune. With his death on the cross, at last, Jesus Christ has redeemed the whole world, and has become universal lord, even if his mastery is still impeded on the earth for a short time, i.e., until the end of the world and the definitive and perpetual triumph of his second coming or, to say it with a Greek word, parousia. The obstacle has always been Satan, who keeps some pagan territories and attacks Christianity with heresies, the most dangerous of which is the one by Mohammed.

The earth, therefore, is per se Christian, even if de facto it is so only in part, since in the other part it is still subject to the Infidels. The Christian temporal power, represented by the emperor, Constantine's heir, or, given the already late times, by the Catholic sovereigns, has therefore the duty to proceed to the liberation of the lands under Satan's power, guided in this mission and religiously "guaranteed" by the pope, Christ's vicar on earth. In fulfilling his duty, the Catholic sovereign would have been able to gain possession of the infidels' land, but only in a transitory fashion (i.e., until the end of the world), by acknowledging Christ's superior sovereignty. Under these conditions, the domination would be just. Not only that. The sovereign would have to distinguish between Satan's responsibility and human ignorance and fragility: the Infidels are not to be massacred, if they are not guilty of specific crimes, but are to be liberated from their superstition. The announcement of the Christian truth must proceed at the same pace as the military advance, so that conversion may allow the non-Christians to be saved, by avoiding the eternal fire to which they would otherwise be damned and by becoming faithful subjects of the Christian kingdom. Such an optimistic vision considers human history as a gradual process towards a Christian kingdom covering the entire globe: once this goal is reached, the time will be ripe for the effective realization of Christ's universal sovereignty also on earth, not only in heaven.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from In the Name of God by Edmondo Lupieri Copyright © 2011 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Excerpted by permission of William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface to the First American Edition....................x
Introduction to the Second Italian Edition....................xiv
Los Conquistadores....................3
Rights, Authority, and the Land....................9
Church and Colonies....................19
Contact....................25
The Americans' Origin....................29
They Are Jews....................32
Not Jews, but Pagans or Christians....................37
They Are Not Like Us....................42
The Conquest....................47
The Aztecs....................52
The Clash....................58
The Mission....................61
The Reactions....................66
Towards a Christian Imagination....................69
The Church and Its Laity....................73
The Cult of the "Santos"....................75
The "Fiesta" and the Dances....................83
Resistance and Nativisms....................86
The Jesuits' Attempt....................93
The Iroquois....................96
A Prophet for the Indians....................101
Africa....................105
The Eastern Coast....................112
Solomon's Descendants....................120
Afro-America....................125
Brazil....................135
The Slaves of the North....................143
Visions of the Conquered....................154
New African Churches....................157
Nestorius....................167
Nestorian Crosses....................169
The Luminous Religion....................175
The Silk Road....................177
The Spice Road....................185
The Kingdom of the Rising Sun....................187
The Adaptation....................193
Opium and Faith....................199
Asia's Revenge....................204
Human Trashcan....................209
Blood and Sex....................213
As Tender as Human Flesh....................217
The Whites' Wealth....................218
The Whites' Deceit....................223
The Tragedy....................226
A Guilt Complex?....................231
The Revenge of the Irrational....................234
The Sacred Is Beautiful....................240
Afterword to the First Italian Edition....................243
Suggestions for Further Reading....................247
Author Index....................254
General Index....................258

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews