Indigenous Peoples and Religious Change

Article excerpt

Indigenous Peoples and Religious Change. Edited by Peggy Brock. Leiden: Brill, 2005. Pp. x, 262. $127.

This wonderful book brings together ten excellent case studies from the Pacific, Australia, and southern Africa. It is ethnographically rich and missiologically significant, for it focuses on indigenous peoples' diverse responses to the introduction of Christianity into their cultures. A common theme that runs through each of the essays is that we must no longer assume that all indigenous peoples have been the hapless victims of aggressive Christian missionaries who were tools of colonialism. That is a tired and worn-out thesis that many anthropologists and historians need to put to rest. This book is a refreshing alternative reading of mission encounters and provides some fascinating stories that will help debunk that thesis.

Peggy Brock's introductory essay, reflecting on the social, political, and material changes introduced with Christianity, notes, "These changes observed through the responses of the receiving societies indicate that religious change is a creative dynamic, rather than a passive acceptance of new ideas, beliefs and practices. The variety of situations in which religious change occurs and the range of responses to introduced religion challenges those who maintain the process can be imposed from outside or predetermined by cultural factors" (pp. …