Vernacular Christianity among the Mulia Dani: An Ethnography of Religious Belief among the Wester Dani of Irian Jaya, Indonesia

Article excerpt

Vernacular Christianity Among the Mulia Dani: An Ethnography of Religious Belief among the Western Dani of Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

By Douglas James Hayward. Lanham, Maryland: American Society of Missiology and Univ. Press of America, 1997. Pp. ix, 329. Paperback. No price given.

Forty years after the beginning of the Western Dani people's movement to Christ, Douglas Hayward ably documents the "vernacular Christianity" that has emerged in the Mulia valley of Irian Jaya, Indonesia.

Hayward served there for twenty years with the Unevangelized Fields Mission and came to speak the language and know much of the culture, as well evidenced in forty pages of included folklore.

In describing the faith of the Mulia Dani, of whom ninety-five percent of the adults are now baptized Christians (p. 174), Hayward details the theological position of the missionaries there (from whom he sometimes distances himself), the traditional beliefs of the people, and their present faith. He alternately discusses past and present, but especially in chapter six, about traditional religious practices, his use of tenses becomes confusing. He describes male initiation in the past tense, but most of the rest of the chapter is in the conventional ethnographic present. A later chapter clarifies that many of these rituals are no longer practiced. …