Christianity and African Culture: Conservative German Protestant Missionaries in Tanzania, 1900-1940

Article excerpt

Christianity and African Culture: Conservative German Protestant Missionaries in Tanzania, 19001940.

By Klaus Fiedler. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996. Pp. xiii 239. G 125/$81.

Klaus Fiedler, former missionary in Tanzania and now lecturer in theology and religious studies at the University of Malawi, wrote this study of conservative thinking among missionaries who labored in colonial German East Africa and mandatory Tanganyika as a University of Dar es Salaam dissertation. The original German edition, Christentum und afrikanische Kultur, is currently marketedby the Verlag fr Kultur und Wissenschaft in Bonn. The English version differs from the German one in that it lacks maps, mercifully has the notes at the bottom of each page, and contains a lengthy piece by Catholic missionary Robin Lamburn on Christianized transition rites among the Yao, which adds to the length and cost of the book.

Fiedler focuses on the views of African culture held by individuals from four German Protestant mission societies-the confessionalist Lutheran Leipzig Mission, the "United" (Lutheran-Reformed) Bethel and Berlin Missions, and the Moravian (Herrnhut) Mission. Among the major figures treated are Bruno Gutmann, Joseph Busse, Traugott Bachmann, Ernst Johanssen, Georg Fritze, Anna von Waldow, and Julius Oelke. The author argues that although in their overall outlooks they differed in being "conservatives" or "progressives," they assessed African culture in markedly positive terms and regarded many aspects of it as worth preserving and adapting into the Christian life. …