Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social, and Cultural History

Article excerpt

Christianity in South Africa: A Political, Social, and Cultural History.

Edited by Richard Elphick and Rodney Davenport. Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1998. Pp. xiv, 480. $50; paperback $19.95.

Christianity in South Africa comprises twenty-five essays edited by Richard Elphick, professor of history at Wesleyan University, Connecticut, and Rodney Davenport, retired professor of history at Rhodes University, South Africa. The essays are grouped in five sections: the transplanting of Christianity by missionaries and African evangelists in the nineteenth century; the histories of the numerous Christian churches active in modern South Africa, including a vast proliferation of African Independent Churches; relations between Christians and various South African subcultures; Christianity and South African music, literature, and architecture; and the political roles of the churches as promoters or opponents of racial segregation and apartheid.

In a lucid introduction, Elphick emphasizes "the pervasive influence of Christianity in South African life . . . [which is] poorly reflected in the historical literature" and declares that "this volume seeks to insert the Christian micronarratives into the macro-narratives of South African history." In demonstrating the significance of Christianity in South Africa, this book is most successful. A majority of South Africans (72. …


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