Faith in Schools: Religion, Education, and American Evangelicals in East Africa

By Amy Stambach | Go to book overview

4 Teaching English in Tanzania

In the previous two chapters I examined the history and context of a nondenominational missionary movement. I also described how these missionaries are typically trained. In this chapter and the next I explore what American missionaries working in East Africa have encountered, and the projects into which they have been drawn. Through a set of examples, I introduce different inflections of Christianity and education.

Christianity, I argue, acts as a mobile and shifting signifier that structures and valorizes divergent perspectives of what it means to belong to a global community. People from geographically distinct places who share to some extent the same religious heritage draw on different spiritual histories and cultural sensibilities to organize and shape their geo-spiritual perspectives. In northern Tanzania, as across much of East Africa, spiritual forces and the gifts of Jesus are central to churchgoers' sensibilities. East Africans say they have been born again when they have “received” or “gotten” the holy spirit. This quality of receiving gifts evokes a range of ideas about forces that exist beyond people's control. Some churchgoers regard spiritual forces as unchristian when these forces are associated with ancestors or with cwezi-kubandwa (spirit possession). Others qualify such a view by regarding spirit possession as compatible with rites of Christianity. However, whether they are skeptical or assured about spirit possession and mediumship, many East Africans question these missionaries' ideas about surface forms and hidden meanings. East African Christians conceive that Jesus lives in and through what people do, not beneath an artifice of reality, and that Jesus' force exists in struggle with Satan's, but this struggle has nothing to do with so-called stages of culture or culture-to-Bible proximity. Blessings and spiritual connections, East Africans conceive, are offered in many ways, including through gifts of food, in glances and touch, and in whispers of Shiru, or “God bless you,” in letters and e-mails. When reality turns out to be not as it appears, East African Christians say that Jesus' blessings have been forged or contaminated; that true gifts and blessings have been corrupted, taken over, inhabited by Satan.

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Faith in Schools: Religion, Education, and American Evangelicals in East Africa
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To Friends Here and There v
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • 1: Introduction: Schools of Faith 1
  • Part I - Preparation in the United States 33
  • 2: One Hundred Fifty Years of Mission Work 35
  • 3: Using Anthropology for Christian Witness 65
  • Part II - Evangelism in East Africa 97
  • 4: Teaching English in Tanzania 99
  • 5: Planting Church Schools in Kenya 132
  • 6: School-Community Partnerships in Uganda 154
  • Part III - Implications 179
  • 7: A New Anthropological Ethnography of Religion and Education 181
  • Epilogue 193
  • Reference Matter 197
  • Notes 199
  • References 209
  • Index 225
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