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Chapter III. Christian Authority and Secular Power / " • ^ ^ . Λ Η Ε Christian pioneers, whether Roman Cath- ^y L ^ C^ olic or Protestant, in time transformed their 4-» I «^-elaborate stations into cultural oases in the¢ 3 C-j vast material desert of Northern Rhodesia. >• "V""^m/ They constructed large houses and churches, small schools, and primitive hospitals. They planted gardens , devised systems of irrigation, and built aqueducts in order to distribute the water from springs, streams, or wells. To maintain such increasingly elaborate edifices they employed numerous Africans in various capacities. In some degree, each of the missions, enmeshed as it was in an extensive secular network of its own creation, came easily to exert a measure of temporal influence over the stations and in the surrounding hinterland for which each individually came to feel responsible. Of the pioneer missionary bodies, none exercised control over Africans more completely than the London Missionary Society. Its representatives in Northern Rhodesia , despite the notoriety of a similar assumption of temporal authority at Blantyre in 1879, gradually turned a fortuitous assertion of theocratic prerogatives into a system of governmental authority. At and in the vicinity of its stations near Lake Tanganyika, the word of the missionaries became law for Africans who were in any way subject to their influence. And like the men of Blantyre, the London missionaries enforced their own laws vigorously, according to a Western conception of right and wrong. They regulated life within the mission 55 SECULAR POWER precincts with as sure and as hard a hand as a medieval lord his demesne.1 Of all the missions to Northern Rhodesia, only the London Society carried the rule of Africans to its logical conclusion. In the absence of a substitutable secular authority , each of the others likewise ruled Africans; they too recognized the truth of an early missionary aphorism: "Many a little Protestant Pope in the lonely bush is forced by his self-imposed isolation to be prophet, priest, and king rolled into one—really a very big duck, he, in his own private pond."2 But none were as systematic as the London missionaries; none were as successful or as wholeheartedly committed to the exercise of temporal power. Their experience thus stands as a particularly dramatic example of the impact of missionaries upon the Africans of Northern Rhodesia. Unusual circumstances encouraged the London missionaries to govern Africans who resided in the vicinity of the first stations. In 1887 David Jones, a Welsh Congregationalist , established the Fwambo station and speedily realized that the local Mambwe and Lungu population wanted him to protect them from slave-raiders. Long preyed upon by Bemba and Arab war-parties, the Mambwe and Lungu were accustomed to live within sturdy stockades for security.8 They welcomed Jones, but refused 1 For the East African comparison, see Roland Oliver, The Missionary Factor in East Africa (London, 1952), 51-52. Additional references will be found in Robert I. Rotberg, "Missionaries as Chiefs and Entrepreneurs: Northern Rhodesia 1882-1924," Boston University Papers in African History (Boston, 1964), I, 195-216. 2 Daniel Crawford, Thinking Black: Twenty-Two Years Without a Break in the Long Grass of Central Africa (London, 1913), 324-325. 8 See Lionel Decle, Three Years in Savage Africa (London, 1898), 296. 56 SECULAR POWER to work for the mission, or to listen to his version of the Gospel, until he had constructed proper fortifications and had demonstrated a capacity to resist the Bemba and Arab incursions. Jones and the other London missionaries were, however, reluctant to involve themselves in African wars. They were therefore shunned at Fwambo and at Niamkolo—labor was scarce and the churches and schools remained empty—until the missionaries belatedly built stockades around both of the stations in 1890. Once the stockades were constructed, Mambwe and Lungu families built their homes on mission land, and looked to the missionaries for protection. In their turn, the missionaries , like the medieval lords, exacted a price in return for their protection: they demanded that Africans should discard their tribal ways and instead should conform to Christian practices. Long before the directors of the London Missionary Society fully comprehended the extent to which their representatives exercised temporal power, the missionaries had become the unquestioned rulers of a large part of Northeastern Rhodesia. They had protected Africans. Gradually—perhaps without any realization of what they were doing—they transformed an ad hoc means of protection into a system of total control. They felt impelled to settle conflicts that arose between Africans...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400876143
Related ISBN
9780691624488
MARC Record
OCLC
967532866
Pages
262
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-05
Language
English
Open Access
No
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