- The Repression of Evangelism in Greece: European Litigation vis-a-vis a Closed Religious Establishment, and: Amerikanika oramata ste Smyrne tou 19ou aiona: E Synantese tes Agglosapsonikes skethes me teu Ellenike (review)
- Journal of Modern Greek Studies
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 21, Number 2, October 2003
- pp. 287-289
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Journal of Modern Greek Studies 21.2 (2003) 287-289
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John Warwick Montgomery, The Repression of Evangelism in Greece: EuropeanLitigation vis-à-vis a Closed Religious Establishment. Lanham, MD: University Press of America. 2001. Pp. 234 + xii. $42.00.
Pauline Nassioutzick, (19th Century American Visions in Smyrna: The Encounter of Anglosaxon and Greek Thought). 2002. Pp. 422.
Paulina Nassioutzick's new book simultaneously marks an important contribution to Modern Greek history and to the broader field of the history of religion. While its focus is on the impact of 19th century American Protestantism on the Balkans, particularly Greece, in its theoretical implications it will be of interest to specialist and non-specialist readers alike (although the fact that to date it has been published only in Greek will obviously limit its readership).
The theoretical thrust of the book is twofold: on the one hand, Nassioutzick is interested in showing, a là Weber, the ways in which Protestantism shifted from being a strictly religious system—that is, a faith-based ideology—to being a predominantly political, social, and economic ideology. On the other, she aims to demonstrate that the 19th century arrival and dissemination of Protestantism in Greece was not a unidirectional phenomenon, the mere imposition of a "western" ideology on an "eastern" people. It was not simply colonialist in flavor. Rather, it was a cultural as well as political encounter, one that altered the two sides involved. At both tasks, Nassioutzick succeeds admirably.
Let us begin with the latter. As the subtitle of the volume suggests, the nineteenth-century history of Protestantism in Greece is not one so much of [End Page 287] imposition as of , "encounter." Moreover, this encounter, by Nassioutzick's description, was not that of two different spiritual and moral systems, one Greek Orthodox and one Christian Protestant. What was a stake, this book argues, was rather a civilizational encounter on a grand scale between Greek and Anglosaxon thought.
That western visitors to Greece in the nineteenth century were convinced of the genetic "otherness" of the Greeks has been fairly well documented. Indeed, British and French visitors to the South Balkans were hard pressed to square this "orientalized" vision of the Greeks with the view that Greece somehow marked the origins of Western civilization as a whole. Nassioutzick does a good job of adding to the literature on Western views of Greece in the period, unearthing little-known sources and providing well-chosen quotations that illustrate much of the nineteenth century commonplace perspectives regarding the Greeks. "I have reasons to believe that all the peoples of the Mediterranean are, by birth, liars," observes one of her sources (261), in a view that echoed that of many contemporaries. Less familiar, however, are the multiple ways in which the West (here represented by Protestant visitors and proselytizers) was also affected by its with the Greeks.
Here Nassioutzick takes up her broad argument about Protestantism: that it is best understood not as a mere spiritual or faith-based set of beliefs, but rather as linked to a fundamentally American notion about the role of God—of an American God—in history. American Protestantism's "world mission" rendered its encounter with the Balkans dissimilar to other instances of proselytizing, as the new territories in which it sought to take root were swept up in an all-encompassing philosophical-historical teleology. As Nassioutzick explains in her introduction, "this religious system united worldly and religious interests in a unique way, while the divisions . . . between sacred, mundane, universal, and political [were blurred]" (17). By examining the ways in which these standard divisions were collapsed, she provides a nuanced and multidimensional treatment that stands as a model for studies of religious and political syncretism and encounter. Nassioutzick also produces a work that is highly relevant today, as American politics drifts ever further toward religious rhetoric, and resumes the "world mission" of which Nassioutzick so cogently writes.