Missionary cultural conservatism: attempts to reach an intergration between African culture and christianity in German Protestant Missionary work in Tanzania, 1900-1940

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University of Dar es Salaam
This thesis deals with the development of cultural conservatism within the German Protestant missions in Tanzania from 1900-1940. It describes the work and the ideas of a number of missionaries who belonged to the four major German Protestant missions in Tanzania, e. g. Leipzig, Berlin I, Bethel and the Moravians. The thesis is divided into three sections. The first section (Chapter i and ii) deals with the context in which the development of cultural conservatism will be shown, the second section (Chapter iii to vii) contains the descriptive and analytical material and the third section (Conclusion) relates the ideas of the missionaries of cultural conservatism to ideas brought forward in the new development debate, or as it has been termed, the debate on the development of under-development. The first chapter puts missionary cultural conservatism into the context of the current debate on the role of the missionary enterprise in the process of colonial expansion. The representatives of missionary cultural conservatism and the exponents of Indirect Rule were all convinced, that African culture should be preserved and developed along its own lines. The thesis argues that in spite of many common concepts there were fundamental differences between missionary cultural conservatism and the policy of Indirect Rule in special and colonialism in general. The second chapter traces the German background of missionary cultural conservatism in Tanzania. It shows its origins in the Romantic Movement and how the Romantic Movement in its different stages (Early and later Romanticism, Neo-Romanticism and Third Reich Romanticism) influenced the missionaries. Missionary thinking was strongly influenced by the concept of Volk with its stress on every nation's cultural identity. This and other Romantic concepts and certain theological ideas made possible a high evaluation of African culture. Chapter iii to vii present the historical material. The description is centered around the figure of Bruno Gutmann, Leipzig missionary on Kilimanjaro from 1902 to 1938, who was the major exponent of missionary cultural conservatism in Tanzania. Chapter iii deals with the first phase of his work up to 1920. In this period he deeply studied Chagga culture and developed patterns of church-organization with which he attempted to relate the life of the congregation as closely as possible to all the values of traditional Chagga culture. During the second period from 1926 - 1938 (chapter vi) Gutmann continued to develop his conservative approach. But by then the situation had changed. His strong support for traditional cultural values was no longer an asset to missionary work, but tended to make the church less attractive. With his conservative policies Bruno Gutmann came into conflict with the rising mission educated elite. Thus we find the unexpected situation of a European missionary strongly supporting Chagga culture being opposed by African leaders who demand freedom to integrate many elements of European culture into their own. This conflict came to a head in the circumcision controversy of 1923 - 1926, when due to Gutmann's enforced absence after the war the congregation was led by two teachers, FilipoNjau and YohaneKimambo. They made the congregation pass laws forbidding circumcision, but as soon as Gutmann came back, the majority of Moshi Christians turned to Gutmann who defended the right of the Chagga Christians to stick to their traditional custom of circumcision against their own elected (progressive) leaders. Chapter iv presents two contemporaries of Gutmann who developed their concept of cultural conservatism independently from him, though they later came into contact with him. The Moravian missionary Traugott Bachmann was the first Christian missionary among the Nyiha and there he started his work with a very positive attitude to African culture, whereas with other missionaries discussed in this thesis, cultural conservatism with its high appreciation of African culture was more like a reform movement. The other figure represented in chapter iv is Ernst Johanssen, founder of the Bethel missionary work in Usambare, Ruanda and Bukoba. Chapter v describes various attempts by missionaries and African Christians to christianize traditional initiation rites. It shows that rejection or acceptance of these attempts did not depend on colour, but on role. African reaction to the Christianization of initiation in special and of African customs and institutions in general depended not on flow Christian and African elements were mixed, but on the chance this christianization provided for a definition of new roles in society or for the redefinition of existing ones. The variety of response to these attempts to christianize African institutions is being shown from examples of various missions in Tanzania. Missionary approach and those favouring cultural conservatism and the conflicts arising from the differing views. But more so it shows the varying African response to cultural conservatism in the Moravian and Berlin areas. This thesis claims that the negative response to cultural conservatism in the Nyasa Province was due largely to the fact that almost all the missionary representatives of cultural conservatism were strongly influenced by German National Socialism. After the Second World War development in politics as well as in the church did not go the way cultural conservatism had envisaged. The Pressing need was to establish equality, not to stress cultural identity. But now, twenty years after independence, with equality having been established, a rethinking of what development means for Tanzania has been set in. It is the final claim of this thesis that the missionaries of cultural conservatism in spite of their very different political and ideological background may have a contribution to make to this rethinking.
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Culture conflict, Social change, Religion and sociology
Fiedler, K (1977) Missionary cultural conservatism: attempts to reach an intergration between African culture and christianity in German Protestant Missionary work in Tanzania, 1900-1940, master dissertation, University of Dar es Salaam. (