Making Disciples of All Nations

  • John C. Hawley


With this remarkable image Richard Rodriguez makes a point similar to one recently discussed at length by Kwame Anthony Appiah, to the effect that “the experience of the vast majority of [the] citizens of Europe’s African colonies was one of an essentially shallow penetration by the colonizer” (Appiah 7). The notion assumes a variety of shapes in contemporary writing reaching the West from the missionary’s target populations. In The Poor Christ of Bomba (1956), for example, a novel that reads like a manifesto for the liberation of the imaginations of his fellow Cameroonians, Mongo Beti offers a bitterly ironic salvation to the French Fr. Drumont, a 20-year veteran missionary. Only by rejecting the work that had given meaning to his adult life—only by accepting a dark epiphany that calls into question his zealotry and sends him home to France—does Drumont emerge with his integrity intact. In his bitter parting conversation with Monsieur Vidal, the smug colonial District Administrator who demanded the Church play a pacifying role, Drumont explains his decision:

“These people worshipped God without our help. What matter if they worshipped after their own fashion—by eating one another, or by dancing in the moonlight, or by wearing bark charms around their necks? Why do we insist on imposing our customs upon them?”

Vidal’s mouth fell open and he flushed slowly as he gazed at the Father, who turned as he spoke and watched the courtyard slowly emptying.

“I’ve never asked myself this before. Why don’t the Chinese devote themselves to converting all Paris to Confucianism or Buddhism or whatever? Oh, I’m not saying that I’ve solved the problem. Perhaps I’ll never solve it, except by the Grace of God. But all the same, I’m certain that it’s a serious question.” (150–51)


District Administrator Missionary Work Contemporary Writing Christian Theorist Roman Catholic Priest 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • John C. Hawley
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Latin American StudiesUniversity of LiverpoolUK

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