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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'In One Ear and Out the Other': African Response to the Wesleyan Message in Xhosaland, 1825-1835
Author:Fast, Hildegarde H.
Periodical:Journal of Religion in Africa
Geographic term:South Africa
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
Abstract:In order to unravel the reasons for African resistance to the missionary message during the pioneer period, this paper investigates the actual religious interaction between evangelist and evangelized in Xhosaland. It is based on the correspondence of the first ten years of evangelization (1825-1835) at two Wesleyan Methodist mission stations in the present-day Transkei and Ciskei, South Africa. It appears that there was a common set of perceptions among the Xhosa about missionary teachings on divinity, morality, and the afterlife, and that these perceptions were translated into a lack of openness to the Gospel. The Methodist missionaries rarely took the Xhosa world view seriously and consequently did not enter into dialogue with the objections of their listeners, who variously perceived the message as curious, implausible, or simply incomprehensible. Moreover, little of the Gospel as preached by the Wesleyans was appealing. The brand of Christianity which the Wesleyans brought was limited to the Western culture and system of thought. Existing African concepts of divinity were ignored and instead a personal God was presented who appeared to exhibit primarily negative characteristics, such as wrath and judgment. The pressing physical needs of this world were neglected and the emphasis placed on an unfamiliar hereafter. Spiritual needs such as fear of witchcraft were dismissed as superstition and never addressed. It was an other-worldly, legalistic message with little relevance for the day-to-day existence of its African hearers. Notes, ref.