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After the Missions Closed

Patheos, December 10, 2018 by Philip Jenkins.

The Washington Post recently ran a story with stunning implications for the history of Christian missions. The story suggests that such missions could have very positive “ghost” effects in the long term, even many years after they had officially ended. […]

Journalist Andrew van Dann reported a scholarly analysis of the long term impacts of the Jesuit missions in the land of the Guarani people in what is today the nations of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. These missions – the Reductions, or reducciones de indios – were celebrated at the time because of their bold innovations. The Jesuits were certainly paternalistic, not to mention theocratic, but they strongly respected the local language and culture, and organized the Native peoples into well-trained militias to resist White slave traders. Critically, they also instructed local peoples in a wide range of vocational skills and handicrafts. I actually did a Christian Century column on the topic, on “Why People Still Speak Guaraní” (December 20, 2017), but it’s paywalled.[…]

Europeans at the time saw these Reductions as brave experiments in utopian Christian living – although they attracted the deadly enmity of groups and elites who were greedy to exploit the areas in their own interest. Finally, in the 1760s, the Spanish crown was induced to abolish Jesuit rule, and end the settlements. Their great churches and other buildings survive as glorious ruins in the jungle. […]


Read the full article here