Christianization

Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire groups at once. Various strategies and techniques were employed in Christianization campaigns from Late Antiquity and throughout the Middle Ages.

Christianization

Recent History

June 10, 1772

Samuel Hearne

A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean in the Years 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772

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Old age is the greatest calamity that can befal a Northern Indian; for when he is past labour, he is neglected, and treated with great disrespect, even by his own children.

They have a tradition among them, that the first person upon earth was a woman, who, after having been some time alone, in her researches for berries, which was then her only food, found an animal like a dog, which followed her to the cave where she lived, and soon grew fond and domestic. This dog, they say, had the art of transforming itself into the shape of a handsome young man, which it frequently did at night, but as the day approached, always resumed its former shape; so that the woman looked on all that passed on those occasions as dreams and delusions. These transformations were soon productive of the consequences which at present generally follow such intimate connexions between the two sexes, and the mother of the world began to advance in her pregnancy.


Not long after this happened, a man of such a surprising height that his head reached up to the clouds, came to level the land, which at that time was a very rude mass; and after he had done this, by the help of his walking-stick he marked out all the lakes, ponds, and rivers, and immediately caused them to be filled with water. He then took the dog, and tore it to pieces; the guts he threw into the lakes and rivers, commanding them to become the different kinds of fish; the flesh he dispersed over the land, commanding it to become different kinds of beasts and land-animals; the skin he also tore in small pieces, and threw it into the air, commanding it to become all kinds of birds; after which he gave the woman and her offspring full power to kill, eat, and never spare, for that he had commanded them to multiply for her use in abundance. After this injunction, he returned to the place whence he came, and has not been heard of since.


Religion has not as yet begun to dawn among the Northern Indians; for though their conjurors do indeed sing songs, and make long speeches, to some beasts and birds of prey, as also to imaginary beings, which they say assist them in performing cures on the sick, yet they, as well as their credulous neighbours, are utterly destitute of every idea of practical religion. It is true, some of them will reprimand their youth for talking disrespectfully of particular beasts and birds; but it is done with so little energy, as to be often retorted back in derision. Neither is this, nor their custom of not killing wolves and quiquehatches, universally observed, and those who do it can only be viewed with more pity and contempt than the others; for I always found it arose merely from the greater degree of confidence which they had in the supernatural power of their conjurors, which induced them to believe, that talking lightly or disrespectfully of any thing they seemed to approve, would materially affect their health and happiness in this world: and I never found any of them that had the least idea of futurity. Matonabbee, without one exception, was a man of as clear ideas in other matters as any that I ever saw: he was not only a perfect master of the Southern Indian language, and their belief, but could tell a better story of our Saviour's birth and life, than one half of those who call themselves Christians; yet he always declared to me, that neither he, nor any of his countrymen, had an idea of a future state. Though he had been taught to look on things of this kind as useless, his own good sense had taught him to be an advocate for universal toleration; and I have seen him several times assist at some of the most sacred rites performed by the Southern Indians, apparently with as much zeal, as if he had given as much credit to them as they did: and with the same liberality of sentiment he would, I am persuaded, have assisted at the altar of a Christian church, or in a Jewish synagogue; not with a view to reap any advantage himself, but merely, as he observed, to assist others who believed in such ceremonies.

Being thus destitute of all religious control, these people have, to use Matonabbee's own words, "nothing to do but consult their own interest, inclinations, and passions; and to pass through this world with as much ease and contentment as possible, without any hopes of reward, or painful fear of punishment, in the next." In this state of mind they are, when in prosperity, the happiest of mortals; for nothing but personal or family calamities can disturb their tranquillity, while misfortunes of the lesser kind sit light on them. Like most other uncivilized people, they bear bodily pain with great fortitude, though in that respect I cannot think them equal to the Southern Indians.


Old age is the greatest calamity that can befal a Northern Indian; for when he is past labour, he is neglected, and treated with great disrespect, even by his own children. They not only serve him last at meals, but generally give him the coarsest and worst of the victuals: and such of the skins as they do not chuse to wear, are made up in the clumsiest manner into clothing for their aged parents; who, as they had, in all probability, treated their fathers and mothers with the same neglect, in their turns, submitted patiently to their lot, even without a murmur, knowing it to be the common misfortune attendant on old age; so that they may be said to wait patiently for the melancholy hour when, being no longer capable of walking, they are to be left alone, to starve, and perish for want. This, however shocking and unnatural it may appear, is nevertheless so common, that, among those people, one half at least of the aged persons of both sexes absolutely die in this miserable condition.


The Northern Indians call the Aurora Borealis, Ed-thin; that is, Deer: and when that meteor is very bright, they say that deer is plentiful in that part of the atmosphere; but they have never yet extended their ideas so far as to entertain hopes of tasting those celestial animals.


Beside this silly notion, they are very superstitious with respect to the existence of several kinds of fairies, called by them Nant-e-na, whom they frequently say they see, and who are supposed by them to inhabit the different elements of earth, sea, and air, according to their several qualities. To one or other of those fairies they usually attribute any change in their circumstances, either for the better or worse; and as they are led into this way of thinking entirely by the art of the conjurors, there is no such thing as any general mode of belief; for those jugglers differ so much from each other in their accounts of these beings, that those who believe any thing they say, have little to do but change their opinions according to the will and caprice of the conjuror, who is almost daily relating some new whim, or extraordinary event, which, he says, has been revealed to him in a dream, or by some of his favourite fairies, when on a hunting excursion.

January 1, 1793

The Vegetarian Crusade

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Founder of the Bible Christians Church, William Cowherd, joined the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem Church in Manchester in 1793 and embraced the politics of Christian spiritualism, pacificism, and meatless dietetics.

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The Bible Christians migrating to Philadelphia did so with the full support of the movement’s founder, William Cowherd, who preached that it was only possible to live an authentic religious life in an agricultural society.


In 1793, Cowherd, tired of the sectarian quibbles and professional jealousies that seemed to pervade Anglicanism, left his pulpit and became the spiritual leader of the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem Church in Manchester. He embraced the radical politics of the movement, including its Christian spiritualism, pacifi st worldview, and meatless dietetics. Cowherd quickly realized, however, that even the Swedenborgians were affl icted by interpersonal conflict and power plays. Infl uenced by the radical politics of Thomas Paine and William Godwin, Cowherd decided to start his own movement.  At the heart of the Bible Christian Church were three guiding principles: temperance, pacifism, and a meatless diet.  In the early years of the nineteenth century, Cowherd’s church grew, primarily drawing members of Manchester’s working class with the promise of salvation for their souls and free vegetable soup for their stomachs.

January 29, 1809

The Vegetarian Crusade

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On Sunday 29 January 1809, the Reverend William Cowherd stepped into the pulpit of his Salford church to issue his sermon and changed the world forever. "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."

Cowherd's meat-free movement

On Sunday 29 January 1809, the Reverend William Cowherd stepped into the pulpit of his Salford church to issue his sermon and changed the world forever.

Surprisingly, his subject wasn't one of the hot topics of the day - industrial change, the Napoleonic Wars or the abolition of slavery – but animals and, in particular, the eating of them.

Reading from his King James Bible, he read to the congregation from the book of Genesis and, in particular, chapter nine verses three and four:

"Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."

With these words, Rev Cowherd began the first formal vegetarian movement in Britain. There had been many vegetarians before him - the Ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras and famous writers Mary Shelley and Voltaire for example – and religions such as Buddhism and Zoroastrianism held vegetarian beliefs, but his sermon set in motion a chain of events that would lead to an abstinence from meat becoming separate from any religious beliefs and traditions.

Of course, Rev Cowherd's motivations were spiritual and religious – he saw the eating of meat as a symbol of man’s expulsion from Eden (where Christians believe humans had lived harmoniously alongside animals) – but they also came from his egalitarian ideals.

His belief that 'all men are created equal' had been simply stretched to the idea that 'all species are created equal' – something that would ring true with many modern vegetarians.


Opposition to the movement

It didn't, however, ring quite so true with his fellow churchmen. The minister’s church, Christ Church on King Street in Salford, was part of the Swedenborgian New Church (a Christian movement which developed from the writings of the eighteenth century Swedish theologian Emanuel Swedenborg), who regarded the idea of vegetarianism as "a pernicious doctrine".


In fact, another local Swedenborgian minister, Reverend Richard Hindmarsh, who set up a chapel on nearby Bolton Street, said that if Cowherd's followers died, it would be precisely because they weren't eating meat, and referred sarcastically to the vegetarian church as the "Beefsteak Chapel".

Such was the rift between Cowherd's ideals and that of his church, that in the summer of 1809, he made the decision to leave the Swedenborgians behind and set up his own order, that of the Bible Christians, made up of his own congregation and those of three other churches (in Hulme and Ancoats).

January 1, 1810

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William Metcalfe adopted a meat-free diet in 1810

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At the heart of the Bible Christian Church were three guiding principles: temperance, pacifi sm, and a meatless diet.  


In the early years of the nineteenth century, Cowherd’s church grew, primarily drawing members of Manchester’s working class with the promise of salvation for their souls and free vegetable soup for their stomachs. The church’s activities attracted the attention of William Metcalfe, a fellow former Swedenborgian. Metcalfe had already adopted a meat-free diet in 1810, viewing it as the most natural of human states. Many of Metcalfe’s friends and colleagues disagreed, urging him to give up what they referred to as his “foolish notions of a vegetable diet,” fearing for his strength and general well-being.  To the contrary, Metcalfe pointed out; the eff ects of a meatfree diet had quickly led to an increase in weight and strength.  Things were looking up considerably. With his health intact, Metcalfe even married; something he felt was highly unlikely just a few years earlier.

March 29, 1817

The Vegetarian Crusade

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Reverends William Metcalfe and James Clarke lead forty-one members of the new Bible Christian Church to Philadelphia aboard the Liverpool Packet.

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It was the early morning of March 29, 1817. A cool breeze waft ed through the foggy Liverpool air along with an overriding sense of excitement, anxiety, and anticipation. The Reverends William Metcalfe and James Clarke gazed out on their gathered flock, surveying the situation before them. Inspired by the providential timing—it was, aft er all, near the time of the year when the ancient Israelites made their exodus from Egypt—forty-one followers of the fledgling Bible Christian Church boarded the majestic Liverpool Packet . 1 For months church members had discussed rumors of religious freedom and abundant providence in the new American republic. With a radical religious and political spirit that had led to isolation and intimidation in England, Bible Christians saw the nascent American experiment as fertile ground where their independent lifestyle could flourish. The fear of political persecution combined with a burgeoning industrial society pushed Bible Christians westward to Philadelphia.  


The Bible Christians’ decision to leave England for the United States would eventually have larger social and cultural implications than the group could have imagined. The activities of this small band of dissidents would lead to the development of a much larger movement in the United States, focusing on one particular component of the church’s doctrine, the abstention from meat. Proto-vegetarianism—the individuals and groups who would lay the foundations of a vegetarian movement in the United States— began with the arrival of the Bible Christians.  


The group was the first to adopt meatless dietetics at the center of its members’ lives while also advocating for this lifestyle in American society at large. The Bible Christians, however, were not the only group to introduce the principle of meat abstention to Americans in the early years of the republic. Within years of the group’s establishment in Philadelphia, another movement, known popularly as Grahamism, inspired larger groups of interested reformers to abandon their carnivorous practices.  


In the first decades of the nineteenth century, multiple groups and individuals experimented with meatless diets, driven by a desire to create moral, social, and political reform. Proto-vegetarian movements in the United States were marked by outreach to meat-eaters through speeches, publications, newspapers, and public meetings that sought to illustrate the larger social and political implications of dietary choices. These early developments set the stage for a larger movement to mature outside of Philadelphia and eventually gave rise to American vegetarianism.  The Bible Christians migrating to Philadelphia did so with the full support of the movement’s founder, William Cowherd, who preached that it was only possible to live an authentic religious life in an agricultural society.

Ancient History

Books

The Land of Feast and Famine

Published:

January 1, 1931

The Land of Feast and Famine