Conceptualizing Conversion in Global Perspective: from Late Antique to Early Modern
I recommend pessimism. It is a way of indemnifying oneself against disappointment. From a pessimist’s perspective, the story of this volume is one of success. From late antiquity, through the Middle Ages and into modern times, Christianity demonstrated an almost unrivalled appeal, among comparable religions, and an astonishing ability to spread across culture-gaps and geographical obstacles. An optimist would have expected more: paganism extinguished, manners and morals reformed, the Parousia prepared, the earth filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. The literature divides along predictable lines: much of it is celebratory; much of the rest is critical -- denouncing or lamenting the superficiality of most Christianity, the failure of the gospel message of peace and love, the ‘syncretic’ survivals of pre-Christian religion in Christian societies.1
Part of the reason for this is that the standards of Christian society are set by unrealistically heroic cases of individual conversion. As Calvin Kendall says of a particular instance in his contribution to this volume, “Conversion is a profoundly individual experience, but the larger story is the conversion of a people ....”2 Individuals can have -- at least they often claim to have -- intense, life-changing experiences of God. Indeed, it is the aim of the Christian tradition called evangelicalism to communicate such an experience to everybody. Yet conversion, in this sense, is evidently very rare. Most of the people who claim to have had it give untrustworthy accounts and display meager evidence of self-transformation. People en masse sometimes exhibit reactions, which can be mistaken for a mass conversion experience: hysteria, ‘herd-instinct’, loss of emotional control, collective frenzy; but these are poor substitutes for the long, arduous, mental and spiritual pilgrimage of most durable converts. We speak loosely of the conversion of whole societies, whereas what really happens is, usually, the conversion of a few people and the passive adhesion, passing fancy, or unresisting indifference of many. Most historians of Christianity now prefer to speak of the “Christianization” of peoples, not least because more than the sum of individual conversions is involved when new religions take hold: culture, meaning, the look of material objects, and even the environment or, at least, the sense of sacred place and space change.3 When we monitor the public progress of Christianity in the multiplication of Christian shrines, the growth of congregations, and the raising of tithes, the influence of the church on laws and public, secular rites and customs, the rise of Christian models of conduct, and the progressive intrusion of Christian conventions in the arts, we glimpse, at best, shadows of individual religious experience.4 The problems of how individual conversion relates to mass ‘conversion- or the conversion of a people -- how similar it is, what contribution it makes -- underlie every contribution in this volume. These problems are best tackled in comparative perspective, because similar problems characterize the histories of Buddhism and Islam in our period -- the other religions which, alongside Christianity, grew to the dimensions of ‘world religions’ by comparable processes, and which therefore constitute an important part of the global context of the subject.5 If, as I expect we can agree without debate, mass ‘conversion’ is more than, or distinct from, the sum total of individual conversions, two further questions arise as we reach beyond individual conversion stories to ways of characterizing the religious transformations of entire societies.
First, how did conversion strategies, techniques, and outcomes change over the period as a whole in Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism? Beginning in late antiquity, and continuing in the Middle Ages, Christian missionaries typically targeted a few potential converts at or near the top of their host societies. They relied chiefly on the social influence of the target group to spread Christianity or rather, in most cases, to impose or, at least, to privilege Christianity and suppress or discourage the old religions. In consequence, I hope to suggest conversion, properly understood, played relatively little part in the story of newly-won peoples to Christendom. In the early modern period, on the other hand, missionary strategy shifted to target people in large numbers at relatively low social levels. Individual conversions, however, remained rare and Christianization continued to make progress chiefly by other means.
Secondly, how does the relationship between religion and other aspects of culture affect the spread of the traditions in question? We usually think of religion as an important item of culture, along with value systems, social structures, language, food, technology, and so on. Yet we have never been able to calibrate satisfactorily the relationships between these items. Culture sometimes appears as an articulated system, all the parts of which change interdependently. At other times, changes occur in some areas with no obvious effects on others. When we observe societies changing religions in the context of other cultural changes, it is hard to distinguish cause from effect and both from coincidence. To put it crudely, do religions change cultures when cultures change religion?
Before we proceed to each of these problems in turn, the deficiencies of the sources demand attention.
THE PROBLEM OF SOURCES
“It’s not in my period,” is the favorite excuse of historians trying to dodge awkward questions. My obligation to range over the entire scope of this volume -- a millennium and a half, from late antiquity to early modernity -- is reckless even by my standards. The second favorite is, “The sources are insufficient.” No doubt, if, in the context of conversion to Christianity, I plead insufficiency of sources, I shall be accused of uttering a beggarly whine or a ritual self-exculpation. Modern America and, to a lesser extent, the modern world is full of people who say they have been “born again,” especially if they are ‘celebrities’ or politicians. Accounts of such experiences are legion, albeit boringly alike; studies of them abound.6 For the late antique, medieval, and early modern periods the situation is strangely similar. Conversion experiences are a mainstay of hagiographical literature and apologetic autobiography. Yet, for my purposes, these sources have two almost disabling deficiencies: they are untrustworthy and, in most cases -- I hope to suggest -- of limited relevance.
They are untrustworthy, partly because they are often warped by the writers’ wider agendas, and partly because they tend to be shaped by traditional topoi. Sacred autobiography is predictably full of stories of childish orchard raiding and youthful peccadilloes, suddenly visited darkness, suddenly glimpsed light. Even an author who glows with sincerity, such as John Bunyan in Grace Abounding, seems unable to resist the magnetism of the great conversion stories of antiquity -- those of St. Paul and St. Augustine -- which, in Christian tradition, have exerted the fascination of patterns and the tyranny of exemplary models. Despite his Protestant conscience, Bunyan’s work is full of allusions to medieval hagiography.7 Sometimes, historians have been suckered for centuries by deft salesmen of hagiographical stock-in-trade. The traditional narrative of the life of Henry V of England, which historians, as well as dramatists, have largely endorsed, is an example never cited, as far as I know, in this context, but highly pertinent. Its focus is a fairly typical conversion experience. “Madcap Prince Hal” undergoes a profound, life-transforming revulsion from tavern-crawling, brothel-creeping, and juvenile crime and embarks on a self-reformation “glittering o’er my fault.” In an episode heavily indebted to the parable of the Prodigal Son, he returns to his father’s sickbed, obtains paternal forgiveness, and spends the vigil night of his coronation in confession, before emerging to repudiate the boon-companions of his disorders.8 Almost every element of this story is unconvincing. There is no contemporary evidence for Henry’s misspent youth.9 His only documented quarrels with his father were about the usual agenda of money and power. The scene at his father’s sickbed was less a reconciliation than a negotiation, which young Henry attended with a dagger in his hand and an army at his back.10 Although as king he did abjure some princely friendships, these are intelligible in the context of a strictly political trajectory. He was given to pious affectations -- his priest-like coiffure, his pilgrimages, his notorious morbidity, his bloody, fiery enmity for heretics--but there is no evidence to link these with a conversion experience. Henry’s assimilation to stock sainthood was part of the process of the confection of his legend, after his death, in the circle of his brother, Duke Humfrey of Gloucester, who commissioned the first biography, with some input attributed to one of the king’s former companions-in-arms, James Butler, Earl of Ormonde.11 I suspect two possible sources of inspiration: the liturgy of Henry’s coronation day, which happened to be Passion Sunday (the Sunday before Easter or Palm Sunday), with its contrite anticipations of the Resurrection; and England’s need for royal saints at a time of war with France, when kings worked wonders and bore saintly blood.
Deconstructions of this sort have left many treasured legends of culture-heroism in ruins. It is rationally impossible to believe, for instance, in a king converted by the sight of a cross in the sky, by analogy with Constantine; or of a former persecutor by a temporary visitation of blindness, on the model of St. Paul; or of kings converted by miraculous saintly performances of the fire ordeal in imitation of Shadrach and his companions. These are obviously literary confections, ‘poetic truths,’ no more likely, in a literal sense, than stories of monks fed by ravens. Worse than unreliable, most of the available sources are, for present purposes, irrelevant. They are individual tales of self-discovery. They relate to conversion as a psychologist or a theologian understands it: a revolution in an individual’s convictions or sentiments, the re-orientation of an individual life -- conversion as in William James’ classic definition: “A self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong and inferior, becomes unified and consciously superior and happy, in consequence of its firmer hold upon religious realities.”12 Christian theological tradition delivered “not a single paradigm of conversion but an ill-matched repertory.”13 At the risk of oversimplification, however, we can identify a consensus, according to which conversion is recognized as a process, albeit, on the model of the conversion of St. Paul, a remarkably rapid one, divisible in most accounts in three stages. Epistrophe -- ‘turning around’ the revelatory moment, the recoil from the past -- is followed by metanoia -- ‘changing one’s mind,’ sometimes mistranslated as ‘repentance,’ which includes acceptance of Christian tenets. The further consequence, which few converts seem, in practice, able to sustain for long, is anagennesis -- ‘regeneration,’ transformed behavior, for which is often substituted a merely verbal assertion that the convert has been “born again.”14 It is obviously unrealistic to expect whole societies to exhibit evidence of such intimate and demanding or dissembling changes, though the model is appropriate to the study of stories of the conversion of lay Christians to the religious life or of the passage of a Christian to a more intense Christian awareness.15
Historians and anthropologists are interested, of course, in these personal pilgrimages, these individual trajectories, and many of the contributions in this volume focus on individual conversion claims. But we also want to know more. “Otherwise,” as Ramsay MacMullen said, “we should see only a church all head and no body ... a change without mass.”16 For us, the crucial questions relate to the self-re-profiling of whole societies. This is a process, still little understood, by which the term ‘Christian’ becomes part of the collective self-designation of whole communities, embracing numbers of people who have never had a conversion experience, or anything like it. Underlying collective realignments of this sort are further, remoter processes, by which Christianity captures elites or becomes part of the landscape of life in a particular society or -- if I may be permitted another metaphor -- a thread in the fabric of social identity. For most people in the society that plays host to the new religion, it commonly involves passive reception of new doctrines and devotions, without any active commitment. We ought to find a new word for it, reserving ‘conversion’ for individual transformations of faith. A. D. Nock famously devised the term ‘adhesion,’ in contradistinction to ‘conversion’ to mean “an acceptance of new worships as useful supplements and not as substitutes, and they did not involve the taking of a new way of life in place of the old.” But this does not really meet the case. It is possible -- indeed, I think it has been normal -- to forsake an ancestral religion entirely for a new one without feeling strongly about either and without undergoing conversion as Nock defined it: “the reorientation of the soul of an individual, his deliberate turning from indifference or from an earlier form of piety to another, a turning which implies a consciousness that a great change is involved, that the old was wrong and the new is right.”17 Medieval sources preferred to call it ‘acceptance’ or ‘submission’ or something of the sort, keeping ‘conversion’ as the name of an act of espousal of the religious life.18
We want to know, in each case, how effective such mutual adaptations of religions and societies are, and what are their limits. We ask how far, in episodes in the expansion of Christendom, syncretism -- if I am allowed the use of a much-proscribed word19 -- and pre-Christian survival modify the religion that results from the process. From a universally human point of view we want to know why Christianization fails to make people Christian, and, more generally, why adherence to religion fails to make people religious, why faith often seems so feeble and morals so slack. When it comes to explaining individual experiences, our sources often are suspiciously vivid; in tackling the problems of mass conversion, they are usually frustratingly vague. Secular accounts, where they exist, are often crafted on self-recommendation, designed to suggest the antiquity of a particular community’s Christianity, or to demonstrate the divine grace betokened by rapid conversion, or to vilify traditional enemies or bogey-figures who resisted the goad. Missionary narratives abound, but they tend either to celebrate missionary prowess or to appeal to the providential and miraculous. Accounts written or inspired by missionaries usually are maddeningly inexplicit about how Christianity percolates through society. Typically, they recount in detail the spectacular conversions of particular individuals and merely assert, in the most general terms, the subsequent, and consequent, dissemination of the new teaching, with implied credit to divine miracles or human heroism. Or, especially in Franciscan accounts of New World conversions in the early modern period, they focus on the tally of baptisms, usually computed in terms of figures so gigantic as to betray a casual attitude to catechesis. There is a huge gap in the evidence about how -- or, indeed, whether -- Christianity became the religion of masses of people, rather than of a few, usually elite individuals.
OPTIONS FOR ENQUIRY
When we face the problem of how to plug that gap, three possible solutions present themselves. First, we can look for clues in archeology and material culture to reconstruct the uptake of the new religion, the distribution of its sacred symbols, its stamp on cityscapes and landscapes. Secondly, we can search for documentary evidence with which to supplement or replace the unsatisfactory annals and hagiographies. Finally, we can try to apply analogies from the psychological study of individual conversions.
Archeology reveals the relocation, re-dedication, disuse, and abuse of former places of worship; the growth and multiplication of congregations, the transformations of “religious geography,”20 the adaptation of temples as churches.21 It can chronicle the abandonment of grave goods, though the interpretation of such practices is fraught with hazard.22 The nature of the evidence imposes a structure on the story. Just as hagiographical sources tend to telescope events and crush them into suddenness, so the archeological record seems to draw them out and shift them to the longue durée. Pre-Christian artifacts persist alongside objects adorned with Christian symbols or designed for liturgical use. Pagan shrines survive, decaying into shabbiness, declining into disuse, while Christian churches are built. The effect is to suggest that, on a social scale, conversion is attrition. It is a process, partial and cumulative: a long drawn-out business. From an archeological perspective, Christianization appears as much a matter of the attenuation of the old religion as of the progress of the new. The triumph of Christianity happens by default, as the old religion retreats. Evidence of other kinds tends, as I hope we shall see, to confirm this sort of account.
Among documentary materials, one of the most interesting lines of recent research has been into the history of conventions for bestowing names on children.23 This method suggested to Richard W. Bulliet, its greatest exponent, that 2.5% of the population of Iran were converted to Islam by 695 C.E.; 13.5% between 695 and 762; 34% between 762 and 820; another 34% from 820 to 875, and the remainder between 875 and 1009 C.E.24 The significance of naming conventions is broadly cultural in most places, rather than specifically religious; but Bulliet surely succeeded in demonstrating roughly the rate at which Islam became the preponderant influence on the culture of Iran. It provides an index of what we might call Islamization, though -- strictly speaking -- it discloses no cases of conversion. It tells us nothing about the personal religion or depth of conviction of the individuals who bestowed or received Islamic names. The evidence it provides is consistent with the view that adaptation occurs independently of conversion and that over time the religious profile of a society can change without much impact on the individuals who compose it.
Similar limitations apply to the use of testamentary dispositions as evidence of changing religious profiles. These have been used with some success to document the progress of new devotional trends within Christendom in the late medieval and early modern periods. Over twenty years ago I launched an attempt to use the bequests of the dying, combined with records of confraternities, as indicators of the rate, nature, and extent of Christian commitment among indigenous converts in an early modern colonial society. The example I was working with was that of the Canary Islands in the early sixteenth century. The total number of surviving wills was small, and all were left by testators of relatively high social status: collaborators in the Spanish conquest, and residents in towns of Spanish foundation. It was possible to identify which churches, orders, and cults were particularly favored by natives and to suggest some particularities in indigenous Christian devotion, compared with that of immigrants from Europe. But I did not feel able to draw conclusions about the degree of success of the ‘spiritual conquest’ of the archipelago.25 Recently, the method has become popular among scholars working on colonial Latin America: here, the materials are more abundant, but the other limitations abide and, for present purposes, the results remain modest.26 Inquisitorial documents, or enquiries arising from “extirpation” procedures in the New World27 rarely tell us much about conversion experiences, but help convey more of the picture suggested by the other evidence: the Christianity of ‘converted’ societies always tended to exhibit original features, which are best understood not as pagan survivals or outcomes of syncretic compromise, but as evidence of how religious beliefs and practices change, inexorably and, usually, slowly, but with sudden syncopations and a great deal of two-way cultural exchange.28
Though not yet much exploited by historians, the psychological study of conversion has generated an enormous amount of potentially useful work. Focused, by its nature, on conversion as an individual rather than a social phenomenon, psychology can nevertheless help to suggest lines of enquiry for a histoire des mentalités of mass conversion. If, for instance, a convincing profile can be assigned to large numbers of individual converts, it will make sense to look for evidence of social contexts in which the conditions or ingredients of such a profile seem widespread. With mixed effects, since the famous or notorious work of W. Sargant,29 study of the psychology of conversion has tended to focus on a phenomenon of particular importance today and in the recent past: the growth of so-called sects and cults and the recruitment methods by which their converts multiply. Work in this tradition shows, at least, that susceptibility to conversion, or to the illusion or temporary sense of conversion, increases in consequence of dislocating and disorientating experiences, such as bereavement, sudden impoverishment or social deprivation, subjection to intense fear and actual violence, derogation, serious illness and physical debilitation, crises in personal relations, deracination, and lurches of self-esteem. In an abject state, suffused with a sense of utter dependency and self-helplessness, the potential convert is particularly malleable.30 In general, William James called these pre-revolutionary situations “emotional exhaustion.”31 Underwood compiled a dossier of cases to show the roles of grief and fear.32 A crisis, which “may be religious, political, psychological, or cultural in origin” commonly precedes conversion.33
In extreme cases, analogous conditions can be induced by techniques of evangelization loosely termed ‘brainwashing’; in common cases, emotional intensity and sensory arousal help, and these can be stimulated or induced by means more or less traditional in the context of worship, including powerful music,34 charismatic preaching, stimulating rhetoric, theatrical excitants, noise, drugs, dance, and exposure to inducements to searing emotions, such as pity and fear. The latter can take a variety of forms, from salvationist admonitions to snake handling. Along this continuum of techniques, it is hard to tell where legitimate zealotry ends and brainwashing begins. Sargant’s insights were based on analogies in secular life with “the breakdown of normal persons subjected to intense stresses”: he was convinced, for instance, that John Wesley’s preaching pre-figured Pavlovian techniques for changing behavior and that Jonathan Edwards’ resembled “the technique of brainwashing and eliciting confessions behind the Iron Curtain.”35 Even the Buddha, who has never, as far as I know, been accused of brainwashing, was not above the manipulation of his disciples’ emotions, according to traditional recollections of his techniques: “To the candidate at his side the Blessed One communicated the gradual teaching. When the Blessed One realized that the candidate’s mind was prepared, pliable, free of hindrance, joyful, and well disposed, then he taught him the Four Noble Truths.”36 One man’s dislocation is another man’s reorientation and in the early history of Buddhism, conversions were often followed up by adoptions of symbols of reorientation. Laymen took oaths resembling those of monks and re-clothed themselves accordingly. As in Christendom, conversion stories were stamped with legitimacy by association with miracles.
Some cases of societies recruited into Christendom happened in conditions similar to those pinpointed for individual conversions by psychological research. Circumstances of violence, mass migration, enforced refugeeism, pestilence, famine, natural disaster, culture shock, and demographic collapse constitute, on a large scale, influences analogous with the disturbing, dislocating events that often precede individual conversion. Germanic barbarian invaders of the Roman Empire adopted Christianity when their societies were dislocated by migration and fragmentation into war bands. Native American receptivity to Christianity may have been affected by a sense of crisis induced by the terrifying contagion and demographic collapse, which, in almost every community, followed European contact. Often, however, there is less to these cases than meets the eye. The notion that Christianity appealed in colonial and post-colonial Africa to “shattered microcosms” and overtrumped local paganisms by “macrocosmic” reference has been effectively challenged by Terence Ranger.37 The cultural dislocation, as opposed to demographic disaster, caused by Spanish conquest in the New World was probably much less than is commonly supposed.38 When deliberately undertaken in pursuit of a missionary strategy, uprooting people and relocating them in controlled settlements or reducciones did not always work: it worked, for a while, for the Jesuits in the South American interior in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries but not, for instance, among the Tarahumaras of what is now northern Mexico.39
THE COURSE OF MISSION STRATEGIES
Of all the disturbing experiences capable of jarring societies into a new religion, violence is probably the most effective, especially when its results include conquest. In part, this is because of an assumption widely made in a great diversity of cultures and encouraged by Christian missionaries: victory is a sign of divine partiality. In part, it is a result of the change of elites that often follows, defeat: new leaders need new sources of legitimacy and are, therefore, likely to appeal to new gods. In part, too, it is a simple psychological effect. Defeat induces re-contemplation and facilitates change.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, some dilatations of the frontiers of Christendom in our period were effected by force. Forcible conversion is, in canon law, no conversion at all. But it sometimes works. Charlemagne gave the Saxons a choice of baptism or death; Saxony, in turn, became a militant, crusading frontier of Christendom.40 St. Olaf is a figure much admired in Minnesota despite behavior unendorsable under the Minnesotan ethos of tolerance and community-mindedness. His general approach to conversion is suggested by stories of his willingness to massacre, mutilate, or blind contumacious pagans,41 as well as by the words he is said to have addressed to a pagan candidate for his hand: “Why should I marry you, you heathen bitch ?”42 Like many fellow kings, he thought it consistent with the nature of the Lord of Hosts to spread His cult by war. Harald Bluetooth may be supposed to have followed a similar, simple method when he “made the Danes Christians.” According to Ilarion, many Rus accepted Christianity for fear of Vladimir’s power.43 Yet in all these cases, these people’s inauspicious beginnings in Christianity preceded integration into Christian civilization and built springboards for further missions elsewhere. Jews compelled to outward adherence to Christianity by pogroms or the threat of expulsion in the Middle Ages became, in some cases, luminaries of their new faith. Crusades were generally of modest effect in redeeming peoples lost to Islam, but they were effective in enforcing, if not facilitating, the Christianization of much of northeastern Europe.44 During the periods of European overseas expansion from the sixteenth century to the twentieth, European imperialism continued to constitute a favorable political environment for the spread of Christianity, even when there was no directly coercive element in the religious policies of the various empires.
Faith, of course, followed the flag in Islam, too. Jihad and crusade, in some destinations, helped, at least, to create propitious conditions for conversion. Less well known is the fact that much of the spread of Buddhism relied on similar strategies by royal strongmen. This is not to discount the importance of the peaceful dissemination of Buddhist teaching and ways of life by pilgrims, merchants, and traveling monks: this process can be followed along the silk roads of Asia, in the multiplication of shrines and in their decoration, by means of the diffusion of styles and images, as well as in the transmission of texts.45 As in Christendom, however, political patrons were important, too--and at an earlier stage in the history of the spread of the religion than in the west.46 As in Christendom, rulers practiced remarkable intellectual contortions to justify the imposition by violence of a doctrine of peace and love. The first and greatest Buddhist emperor in India, Asoka, in the mid-third century B.C.E., was a self-proclaimed upasaka whose victories, he claimed, made 'him remorseful and who prided himself on conquests allegedly achieved “by dharma.”47 His near contemporary, Kaniska, king of Peshawar, enforced Buddhism on his own subjects, as did King Vattagamani, whose efforts are known from inscriptions in Sri Lanka, early in the first century B.C.E. King Harsa, in northern India in the seventh century C.E., attempted something similar. In the mid-eleventh century, when King Anuruddha introduced Buddhism to Burma, he showed his piety by waging war on the Mon kingdom in order to gain possession of holy scriptures.48 The Lamaist mission to the pagan nomads of Central Asia in the seventeenth century was a bloody, fiery business. In the 1630s, a West Mongol prince, Neyici Toyin, led a mission to the Ten Banners of the Khorchin. He torched hecatombs of ongons, and fumigated shamans “with dog dung.” In the eighteenth century, Qing power reinforced the continuing mission: emperors perceived the missionaries as pacifiers and potential imperial agents.49
The effectiveness of forcible evangelization helps to explain why Christian missionary strategy, in the period we think of as transitional between antiquity and the Middle Ages, came to target rulers and highly influential elites. This was a revolutionary change in the history of the Church. Christianity in antiquity was a “religion of slaves and women.” It was deliberately addressed to outcasts. It appealed at a low level of society and, at first, of education. It was actually unwelcoming to those of high status, like the rich young man whom Christ sent away grieving, or the well-to-do for whom admission to the Kingdom was as if through the eye of a needle. In apostolic times, the converts of lofty status were few and modest: a centurion, a publican, “most excellent Theophilus,” an Ethiopian eunuch. In the first half of the fourth century, however, three spectacular conversions inaugurated a new era, in which proselytization targeted the top. The rulers of three great states adopted Christianity: Constantine, Tr'dat of Armenia, and Ezana of Ethiopia. The processes in which Constantine and Tr'dat became involved are described elsewhere in this volume.50 Ezana’s conversion is at least as problematic but is documented in contemporary epigraphy. Ezana’s early inscriptions celebrate his victories, his booty, and his tally of captives in the name of a god called Mahreb. By the end of his reign, the substance of the boasts is little altered, but now they are headed in the name of the Holy Trinity. Ezana, like his counterparts in Rome and Armenia, remained, as a Christian, faithful to the secular priorities of his job.51 Christianity now began to spread from the top of society downwards by what Richard Fletcher calls the “trickle-down effect.”52 In Europe, increasingly from the late fourth century onwards, nobility and sanctity converged. Monasteries came to resemble “noblemen’s clubs.”53 The sources from Ethiopia are too exiguous for certainty, but in Armenia, too, the continuing progress of Christianity depended, at least until the Arab conquest, on royal and aristocratic initiatives.54
The “Constantinian model,” according to which conversion begins at the top, prevailed throughout what we think of as the Middle Ages: not in its details -- though some royal conversion stories were closely imitated from Constantine’s55 -- but in its generalities as a molder of missionary strategies. Even the departures show the model’s influence.56 Almost every episode in the adscription of new peoples to Christendom began, as related in medieval sources, with the conversion of a king. There were, of course, some exceptions or possible exceptions. Popular conversion preceded or accompanied Clovis’ conversion: in the traditional story, the Franks responded directly to the appeal of Bishop Reinigius, not to any initiative by the king.57 In Iceland, where supposedly ‘democratic’ decision-making is vulgarly supposed to have prevailed, the collective adoption of Christianity was resolved in the Althing, but the lawspeaker, Thorgeirr Thorkelsson, withdrew to meditate or commune with the gods for a day and a night before lending his decisive influence to the debate.
Of course, Christianity was diffused in part by undocumented or barely-documented vectors of culture: movements of population, journeys of merchants and envoys;58 but missionary strategy remained focused on leaders as means of mobilizing peoples. In northern and eastern Europe, a great sequence of royal conversions in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries more or less established the frontier of Christendom, beginning with Harald Bluetooth in the 960s in Denmark and Mieszko of Poland in 966. Vladimir’s conversion was solemnized in 988.59 In Norway, the outline of events has been confused by an exchange of stories and attributes in the earliest chronicles between St. Olaf and his predecessor, Olaf Tryggvason; but it is clear that a year or two after Tryggvason’s confirmation as a Christian in England in 995, a meeting of a popular assembly at Dragseidet endorsed the new religion. Olof Skötkunung of the Svear began minting coins with Christian symbols on them before 1000 C.E.: his reception as king established an uninterrupted sequence of Christian rulers in Sweden. The coronation of Stephen of Hungary in 1001 settled the Christian destiny of the Magyars. St. Olaf’s work in Norway -- where he had perhaps to begin to impose Christianity anew after a spell of chaos and stagnation or backsliding in the progress of the new religion after Tryggvason’s death in 1000 -- was said, by a carver of the generation that experienced and remembered it, to have established Christianity in 1022.
Meanwhile, and over an even longer period, Buddhist missionaries displayed a similar partiality for royal and imperial disciples. In the spread of Buddhism, mythical interventions by monarchs played almost as great a role as real ones. The Chinese emperor Ming (58-75 C.E.) was supposed to have introduced Buddhism as the result of a vision: really the religion reached China at a relatively low social level, spread by merchants and itinerant monks. The first image of the Buddha in Japan was said to have arrived as a diplomatic gift from Korea to Kinmei Tenno in 538. It was propagated by the pious efforts of the Soga clan and especially Prince Shotoku-Taishu around the end of the century. According to a legend crafted in Tibet about half a millennium after the supposed event, Buddhism was also supposed to have arrived in Tibet in the sixth century, brought by a Chinese or Nepalese wife of King Srong-btsan-sgan-po. The true story was of monastic colonization, greatly stimulated by the sponsorship of Ye-shes’od in the early eleventh century.60 In the early thirteenth century, King Jayavarman VII played a similar role as a promoter of Buddhism among the Khmer, inscribing many of the great monuments he erected at Angkor with prayers for the efficacy of his good works, release from “the ocean of transmigration, and attainment of Buddhahood.”61 The patronage of King Rama Khamleng around the turn of the fourteenth century made Theravana Buddhism, in effect, the state religion of the kingdom Anuruddha founded. At the beginning of the conversion of the Mongols, Altan Khan had a hundred young nobles ordained to celebrate the third Dalai Lama’s visit to Koke Khota in 1576.
Among missionaries from Christendom, the strategy of focusing effort on very high ranks of society lasted, selectively, throughout our period. The method, however, showed diminishing returns. It was tried with the Mongols, among whom Christian missionary efforts had concentrated on rulers, according to a pattern established on the frontiers of Christendom in the Middle Ages. According to Peter Jackson, these efforts bore sporadic fruit.62 Attempts to induce rulers to become Christians failed in Lithuania too, until Duke Jagiello made a Christian marriage and adhered to his wife’s faith in pursuit of dynastic policy. In the following century, the Portuguese mission in West Africa was not pursued with consistent zeal, but as far as it went, it was directed towards rulers. It was embarrassingly successful in one or two cases, among the Wolof kings of Senegambia and the Mandingos of Kongo, whose enthusiastic espousal of Christianity obliged the Portuguese to support them with resources ill-spared from their own purposes. More characteristic, however, was the response of the Obas of Benin, who announced their conversion whenever they wanted an arms shipment endorsed by the chaplains of the fort São Jorge da Mina.63 By the end of the Middle Ages, the strategy of conversion from above fairly can be said to have been in crisis. Its effectiveness had greatly diminished since the heroic age of high-medieval mass conversions.
Meanwhile, a new sense of mission had grown in the Church in the late Middle Ages: a new conviction of the obligations of the godly elite to spread a more active, committed, and dogmatically informed Christian awareness to parts of society and places in the world where, so far, evangelization had hardly reached or only superficially penetrated. This involved a new conversion strategy, addressed to people low down the social scale: the poor, the deracinated masses of growing cities, the neglected country folk, the peoples of forest, bog, and mountain, who had barely entered the candle-glow of the Church, and the vast, unevangelized world revealed or suggested by exploration and improved geographical learning. The rise of the mendicant orders, with their special vocations for missions to the poor, the unbelieving and the under-catechized, helped the trend along. So did the growing interest in a restoration of apostolic habits to the Church, which was a prominent theme from the time of the rise of the friars to the Reformation.64 Within Christianity, a self-transforming struggle unfolded between a religion of survival in this world and of salvation in the next.
There was, of course, no sudden or total shift from a top-down to a bottom-up strategy for the spread of Christianity. Nor was it impossible for the old strategy still to be applied successfully in suitable contexts. Jesuits in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Japan encountered amazing success by targeting conspicuous lords -- Otomo Satu of Bongo, Tadaoki Hosokawa, Takayama Ukon of Akutagawa -- whose conversions were catalysts. Once the missionaries had a place to say mass and a conspicuous patron to make it respectable, they could attract potential neophytes by displays of devotion. The magnificent requiem for Lady Gracia at Kokura attracted thousands of mourners; by 1606 the Jesuits there had a congregation 3,000 strong.
Although China could not be proselytized by similar means -- it was a relatively centralized state with no intermediate daimyos to serve as local flashpoints of Christian illumination -- the Jesuits concentrated a significant part of their meager manpower on the class of literati who enjoyed disproportionate social influence.65 Some of their converts were impressively committed: using their baptismal names, passing Christianity on to their friends and families, and proclaiming their Christianity in public. Yang T’ing-yün, one of Ricci’s disciples, recalled a vivid conversion experience in the presence of one of the Jesuits’ pictures of Christ, which inspired him “with feelings of the presence of a great lord, who gives a command.” That was only the beginning of his path to an active and informed espousal of Christianity, approached through debates with Ricci about some highly germane scruples: why could reverence for Buddha not be accommodated alongside acknowledgement of Christ? How could the Lord of Heaven be subject to disgrace and suffering? How could transubstantiation make sense? (Answer: “My Lord’s love for the world is boundless.”) After much agonizing, he repudiated his concubine -- a more impressive test, perhaps, of Christian commitment than baptism -- and went on to build a church, finance the printing of Christian works, and write various books of Christian apologetics. His contemporary and fellow Christian, Hsü Kuang-ch’i, whose experiences are known from an account by Ricci, explained as an act of God the exam failure which first brought him into contact with the missionaries and attributed to divine revelation, by way of a dream, his insight into the doctrine of the Trinity. 66
Early modern southeast Asia represents a transitional case, where missionary strategists targeted potential converts at various social levels. In the Moluccas and Sulawesi in the seventeenth century, Protestant and Catholic missions alike approached sultans, local notables, and village heads, with results that usually came to embrace large numbers of ordinary people but which never seem to have lasted for long. In Manado in northern Sulawesi, Franciscans launched an intensive mission in the hinterland in 1619. They began by obtaining permission from an assembly of village heads at the rajah’s court; but these notables disclaimed power over their fellow-villagers’ religious allegiance. The friars preached from village to village, encountering universal hostility. The audience would drown out the Word by shrieking, urge their guests to leave, and profess fidelity to their gods. They withheld food and shelter. The friars therefore withdrew in 1622.67 Jesuit successors made some progress by concentrating on the rajah and his family. When Franciscans returned to the villages in the 1640s, they enjoyed a much more positive reception.68 By the 1680s, under the policy of Dutch Governor Padtbrugge, the Protestant mission in Manado made further headway by employing converted native schoolmasters to work among the children of the elite, wherever a local rajah could be found to permit it.69
In the New World, the bottom-up strategy was more usual. After initial contact, which, of course, often brought missionaries into touch with local leaders, ambitious programs of mass baptism and mass preaching rapidly followed. Franciscans baptized literally millions of natives in the first fifteen years or so of the Franciscan mission, in an experiment typical of the time: an effort to recreate the actions and atmosphere of the early Church, when a single example of holiness could bring thousands to water and altar as if by a miracle or by a miracle, indeed.70 Clearly, most conversions in these circumstances cannot have been profound, life-changing experiences of the kind specified in traditional definitions of conversion. The doctrinal awareness the friars succeeded in communicating was limited. The first catechetical instrument the Franciscans used does not even refer to the divinity of Christ. Dominican critics denounced the superficiality of Franciscan indoctrination, but their own efforts were hampered by some of the same problems of deficient manpower, daunting terrain, and linguistic and cultural distance.71 The fear of backsliding and apostasy haunted the missions and still resounds today: John Schwaller’s contribution to this volume is, considered from one point of view, a story of missionary responses to disillusionment. On the other hand, ordinary people’s accessibility to the ministry of missionaries made the New World an extraordinarily rich and rewarding mission field. Aided by what I call the “stranger-effect”72 -- the tendency, exceptionally common in the New World, of some cultures to welcome and defer to strangers -- missionaries could penetrate areas otherwise untouched by any European presence, establish an honored place in their host societies, learn the languages, and guide congregations by intimate, personal contact, in Christian self-redefinition.
The trend to what might be called low-level strategy in the early modern period also seems to have affected Islamic missions. Islam was spread not only by dynastic tentacles and holy war. In what would become Malaysia and Indonesia, as in the other great arena of Islamic expansion at the time, Africa, the means of propagation were commerce and conscious missionary effort--the “jihad of words.” Trade shunted living examples of Muslim devotion between cities and installed Muslims as port supervisors, customs officials, and agents to despotic monopolists. Missionaries followed: scholars in search of patronage, discharging the Muslim’s obligation to proselytize on the way; spiritual athletes in search of exercise, anxious to challenge native shamans in contests of ascetic ostentation and supernatural power. In some areas, crucial contributions were made by the appeal of Sufis, who could empathize with the sort of popular animism and pantheism that “finds Him closer than the veins of one’s neck.”73 In Africa, meanwhile, merchants and missionaries were more effective in spreading the faith than rulers and warriors. In about 1500, Timbuktu became the center of custodians of Almoravid tradition. From this relatively southerly spot, they could influence the frontier. Merchant clans or classes, such as the Saharan Arabs known as Kunta, who made a habit of marrying the daughters of holy men, were the advance guard of Islam. The Black wandering scholars known as Toronkawa incited revivalism in Hausaland in the 1690s. Schools played a vital part in diffusing Islam among the Hausa, scattering pupils with a multiplying effect. A sheikh, who died in 1655, was able, while at school in Katsina, to “taste to the full the Law, Koranic exegesis and prophetic tradition, grammar, syntax, philology, logic, study of grammatical particles and of the Name of God, Koranic recitation and the science of metre and rhyme.” Students’ manuscripts survive, smothered in annotations by the teacher, which were often in the native language. At the end of the course, the student acquired a certificate attesting that he had received the teaching of a long pedigree of named scholars going back to Malik ibn Anas, the eighth-century codifier of Islamic law.74
CULTURE AND CONVERSION
The distribution-map of world religion reveals suggestive features. Christianity has affected ‘spiritual conquests’ in every type of natural and cultural environment. Islam has spread around the world and proved highly resistant to encroachment by rival systems; but outside a distinct geographical band, its diffusion has relied on migrant communities. Buddhism appears, at first glance, the least successful of the three: it retreated in what we think of as the Middle Ages from India and, in China, never achieved the cultural dominance attained by Christianity or Islam in their ‘target areas’ at the time. The mission to the Mongols was the only foray in mass-proselytization by Buddhists to achieve success in modern times. Yet the Buddhist message seems to be both enduringly resilient and increasingly labile, especially in today’s western world, where oriental spirituality is in vogue and Buddhism seems to suit something in the Zeitgeist. The comparison raises a presumption worth pursuing: the more culturally adaptable a religion is, the further it spreads.
In a particular, secular tradition of thought, religion is a function of culture. Change other aspects of culture -- change, say, the social structure or the economic basis of life -- and religion is likely to change accordingly. When, for instance, tribal societies become feudal, they become prey for conversion. When feudal societies are transformed by capitalism and industrialization, they open to dosing with the opium of the masses. Missionaries are only a catalyst for processes inaugurated by social and economic change.75 Post-industrial societies are doomed to be secular. However, neatly schematized versions of history rarely fit the facts.
Considerable cultural transformations usually accompany Christianization. Formerly, in imperial contexts generated by the expansion of Europe, Christian missions were part of a wider “civilizing” mission. In late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, evangelism was animated, in part, by city-dwellers’ desire to domesticate rustics. The self-consciously godly nature of the early modern age confronted ‘popular culture.’76 At times, Christian societies have exacted minutely detailed cultural adjustments from converts. In the re-conquered Granada of the 1490s, until Hernando de Talavera mitigated the policy, Christian dress and Spanish speech were demanded from neophytes as proof of sincerity. In some inquisitorial cases, abiding partiality for Jewish dishes was treated as proof or grounds for presumption of judaizing. The people most likely to embrace Christianity in modern colonial societies in Asia were those who adopted European language, technology, dress, manners, and family structures.
Yet Christianity seems, on the face of it, extremely indulgent or, at least, indifferent towards aspects of culture, which, while not specifically Christian, are nevertheless thought to be compatible with the faith. José de Acosta’s famous rule for missionaries confronting pagans was, “In matters wherein their customs are not contrary to religion or justice, I see no grounds to change them; rather, all the traditions of their ancestors and tribes should be conserved, consistently with reason.”77 Adherence to this principle, which Acosta justified for the evangelization of the New World by referring to the example of the conversion of the English, has not, of course, been general or consistent but it has been normal in the history of the expansion of Christianity. It has permitted ‘Chinese rites’ and their equivalents in other cultures. Since Ramon Llull urged Arabic on missionaries in Islamic lands, it has preached to potential converts in their own languages and, in varying degrees at different times and in different contexts, has licensed those languages for worship. It has resacralized the sacred topographies of paganism, re-clad old gods as local saints, reformulated the propitiation of nature as divine worship, authorized -- with the aid of relics and prayers in place of talismans and incantations -- magical forms of manipulation of weather, health, and harvest. Occasionally, it has allowed lot-casting or other traditional forms of divination. It hallows esoteric associations as religious confraternities. It has relaxed its marriage discipline when it has seemed appropriate to do so, modifying or dispensing with rules of consanguinity. It has even permitted polygamy where politic. Its history is full of cases resembling those of the late nineteenth-century Maharashtrian Brahmin, Narayan Viman Tilak, who “sought to indigenize Christianity” while remaining immune from “angry questioning,”78 or Hugh Montefiore, the Anglican bishop who felt no less Jewish for being Christian, as he added “Christian faith to my Jewish inheritance.”79 In this volume, John Schwaller notes missionaries’ “failure to modify fully the culture of the native peoples of what is now Mexico.”80 Compromises of that sort are commonly regretted as limitations of success; really, however, flexibility is a hedge against failure. Christianity has spread because of its own capacity for self-change, rather than its power to transform other aspects of culture.
Islam cannot, by nature, be as flexible as Christianity. It is consciously and explicitly a way of life rather than of faith; except in marriage discipline, its code is stricter, more exclusive, more demanding on converts than Christianity. It requires adherents to know enough Arabic to recite the Quran. Its dietary regime is unfamiliar to most cultures. Aspects of today’s emerging global culture are particularly inhospitable: liberal capitalism, consumerism, individualism, permissiveness, and feminism have all made more or less easy accommodations in Christendom; Islam seems full of antibodies which struggle to reject them. It may have reached the limits of its adaptability. Buddhism, the third great global religion, has so far achieved only a modest degree of diffusion, but has thoroughly established flexible credentials, subsisting alongside Shintoism in Japan and contributing to the eclecticism of most Chinese religion. It has never captured whole societies outside east, central, and southeast Asia, but now demonstrates the power to do so, making converts in the west and even reclaiming parts of India from Hinduism. Hinduism, meanwhile, despite a thousand years of quiescence with no proselytizing vocation, also appears now to be able to make significant numbers of converts in the west and perhaps has the potential to become a fourth world religion.
In recent years, the Huarochiri Manuscript has become a source well-known to students of colonial Latin America, but its lessons have not reached specialists in other fields. It is of special interest in the present context because it captures a revealing moment -- the moment of its composition in the last years of the sixteenth century or the first few years of the seventeenth -- in a Peruvian valley where Christianity was a relatively recent arrival. The new religion had been popularized by a spectacular campaign by Jesuit evangelists, amid scenes of intense devotion and emotional transport, in 1571, when converts were encouraged to “pour out tears and sobs.” The fathers “drew the business out so that [converts] would feel greater anguish.”81
The question of the authorship of the manuscript is unresolved but it is evident that a local indigenous notable, Don Cristóbal Choque Casa, played a big part in the compilation of the work. He is the hero of the only anecdote of recent experiences included in the book. According to this tale, he was a self-proclaimed Christian, whose father had been a pagan. The incident related began when he went to an abandoned pagan shrine to fulfill a romantic assignation. He was surprised there by a demon in the form of a bat, which he exorcised by reciting Christian prayers in Latin. He called the local citizens together and warned them not to frequent the disused shrine, under threat of denunciation to the parish priest. This was no idle threat since the priest in question was the zealous Francisco de Avila, who, a few years later, was arraigned for violent and despotic treatment of alleged backsliders in his congregation. After this solemn assertion of his own authority, Don Cristóbal experienced a nightmare, in which he saw himself back at the shrine, nervously clutching an offering for the god: but he woke himself up by invoking the name of Jesus.82
This amounts to an extraordinarily lively picture of a community where Christian fervor could be expressed with intensity and where some individuals, at least, were well instructed in prayer; where local leaders played a part in urging Christianity on others; and where the shrine of an old pagan deity had fallen into such a state of abandonment that it was a haunt of fornicators and bats. The new religion was promoted by social pressure and by force or the threat of force. Yet Christianity had not reformed the sexual mores even of such an ostentatious Christian as Don Cristóbal. Nor had the old shrine lost all its power: fear of it could disturb Cristóbal’s amours, activate his conscience, invade his dreams, and tempt him to make an offering. The story is intelligible in what I think is a typical context of mass-reception of Christianity, not so much by conversion as by attrition, as the displaced religion withers: its shrines abandoned and desecrated, its teachings proscribed or neglected, its priesthood unrenewed, its power very gradually attenuated, its elite sponsors seduced into new roles.
In any case of mass Christianization, relatively few individuals experience personal conversion. Most become adherents by attraction, in imitation of converted leaders; or by compulsion, when the new religion is imposed by force; or by default, as the old religion withers; or by birth, as subsequent generations join a community more or less educated in the new religious self-description. More important than the propagation of the new religion, when the religious profile of a whole society changes, is the proscription or under-privileging of the old one. The decisive events in the Christianization of the Roman Empire were not so much, perhaps, the mission of Christ or Paul, or the re-formulation of Christianity as an intellectually respectable religion in the Gospel of John, or the conversion of Constantine, or the Galilean “victory” over Julia; but, rather, the sequence of decrees that privileged Christianity and subverted paganism: the civil immunities granted to Christian holy men, the proscription of pagan worship, the dethroning of Tyche in the Senate house of Rome, and the culmination in 418--the proclamation of Gratian which formalized Christians’ privileges.83 Gregory the Great enjoined Æthelbert to harry idols and destroy shrines.84 To a greater or lesser degree, the same policy was followed by Christian elites throughout our period: crucially, it helped to make Christianization work.
Probably just as important, however, was the quicksilver flexibility of Christianity, which, while often challenging the traditional cultures of Christianizing societies, always seemed able to adapt where necessary. The most useful comparisons are with Islam and Buddhism. With Christianity they form a peculiarly potent class of religions, which proselytization has spread across the world, and which seem capable of appealing to large numbers of people, irrespective of the cultural constraints, which keep most religions confined to particular groups. Today, as the pace of change quickens and globalization stretches more and more aspects of cultural homogeneity across the world, they will need to respond heroically in order to survive and continue to grow, with heroic adaptability or, perhaps, heroic resilience.
For a conspectus of the history of the spread of Christianity, see Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of the Expansion of Christianity, 7 vols. (London, 1938-47), still the indispensable guide to the subject as a whole, and Stephen Neill, A History of Christian Missions (London, 1965). On the theoretical aspects of syncretism and the controversy over the use of the term, see Sven S. Hartman, ed., Syncretism, 3 vols. (Stockholm, 1969); Alfred Métraux, Religions et magies indiennes d’Amérique du Sud (Paris, 1967); Robert D. Baird, Category Formation and the History of Religion (Mouton de Gruyter, 1971); Charles Stewart and Rosalind Shaw, eds., Syncretism/Anti-syncretism: the Politics of Religious Synthesis (London, 1994); Michael Pye, Syncretism versus Synthesis (Leeds, 1993). Among recent case studies which raise important questions about the use of the term and concept of syncretism are Juliane Esch-Jakob, Sincretismo religioso de los indígenas de Bolivia (La Paz, 1994); André Mary, Le défı du syncrétisme: Ie travail symbolique de la religion d’Eboga, Gabon (Paris, 1999); Antonio M. Stevens-Arroyo and Andrés Isidoro Pérez y Mena, eds., Enigmatic Powers: Syncretism with African and Indigenous Peoples’ Religions among Latinos (New York, 1995). An exemplary case of the clash of syncretic and anti-syncretic approaches is represented by a comparison of Manuel Gamió, La población del Valle de Teotihuacán, 3 vols. (Mexico, 1922), with Robert Ricard, La “conquête spirituelle” du Méxique: Essai sur l’apostolat et les méthodes missionaries des ordres mendiants en Nouvelle-Espagne (Paris, 1933).
Calvin B. Kendall, “Modeling Conversion: Bede’s ‘Anti-Constantinian’ Narrative of the Conversion of King Edwin,” chap. 4 of this volume, 149.
See, for instance, S.J.B. Barnish, “Religio in stagno: Nature, Divinity, and the Christianization of the Countryside in Late Antique Italy,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 (2001): 387-402; Nora Berend, ed., Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy: Scandinavia, Central Europe and Rus’ c. 900-1200 (Cambridge, 2007); Steve Kaplan, Monastic Holy Men and the Christianization of Early Solomonic Ethiopia (Wiesbaden, 1994); Ramsey MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire, AD 100-400 (New Haven, 1986); Lutz Von Padberg, Die Christianisierung Europas im Mittelalter (Stuttgart, 1998); Frank R. Trombley, Hellenic Religion and Christianization c. 370-529 (Lieden, 1995); Orri Vesteinsson, The Christianization of Iceland: Priests, Power, and Social Change 1000-1300 (Oxford, 2000); Ian Wood, "Christianisation and the Dissemination of Christian Teaching," in The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. I c. 500-c. 700, ed. Paul Fouracre, (Cambredge, 2005) 710-34 at 716-22.
For an exemplary study of what the author calls “the development of Christian cultures” and the Christian “impregnation” of society, see Henry Mayr-Harting, The Coming of Christianity to Anglo-Saxon England (London, 1972).
Alfred Clair Underwood, Conversion: Christian and Non-Christian; a Comparative and Psychological Study (London, 1925), especially 67-89, discusses conversion, defined as transition to a heightened religious sense, within Buddhism and Islam; for broader attempts to relate Christian history to the global perspective in the early modern period see Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Millennium: a History of the Last Thousand Years (London, 1995), 265-90, and James D. Tracy, Europe’s Reformations, 1450-1650 (New Haven and Oxford, 1999),287-300. For a casebook of conversion stories in Islam, see Thomas Walker Arnold, The Preaching of Islam: a History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith (London, 1935). On the dissemination of Buddhism in Asia, see Nalinaksha Dutt, Early History of the Spread of Buddhism and Buddhist Schools (New Delhi, 1980), E. Zürcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China, 2 vols. (Leiden, 1972), and K. Rama, Buddhism: a World Religion (New Delhi, 1999). On the west, see additionally Stephen Batchelor, The Awakening of the West: the Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture, 542 B.C.-1992 (London, 1994).
See, for example, Billy Graham, How to Be Born Again (London, 1979) -- a work representative of many with an identical or similar title; Kent Philpott, Are You Really Born Again? Understanding True and False Conversion (Darlington, 1998); and specifically on the political context, Erling Jorstad, Evangelicals in the White House: the Cultural Maturation of Born-again Christianity, 1960-81 (New York, 1981).
John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (London, 1955) 18-25.
See W. G. Bowling, "The Wild Prince Hal in Legend and Literature," Washington University Studies 13 (1926): 305-34, for a summary and defense of the tradition.
Ernest Fraser Jacob, Henry V and the Invasion of France (London, 1947), 35-36.
Chistopher Allmand, Henry V (New Haven and London, 1997),50-58.
For the circumstances, see Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, ed., The First English Life of King Henry the Fifth, Written in 1513 by an Anonymous Author Known Commonly as the Translator of Livius (Oxford, 1911), vi, xiv-xx; Jacob, Henry V, 32-33.
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: a Study in Human Nature (New York, 1997), 160.
Karl F. Morrison, Conversion and Text: the Cases of Augustine of Hippo, Herman-Judah and Constantine Tsatsos (Charlottesville and London, 1992), xv.
G. Carey, “A Biblical Perspective,” in Entering the Kingdom: a Fresh Look at Conversion, ed. Monica Hill (Harrow, 1986), 9-21.
Karl F. Morrison, Understanding Conversion (Charlottesville and London, 1992); Christian Aggeler, “A Path to Holiness: Hagiographic Transformation and the Conversion of Saint Guthlac,” chap. 5 of this volume.
Ramsay MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire, A.D. 100-400 (New Haven and London, 1984), 1.
Arthur Darby Nock, Conversion: the Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford, 1933), 7.
Richard A. Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion: from Paganism to Christianity (New York, 1998), 515.
See note 1 above.
Oliver Nicholson, “Constantinople: Christian City, Christian Landscape,” chap. 1 of this volume, 45-83; also published in The Making of Christian Communities in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. Mark Williams (London, 2005), 27-47.
Laura Hebert, “Pagans and Christians in Late Antique Aphrodiasis,” chap. 2 of this volume, 85-113.
Jonathan Shepard, “The Coming of Christianity to Rus,” chap. 6 in this volume, 185-222.
James B. Tueller, “Networks of Conversion: Catholic Congregations in the Marianas Islands, 1668-1898,” chap. 10 of this volume, 333-60.
Richard W. Bulliet, Conversion to Islam in the Medieval Period: an Essay in Quantitative History (Cambridge, MA, 1979), 16-63.
Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Las Islas Can arias después de la conquista: la creación de una sociedad colonial a principios del siglo XVI (Las Palmas, 1997), 267-96.
See, for instance, Matthew Restall, Life and Death in a Maya Community: the Ixil Testaments of the 1760s (Lancaster, CA, 1995).
John F. Schwaller, “Conversion, Engagement, and Extirpation: Three Phases of the Evangelization of New Spain, 1524-1650,” chap. 8 of this volume, 259-92.
Among numerous important works that suggest conclusions along these lines, see, for example, Métraux, Religions et Magies Indiennes; Susan E. Ramirez, ed., Indian-Religious Relations in Colonial Spanish America (Syracuse, NY, 1989); Sabine MacCormack, Religion in the Andes: Vision and Imagination in Early Colonial Peru (Princeton, 1993); Kenneth Mills, Idolatry and its Enemies: Colonial Andean Religion and Extirpation, 1640-1750 (Princeton, 1997); Fernando Cervantes, The Devil in the New World: the Impact of Diabolism in New Spain (New Haven, 1994), especially 53-69; Nicholas Griffiths and Fernando Cervantes, eds., Spiritual Encounters: Interactions between Christianity and Native Religions in Colonial America (Birmingham, 1999).
William Walter Sargant, Battle for the Mind: a Physiology of Conversion and Brain-washing (London, 1957).
Joe E. and Mary Ann Barnhart, The New Birth: a Naturalistic View of Religious Conversion (Macon, GA, 1981), 48.
James, Varieties of Religious Experience, 175-79.
Underwood, Conversion: Christian and Non-Christian, 133-39.
Lewis R. Rambo, Understanding Religious Conversion (New Haven and London, 1993), 44.
For a case of usefulness of music in missionary strategy, see John Koegel, “Music and Christianization on the Northern Frontier of New Spain,” chap. 9 of this volume.
Sargant, Battle for the Mind, v-xx, 135-43.
The Skandhaka, quoted in E. Lamotte, “The Buddha, His Teachings and His Sangha,” in The World of Buddhism: Buddhist Monks and Nuns in Society and Culture, ed. Heinz Bechert and Richard Francis Gombrich (London, 1991), 41-60 at 53-54.
Terence Ranger, “The Local and the Global in Southern African Religious History,” in Conversion to Christianity: Historical and Anthropological Perspectives on a Great Transformation, ed. Robert W. Hefner (Berkeley, 1993), 65-98.
Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Continuity and Discontinuity in the Origins of the Spanish Empire in the New World; The James Ford Bell Lectures 39 (Minneapolis, 2001).
W. L. Merrill, “Conversion and Colonialism in Northern Mexico: the Tarahumara Response to the Jesuit Mission Program, 1601-1767,” in Hefner, ed., Conversion to Christianity, 129-63.
L. G. Duggan, “‘For Force is not of God?’ Compulsion and Conversion from Yahweh to Charlemagne,” in Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages, ed. James Muldoon (Gainesville, 1997), 49-62.
T. M. Andersson, “The Conversion of Norway according to Oddr Snorrason and Snorri Sturluson,” Medieval Scandinavia 10 (1977): 83-95.
Quoted by Morrison, Understanding Conversion, 1.
Jonathan Shepard, “The Coming of Christianity to Rus: Authorized and Unauthorized Versions,” chap. 6 of this volume.
Eric Christiansen, The Northern Crusades: the Baltic and the Catholic Frontier, 1100-1525 (London, 1980), especially 49-57; for a summary of Finnish revisionist work of the 1980s, see P. Lehtosalo-Hilander, “The Conversion of the Finns in Western Finland,” in The Christianization of Scandinavia, ed. Birgit Sawyer et al. (Alingsås, 1987), 31-35.
Roderick Whitfield et al., Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Art and History along the Silk Roads (London, 2000).
Kanai Lal Hazra, Royal Patronage of Buddhism in Ancient India (New Delhi, 1984).
See Narayanrao Appurao Nikam and Richard Peter McKeon, The Edicts of Asoka (Chicago, 1966).
Bechert and Gombrich, eds., The World of Buddhism, 77-83, 138, 147-8.
Walther Heissig, The Religions of Mongolia (London, 1980), 20-40.
Robin Darling Young, “The Conversion of Armenia as a Literary Work,” chap. 3 of this volume, 115-35.
George W. B. Huntingford, The Historical Geography of Ethiopia: from the First Century AD to 1704 (Oxford, 1989), 54-59.
Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion, 237.
Alexander Murray, Reason and Society in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1978), 317-415; J. Campbell, “Elements in the Background to the Life of St. Cuthbert and his Early Cult,” in Saint Cuthbert, his Cult and his Community to AD 1200, ed. G. Bonner, D. Rollason, and C. Stancliffe (Woodbridge, 1989), 3-19, at 12; Fletcher, Barbarian Conversion, 130-92.
N. Adonts’, Armenia in the Period of Justinian: the Political Conditions Based on the Naxarar System, ed. Nina G. Garsoïan, 2 vols (Louvain, 1970); Cyrille Toumanoff, Studies in Christian Caucasian History (Washington, DC, 1963).
Shepard, “The Coming of Christianity to Rus,” 185-222.
Kendall, “Modeling Conversion,” 137-59.
Gregory of Tours, The History of the Franks, trans. Lewis Thorpe (Harmondsworth, 1974), 141-45, II.29-31; Ian Wood, “Gregory of Tours and Clovis,” Revue belge de philologie et d’histoire 63 (1985): 249-72.
Shepard, “The Coming of Christianity to Rus,” 185-222. For evidence that royal interventions in Scandinavia were made in a context of growing Christian influence, see Sawyer et al., The Christianization of Scandinavia, 69-74.
Shepard, “The Coming of Christianity to Rus,” 189-91.
Bechert and Gombrich, eds., The World of Buddhism, 196, 212-16, 255-56.
George Coedes, The Indianized States of South-east Asia (Honolulu, 1968),173; idem, Angkor: an Introduction (London, 1963),86-105.
Peter Jackson, “The Mongols: A Case of Non-Conversion.” Paper, presented to the “Conversion to Christianity: A Late Antique, Medieval, and Early Modern Phenomenon” Conference. Consortium for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Minnesota; Minneapolis, MN, May 2001. For more on this topic, see Peter Jackson, The Mongols and the West, 1221-1410 (Harlow, England, 2005).
P. E. Russell, “White Kings on Black Kings,” in Medieval and Renaissance Studies in Honour of Robert Brian Tate, ed. Robert B. Tate, Ian Michael, and Richard Andrew Cardwell (Nottingham, 1986), 151-63.
Jean Delumeau, Catholicism Between Luther and Voltaire: A New View of the Counter-Reformation (Philadelphia, 1977); John Bossy, Christianity in the West (Oxford, 1985); Louis Châtellier, The Religion of the Poor: Rural Missions in Europe and the Formation of Modern Catholicism, ca. 1500-ca. 1800 (Cambridge, 1997); Felipe Fernández-Armesto and Derek A. Wilson, Reformation: Christianity and the World, 1500-2000 (London, 1996), 172-85.
Patrick Provost-Smith, “The New Constantinianism: Late Antique Paradigms and Sixteenth-Century Strategies for the Conversion of China,” chap. 7 of this volume, 223-57. See, however, Liam M. Brockey, Journey to the East: the Jesuit Mission in China, 1579-1724 (Cambridge, MA, 2007), for the previously unsuspected extent of Jesuit evangelization at low social levels.
Willard J. Peterson, “Why Did They Become Christians? Yang T’ingyün, Li Chih-tsao and Hsü Kuang-ch’i,” in East Meets West: The Jesuits in China, 1582-1773, ed. Charles E. Ronan and Bonnie Oh (Chicago, 1988), 129-52.
Achilles Meersman, The Franciscans in the Indonesian Archipelago, 1300-1775 (Louvain, 1967), 92-96.
Meersman, The Franciscans in the Indonesian Archipelago, 110.
Hendrik E. Niemeijer, “Political Rivalry and Early Dutch Reformed Missions in Seventeenth-Century North Sulawesi (Celebes),” in Missions and Missionaries, ed. Pieter N. Holtrop and Hugh McLeod (London, 2000), 32-49.
Schwaller, “Conversion, Engagement, and Extirpation,” 266.
Robert Ricard, La conquista espiritual de México (Mexico, 1947), 140- 53, 180-84, 423-86.
For an explanation of the term, see Felipe Fernández-Armesto, “The Stranger-Effect in Early Modern Asia,” Itinerario 25/2 (2000): 80-103.
Richard Olof Winstedt, The Malays: a Cultural History (London, 1958), 33-44.
Mervyn Hiskett, The Development of Islam in West Africa (London, 1984), 33-56.
R. Horton, “African Conversion,” Africa 41 (1971): 87-108 at 103-4.
Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (Aldershot, 1994).
José de Acosta, Obras, ed. Francisco Mateos (Madrid, 1954), 202.
Gauri Viswanathan, Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief (Princeton, 1998), 39-41.
Martyn Percy, ed., Previous Convictions: Conversion in the Real World (London, 2000), 19-30.
Schwaller, “Conversion, Engagement, and Extirpation,” 260.
José María Arguedas and Pierre Duviols, eds., Dioses y hombres de Huarochirí (Lima, 1966), 241-44.
Frank Salomon and George L. Urioste, eds., The Huarochirí Manuscript: a Testament of Ancient and Colonial Andean Religion (Austin, 1991).
W. H. C. Freund, The Rise of Christianity (Philadelphia, 1984), 701-4.
Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica, 1:32.