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Book Chapter

Publication Date



NYU Press


The whole problem is this: how to utter God in a practice of faith where I must decide what I wish to do with the woman or man I find in my path-make of him or her a human being with a right to life or a slave for life.-Jean-Marc Ela (139) Perhaps there is such a thing as seduction. Conversion. Perhaps cultures absorb one another. If it is true that the Franciscan padre forced the Eucharist down the Indian's throat, maybe she forgot to close her mouth. Maybe she swallowed the Franciscan priest. After all, the churches of Latin America are crowded with Indians today. It is Europe that has lost its faith.Richard Rodriguez (Crowley 9)

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

Chapter of

Christian Encounters with the Other


John C. Hawley



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