Citizens of a Christian Nation
Evangelical Missions and the Problem of Race in the Nineteenth Century
Politics and Culture in Modern America
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
248 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780812222067
- Published: May 2012
In America after the Civil War, the emancipation of four million slaves and the explosion of Chinese immigration fundamentally challenged traditional ideas about who belonged in the national polity. As Americans struggled to redefine citizenship in the United States, the "Negro Problem" and the "Chinese Question" dominated the debate.
During this turbulent period, which witnessed the Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson decision and passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, among other restrictive measures, American Baptists promoted religion instead of race as the primary marker of citizenship. Through its domestic missionary wing, the American Baptist Home Missionary Society, Baptists ministered to former slaves in the South and Chinese immigrants on the Pacific coast. Espousing an ideology of evangelical nationalism, in which the country would be united around Christianity rather than a particular race or creed, Baptists advocated inclusion of Chinese and African Americans in the national polity. Their hope for a Christian nation hinged on the social transformation of these two groups through spiritual and educational uplift. By 1900, the Society had helped establish important institutions that are still active today, including the Chinese Baptist Church and many historically black colleges and universities.
Citizens of a Christian Nation chronicles the intertwined lives of African Americans, Chinese Americans, and the white missionaries who ministered to them. It traces the radical, religious, and nationalist ideology of the domestic mission movement, examining both the opportunities provided by the egalitarian tradition of evangelical Christianity and the limits imposed by its assumptions of cultural difference. The book further explores how blacks and Chinese reimagined the evangelical nationalist project to suit their own needs and hopes.
Historian Derek Chang brings together for the first time African American and Chinese American religious histories through a multitiered local, regional, national, and even transnational analysis of race, nationalism, and evangelical thought and practice.
Introduction: Evangelical Christianity and the Problem of Difference
1. "A Grand and Awful Time"
2. Faith and Hope
5. Conflict and Community
"Focusing on freedpeople in and around Raleigh, North Carolina and Chinese immigrants in Portland, Oregon, Chang's comparative research and theoretical reflections shed fresh light on the subject of post-war religious reconstruction."—Journal of American History
"Ambitious and erudite. . . . It is rare to find a work of such bold comparison within the United States or to find a single work of history that attempts to write the stories of two such disparate regions. There is much to be gained from this approach, and Chang produces many lucid insights into the linkages between racial formation and a national form of evangelicalism."—American Historical Review
"Citizens of a Christian Nation is an imaginative comparative study of race and nationalism that integrates histories generally interpreted as distinct. Even as Baptist missionaries' rhetoric and practice of racial uplift and inclusion created opportunities for Chinese and African Americans and challenged 'un-Christian' white supremacists, Derek Chang argues, the missionaries' inclusive impulses ironically reproduced racial divides. It is a revelatory analysis of the enduring significance of race, even or especially among those professing to work toward racial equality."—Moon-Ho Jung, author of Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation
"In this rich account of African Americans and Chinese immigrants who invested their hopes and dreams in the Baptist faith and of the white Baptist missionaries whose goal was to embrace and make proper citizens of them, Derek Chang shows how closely entwined have been the forces of racism and anti-racism in U.S. history. A powerful contribution to our understanding of citizenship and nationalism."—Mary A. Renda, author of Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940