Has NZ history sold Christianity a bit short?

Has NZ history sold Christianity a bit short?

Many readers will be familiar with the name Keith Newman, author of Bible and Treaty – a book we’ve been encouraging people to read in the lead up to 2014 – the year we mark 200 years since Samuel Marsden first preached the gospel in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Keith has recently released a new book called Beyond Betrayal, and was interviewed by Chris Laidlaw on Radio New Zealand, Sunday 29 September.

As Keith talked about the important role played by the missionaries in New Zealand, and especially by Maori believers, Chris Laidlaw asked “Has NZ history sold Christianity a bit short?”.

Keith’s answer will not be a surprise to most readers but the examples he gives and the stories he shares are well worth listening to.

Chris Laidlaw challenged Keith about claims over the years that evangelical Christianity had undermined the very essence of Maori culture and that in effect the decision to send missionaries to countries like NZ was a form of spiritual assimilation?

Keith’s reply was that the role of the missionaries had been quite misunderstood. He said that the missionaries had to learn and speak the language, to live among the people, learn their customs, “and of course they were working very hard to undermine some of the nastier elements of [the culture] cannibalism, utu, and bring ideas of forgiveness. But once Maori got this they realised that this was a very important change for them”. He went on to talk about how the constant utu, battles, and so on, were decimating the tribes and undermining their ability to survive and trade.

Click here to listen to the 17 minute podcast