Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Living Upon Hope

Rachel Wheeler is a professor of religious studies and associate editor of the journal Religion and American Culture. As part of her requirements for receiving a PhD. from Yale University, she wrote a thesis that compares the Calvinist Mohicans at Stockbridge, Massachusetts with their Moravian tribesmen in neighboring villages.

Living Upon Hope: Mohicans and Missionaries, 1730-1760, is available via interlibrary loan. However, this summer, professor Wheeler came out with a book with a similar title: To Live Upon Hope: Mahicans and Missionaries in the Eighteenth Century Northeast (Cornell Universioty Press). I cannot tell you for sure how much overlap there is between the two titles, since I have not yet read the new book.

Anyway, at the risk of oversimplifying a PhD thesis, here's the essential diference between the Stockbridges and their Moravian tribesmen: By accepting a Calvinist mission, the Indians at Stockbridge were allying themselves with the powers of colonial Massachusetts. They still got the short end of the stick, but at least they remained for about 50 years before moving west. Meanwhile, the Moravian Mohicans took on a form of Christianity so different from Puritanism that it was illegal throughout much of colonial America. Moravian Indians, both Mohicans and Delawares, were, of course persecuted and victimized even more than the white Moravians. It didn't stop until the whole village of Gnadenhutten was massacred in the 1790's.

That is an oversimplification, because I said nothing at all about spiritual/religious differences. That will have to come later.

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