“Spreading the Faith”

Some religions consider evangelization or missionary activity to be an important part of devotion to God. Christianity and Islam are both considered to be ‘missionary religions.’ Even in the new world, both Aztecs and Incas required their conquered subjects to worship their conqueror’s deities, although the subject people were allowed to add them to their own native pantheons.If we assume that it was eventually inevitable that Europeans and Amerindians would eventually come into contact in some fashion, it is likely that in any scenario, they would have experience religious conflict. Write an essay evaluating the efforts of Catholic missionaries (Franciscans, Dominicans, Jesuits, etc.) to spread the faith among the conquered Amerindian peoples. Keep in mind examples of mercy and justice, as well as cruelty and exploitation by Spanish priests. Using examples from the readings, primary documents and films in this course, develop an argument criticizing or defending the overall missionary endeavor in its efforts to convert native Americans to the “true faith” and to protect them from oppression and exploitation by Spanish colonists and conquistadores.Did Catholic missionaries mitigate the horrors of disease, slavery and conquest? Or did they exacerbate the destruction? Make use of counter-examples.Do NOT make an argument based on twenty-first century values. Make your argument based on the given nature of the fifteenth and sixteenth century worldviews, historical context and economic realities. Make a sincere effort to avoid anachronisms.INSTRUCTIONS• Review the first three chapters of the textbook dealing with the “conquest” and evangelization of the Americas.• Consider pro- and con- examples from Black Robe and The Mission.• Read the primary source document from Penyak and Petry “Penyak PART III Conversion” as preparation for writing this essay.• Review the J. González text, chapter 2: “The Arrival of Christianity.”• Review notes from the class lecture on week 3, January 24.PREPARE AND SUBMITWrite a well-organized essay with a minimum of 1,400 to 1,500 words (4 to 5 pages double-spaced) in which you address the following:PROMPT: Analyze and discuss the material that has been assigned, and address the following statement: “Despite some examples of harsh or cruel missionary activity, many, if not most Catholic missionaries sincerely had the best interests of the Amerindians at heart.” Discuss if you agree or disagree with the statement.ALTERNATE PROMPT: Analyze and discuss the material that has been assigned, and address the following statement: “Despite possible good intentions of some Catholic missionaries, most missionary work enhanced the oppression and suffering of Amerindians.” Discuss if you agree or disagree with the statement.

Sample Solution
“Spreading the Faith”


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