The Lotu and the Fa'asāmoa: church and society in Samoa, 1830-1880

Theology Religion Christianity Humanities Arts and Social Science (HASS) Samoa

The purpose of this thesis is to study the intersection between the forms of Christianity introduced into Samoa, and traditional Samoan social patterns and values, in the period up to 1880. A long introduction lays the groundwork for the rest of the work, by setting out the conception of Samoan society that is the basis for the interpretation. The approach has been eclectic, and comprehensive, but, nevertheless, it concentrates on those areas which are more directly of use.Chapters I and II give a chronological account of the development and growth of the denominations up to 1880. Chapter I serves, also, as a study of the preparation of Samoa for a relatively swift acceptance of Christianity during the 1830's. It provides the opportunity, too, to study, in embryo form, so to speak, some of the issues that are developed more fully in later chapters. Chapter II draws attention to the way in which denominationalism has its roots, in Samoa, in traditional social patterns but how, also, to an extent, it transcends those patterns.Chapter III falls into three parts, but in general is designed to elucidate an understanding of the way in which, and the extent to which, the presence of Christianity was able to induce certain changes, desired by the missionaries, in Samoan society. The major theme of the chapter is that it was because Christian doctrine and practice, as presented by the missionaries, was assimilated, largely unconsciously, by Samoans to their traditional religious thought and social values, that its presence was valued. This was developed first in a study of the practical and ideological value placed upon the activities of the missionaries, and their Samoan agents, and in a study of the ecclesiastical organizations set up, particularly by the Protestant missions. Second, a study is made of the Samoan understanding of Christian doctrine. Finally, the third part considers particular areas where the missionaries attempter to produce change. It was concluded that while the missionaries did have influence in some matters, in many cases, Samoans devised means to circumvent missionary requirements, where traditional concerns were too important to be ignored.In Chapter IV, a study of other areas of change induced by Christianity is made. Of particular importance was the study of the way in which the position of the chiefs was affected by the presence of Christianity, and particularly by the missionaries and their Samoan agents, and in the case of the Protestant societies, by their authority over church members, whose allegiance was therefore, to some extent withdrawn from the chiefs. The final section of this chapter demonstrates that the extent to which the missionaries could be involved in politics was increasingly limited, because of the divided state of Samoan political parties, and because adherents of the mission were distributed among all parties.Chapter V acts as a conclusion, beginning with a summary of the position reached in previous chapters, and including a study of the attitude of the missions towards the use of traditional Samoan forms of oratory and music, and a description of the development of Samoan autonomy within the L.M.S. churches. A brief conclusion draws attention to some of the wider implications of the interpretation arrived at in this thesis.

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