Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Timothy Longman's "Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda"

Timothy Longman serves as Director of the African Studies Center and is Visiting Associate Professor of Political Science at Boston University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, and reported the following:
My book, Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda, seeks not only to describe how Christian churches became deeply implicated in the 1994 genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi ethnic minority but also why the churches in this heavily Christian country ended up condoning violence. Based on both national- and local-level research, I argue that the explanation lies in the histories of church alliances with the state and engagement in ethnic politics. In addition, I contend that churches are inherently political institutions in which various groups and individuals compete for access to resources and power, including spiritual power.

On page 99, I describe some of the theological ideas that inspired progressive challenges to the power of entrenched conservative officials in Rwanda’s Catholic and Protestant churches in the 1980s and 1990s. Specifically, the page discusses Latin American Liberation Theology and theologies of inculturation in Africa. The fact that jumps out at me is that the page does not mention Rwanda. In this chapter alone, the word Rwanda appears 149 times – but not on page 99. From this page, a reader would correctly assume that the book is about religion and might guess that it is about religion in Africa, but she would have no idea that the book is about Rwanda. I also note that the page is almost half taken up with footnotes, which makes the book seem particularly academic. Hopefully this does reflect the thorough research that went into the book, but it does not particularly reveal the degree to which I hope the text is accessible and readable.
Read more about Christianity and Genocide in Rwanda at the Cambridge University Press website.

Visit Timothy Longman's Boston University faculty webpage.

--Marshal Zeringue