Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
The January/February 2014 issue of Christianity Today ran a cover story entitled: "The World The Missionaries Made". The author is Andrea Gilley. The author ID said that she "spent part of her childhood in Kenya as the daughter of Quaker missionaries."
Her essay focusses on the research of Robert Woodberry, a sociologist who teaches at the U of Texas. For his dissertation, he examined the impact of "conversionary" Protestant missionaries on the world. The research was quite rigorous, and Woodberry found, according to Christianity Today, that where " [conversionist and non-government funded] Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past", the areas they worked in "are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust nongovernmental associations."
Woodberry controlled for lots of variables which could provide alternative explanations for his findings, and the correlation between missionary activity and these positive social outcomes held up strongly. The missionaries, he wrote, didn't set out to be political activists. Instead, "they [cared] about other people, saw that they'd been wronged, and [wanted] to make it right.
Were all missionaries this enlightened and compassionate? No, of course not. But the evidence still strongly supports Woodberry's thesis, regardless of controls for other variables. Woodberry has received a half million dollars from the John Templeton Foundation to carry out further research.
Thanks, Andrea Gilley, for your fine essay! See http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/january-february/world-mis...