On missionaries at their worst

Robert Woodberry gives the example of D. F. Malan, an architect of apartheid in South Africa.



Robert Woodberry gives the example of D. F. Malan, an architect of apartheid in South Africa.


One negative example is a man named D. F. Malan who was in South Africa. Now he wasn’t actually a missionary very much, he was mostly a pastor who was very supportive of missionaries. But in South Africa, for example, the missionaries who were very critical of white settlers and what became to be apartheid were mostly missionaries who were English or Swedish or American or from other countries, and funded from outside. Afrikaans missionaries, missionaries who were funded by white settlers, tended to not educate blacks to the same level and actually became involved in sort of the theory behind apartheid, which … Malan was crucial in terms of developing the theory behind apartheid.

Now the way it was presented it sounds very anthropological and lovely. So the argument basically being is that every society has its own genius, its own sort of culture, which shouldn’t be interfered with by others. So we need to let black people in Africa (or anywhere) develop according to their own genius, to their own culture, and not interfere with it by introducing Western education or Western science or various other things, and let the white people develop according to their own genius and the black people develop according to their own genius. But it became a way of keeping people separate – apartheid, apartness – and also denying them the resources that they could use to compete economically or politically.

So how it actually was applied was horrific. And basically, the government came in and they took over the missionary schools. The missionary schools … most of the nationalists came out of the missionary schools, the people who founded the African National Congress party, various things like that came out of mission schools. So they just nationalised them, took them over and made them bad, and instituted a system that allowed them to exploit and dominate black people. And some missionaries – Afrikaans missionaries and missionary supporters, like Malan – were crucial in developing the theory behind it and that’s a bad thing.

Now on the other hand, the people who were the main people who critiqued them were other missionaries that were funded by people who were not white settlers.