Religion versus the Raj: The Salvation Army’s “Invasion” of British India

in Mission Studies
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Abstract

Emerging as a mission in East London in 1865, the Salvation Army quickly became known for its militant and unconventional evangelism on the streets of British towns and cities. Convinced that unrepentant souls were headed for hell, Salvationists employed sensational tactics to attract the attention of the lower working classes. This strategy did not change when the Salvation Army sent a small party of missionaries to Bombay in 1882. They not only arrived in Indian dress but held noisy processions through the city’s streets. While these methods reflected the Salvation Army’s revivalist theology, they brought Salvationists into collision with the colonial authorities. Fearing that the Army’s aggressive and sensational evangelism would lead to religious rioting and reduce the religion of the ruling race to ridicule, the Bombay police arrested the Salvationists on several occasions between September 1882 and April 1883. Although the city’s British residents generally approved of the actions of the police, many Indians and missionaries came to the defence of the evangelical organization, believing that imperial officials had acted unjustly towards the Army’s missionaries. Bolstered by this support, Salvationists repeatedly defied colonial authority for the sake of religious liberty, demonstrating through their words and actions that the Salvation Army could be anything but a benefit to imperial stability and prestige on the subcontinent.

Mission Studies

Journal of the International Association for Mission Studies

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