Richard Elphick Answers Five Questions on The Equality of Believers
Richard Elphick, author of The Equality of Believers: Protestant Missionaries and the Racial Politics of South Africa, was interviewed about Christian missionaries and their role in the racial politics of South Africa. The Wesleyan Connection‘s “5 Questions With…” series included a question about the relevance of the book beyond scholars of South African history, to which Elphick responded that he believed there was relevance, as it can show how even decent people who start off “with good intentions, can cause incredible evil”.
Q: What do you think is the main message, or the main achievement, of your new book?
A: For decades, historians of South Africa have struggled to trace how a white minority, starting in the 1650s, established a system of stark inequality among the races in the region. My book attempts to reconfigure the history of South Africa by interweaving the pressures toward inequality, which are now fairly well understood, with an account of the pressures toward racial equality. These pressures, I argue, were rooted chiefly in the proclamation of the equality of all persons before God, a message brought to South Africa by Christian missionaries. My story begins with the first missionary in 1737, and ends in 1960.