You are here

Savior from Civilization

Title: Savior from Civilization: Charles Brent, Episcopal Bishop to the Philippine Islands, and the Role of Religion in American Colonialism, 1901-1918.
Name(s): Ratcliffe, Jason C., author
Piehler, G. Kurt, professor directing thesis
Liebeskind, Claudia, committee member
Creswell, Michael, 1958-, committee member
Florida State University, degree granting institution
College of Arts and Sciences, degree granting college
Department of History, degree granting department
Type of Resource: text
Genre: Text
Issuance: monographic
Date Issued: 2016
Publisher: Florida State University
Place of Publication: Tallahassee, Florida
Physical Form: computer
online resource
Extent: 1 online resource (195 pages)
Language(s): English
Abstract/Description: This work explores first and foremost the nature of the Episcopal mission to the colonial Philippines from 1901 to 1918, while it was under the leadership of a missionary bishop named Charles Henry Brent. Missionaries, such as Brent, served an essential role in the American colonial enterprise in the Philippines. The historiography tends to label missionaries as cultural imperialists. Missionaries did not abstain from culturally imperialistic behavior. But, they also acted at times as protectors of Philippine culture. How could missionaries act both as imperialists and attempt to preserve native culture in the Philippines? Contrary to the theories of some historians, missionaries did not see their actions as contradictory, but as complimentary. The reason for this: ideology. Missionaries defined their purpose based not on the motives of the Philippine Commission—the American governing body in the islands—but on their own theology. Brent and his mission will be used as a prominent example, a microcosm, to prove this point. The three chapters within focus on ideology and theology as the primary motivators for characters within this narrative. The first chapter looks at the American people and the U.S. government, tracing the development of racially and religiously motivated feelings toward the Philippines and the Filipinos. The chapter then turns to missionaries and traces both their theological and their ideological reasons for going to the Philippines. Just as with the American people and the American government, racial and religious reasoning urged missionaries to go to the Philippines. While a large part of the missionary justification for proselyting in the Philippines was the existence of a minority of non-Christians in the archipelago, upon arrival in the islands Protestant missionaries primarily focused on the conversion of Roman Catholic Filipinos. This chapter highlights the motivations of the U.S. government and the Philippine Commission, and compares them with those of the Protestant missionaries. The second chapter turns to Brent's mission. As ideology is essential to this narrative, this chapter is an exploration of his theological and ideological motivations. The chapter underscores Brent's one focus above all others in the Philippines. He wanted to save the non-Christians, especially the Igorots—an animist group in Northern Luzon—from what he referred to as the concomitants of civilization. Believing that civilization was being ushered into the Philippines by the American presence in the islands, Brent felt that non-Christians needed to be protected from the concomitants, or vices, that would inevitably come along with civilization. In essence, he wanted to be their savior from civilization. Brent felt that the Igorots did not need Christianity while in isolation, their religion would suit their needs. But, now that they would no longer be isolated, Christianity was all that could save them from succumbing to vice. When work among the Igorots lost Brent's interest, he transferred these same feelings to the Moros—the Muslim community in the Philippines—determining to help prepare them for Christianization. The two other groups that Brent's mission targeted, the Americans stationed in the islands and the Chinese population in Manila, while important in their own right, received attention from Brent partly because of the influence they had on the Igorots and the Moros. Chapter Two illustrates how Brent's theology and ideology led him to create a unique mission. It focuses on his ecumenism, views on morality and vice, and his belief in responsibility. The third chapter builds on the foundation laid in Chapter Two. Detailing the four sections of Brent's mission, Chapter Three demonstrates that the theological concern that drove Brent was his desire to save the non-Christian Filipinos from civilization. It illustrates that the policies implemented by Brent in each part of his mission, show a consistent concern for the "heathen" and saving him from vice through his Christianization. The chapter simultaneously proves that these efforts sometimes aligned with those of the Philippine Commission, aiding them in their goals. But, it also is clear that Brent occasionally redirected not only the Philippine Commission, but also the U.S. government, pushing them to help accomplish his agenda. This provides a picture of the relationship between the missionary and the colonial enterprise. It was complex. The missionary often had his own motives, and acted independently. He was also a crucial part of the American presence in the Philippines, making a large contribution to the American operation in the islands.
Identifier: FSU_FA2016_Ratcliffe_fsu_0071N_13614 (IID)
Submitted Note: A Thesis submitted to the Department of History in partial fulfillment of the Master of Arts.
Degree Awarded: Fall Semester 2016.
Date of Defense: November 16, 2016.
Keywords: Brent, Episcopal, Igorot, Missionaries, Moro, Philippines
Bibliography Note: Includes bibliographical references.
Advisory Committee: G. Kurt Piehler, Professor Directing Thesis; Claudia Liebeskind, Committee Member; Michael Creswell, Committee Member.
Subject(s): United States -- History
Religions -- History
Asia -- History
Persistent Link to This Record:
Owner Institution: FSU

Choose the citation style.
Ratcliffe, J. C. (2016). Savior from Civilization: Charles Brent, Episcopal Bishop to the Philippine Islands, and the Role of Religion in American Colonialism, 1901-1918. Retrieved from