That Christian missionary efforts have long gone hand-in-hand with European colonization and American imperialist expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries is well recognized. The linchpin role played in those efforts by the "Great Commission" - the risen Christ's command to "go into all the world" and "teach all nations" - has more often been observed than analyzed, however. With the rise of European colonialism, the Great Commission was suddenly taken up with an eschatological urgency, often explicit in the founding statements of missionary societies; the differentiation of "teachers" and "nations" waiting to be "taught" proved a ready-made sacred sanction for the racialized and androcentric logics of conquest and "civilization."
Mitzi J. Smith is associate professor of New Testament and early Christian studies at Ashland Theological Seminary, Detroit. Jayachitra Lalitha is associate professor of New Testament at Tamilnadu Theological Seminary, Madurai, India.
Introduction; Part 1: Colonial Missions and the Great Commission: Re-Membering the Past; Part 2: Womanist, Feminist, and Postcolonial Criticisms and the Great Commission; Part 3: Theology, Art, and the Great Commission; Part 4: The Great Commission and Christian Education: Rethinking Our Pedagogy; Part 5: Interrogating the Commission from Beyond the Academy.