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Zaire for Jesus: Ford Philpot’s Evangelical Crusades in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1966-1978

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Abstract This essay explores how Congolese Protestants developed a partnership with Kentucky-born Methodist evangelist Ford Philpot from 1966 to 1978. Philpot’s revival tours allowed Congolese clergy to negotiate as equals with U.S. Protestants, marking a major change from the dominant role of missionaries prior to independence in 1960. During and after Philpot’s crusades Congolese Protestants wrote Philpot about their spiritual views and their troubles in Mobutu’s Zaire. Instead of being merely passive followers of Philpot’s evangelical and charismatic preaching, Congolese sought to use him as a source of financial patronage as well as spiritual support. This essay questions common assumptions regarding U.S.-Congolese ties under Mobutu, and investigates how the rise of evangelical Christianity in postcolonial Africa was clearly shaped by cold war concerns as well as anxieties over national identity and the rise of African dictatorships.

Affiliations: 1: Social Sciences Department Marywood University, 2300 Adams Avenue, Scranton, PA 18509


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