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Fields of the Lord

Fields of the Lord: Animism, Christian Minorities and State Development in Indonesia

Copyright Date: 2000
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    Fields of the Lord
    Book Description:

    Religious and ethnic violence between Indonesia's Muslims and Christians escalated dramatically just before and after President Suharto resigned in 1998. In this first major ethnographic study of Christianization in Indonesia, Aragon delineates colonial and postcolonial circumstances contributing to the dynamics of these contemporary conflicts. Aragon's ethnography of Indonesian Christian minorities in Sulawesi combines a political economy of colonial missionization with a microanalysis of shifting religious ideology and practice. Fields of the Lord challenges much comparative religion scholarship by contending that religions, like contemporary cultural groups, be located in their spheres of interaction rather than as the abstracted cognitive and behavioral systems conceived by many adherents, modernist states, and Western scholars. Aragon's portrayal of "near-tribal" populations who characterize themselves as "fanatic Christians" asks the reader to rethink issues of Indonesian nationalism and "modern" development as they converged in President Suharto's late New Order state. Through its careful documentation of colonial missionary tactics, unexpected postcolonial upheavals, and contemporary Christian narratives, Fields of the Lord analyzes the historical and institutional links between state rule and individuals' religious choices. Beyond these contributions, this ethnography includes captivating stories of Salvation Army "angels of the forest" and nationally marginal but locally autonomous dry-rice and coffee farmers. These Salvation Army "soldiers" make Protestantism work on their own ecological, moral, and political turf, maintaining their communities and ongoing religious concerns in the difficult terrain of the Central Sulawesi highlands.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6252-7
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. VII-X)
  4. Note on Language and Orthography
    (pp. XI-XII)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on November 22, 1998, twenty-two churches and five Protestant and Catholic schools were burned and looted following a bloody clash between Christian Ambonese security guards from an amusement park and local Muslim residents of the Ketapang neighborhood. What seemingly began as a routine dispute over gambling escalated into ethnically and religiously motivated attacks spurred by rumors of the vandalization of a nearby mosque. Fourteen people were killed, some burned to death in the buildings set on fire by Muslim mobs, others brutally stabbed with kitchen knives, bamboo sticks, and metal spikes. The Muslim rioters...

  6. 1 Before and After Religion
    (pp. 13-46)

    In 1909 the Netherlands Indies government awarded the Kulawi District of Central Sulawesi as a mission “field” to the Salvation Army Church (Gereja Bala Keselamatan, Ind., or BK), an offshoot of Methodism created in London during the 1860s. This transfer of authority, and similar parceling of Indies geographical units containing potential Christian souls, was motivated by European ambitions of an integrated religious and behavioral metamorphosis that would legitimate colonial rule. Pagan Asians could and should be altered into modern Christian citizens of the Dutch Empire. This book examines these efforts at human metamorphosis and the complicated aftermath of this Procrustean...

  7. 2 Highland Places and Peoples
    (pp. 47-83)

    Dutch colonial administrators began their work in Central Sulawesi by formally identifying what they considered distinct languages and ethnic groups. The Tobaku and their eastern neighbors speak a language that linguists categorized as “Uma,” after the local word for “no.” Like all Central Sulawesi highlanders, the Tobaku also were placed into the generic ethnic category of “Toraja.” The panoply of highlanders’ ethnolinguistic labels and divergent “autonyms” indicates their ambiguous political status, their long-term evasion of state supervision, and the imperfect population group classifications that all state and mission administrations require.

    To call the Tobaku “Uma people” borrows an eccentric colonial...

  8. 3 Precolonial Polities, Exchange, and Early Colonial Contact
    (pp. 84-112)

    By 1929, the pioneering Dutch missionary A. C. Kruyt claimed that indigenous Central Sulawesi cultures were disrupted irrevocably through contact with Europeans (A. C. Kruyt 1929). Kruyt saw his mission activities as providing a spiritual and social lifeline for emotionally desperate natives unmoored from their prior cultural stasis and isolation. His view slighted the ecological specializations and precolonial interethnic relations in which Central Sulawesi highlanders had engaged for centuries. By all accounts, including their own, Tobaku always were montagnards, peripheral to larger population centers. Yet their late precolonial political formations, economy, and religion depended upon periodic migrations and regional, often...

  9. 4 Onward Christian Soldiers: The Salvation Army in Sulawesi
    (pp. 113-156)

    Dutch efforts to “pacify” western Central Sulawesi began in 1905, but Kulawi highlanders, who were renowned and feared as headhunters, eluded colonial rule for a few more years. In 1908, a lowland inhabitant led Dutch troops up a little-known mountain pass. The startled highlanders were armed mainly with bamboo blowpipes and spears. After the Dutch conquest, missionaries were invited by the Netherlands Indies government to open new mission fields. Western Central Sulawesi was awarded to the Salvation Army because missions from the more favored Dutch Reformed churches (Nederlandse Hervormde Kerk and Nederlandse Gereformeerde Kerk) were preoccupied with the Lake Poso...

  10. 5 Precolonial Cosmology and Christian Consequences
    (pp. 157-201)

    The precolonial religion of the Central Sulawesi highlands not only drew the approbation of Europeans, but puzzled them as well. Local ideas related to spiritual facets of people, animals, places, and things contested European Christian certainties about the divine, personal, and exclusively human soul, as well as commonsense assumptions about property ownership. Europeans even had trouble defining highlanders’ pre-Christian deities in order to place them within or outside the Protestant Trinity. Their makeshift solutions to these classificatory dilemmas often served as justifications for European claims that Central Sulawesi people had no true religion of their own, just misguided superstitions about...

  11. 6 Sacrificial Dialogues and Christian Ritual Qualifications
    (pp. 202-239)

    Ritual cycles in the Central Sulawesi highlands enact the relationships of religion, eclipsing abstract cosmologies and the particularities of individual deities, both autochthonous and foreign. Highlanders’ spiritual life continues to be steeped in moral assessments and practical strategies. That highlanders turn to rituals for “worldly benefits” (Reader and Tanabe 1998) does not significantly divide their religion from that of the Protestant missionaries. I prayed before meals with American evangelical families who thanked God for blessing them with the imported ingredients to make their pizzas, and for creating a beautiful waterfall for them to have beside their mission school. They regularly...

  12. 7 The Powers of the Word
    (pp. 240-274)

    A Tobaku Salvation Army officer once told me his child heard at school that Islam was superior to Christianity because Muslims hold their services in “God’s language” (bahasa Tuhan, Ind.) while Christians use only human language (bahasa manusia), that is, Indonesian. Captain Silase found it comical that Muslim children thought Arabic was the privileged language of God rather than just a foreign country’s language in which an imported religious text was written. The Indonesian schoolchildren’s intense concern with the religious efficacy of words, however, was neither foreign nor farcical to the Tobaku religious leader.¹

    The Judeo-Christian-Muslim awe of “the Word”...

  13. 8 Constructing a Godly New Order
    (pp. 275-319)

    The New Order government of President Suharto promoted its human engineering programs through godly means—that is, aided by the institutions of world religion. Christianity, formerly promoted by the Dutch colonial state, became supported by the Indonesian state for many of the same reasons. Christian ethnic minorities have been viewed as population “buffers” between Muslim groups, preventing and justifying restraints on Islamic influence over national policies (Kipp 1993, 213). President Suharto’s government also gave regulatory support to Christian churches because they enhanced the state’s program of nationalism, which was based in economic development as the most essential “rite of modernization”...

  14. 9 Conclusions
    (pp. 320-326)

    Religions, even world religions, do not have an existence apart from congregations and the social flux in which those communities live. Although terms such as “syncretism” imply the existence of pure religious entities that only sometimes are “mixed,” such pristine spiritual ideologies and practices are not common realities, at least not in the contemporary world. The events described here illustrate that even the defining criteria for what constitutes a religion or religious behavior are conceived differently by various cultural and political groups. This book, then, is an ethnography not just of particular peoples or their abstracted religions, but of the...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 327-334)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 335-368)
  17. Index
    (pp. 369-383)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 384-384)