Conversion or Proselytization? Being Maasai, Becoming Christian


  • Joshua Robert Barron Africa International University


Conversion is part of Christianity’s DNA. Scholarly discussions about the meaning(s) and nature of Christian conversion perhaps reflect a popular—and historical—confusion about conversion vis-à-vis proselytization (e.g., Goodman 1994; Cornelli 2017, 413). Nonetheless, proselytization and conversion are not the same. Culture plays an important role in proper Christian conversion because this conversion, or “the turning to Christ what is already there” in the words of Andrew Walls, takes place within the context of culture. By contrast proselytization is the mere exchange of one human culture for another and was rejected by the Apostles. Because “the gospel enriches the culture,” in African contexts “Christianity should strengthen and reaffirm one’s African identity” (Falconer 2015, 161). After exploring these themes, I will propose a model to discuss Christian conversion within the Maa language and culture of the Maasai people of East Africa.

Author Biography

Joshua Robert Barron, Africa International University

PhD candidate, Centre for World Christianity; missionary in Kenya since 2007