METHODIST NARRATIVES, RELIGIOUS JUSTIFICATION AND THE AMERICAN OCCUPATION OF THE PHILIPPINES, 1899-1904
Ryan Alvin M. Pawilen
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, University of the Philippines Los Baños, College, Laguna
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Received: 13 June 2022
Accepted for publication: 01 September 2022
Just as the Roman Catholic Church played an important role during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, the Protestant Church also made its mark during the United States of American imperialistic agenda in the country. One of the things where they participated with was the creation of the narratives to justify American imperialism and consequently the need of Protestantism in the Philippines. This paper examined these narratives and symbolisms from primary sources specifically those published or written mainly by members of the Methodist Episcopal Church during the late 1890s to the early 1900s. This paper also considered how the Methodist writers depicted the spiritual needs of the country not only of Filipinos but also the Americans thus creating further justification for American presence and Protestant missions.
Lastly, the paper also identified several of the strategies that the Methodist Church employed for their early missions in the country which reflects their justification. The paper recognizes the power of narratives, such as Biblically inspired representations of the U.S., in justifying conquests as well as the remembering or forgetting of such act. And for this recognition that the paper aims to add to the literatures reevaluating the narratives surrounding the Philippine-American War, American i imperialism, and Protestantism in the country among others.
Keyword: Methodist, American imperialism, Protestantism, religion
In the discussion of Philippine history, the use of religion as a colonial instrument is arguably more associated with the Spaniards while education was commonly seen as the front of the Americans. This paper, however, argues that religion through Protestant churches also had a significant role in advancing the colonial agenda of the United States of America in the Philippines. While these churches did not brand the U.S. occupation of the Philippines with imperialistic intent, their narratives developed to view the conquest as something positive.
Specifically, this paper aims to present how Protestant religion contributed to the narratives that justified the United States of America's occupation of the Philippines. Because there are different Protestant churches, this paper focused on the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South.
The Methodist movement that the group of students founded in Oxford university in 1727 whom John Wesley headed will eventually become the Methodist Church (ResourceUMC.org 2017). After coming to the United States of America, the Methodist Episcopal Church was also established in 1784 with Francis Asbury as its the leader (ResourceUMC.org 2017; UMC.org 1992). The movement and the Church have emphasized its social principles
including missions, education, and abolishment of slavery, social issues that eventually caused division and the creation of offshoot churches, including the United Methodist Church South in 1845 (ResourceUMC.org 2017;
UMC.org 1992). Decades later, Dr.
James Thoburn would hear about the news of Dewey’s victory against the Spaniards in Manila Bay the day after the battle in May of 1898 and would travel to the Philippines to deliver the first Methodist sermon in the country on March 2, 1899 (ResourceUMC.org 2017; Stuntz 1904). Missions would eventually come to the Philippines with the American occupation. As a disclaimer, I am a member of the now United Methodist Church, but this paper does not aim to celebrate the Methodist’s role in American occupation but to examine it from a critical angle. The American war and invasion of the Philippines is, after all, an imperialistic endeavor.
To help focus the examination of the narratives, the guide questions for this study were:
1. What were the descriptions, symbols, and explanations that the sources utilized regarding the United States’
occupation of the Philippines?
2. Focusing on the religious aspect, how did the sources describe the religiosity and spiritual needs of the Filipinos especially those in the capital city of Manila?
3. What were some of the evangelization programs and strategies that the Methodists employed which reflected their narratives from 1899- 1904?
Since we are looking at the narratives that justified American imperialism during its early years, the paper investigated primary sources from 1899-1904. This covers the years when they arrived in the Philippines including the start and end of the Philippine-American War, 1899-1902, at least from the American perspective.
The first alleged Methodist sermon in the Philippine soil was also delivered in 1899 and the first small Methodist Church in the Philippines was established in 1900. The accounts also point to 1901 as a year for the mass arrival of Methodist and other Protestant missionaries in the country.
Thus, the years 1903 and 1904 were added as sample years after the war to help provide more context during the early years of Methodism in the country. These primary sources were sample speeches, reports, and pamphlets that the Methodist
missionaries and congregations printed during the said period.
Considering the online set-up due to the pandemic, the gathering of primary sources was limited mostly to available online data. Most of them were
“official” church materials in the sense that they were published with the support of the Church, written by church missionaries, and reported in church delegations. I was not able to access a diary, letter, or any more personal documents. Further, the study was also limited to the discourses from written or published sources as oral interviews of the writers are no longer possible and that the current Methodist officials may have a different perspective of the events due to historical distance and recent ideological perspectives that changed the way we looked at the American occupation.
The following sources are chronologically listed as follows:
1. “Light in the East: India, Malaysia, the Philippines” by Bishop James Thoburn and Bishop Frank Warne (1900) 2. “The New Era in the
Philippines” by Arthur Judson Brown (1903)
3. “Pioneer Americanas or the First Methodist Missionaries
in the Philippines” by Cornelia Moots (1903)
4. “The Philippines and the Far East” by Homer Stuntz (1904) 5. “From Baluchistan to the Philippines: Four Years of Methodist Episcopal Mission Work in Southeast Asia” by Bishop Frank Warne (1904) 6. “The Philippines and India”
by Henry Warren (1904) Not only were these materials published during the period of this study but the authors actually worked in the Philippines and are well-known in the history of Methodist evangelization around Asia. Bishop Thoburn conducted evangelization works in India and Malaysia before coming to the Philippines after Dewey was announced victorious in Manila (Stuntz 1904). Bishop Warne also came to the Philippines from the same mission fields as it seems like most missionaries to Asia had their bases first in India and Malaysia. Bishop Warren and Stuntz came as missionaries in October 1903 (Stuntz 1903). Moots was part of the first group of female missionaries in the Philippines with medical and educational works included in their assignment (Stuntz 1903). The others introduced themselves as having lived in the Philippines and worked with the missions in the country or have visited
the Philippines in relation to church meeting and evangelization.
Other than the identification and analysis of the religious narratives that justified American colonization, the paper also presented several of the strategies employed to convert Filipinos to Methodism as examples of how their narratives also affected Methodist evangelization in the Philippines.
The study enhances the literature that revisits the events surrounding the Philippine-American War. The paper adds to the discussion of the systemic narrative-building by various stakeholders and social institutions in the United States for the justification of its imperialistic schemes. Through such analysis of primary sources, we could also study the prevailing narratives about the Philippine-American friendship and relationship into other perspectives.
The paper takes inspiration from other works that evaluate such narratives.
Themes in discourses have proven to be powerful agents that inspire action or support to the processes of remembering and forgetting.
One common narrative is that of Benevolent Assimilation and the White Man’s Burden. Stuart Miller (1982) extended the analysis of said ideas from mere proclamation of former US
President William McKinley and poem by Rudyard Kipling to narratives stemming from the historical development of America. One of Miller's notable arguments is that America saw its development as a total separation and rebirth from the Old World, but these changes were superficial and romanticized (Miller 1982). Due to the almost Biblical representation of this rebirth and distinction of the immigrants from the Old (Africa, Asia and Europe) to the New World (North, Central and South America), it came with the denial of social ills that continued to plague this new society in America (Miller 1982).
Expansion of territory eventually became a common theme in the American history with capitalist greed as its main motivation embellished as a natural phenomenon (Miller 1982).
The Anti-Imperialist Movement spearheaded by the likes of Mark Twain would also criticize the underlying religious themes of the United States’
invasion of the Philippines. Following the 19th century idea of “Freethought”, the Anti-Imperialist Movement in the United States would argue for rationality against such religious fanaticism which influences the justifications of the war against the Philippines (Gaskins 2009, 58). Mark Twain, for example, wrote the short story 'War Prayer' showing the irony of
the American Christians praying to God for the success of their sons while consequently wishing for the death and suffering of other people (Blum 2009).
Other anti-imperialists also criticized the twisted use of Bible verses to equate their conquest as a Holy Crusade with God depicted as an imperialist (Blum 2009).
While moral and religious themes were apparent in the narrative of Benevolent Assimilation, Kristin Hoganson (1998) was also able to highlight the gender perspective embedded in the discourses pertaining to the war. In her book entitled Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, she studied primary sources during the Philippine- American War through the lens of cultural history specifically looking for gender rhetoric. She was able to uncover how perceived gender roles affected the U.S. policy on war and imperialism. For example, war was seen as a potential context for the development of manly characteristics (Hoganson 1998). On the other hand, the Filipinos were described as childish or unmanly thus the necessity to civilize them (Hoganson 1998).
Themes in discourses also impact the type of commemoration and forgetting of the events that transpired during the Philippine-American War. Historian
Reynaldo Ileto noted that the topic shifted from the war to the alleged friendly relationship between the Filipinos and the Americans. Changing the terminology from war to friendship for example enabled the narrative to be consistent with the idea of Benevolent Assimilation (Ileto 2002). In order to explain the conquest, the Americans utilized the education system to promote the idea that the Filipinos needed tutelage on how to handle their new-found freedom thus the United States had to step in (Ileto 2002). As for the conflict, the immaturity of the Filipino leaders was further depicted as a simple misunderstanding justifying the need for U.S. intervention (Ileto 2002).
These sample works show the importance of revisiting the discourses that enabled and sustained the American imperialism in the Philippines. Identification of where these narratives and sources are coming from also provides us a picture of how certain social institutions or organizations relate to one another especially on a government’s international policies. The works mentioned above already provided some perspectives from the general Protestant Christianity, but we must still consider the participation of each denomination, just like how we also had to examine the roles of each friar
order during the Spanish colonial period.
Participation in this sense is not limited to the forms of support during the Philippine-American War but also their role in Americanizing the Filipino population. This role should be of interest as it shows how each church worked with one another or with the government. The challenges and conflicts the Protestant missions faced from both the Filipinos and possibly from other Americans can also be uncovered through such line of research.
The concept of imperialism was generally utilized but its synonyms 'colonialism', 'occupation', 'conquest', and 'invasion' were also used interchangeably simply to avoid repetitiveness in the sentence constructions. Imperialism is arguably still the most appropriate concept for the American occupation of the Philippines both in its historical academic usage and the various definitions of the concept. In general, imperialism is defined as the domination of one political entity over another (Lake 2015). To situate this definition historically however, we will define imperialism as the policy of international expansion of power and influence of Western countries through various means such as political, economic, and military starting around
the 19th Century (Smith 2015). This would cover the activities of the U.S. in the Philippines during the sample timeframe.
As mentioned, the paper identified the common themes in the sources regarding the Philippine-American War and the United States’ occupation of the Philippines. The strategies for conversion during the early stage of American imperialism in the Philippines were also highlighted. It was presumed that the justifications would also reflect the conversion strategies and vice versa. The geographical focus of the study was limited to Manila being the capital of the Philippines and therefore also the center of the establishment of the American rule as well as Protestant missions.
The results are summarized in the following three subsections. Further discussion of the data is provided in separate subsection. The conclusion and recommendations followed suit.
Methodist Religious Narratives for the US Conquest
There are three main reasons why most of the authors wrote their accounts in relation to the U.S. conquest of the Philippines. First, to convince the American readers that the occupation of the Philippines is a moral responsibility
(Brown 1903; Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904;
Thoburn and Warne 1900). Second, to describe the state of the Philippines and the Filipinos to strengthen the argument for American intervention with another country’s affairs (Brown 1903; Moots 1903; Thoburn and Warne 1900; Warren 1904). And lastly, to update the American Methodist congregations about the missions in the Philippines and subsequently encourage them to support these activities (Brown 1903;
Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904; Thoburn and Warne 1900).
In order to convince the readers that the American occupation of the Philippines was necessary, the writers employed various brandings and symbolisms signifying the goodness of such endeavor.
“Light is truly bursting forth in the East…” Bishop Thoburn and Warne (1900) would state in their book. And while the concept of the East was initially comprised of India and Malaysia, their book was revised to include the Philippines as an attached Part II section (Thoburn and Warne 1900). Brown (1903, 5) described the victory of the U.S. and its occupation of the Philippines as a “new era” which he believed to be better than the old Spanish colonial rule over the islands.
The envoy for this light in the East and new era in the Philippines was none
other than the United States of America.
However, the Methodist sources did not portray the process as something deliberate or forced but as a God-given responsibility, therefore the US had no choice but to oblige.
Captured in the words of Brown (1903, 5), “By no scheming of our own, and in ways very strange to us, we have been forced into governmental relations with eight million people on the other side of the planet.” Brown (1903) argued that the United States only targeted the threat of the Spaniards in the Pacific. It just so happened that the Spaniards were in the Philippines thus after the Spanish defeat, the Philippines simply was in the hands of the United States (Brown 1903).
Thoburn and Warne (1900, 5) perceived this as something inevitable because events in history seemed to lead to the
“enthronement of America among the guardian nations.” But these historical events were of course described as being driven by a higher authority.
Dedicating his work to American Christians, Stuntz (1904, 5) for example appealed to Americans “who believe that God works through nations as well as through His Church for the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness.” In these pronouncements, the authors depicted the United States to be destined by God as a powerful nation that aids others
and proclaims the message of Christianity.
Warren (1904, 4) emphasized the idea of America being chosen by God as a guardian nation with a responsibility of evangelization when he described the United States as a “world power” and a
“missionary force.” He (1904) also recounted historical events in the French Revolution that inspired the ideals of the United States.
In some instances, the annexation of the Philippines was perceived as an additional burden (Brown 1903;
Thoburn and Warne 1900). However, the writers argued that the United States cannot refuse because of moral reasons.
One of the reasons claimed that the Americans cannot return the Philippines to Spain or simply leave it to other European powers. To do so would be irresponsible of the Americans as the Philippines might be exploited again by other Western countries who also have conflicts on their own (Brown 1903; Thoburn and Warne 1900; Warren 1904).
Another scenario is leaving the Philippines on its own but that was also perceived as problematic. Famine, sanitation issues, conflicts between groups and regions, corrupted values, and leadership concerns necessitated an
intervention (Brown 1903; Thoburn and Warne 1900; Warren 1904). Corrupted values and maleducation were blamed on the Spanish rule (Brown 1903;
Warren 1904). To let the Filipinos lead themselves would also be detrimental to the country as Brown (1903, 22) described Aguinaldo as an “Oriental despot” whose government would only be “as oppressive as that of the Sultan of Turkey.”
In response to critics, Brown (1903) also argued that the Philippines has a different situation than that of Cuba.
First, the Philippines is not as homogenous therefore implying the higher probability of conflict. Second, it is farther from the United States therefore will be more difficult to monitor and help. Lastly, the Cubans allegedly had more time to transition towards their freedom (Brown 1903).
The United States’ intervention is therefore argued as its responsibility towards the “community of nations”
and their victory in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, was perceived as the sign that America should stop being seclusive (Brown 1903, 23; Thoburn and Warne 1900). By being blessed by God with abundance and civilization, the U.S.
was ordained by God to share its blessings to those in need and sick (Brown 1903; Warren 1904). By participating in the international community, the U.S. became the keeper
of its brother nations (Brown 1903). And having took over a people who were allegedly in conflict with one another, it was the Americans who said “Peace! Be still! And there was a great calm!”
(Warren 1904, 8).
It must be noted however that the narratives not only justified the occupation of the Philippines, but they advocated for an active engagement of the Methodist Church in the islands.
Therefore, it was necessary to apply the narratives of destiny and morality to Methodism to gain more support from the American congregation for the evangelical missions.
Again, there was the idea of God working through nations for the establishment of His kingdom or church (Stuntz 1904). Not only does God give the evangelization opportunity for the church but Stuntz (1904, 409) also argued that “the Holy Spirit never throws a land open to evangelistic effort until the burden of its salvation has been placed upon the hearts of His children” pertaining to the Christianity brought by the Spaniards. Similarly, Warne (1904, 16) said that “the Son of God has begun to build his Church among the Christless nations” and it is therefore the duty of the United States and the Protestant churches to finish the work of Christ.
Not heeding the call would be shameful for a Church that claims to represent the living God (Warren 1904). Encouraging his audience as both Americans and Christians, Warren (1904, 24) appealed that they "may grow as zealous for the kingdom of God in all parts of the world as ever man was zealous for the flag of his country.”
To further convince their readers that the cause of the United States and the Methodist Church in the Philippines is moral, necessary, and ordained by God, the writers went on to describe the religious and moral state of the Philippine society. The following subsection relays said descriptions.
Religious Needs in the Philippines
This subsection is titled “religious needs in the Philippines” because while the sources saw the colonization of the Philippines as a way to convert the Filipinos to Protestantism specifically Methodism, they also acknowledged that their work included safeguarding the faith of other Americans who arrived in the Philippines. This subsection summarizes the description of the Filipinos as well as other Americans in relation to their beliefs and values. It describes the needs that the sources enumerated for both groups. Since we are looking at the early
dates of the establishment of the church however, the paper focused on Manila as the capital city and those whom the sources called the Tagalogs or Tagalos as Thoburn and Warne (1900) would mistakenly spell.
It is notable that the writers did not see the Filipinos, or at least the people they called the Tagalogs who resided in the lowlands, as pagans or non-Christians.
The sources acknowledged the work of the Roman Catholic Church in eradicating paganism and then sowing the seeds of Christianity among the populace (Brown 1903; Stuntz 1904;
Thoburn and Warne 1900).
However, it was also a general sentiment among the sources that what the Spanish friars taught was a superficial system and a religion with corrupted values of oppression (Brown 1903, Stuntz 1904; Thoburn and Warne 1900; Warren 1904). Due to this religion as well as colonial government of oppression, Brown (1903) believed that the Filipinos were being unfairly judged using Western standards.
Thoburn and Warne (1900, 23) described the state of the Tagalos (Tagalogs) as pitiful being “among the victim races of the world.” Christianity came only to “enslave” them, and the Spanish friars generally lived a life of
“mockery of justice and a disgrace to all rules of right living” (Thoburn and
Warne 1900, 23). The general attitude of the native populace according to Thoburn and Warne (1900, 42) is captured in the sentence “Death to the Friars!” which a mob of Filipinos shouted during a certain occasion.
It was therefore assumed that the Americans were initially viewed as
“conquerors” (Thoburn and Warne 1900, 6). Brown (1903, 144) also mentioned that one of the reasons for the aggressive attitude of the Filipinos against the Americans was that the Americans appeared "to stand as the protector of the Church” after the friars have left.
Despite the hatred towards the friars, the sources imply that the Filipinos were still religious but with a perceived problematic version of Christianity.
Stuntz (1904, 378) evaluated the Filipino religiosity as only on the fundamental level and somewhat “idolatrous.” The Spaniards’mass conversion without further instructions did not develop the faith of the people and what only happened is the “substitution of images” which was successful in convincing the populace (Stuntz 1904, 383).
To further quote Stuntz (1904, 384) about the mindset of the Filipino Catholic:
Therefore, we find that the Filipino Catholic still conceives of God as a Being burning with wrath against the work of his hands, and seeking to devour them and thwart them, and exact vengeance for their shortcomings. For this diversion of the wrath of God he attends mass, has his little ones baptized, counts his beads, and attends to all the mint and anise and cummin of the Catholic law. For this he pays his money lavishly for masses to have the souls of his departed loved ones taken from purgatory to the heaven that is promised to all (of) them that love his appearing and kingdom
"without money and without price."
There is scarcely an act of worship that he performs which is not caused by this haunting fear which followed him from his old faith.
Stuntz (1904, 386) further criticized the materials or catechisms of religious schools in the Philippines for only containing a “… little Scripture history, a few pages of dogma, half of it utterly unsupported by so much as attempts at proof, and pages of miracle-studded saint-lore.” Brown (1903) and Stuntz (1904) agreed that the Filipinos do not seem to realize the connection of their faith and spiritual life to that of their civic actions and duties. Brown (1903, 167) described it as mere “external obedience to prescribed forms” such
that the people will solemnly observe the Angelus but will immediately return to drinking and gambling after the prayers. Stuntz (1904, 476) echoed this mere performance of a “daily religious program” without
“consciousness of obligation” as the Filipinos qualify confession, kneeling during mass, doing the sign of the cross, and reciting their rosaries as being religious enough.
What the sources asked from their readers therefore was more understanding of the situation of the Filipinos. This consequently leads to the argument that the Filipinos need the guidance of the United States and the Protestant churches.
For despite the flaws of the Filipinos and their anger towards the friars, the Filipinos were still described as thirsty for a better religion and “ready to be led to the Christ” (Thoburn and Warne 1900; Stuntz 1904, 393). How the independent Filipino Catholic movement or the Aglipayan church led thousands or millions of Filipinos from the oppressive Spanish Roman Catholicism was used as an example (Stuntz 1904; Warne 1904). There was also an alleged increase in the sale of the Bible when the friars left the islands which was taken as a sign of the people seeking the truth of their belief (Thoburn and Warne 1900). Thus, the situation opened opportunities of
evangelization for the Protestant movement in general, and the Methodist Church in particular (Stuntz 1904; Thoburn and Warne 1900; Warne 1904; Warren 1904).
Stuntz (1904) argued that diversity of religious choices could provide better teachings and religiosity in the Philippines. To quote, “It is not good for man to be alone. That is true of him as an individual, and equally true of him in his organizations for social or religious ends. Monopolies become bigoted” (Stuntz 1904, 375).
However, it was noted that the Filipinos were not the only ones who need some kind of religious guidance. While comparatively less in discussion, some of the sources described American military personnel, businessmen, and government officials also living ungodly lives (Brown 1903; Moots 1901). These ungodly behaviors include brawls and drunkenness by the American soldiers, concubinage and what was described as lustfulness, and gambling (Brown 1903; Stuntz 1904).
Some Americans were also living in luxury and idleness that they do not even attend church services but would instead prefer going to parks and dances (Stuntz 1904).
Methodist missions were therefore seen as significant factors for the spiritual sustenance and growth of both Filipinos
and Americans in the Philippines.
Further, strengthening of Methodist evangelization would help maintain the good image of the Americans to the Filipinos as the abovementioned issues could affect how the Filipinos perceive the Americans in general (Brown 1903;
Strategies and Benefits
In terms of promoting Protestantism and the Methodist beliefs, there was a consistent call for more volunteers, missionaries, and financial support for evangelization in the Philippines (Brown 1903; Stuntz 1904; Thoburn and Warne 1900; Warne 1904). But while the Methodist narrative of evangelization emphasized the need to send missionaries to the Philippines, it also promoted other civic duties and public services.
First and foremost is legislation of
“righteous” laws in the Philippines which can change the entire government system and influence social order including those of education, taxation, and evangelization (Stuntz 1904; Warren 1904). Laws that support the missions and the American occupation must also be enacted in the United States (Brown 1903).
The establishment of schools and the re- education of the Filipinos on different concerns such as values, manners,
religion, and governance were also among the main goals supported by the Methodist Church (Brown 1903; Stuntz 1904; Warren 1904). Methodists were called to be both missionaries and teachers in the Philippines, and while religion is not necessarily taught in schools, it was assumed that the change of the Filipino mindset would also put Protestantism or Methodism in a more positive light (Stuntz 1904; Warren 1904).
Among the changes in the education system that the Methodist Church aimed to establish is kindergarten and a school for the women, although both were initially for the children of American and prominent Filipino families who could afford such schooling (Moots 1903). The kindergarten was for children ages three to seven (3-7) and the school for women included subjects such as
“English, Grammar and Literature, Mathematics, Geography, History, Writing and Needle Work” with options for music and French or Latin (Moots 1903, 22-23).
It must be noted that the women missionaries such as Julia Wisner and Margaret Cody were at the front of the education aspect of Methodist evangelization (Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904). Another notable description of the women missionaries' assignment was to provide mothering or motherly
care for soldiers, such as what was said to Cornelia Moots (Moots 1903).
Luxurious living in the Philippines allegedly made American mothers complacent of their mothering duties thus the need to partner education and evangelization (Stuntz 1904).
According to the sources, learning the Spanish language to talk to the natives was futile as most of the Filipino population at least in Manila did not use the language (Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904).
It was actually taught to a chosen sector of the Philippine society, the ilustrados, and not to the majority. Part of the American missionary tasks then were to learn the local languages in order to communicate better with the communities (Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904).
The American missionaries were able to acknowledge the importance of mother language for the identity and culture of the people. They even employed Tagalog in circulars for announcements and translations of the Bible (Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904). However, the ultimate goal was to make English the common language that will unite the different ethnolinguistic groups in the country and bring enlightened ideas from the West. They even called the English language the “greatest gift”
from American education (Stuntz 1904;
Much like the US government proclaimed the development of Filipino
leaders, the Methodist missions also aimed to develop native teachers and preachers to sustain the growth and missions of the church in the Philippines (Stuntz 1904). As the Methodists established chapels, local preachers were assigned as substitute to the missionaries in case of their absence (Stuntz 1904).
Medical services were also part of the evangelistic mission with Annie Norton, M.D. as one of the pioneers in the Philippines (Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904). However, the medical missions were deemed unnecessary during the early parts of American occupation in the Philippines that Norton had to be reassigned to another country (Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904). Thoburn and Warne (1900) also considered sanitation as a significant concern that the Filipinos might learn from the Americans.
Famine, diseases, and pests were problems that the Americans allegedly solved (Warren 1904).
The establishment of the Evangelical Union composed of various Protestant denominations and Christian organizations such as the Presbyterian, Methodist, United Brethren in Christ, Young Men’s Christian Association, and others arguably helped in the spread of Methodism in the country (Brown 1903). Manila was established as the base of operations of all churches
and each denomination was assigned a province or region in the Philippines for three years to help focus their finances and efforts, subject to change after the three-year period (Brown 1903; Warne 1904).
According to the “constitution” of the Evangelical Union, the Methodists were assigned to “the Provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Bataan and Zambales”
(Brown 1903, 188, 190). This later included the Cagayan Valley and parts of Benguet (Stuntz 1904).
The Methodist narrative saw civic duties as part of their evangelical missions and these missions were portrayed as essential to the United States’ cause. Brown (1903) claimed that the success or failure of the Protestant missions will determine the real fate of the country. American politics and education can change the mindset of the people, but it can also lead to other superstition or atheism without Protestantism or Methodism (Brown 1903; Stuntz 1904).
Brown (1903, 163, 164) even considered the missionaries above the soldiers in terms of their significance to the American's cause in the country, stating that-
Our free institutions cannot rest on atheism. A republican form of
government cannot live in an atmosphere of impurity and dishonesty. A stream cannot rise higher than its source, and in a republic the source is the people. No one sees this more clearly than the Christian men who are in the Philippines.
Summary of Filipino Reactions
Before further discussion of the data, this subsection presents a summary of the initial reaction from native Filipinos to the American Methodist evangelization as relayed by these sources. For geographical and ethnolinguistic group focus, we will focus on the Filipino or Tagalog speaking population in Manila.
However, it must be reiterated here that the focus of the article is on the discourse of the American Methodists to justify the American occupation thus the actions of American Methodists and the reactions of the Filipinos could be explored extensively in different research.
Thoburn and Warne (1900), Brown (1903), Moots (1903), Stuntz (1904), and Warren (1904) stated a warm reception of the Protestant faith by the Filipinos.
The Protestant faith being received with
“eagerness” was a common descriptor (Thoburn and Warne 1900, 52; Brown 1903, 217; Moots 1903, 31). This eagerness was shown first in the
attendance to church mass, bible studies, and other church events, with some preaching occurring in “seven different places, with an average of weekly attendance of about six hundred” or on some occasions “six times in one day” (Thoburn and Warne 1900, 56; Brown 1903, 197; Moots 1904).
The numbers then rose to the thousands with the 1904 report stating that the Methodist Church at least had thirty churches in the country and with 8004 members (Stuntz 1904; Warren 1904, 13). The people were also buying copies of the Bible and allegedly requesting for more materials or study sessions about the Scriptures (Thoburn and Warne 1900; Brown 1903)
This increase in membership and sustained activities were in part due to native Filipino volunteers that either led the Bible study sessions, did the preaching in place of American missionaries, or helped build chapels (Thoburn and Warne 1900; Brown 1903;
Moots 1903; Stuntz 1904). Deducing from the narratives, a certain Nicholas Zamora was also ordained as a deacon of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1900 and would be the first native to be ordained as such in Protestantism (Thoburn and Warne 1900; Stuntz 1904).
The writers also seemed to quote prominent, elite, or well-off members of society in their accounts that Methodist missionaries possibly found these
people beneficial in spreading the Methodist faith. Nicholas Zamora, for example, was described as “educated and prominent” (Thoburn and Warne 1900, 49). Brown (1903, 215, 220) wrote about encouraging words from a prominent Filipino as well as the membership of Felipe Buencamino as President of the Board of Trustees in the largest Protestant church at that time in Tondo, Manila.
This positive reception was mainly attributed to the Filipino’s hate against the friars, the dissatisfaction of the status of their faith, and their need for more knowledge of the Bible (Thoburn and Warne 1900; Warren 1904). Brown (1903, 214) also argued that the
“Filipinos quickly perceived that the new spiritual guides were men and women of genuine faith, that they loved the people for whom they labored, that they did not seek power or attempt to oppress.” However, the educational and medical missions were not well- received at least during this period thus the focus was mainly on evangelism (Stuntz 1904).
These narratives match their idea of the Philippines as an open field that is ripe and ready for harvesting, justifying again the Methodist support to the American occupation of the country.
With such agenda, the described Filipino reception of Methodism could also be a manipulated propaganda to
encourage pro-American imperialism policies and enable more evangelistic missions. Further examination and analysis of sources ten or more years from this period could provide more extensive data and/or some kind of objectivity due to the historical distance.
As the data presented in three subsections showed, the Methodist sources engaged in justifying the American occupation in the Philippines. They did this by elaborating on the destiny and God- given responsibility of the United States. They also presented the civic and spiritual needs of Filipinos and some Americans in the Philippines. In fact, the Philippine-American War was not mentioned, only the victory of Dewey in Manila against the Spaniards which brought the Philippines in their custody.
The Methodist Church engaged in both evangelization and services to the public especially education. They presented this as part of their role to help the United States government as they believed that Protestantism was the key ingredient for the American success in the country.
If we examine the narrative of destiny, morality, and God-given responsibility of the United States, we can see
symbolisms alluding to Biblical events and verses. For example, America as the light bearer could have been inspired by Matthew 5:14-16 when Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world. The description of a “new”
system brought by the Americans in contrast to the “old” by the Spaniards could be a play on 2nd Corinthians 5:17 of the “new” coming and the “old”
Warren’s (1904) depiction of America shouting above the conflict saying
“Peace! Be still! And there was a great calm!” was clearly copying from Mark 4:39 when Jesus calmed the storm.
Clearly, the storm is the conflict among the people in the Philippines while America played the role of Jesus.
When it was argued that America already became part of the international community where it must be responsible for the nations who are sick and in need like that of taking care of one’s brother, Brown referred to the quote of Cain in Genesis 4:9 and also alluded to stories of Christ healing the sick. The narratives also contended that God had already planted the seeds of faith in the Philippines waiting for the U.S. to tend and reap the fruits, echoing the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:
By using such symbolism in their narratives, the sources were not simply justifying America’s occupation of the
Philippines but were also convincing themselves and their readers that what they were doing was God’s will. It was deemed important that the Protestant movement which includes the Methodist Church must work hand in hand with the US government in establishing changes and providing public service in the Philippines. The writers were coming from the perspective that Protestant religion is vital in American institutions because without it, all their efforts will result in failure causing the people to fall back to superstition or atheism.
They also acknowledged the contribution of the Spanish Roman Catholic Church in spreading Christianity. However, they believed that what this religion only taught were twisted beliefs, corrupted morals, and distrust in Western institutions. Thus, they argued that Protestant faith was necessary to correct these mistakes and provide the Filipinos at least an option for what Americans saw as a better interpretation of Christianity.
In view thereof, the writers called for support for laws that will change the Philippines. Methodists participated in education as a critical context to change the mindset and behavior of the Filipinos. The sources acknowledged the importance of developing native leaders and preachers, an approach that
seems to be in line with the idea of American tutelage.
However, we must still ground these seemingly positive programs on their justification of American occupation and support to American imperialism.
The Filipinos were depicted as weak and immature, while the war and imperialism were justified in such ego- boosting representations of America such as a God-ordained superpower and guardian nation. Examining the sources in the larger American imperialistic context present them as strategies to remold the Filipinos to fit the American standards of civilization as well as modify the Philippines into a more familiar territory.
It is notable that some of the sources also saw the problems of the Americans who came into the Philippines. The soldiers needed mothering, some American government officials were deemed corrupt and evil, and several Americans were described as living the life of luxury at the expense of faith, morality, and godliness. While the sources did not further elaborate on the matter to focus more on the allegedly larger Filipino needs, such observations provide a glimpse of possible issues between church and state, among others. As unlike the Spanish colonial government, the Americans public and laws observed the separation of state and church despite the Methodist
narratives insisting that they should go work together to attain real success.
Conclusion and Recommendations The sources showed how the Protestant movement, in this case the Methodist Church, participated in creating narratives justifying American imperialism in the Philippines during its early years. The Filipino-American War was erased from the narratives enabling the creation of more benevolent representations of the U.S.
They also argued for the importance of Protestantism in the successful establishment of American institutions in the country.
While there were only six primary sources for this paper, they were enough to generate a discussion on the said themes and there are more data that can still be processed for other topics. Expanding the timeline to about the first decades or so would provide us with the development of Methodism in the Philippines as well as the sustained role of the Protestant church in the American imperialism. Changing the Protestant denomination or the geographical focus could yield to varying but equally interesting result.
The use of other primary and secondary sources such as other memoirs, diaries, or photographs could provide more extensive analysis of the historical period. An interview of current
Methodist officials and historians presents possible development of perception on the role of Methodism in American imperialism.
The role of women and other gender- related topics as well as native priests and church workers could be further studied. The silenced or marginalized voices should also be examined such as the conflict within or among the churches, between the Protestant church and the American government, and the role of the church to the continuous revision of the memory of the Filipino- American War in the succeeding years.
Brown, Arthur. 1903. The New Era in the Philippines. Texas: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church South.
Moots, Cornelia. 1903. Pioneer 'Americanas' or First Methodist Missionaries in the Philippines. Michigan: no publisher details.
Stuntz, Homer. 1904. The Philippines and the Far East. Cincinnati: Jennings and Pye.
Thoburn, James, and Frank Warne. 1900.
Light in the East: India, Malaysia, the Philippines. Cincinnati: Jennings and Pye.
Warne, Frank. 1904. From Baluchistan to the Philippines: Four Years of Methodist Episcopal Mission Work in Southern Asia. New York:
The Missionary Society Methodist Episcopal Church.
Warren, Henry. 1904. The Philippines and India. New York: The Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Secondary and Online
Blum, Edward. 2009. “God’s Imperialism:
Mark Twain and the Religious War Between Imperialists and Anti- Imperialists.” Journal of Transnational American Studies, 1(2): 35-38.
Gaskins, Adrian. 2009. “Let U.S. Prey: Mark Twain and Hubert Harrison on Religion and Empire” Journal of Transnational American Studies, 1(1): 57-61.
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Ileto, Reynaldo. 2002. “The Philippine- American War: Friendship and Forgetting,”
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Miller, Stuart. 1982. Benevolent Assimilation:
The American Conquest of the Philippines.
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