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New Zealand Jesus

Social and Religious Transformations of an Image, 1890–1940

Geoffrey Troughton

What did early twentieth century New Zealanders make of Jesus, and what do their understandings tell us? This study provides the first historical analysis of New Zealand images of Jesus. Using a diverse range of churchly and secular sources it examines key themes and representations. These images provide insights into the character of New Zealand religion and its place in the nation’s history and culture – from dimensions of childhood and gender through to debates about social reform. They also highlight broader dynamics of social and religious change. Crucially, this work traces the rise of a new kind of Jesus-centred religiosity that reflected wider cultural shifts. The form was particularly evident among Protestant Christians, who embraced Jesus in their efforts to modernise Christianity and extend its influence within the community. The author shows that this development was a response to change that profoundly reoriented Protestant Christianity.


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Acknowledgements 7


7 Acknowledgements One consequence of writing a book is the accrual of many debts. While these are too many to recount or repay here in full, I do wish to express gratitude to friends, family and colleagues whose inspiration, advice and forbearance have made this venture possible. This book began life as a thesis that attempted two main things: first, to examine New Zealand perceptions of Jesus as a subject of interest in its own right and relevant to historians of modern Christianity generally; second, to address a more local concern of approaching the history of Christianity in New Zealand in a fresh manner. I wanted to write about New Zealand Christianity in a way that brought together religious, social and cultural history more closely than most existing local studies, and in a way that would be valuable for the broadest spectrum of New Zealand historians. To the extent that these ambitions have been realised, I am indebted to supervisors, colleagues and others who have offered critical feedback at different times. In particular, I express deep appreciation to Associate Professor Peter Lineham who offered such generous friendship and superb supervision of the original project, as did Professor Ivor Davidson. I also benefited from the support and advice of colleagues in the History programme at Massey University, including Professor Margaret Tennant and Drs Kerry Taylor and James Watson, and Professors Kerry Howe and David Thomson. Since 2008, it has been my pleasure to be part of the Religious Studies programme at...

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