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Monday, 6 April 2009

The Lamb enters the Dreaming

The Lamb Enters the Dreaming: Nathanael Pepper and the Ruptured World by Robert Kenny (Scribe, 2010) is a stunning piece of historical exploration.

Kenny explores the conversion of Nathanael Pepper of the Wotjobaluk people of the Wimmera region of Victoria in 1860 through the agency of the Moravian missionaries.

Exploration by Kenny of the conversion of Nathanael Pepper is tackled by an engagement not only with the historical sources but by exploring the possible meanings of those sources against the intellectual currents of the day and the moral commitments of the chief actors in the drama.

Kenny, avowedly agnostic, is impressive in allowing the possibility of agency to the Aboriginals in the story in the account of Christian conversion, and challenges along the way many of the orthodoxies of how Australians and the Europeans thought about one another.

This is an open exploratory piece of writing that engages with issues of moral change and forgiveness. Kenny also wades into the debates about the ambiguities of Darwinian thought in its undercutting of the commitment by Evangelical Christianity to the belief that all humanity was of 'one blood'.

Kenny concludes his many facted exploration that evokes the signficance of place in his journey to try and understand Pepper and his choices with the folowing challenging paragraph:

Far from being "agents of the flag", the evangelicals were the main European vocie of concern. It was not "enlightened science" that exclaimed the unity of humainity; on the contrary, the "men of the world" usually pronounced the opposite. The evangelicals of the late eighteenth and early ninetennth centuries directed their attention to the mystery of human diversity in an increasingly known - and thus diverse - world. They used their Scripture to prove "One blood". This was not an argument but stubborn assertion, a faith in our commonality, which may be still the only way for our salvation. (p.341)

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