Articles by Natalie Morrill
August 15, 2020
Reviewing Joan Thomas’ historical novel Five Wives, Natalie Morrill wonders what moral calculus contemporary readers can bring to evangelizing engagement with vulnerable populations.
In 1956, five Christian missionaries attempting to evangelize the “uncontacted” Waorani people set up camp in Waorani territory in Ecuador He’s a character for whom the Christian missionaries are as alien as the Waorani warriors who killed them: “He had no idea how to talk to these people,” he realizes, after making a failed joke about the Bible to Betty Eliot Like the five missionaries of Operation Auca, John Chau knew he was facing possible death in approaching North Sentinel Island Around the time I found out about Mincaye’s death, a friend of mine shared a link to a review of Valerie Eliot Shepherd’s 2019 book, Devotedly: The Personal Letters and Love Story of Jim and Elisabeth Eliot There is a rainforest changed forever, and perhaps more to the liking of massive corporations than to the souls of the people these missionaries claimed to love: along with a new religion and more peaceable way of life, addiction, illness and suicide among the Waorani followed the exploitation of the rainforest for its natural resources, itself an unintended result of the missionaries’ “success Yet, as if stubbornly determined not to be satisfied with such hefty subject matter and good writing, I found myself dwelling on a question as I read Thomas’s novel: What is a book like this for? My instinctive answer, as a reader, is that at its best, such a book promises to “un-strange” a stranger -- to give us intimate access to the thoughts, emotions, experiences and inner conflicts of someone whose life and experience are very different from our own