In Tropical Idolatry, R.L. Green examines how thinkers within the Society of Jesus attempted to convert indigenous peoples of New Spain, the Philippine Islands, and the Mariana Islands to Catholicism during the early modern period. Through the close readings of Jesuit authored theological treatises and historical texts, all placed firmly within a rich, vibrant, and nuanced Catholic intellectual tradition, the evolution of ideas on the topic of indigenous religion within an imperial context becomes apparent. The purpose of this book is to demonstrate the importance that both religious and political beliefs played in the establishment of the Church in the Spanish Pacific world. The intent is to reconsider some commonly held assumptions regarding the Jesuit missionary enterprise and its role in the origins of global Catholicism.
By taking a look at the missionary conversion methods that the Spanish Jesuits used, Green gives a detailed picture of how closely entangled religion and empire where during the colonization period, and how such an entanglement led to the colonizing of, violence against, and the deaths of many people in the name of evangelization. * Reading Religion * Green offers a much needed study of the colonial Spanish Jesuit theology of conversion which was grounded in a mission to label and destroy Indigenous worldviews and structures through their classification as idolatrous. This legacy of the demonization of Indigenous religions in the South Pacific persists today through the historical ethnographic research done by Jesuits that helped shape the field. Green offers an important historical study that has implications for our understanding of historical Jesuit works, contemporary understandings of Indigenous religion, and the manner in which empire, colonialism, and theology intersect in this historical moment. -- Michelle A. Gonzalez, University of Miami Tropical Idolatry is an important contribution to Jesuit mission studies, offering an innovative look at 16th and 17th century Jesuit missionary activities in the Spanish Pacific through the history of Jesuit formation, theology, and spirituality. Green demonstrates the extent to which the Spanish Jesuit missionary project was entangled with empire, and yet he also shows how steeped the Spanish Jesuits in the Pacific were in their own institutional culture, spirituality, and theology. -- Tracy Sayuki Tiemeier, Loyola Marymount University Tropical Idolatry offers a lucid and lively account of the efforts of the Society of Jesus to extirpate idolatry in Mexico, the Philippines and the Mariana Islands. Tracing the intellectual history of prominent Jesuit missionaries in the Spanish Pacific from 1572 to 1700, Green reveals the ideological consciousness at work in the religious legitimation of empire. This is a thorough, well-researched, and much-needed exploration of Spanish history and Jesuit thought in the early modern period. -- Carlos R. Piar, California State University, Long Beach