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2 - Sin, Confession, and Conversion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 October 2022

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Summary

Introduction

The East African Revival was a conversionary movement. It demanded that people make radical breaks with their pasts in order to move out of spiritual darkness and into the light of salvation. Balokole believed that the lives of the “unsaved” (which included baptized members of mission churches who had not yet joined the revival) were shrouded in secretive darkness, while those who were saved lived lives characterized by openness and fellowship—the light of salvation. For Balokole, sin, particularly hidden and undisclosed sin, inhibited the life of salvation, and they believed that the only way to rid one's life of sin was to confess it publicly. The revival sought rupture in converts’ lives, and it did so around a discourse of sinfulness and salvation. While the primary targets of revivalist preaching were members of mission churches, there were also many who joined the revival who were not previously Christians. In either case, revival converts had to describe the fundamental discontinuity between their past and present selves in their testimonies, which were a constitutive part of converting. For Balokole, baptism, catechesis, and ordination were no guarantors of salvation because these things did not necessarily mean that one had truly repented of—or truly broken with—one's past. Balokole were not interested in putting “new wine in old wineskins.” Instead, they demanded that converts burn the “old wineskins.” Revivalists’ rhetoric of radical discontinuity helped converts to create a new identity as a Mulokole, or saved person, and it is only from this ruptured selfunderstanding that the choices Balokole made with respect to their families, homes, schools, and jobs make sense. Through practices like confession, “putting things right,” and “walking in the light,” Balokole were securing the means of salvation apart from priests, missionaries, and mission churches, even as they largely remained within those churches, as I argued in chapter 1.

Sin

Balokole wanted to be rid of sin; they needed to expurgate it from their lives. At large conventions, Balokole would often repeat the phrase, “Sin is bad, very bad!” Balokole believed that sin separated them from salvation and characterized a life lived in pagan darkness. They believed that sin could only be washed out of their lives by the blood of Jesus.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2017

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