Essay on Christianity and Evangelism in Jane Eyre

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Christianity and Evangelism in Jane Eyre

There were great changes in the religious arena during the time of Victorian England. John Wesley had his warm heart experience, India had been opened to missionizing, and a Utilitarian and Evangelical shift had occurred. Charlotte Brontë would have felt the effects of these things, being a daughter of the clergy, and by simply being a daughter of the Victorian era. Her novel, Jane Eyre, serves as a reaction to Utilitarianism, and the protagonist Jane emerges as an Evangelical figure. By using this novel as a tool for Evangelism itself, Brontë has a platform to fulfill moral obligations, and to have a discourse with the socially held views of her time. Beyond this, it also addresses the
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(Brontë 308)

Here we find Brontë’s explanation of what Victorian missionaries felt was required of them. Indeed, to them it was a war, a war of good versus evil, Christian versus Heathen, and the spoils were the souls of the lost being won for Christ - the archetypal idea of the church militant striving to be the church triumphant.

Beyond St. John Rivers, Brontë represents further evangelical figures in the forms of Mr. Brocklehurst and Helen Burns. It is interesting to note that, evangelism has two definitions, the first being, “the winning or revival of personal commitments to Christ,” the second being, “militant or crusading zeal”(“evangelism”). Brontë seems to develop a dichotomy of the wrong way to evangelize, as with Brocklehurst, and the right way, as with Helen, yet they are two sides of the same coin. Brontë makes the argument that, while these two aspects cannot inherently be separated, a decision on which will take precedence must be made. To choose “militant and crusading zeal” over the actual desire to bring people to Christ is the path that those who followed Utilitarianism, which was the commonly held view by Victorians, and Brocklehurst, the personification of this ideal in Jane Eyre, had chosen (“evangelism”). Brontë speaks

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