Spiritual Warfare and Social Transformation in Fiji: The Life History of Loto Fiafia of Kioa

Thomas James Mullane

PhD Thesis 2003

This dissertation considers the influence of the American evangelical movment on village social reproduction in a Tuvaluan-speaking community on the island of Kioa in Fiji. The research look specifically at the conjuncture of the evanfelical discourse of "spirtual warfare" with the worldview of Loto Fiafia, a self-described ordinary villager and religious reformer on Kioa. In 1997, Fiafia established an independent church based on evangelical beliefs and practices. The move marked a major break with the Tuvaluan cultural pattern of religious consensus (see Goldsmith 1989). Fiafia's project of church reform on Kioa is emblematic of a growing trend in Oceania in which the mainline Protestant churches have been losing members to a wave of American missionary groups, including evangelical Christians, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnessess, and Seventh Day Adevntists. Of these groups, the evangelicals have had the greatest impact on Fiji.

Based on his survey of religious changes in Oceania, Ernst (1994) identifies the evangelical campaign of spiritual warfare as a strategy of cultural liquidation which serves the interests of American capitalism. The strategty succeeds by fomenting religious fears which function to divide families and villages, thus undermining the social solidarity on which reproduction of cultural autonomy and economic communalism depend. Ernst argues that, unless mainline Christian churches in Oceania transform themselves into Pacific versions of liberation theology, the trend toward religious activism and social fragmentation in the region will continue.