This paper examines what marriage may have meant to African men within the Christian elite of Southern Rhodesia. Using mission and government sources, it argues that domestic, Christian marriage was important to elite African men as a way of allowing them to achieve adulthood while remaining in good standing with mission sponsors who generally objected to or feared indigenous ideas of patriarchal male adulthood. Tracing life histories of two American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions ministers, one who succeeded in remaining within the mission system and one who left, blacklisted, it explores how domestic, Christian marriage defused many of the missions’ suspicions of elite African men, while providing a way to acquire the economic, social and political power associated with full adulthood within the local context.

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Copyright © 1999 Religious History Association. This article first appeared in The Journal of Religious History 23:1 (1999), 75-91.

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