The Fixed and the Fickle: Religion and Identity in New Zealand


109 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88920-113-7





Reviewed by P.J. Kemp

P.J. Kemp was a journalist living in Brigham, Quebec.


“This volume describes the effect of religion on the identity of the native Maoris and Pakehas (white settlers) in New Zealand,” Mol explains in his introduction. “The description is woven around the ideas that the fixed (identity) is constantly ‘unglued’ by the fickle (change).” Part One is a brief outline of Maori identity and religion in pre-European times, followed by an examination of charismatic movements and changes in Maori identity, which is particularly interesting because of the correlation of the charismatics with the stories of the Old Testament.

Part Three deals with the question of which of the European religious denominations made the biggest grab of Maori converts, and to what extent the conversions are sincere or simply a cosmetic adaptation to and appeasement of the white missionaries who, in their over-confidence of superiority, brooked no failure of their mission. Also discussed is the detrimental effect on the Maoris, converted and otherwise, who appear mostly lukewarm to the Christian religion but feel compelled to make token assimilation for the sake of peaceful co-existence with the Pakehas.

Finally, the religious state of the Pakehas themselves is examined, with statistical tables detailing how many belong to what denomination. The power of and allegiance to more secular forms of religion (e.g., ethics, humanism, materialism, even sports) is not overlooked.

In sum, the power of the old-time religion, either native or European, is supplanted by “making do” approaches to what turns out to be mostly political and social aspects of upheaval.


Mol, Hans, “The Fixed and the Fickle: Religion and Identity in New Zealand,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,