Becoming Christian argues that romance narratives of Jews and Muslims converting to Christianity register theological formations of race in post-Reformation England. The medieval motif of infidel conversion came under scrutiny as Protestant theology radically reconfigured how individuals acquire religious identities.
Whereas Catholicism had asserted that Christian identity begins with baptism, numerous theologians in the Church of England denied the necessity of baptism and instead treated Christian identity as a racial characteristic passed from parents to their children. The church thereby developed a theology that both transformed a nation into a Christian race and created skepticism about the possibility of conversion. Race became a matter of salvation and damnation.
Britton intervenes in critical debates about the intersections of race and religion, as well as in discussions of the social implications of romance. Examining English translations of Calvin, treatises on the sacraments, catechisms, and sermons alongside works by Edmund Spenser, John Harrington, William Shakespeare, John Fletcher, and Phillip Massinger, Becoming Christian demonstrates how a theology of race altered a nation’s imagination and literary landscape.