The myth of “interiority”

26 10 2009

india cross

I read the other day a post on the Lonely Goth’s blog concerning the Khrist Bhaktas or Indian devotees of Christ who are not baptized into the Church. Apparently, according to an article linked to on this site, a great number of people who make pilgrimages to Christian shrines and fills the pews on Sunday are not technically “Christians” as we would call them. They are devotees of Christ who do not seek baptism, since “receiving baptism is perceived as relinquishing one’s entire social and cultural patrimony and becoming assimilated to an alien culture”. Some Catholic priests even encourage this type of devotion to Christ, saying that they are there not to baptize people, but to “preach the Gospel”.

“Syncretic, cowardly compromise”, you might be thinking. The funny thing is, however, that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, that bête noire of integrist Catholicism, when he was working in the Lord’s vineyard in French-speaking west Africa, almost did the exact same thing with many of the Muslim and animist populations. Realizing that many people due to tribal or marital circumstances (polygamy was common in many places) could not seek baptism, he created a class of “believer”, a sort of perpetual catechumenate, for those not quite ready to take the plunge of becoming an “official Christian”. His aim of course was to convert everybody, but he was realistic about what that really meant in practice. By creating a “third way”, he and other missionaries felt that some people were at least leaving the door partially open to the Church, and that such a committment should at the least be acknowledged by the hierarchy.
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