A Debate About Syncretism

30 06 2008

First, I must give credit to the Cruising Down the Coast of the High Barbaree blog for directing me to this article on the syncretic attitudes of Hindus and Thomas Christians in Kerala. It is well-worth a thorough read, and Josh S. and I get into an interesting discussion on the post cited above.

Of course, my Lutheran interlocutor on the thread cited this article as representing the dangers that apostolic Christianity has of falling into superstition, and no doubt a number of Catholics will also find the actions of the Thomas Christians described here highly objectionable. I personally think that they crossed some lines that should not have been crossed.

On the other hand, in a lot of ways, the Christianity of the laity is often about what we can get away with. ( I am thinking here specifically of some of the quirks of my grandmother, que Dios la tenga en Su gloria). I am beginning to think that the shepherding of our pastors in the Church is not as simple as they lead and we follow. As I have written in the past, the cult of the saints in my mind did not arise as a “from the top-down”, but rather as a “from the bottom-up” phenomenon. In other words, the emergence of the Catholic ethos was not a strictly “by the book” affair, and it can at times resemble a wrestling match between God and man, pastors and laity, as to the shape and flavor of their beliefs and practices. While I think the Christians of Kerala have taken their syncretism too far (as have some Mexicans in their cult to Holy Death), I do not see these actions as part of a process that is contrary to the Gospel, but rather as one that is very much a part of it. It is just an issue of regulating these things so that they don’t get out of hand.

Santo Daime

27 06 2008

If your Portuguese isn’t up to snuff, please click here for a video with English subtitles.

I thought I knew everything about syncretic religions in Brazil. You learn something new everyday.