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Syncretism and identity: Finding I - Thou in historical dialogue

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  1. Introduction
  2. Distinction between faiths and cultures
  3. Meaning of anxiety, tension, and syncretism
  4. Overview of Judaic roots against syncretism
  5. Historic dialogical tensions in early Christianity
  6. A brief study of modern Western missiology
  7. Relating to the minority experience in Christianity
  8. Conclusion
  9. References

Identity is fundamental to the distinction between faiths and cultures. Proper respect in dialogue hinges on a relational flow in dialogue. Power struggles and anxiety over engagement with the unknown other has caused dialogue to exist as an I-it relationship where the other becomes objectified. This tendency to objectify the historically shows horrific results leading to the development of mimetic shame crossing generations in cultures where their initial identity has been destroyed by assimilation of dominant cultures. I-thou relationships in dialogue prevent this, as each group is in relation with the other in some form of mutual respect. Antisyncretics claim that pollution of the faith through encounter with the other must be prevented by never engaging in relational dialogue outside of direct witness. This view objectifies the other by devaluing their faith and belief as devoid of revelation. Respectful dialogue acknowledges the intrinsic value of the other and relies on the relational nature of the dialogue to strengthen the identity and the beliefs of each party or at a minimum provide mutual respect and learning. Historically this has played out in many settings, from the Hellenization of Judaism at the infancy of Christianity through the Nestorian Mission in China to the effects of modern day postcolonial response to the tension between self-determinism of religion or the inculturated Eurocentric hegemony.

[...] The result of using syncretism in this manner is a means to propagate Eurocentrism and discuss Afro-Latin religions despairingly.[42] This tension between Eurocentric hegemony and self-determinism concerning religion has been very prevalent amongst indigenous groups in the Americas. Indigenous Christians have developed a syncretic understand of the Sun Dance in the light of their continued marginalization within a dominant culture as analogous to the suffering and passion of Jesus.[43] The very act of substitutionary atonement in the Sun Dance allows for a real presence and a real faith in Jesus while retaining cultural identity in a marginalized culture. [...]

[...] When the term was originally used by Plutarch, the definition appeared as, act or system of blending, combining, or reconciling inharmonious elements to forget dissensions and to unite in the face of common danger.?[3] In order to understand the tension that exists between syncretism and authenticity to the historical tradition there needs to be an examination of the relationship between the two through antiquity to modernity. Within the ancient traditions of Christianity and into its Judaic roots there has been tension between syncretism and authenticity to the historic faith. [...]

[...] Carl Starkloff, A Theology of the in-Between (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2002) The Venerable Bede, "Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, Book ed. Bertram Colgrave and R. A. B. Mynors (New York: Clarendon Press, 603), Book 1 Chapter 27. Sulpitius Severus, "On the Life of St. Martin," Chapter 15. Yves Raguin, "Le Jésus-Messie De Xi'an," in Le Christ Chinois, Héritage Et Espérance, ed. Benoît Vermander (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer Bellarmin, 1998) Ibid Jerald Gort, "Syncretism and Dialogue: Christian Historical and Earlier Ecumenical Perceptions," in Syncretism [...]

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