Conversion…how about synchronicity instead?

In expounding on Western European Christian History, Dr. Albert Hernandez, describes a much slower process of converting Europe than is told in most basic histories.  It seems much of Europe, even when being called Christian nations, had average people holding strongly to their traditional religious understandings.  In fact, Dr. Hernandez, goes on to explain how we can see this continue in the cult of the Virgin Mary.  The art of Mary shows her many times portrayed over a crescent moon, a symbol usually associated with worship of the earth mother.  If Europe was completely Christianized as much of history would have us believe, then why do we see these images that are compiled symbols of multiple traditions?  The following question must then be, “Where does the cult of the Virgin Mary relate to traditional Christian trinitarian thought?”

The conclusion I must draw is that conversion, true acceptance of new pieces of faith does not really mean a complete removal of past traditions.  Why then has Western Christianity been so focused on Christian unity through the conversion of sameness?  We see it in sermons and rhetoric from those labeled fundamentalist in our tradition, “people must believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior or else they will go to hell.”  A rhetoric of save your soul, but damn your life experience before and the rest of your self, body.  The truth is that even the selective exegesis of biblical literalism in the gospel message can allow for this…Matthew 10:5-15 as traditionally exegeted allows for people to be the other the, “Samaritans or Gentiles.”  It allows for the simple conversion of believe this or your soul is done for, and not for a call to live a new way in connection with all of God’s creation and humankind.

If in this new generation we(in my case American Christianity) is going to be effective at spreading the gospel message we are better to turn to the beatitudes of Christ.  By living as examples of Christ’s wholeness and willingness to share we will better show what it means to be Christian.  Jesus will be shared not through meaningless one way messages, but instead in a dialogue of mutual respect.  Mutual respect that is based upon positive human relationships in which we claim Christ as one who has led us to wholeness in communion with one another.  It will be through the synchronicity of the combining of traditions that we will find hope for the future of positive Christian action in the world.

3 thoughts on “Conversion…how about synchronicity instead?

  1. One rationale i have heard for the adamant refusal to consider other truth claims is the suffering that Christ endured on the Cross. That particular interpretation of that death requires that it be the only way to save humanity… other wise God appears to be cruel and brutal to require such suffering and inflict such pain; why do it, if it were not absolutely essential and the only way to save us? In this theological paradigm, brutalizing and torturing the Innocent Son of God is the only way to defeat evil’s hold on us, and redeem us sinful guilty shameful miserable depraved worms of God. If there are other ways to “save” humanity, ie, Judaism, Hinduism, Sufism, Animism, Buddhism, etc… then why the hell did God have Jesus go through all that in the first place??? In the classic atonement theories of Jesus’ salvific role in the universe, Jesus’ suffering and death become Heroic, not just Horrific, only if He is the Only Way to the Father…. So the ideas about God and humanity become something to fight about, because the stakes are so high for people, and their existential and actual pain is so great. They feel a need to be saved, to be cleansed, to be healed, and fixed. And they feel a need to blame something or someone else other than God for the evil that exists, in them and around them, and a way to triumph over it. The battles over dogma are not intellectual ones. They are felt in our broken bodies and grounded in our pain. So combining ideas, (religious, political, philosophical, etc) in a syncretistic fashion can threaten the fundamental identities and reasons for existence of people. If Christ is not “my Lord and my God”, as Thomas exclaimed in stunned belief,, then what makes all this fear and oppression, suffering and death worth enduring???? If Christ did not rise from the dead, and conquer hell, then what are we waiting for? let us eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we and our little children may die, and die horribly and meaninglessly… See? these are some of the assumptions and beliefs i hear in my work as a trauma hospital chaplain and pastoral care provider. Theology becomes more than a good idea that can be combined with other good ideas. It isnt like combining your grandmother’s recipe for chicken soup with your wife’s and making a lovely new version that tastes good to everyone and has less salt and fat…. It is more like not mixing darkness with light, or oil and water, or methane and oxygen…. so… just some further thoughts to ponder as we try to not make insurmountable mountains out of religious molehills, and as we make peace in the world, instead of killing each other with our holy books and burning each other at the stake! i so appreciate your Soul. Thanks for letting me into your blogo-sphere, and take up so much space with my mutterings and musings!

  2. It is an oft-repeated pattern. The medieval conversion of Europe was accomplished in part by dogmatizing the Christian faith, with considerable intolerance for the blending of “pagan” beliefs, although by golly they snuck in anyway (like Christmas and Easter festivals). The Protestant movement quickly ran towards dogma as well. Nevertheless, I look at Wesley’s “Catholic Spirit” sermon with a great deal of hope. It isn’t simply tolerance, it is the idea that at the center we are all guided by the same spirit. Wesley was thinking primarily of Christian unity, but I believe that if Christ died for all, then, well, Christ died for ALL. The faith and grace at the center of meaning called Jesus is not, should not, can not be boxed in by labels, ritual, colonialization or prejudice. It is only when we recognize the absolute freedom of the Spirit that we ourselves get on the road towards freedom.

  3. I wonder if the Protestant reformation isn’t the primary culprit… It was quite intolerant of Catholic practices of diversity/syncretism. If so, it is our own inner impulses desiring unity through similarity that we need to be careful to evaluate.
    You start a helpful thread of thinking, Tyler!

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