A Faith Mashup

30 Nov

A few years ago, USA Today reported that more and more Christians are creating faith mashups.  You can read the full article here.

It is an age-old practice, this faith blending, called syncretism.  Is it good or is it bad?  Are religious faiths really flexible enough to allow another faith to be mixed in?  How have you seen people attempt syncretism in their lives?  Of course, they aren’t thinking to themselves “Hmmm…I would like to practice syncretism…let’s see, what faiths or philosophies can I weave together?”   Instead people are just trying to make sense of the world.  In some cases they’re trying to understand why there is so much evil or how to get through hard times without a nervous breakdown.  There’s nothing wrong with that, right?

Actually, in the article a number of people express their concern or disapproval for this blending of faiths.  Where do you stand?

I’d love to hear some examples of Christians practicing syncretism, as well as the reasons why.  Feel free to share.  Then on Sunday morning we’ll see what our next Minor Prophet, Zephaniah, had to say about syncretism in the nation of Israel.

 

12 Responses to “A Faith Mashup”

  1. Lisa B November 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

    Sounds like an interesting topic! And what’s also interesting is that we might mash up our faith unintentionally. I haven’t made it through N.T. Wright’s Suprised by Hope yet, but from discussions we’ve had in Sunday School here, it sounds as though some of our “Christian” ideas of heaven are not entirely biblical and may be more like other religions or philosophies. So, it would be interesting to examine modern Christianity and root out the similarities to other religions that may not be biblical. I’ve been reading some fictionalized “biographies” of biblical men (Francine Rivers’ Sons of Encouragement series) and with Aaron and Caleb, she really brings to life how devastating it was to mingle with the people of the land and when God said “destroy them all” and they didn’t, the consequences the whole nation suffered. I’m not sure what that means for us today since mass killing isn’t part of the Gospel, but I think it does take effort and intention to keep our faith true to its roots. Can’t wait till we can be part of these discussions in person!

    • joelkime November 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      Do tell! How do you think we might do that unintentionally?

  2. Greg Baughman November 30, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    Interesting topic. Today in class we finished our discussion of Colossians, wherein this is a major theme. Because Jesus in preeminent in creation and new creation (1.15-20), we need not “hedge our bets” by submitting to the “elementary principles of the world” (στοιχειων του κοσμου) (2.20). Would love to hear you preach on Zephaniah addressing this topic.

    • joelkime December 1, 2012 at 8:37 am #

      I know! I might have to mention Colossians. Feel free to check out the podcast next week (usually available Monday afternoon), and send me any feedback.

  3. Gene Stevenson December 1, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    My reaction is mainly against some of the ideas expressed in the USA Today article. I patently reject the definition of syncretism as “church-hopping” or “mixing denominations” in respect to Christianity; that’s not syncretism as I understand it (at least, it’s not the negative mixing of seemingly incompatible beliefs which serves as the traditional definition of syncretism). Nor is the experience of God the sole purview of Eastern (i.e. Oriental) religions; there has always been an experiential element to Christianity, despite this element being downplayed by more recent Western incarnations of the faith. Moreover, human beings’ sense of connectedness with the rest of creation is not inherently unbiblical or heretical. None of these things by themselves (or even mixed together!) are enough to fulfill the definition of syncretism. It seems as though we need to refine our definition of syncretism. I tend to think that syncretism and idolatry are closely linked; that is, idolatry as giving less than divine people or things a status and weight reserved only for the Divine is akin to the mixing of masters – the attempted service of both God and mammon which we are told is not possible, strictly speaking. For instance, one cannot say there is One God, but then act as though other people or things enjoy a status equal with this One God. Similarly, one cannot believe and act on the command to bear one another’s burdens and the notion that our hardships are only figments of our imagination, at least not without some serious confusion of values. I think the examples Lisa offered are good (karma & our notions of Heaven). I think there is a need to discern what is syncretistic and what SEEMS syncretistic because of a lack of biblical knowledge or a lack of knowledge of the depth and diversity of Christian expression.

    • joelkime December 1, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      Great thoughts here Gene. I particularly appreciate your caution about syncretism and seeming syncretism, specifically related to level of biblical knowledge and Christian diversity. I would love to investigate that further! Did you read Rachel Held Evans’ recent post about five ways to move away from fundamentalism without losing your faith?

      • Gene Stevenson December 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

        Haven’t read that one yet, but it sounds like I should!

      • joelkime December 2, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

        The article is linked here.

    • Lisa B December 1, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Yes, good points about the intermixing of denominations and such, as if we’re not allowed to incorporate the diversity of Christian traditions into our worship. I think there are some circles where the desert fathers and the sorts of ancient spirituality practices would be considered New Age or Eastern. I know I sort of freaked out a little when Phil was learning and sharing about the desert fathers and mothers in a devotional classics class. Turns out we can learn a lot from them without abandoning our faith!

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