Saturday, February 13, 2010

Defining Religion

"Traditional religions are not universal: they are tribal and national. Each religion is bound and limited to the people among whom it has evolved. One traditional religion cannot be propagated in another tribal group. This does not rule out the fact that religious ideas may spread from on e people to another. But such ideas spread spontaneously, especially through migrations, intermarriage, conquest, or expert knowledge being sought by individuals of one tribal group from another” (Mbiti, African Religions and Philosophy, 4).

I'm doing some reading on the definition of religion and found this interesting, especially as contrasted to what J.Z. Smith says,"The most common form of classifying religions, found both in native categories and scholarly literature, is dualistic and can be reduced, regardless of what differentium is employed, to ‘theirs’ and ‘ours.’”

It is enlightening to finally be exposed to non-Western concepts of religion. It helps to see where I make assumptions about what I think of religion, and what I expect others to think. There is a much broader swath of defintion around religion, faith, and religiosity than I have explored - not to say that I didn't experience these ideas on the fringes of my experience, but I didn't get down in the dirt with them and plant my own seeds of wonder, and let a forest grow.

This also helps me to work on my right-brain capacity for approaching ministry in a creative way, and to understand that even those who are steeped in Western enlightenment ideas about religion will be excited about and access religion in different ways, if given the opportunity. Or maybe they'll burn me at the stake, who knows ;)

1 comment:

Karen said...

You seem to be recovering from you "black hole of meh" - good for you!