More about syncretism

From Christianity Today about the Nigerian preacher and the chopped off head found in his possession, they quote Benjamin-Lee Hegeman, a former missionary to West Africa:

“Some people call it syncretism, but it may be more like dual religious allegiance, where Christianity is practiced in the daytime and occult [practice] is done at night. Many of the pastors will preach from the pulpit that this type of thing is wrong, but secretly take part in it at night. There is the mentality, especially in African Initiated Churches, where the prosperity gospel is preached, that you do what you’ve got to do to get ahead. You rely on the powers available to you. You are hopeful that Christ will help, but when he can’t come through on Sunday, you may take out a different insurance policy at night.”

In case it’s not obvious, I love segues. By finding this article, it gives me reason to mention the USA Today article recently published about Christians and New Age beliefs they hold along with all their Jesus love. I think dual allegiance is found in all kinds of places, and in all kinds of ways:

Syncretism — mashing up contradictory beliefs like Catholic rocker Madonna’s devotion to a Kabbalah-light version of Jewish mysticism — appears on the rise.

And, according to the survey’s other major finding, devotion to one clear faith is fading.

Of the 72% of Americans who attend religious services at least once a year (excluding holidays, weddings and funerals), 35% say they attend in multiple places, often hop-scotching across denominations.

They are like President Obama, who currently has no home church. He has worshiped at a Baptist church, an Episcopal one, and the non-denominational chapel at Camp David.

“Mixing and matching practices and beliefs is as much the norm as it is the exception,” Pew’s Alan Cooperman says. “Are they grazing, sampling, just curious? We really don’t know.”

Even so, says Pew researcher Greg Smith, “these findings all point toward a spiritual and religious openness — not necessarily a lack of seriousness.”

Other findings: belief in astrology – 25% of respondents said yes. “Spiritual energy” in living things – 26%. 23% said yoga was “spiritual” and 24% thought reincarnation was likely.

They quote Albert Mohler, currently president of the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. Not only does he see this as “a failure of the pulpit” but calls this mixture of ideas “au courant confusions” -aka fashionable, in much the same way mysticism and “New Thought” made waves in Dickens’ day and other times. Julia Jarvis, a peer of his embraces the variety a lot more than he does.

“My mother feared for years that I was no longer saved, but just two days before she died, she had an epiphany,” Jarvis says. “She said she was ‘told’ in a spiritual experience to put aside all religious and political differences and just love each other. That was her blessing to me, and that’s what I’m doing.”

And she’s obviously not alone in that. I think that if religions won’t adapt, the people have to. That’s why this happens. And if enough people do enough adapting, a new religion will probably be created to encompass those new beliefs. That seems to be how it’s worked in the past so there’s no reason to assume it won’t happen again in the future.

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Side note: via Evolution Is True I discover Roger Ebert’s delightful tirade over the New Age movement and creationism and politics. That’s totally worth a read.

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Canadian Atheist Basically ordinary Library employee Avid book lover Ditto for movies Wanna-be writer Procrastinator
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