Saturday, October 23, 2010
Empire and inculturation
The concept of empire, was applied to a religious imagination of Heavenly rule, reaching out to all peoples. This was the basic impulse behind a belief in Mission, not just as a process of subjugating or controlling by a centralized authority, but rather as a crossing over boundaries.
However, this sense of Mission was often used by the colonial ambitions of European nations that wanted to control trade routes vital to the evolving economic growth of Western states. Christian forms of art that had evolved over the centuries in Europe were taken to Asia, as examples of what all Christian art should be like. Thus Jesus and the Saints were represented as typically European figures, taking no notice of the fact that Asian Christians had a very different cultural history, life style, and sense of identity. European forms of architecture, liturgy, music, and even language, were transported abroad to Asian lands.
The Second Vatican Council provided a new theological basis for what was termed a process of “inculturating” the Church into local cultures in the non-Western world. This process was understood as a way of incarnating the Divine Word into another cultural context, by using local forms to embody what was understood as being the Universal principles underlying the Gospel. This valuing of cultures other than what characterizes European civilization, led also to the translating of the Bible into many other languages. The process of translation cannot simply be a literal one. Words, like images, carry their own ambience of meanings, and symbolic over-tones, which draw on the memory, and mytho-poetic world from which cultures have emerged.