I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard missionaries from various parts of the world talk about syncretism.
Syncretism involves a melding of Christianity often with traditional belief systems, such that what looks good and Christian turns out to be something quite different once you peel back the veneer.
It’s pretty much always a disaster — whether it’s folk Catholicism in Latin America, in which the pantheon of Roman Catholic saints simply gets laid over the traditional pantheon, or the kind of ‘Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare’ popular in some Pentecostal circles, that missionaries tell me closely parallels African spiritism.
The funny thing though is that it’s very easy to spot syncretism elsewhere. As even the two examples I’ve given show, it’s the kind of thing Westerners are accustomed to seeing outside the West.
It’s a cultural blindspot. One I’m fairly sure I share in.
Can you help me? Do you have any ideas about where a shallow Christian overlay is being wheeled out to ‘baptise’ cherished, non-Christian Western beliefs and values?
I have a few hunches. But would love to get a sense of what others reckon.