(c) Christy Croft, 2015, revised 2018
- Religious pluralism is an ideal. We have much to learn from each other if we approach with open minds and an interest to learn, rather than convert. Additionally, meaningful pluralism in a culture can reduce conflict, violence, and discrimination.
- All religions have meaningful truths in them, and powerful teachings that can help us transform our lives. This does not mean that I must necessarily agree with every tenet of every faith (that would be impossible), or that I will agree with all the actions of all of a tradition’s followers (that would be unethical). It simply means I remain open to the possibility that each religion has something to teach me about myself, about my life, or about Spirit/God.
- Religious syncretism has existed for many years. “The Principle of Religious Syncretism holds that when any two cultures meet and interact they will exchange religious ideas with the dominant culture prevailing in the exchange.” (http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ngier/syncretism.htm). Syncretism is neither good nor bad; it is simply a process by which religious thought evolves over time and space, creating new forms and traditions as well as modifying existing traditions based on new understandings. My approach to much of my study of religion, which applies also to my understanding of syncretism, is a phenomenological approach.
- Those who follow syncretic traditions or are engaged in syncretic personal practice should be aware of the concept of Cultural Appropriation: “…[T]he taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.” (http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095652789) In this area, my background in Religious Studies also informs my views on syncretism and appropriation (again understanding that religion has been shaped by syncretism for millenia). My understanding of “appropriation” lies in both truthful naming, and reservation of power. By truthful naming, I mean to call things what they are; after all, we don’t have to pretend that a ritual or belief is attributed to an ancient people or practice in order for it to be powerful and transformative. By reservation of power, I mean that it is not respectful use of a practice by members of the dominant culture when they take things from non-dominant (or traditionally oppressed) cultures and claim them as their own. It’s the difference between borrowing and stealing, and it matters. Economic power matters: people from colonizing cultures should not seek profit from indigenous cultural knowledge that is not their own, and should refer those seeking specialized knowledge to people who are from those cultures.
- Religion has frequently been used (either through interpretation of its beliefs or through political power couched in theocracy) to justify the disempowerment of the oppressed, to support slavery or racism, or to enforce patriarchal power. To counter the damaging effects of this historical phenomenon, it is important to pay special attention to minority and nontraditional voices, interpretations, and perspectives. Additionally, my interfaith ministry seeks out and highlights ways in which modern traditions are working to establish gender and racial equality, to promote social justice, and develop innovative approaches to inclusivity.