Is “ Copying ” “ Inculturation” ?
29/07/2011 00:04:39 GSK Menon
Regular press reports keep appearing about new imitations of Hindu temple customs, rituals, and rites by the Catholic Church in India, especially Kerala. A standard excuse for these imitations is that it is “inculturation”.
What is inculturation ? It is defined by the Church itself as the creative and dynamic relationship between the Christian message and culture or cultures.There could not have been a more vaguer definition for stealing !
Let us examine the historical background for inculturation. When St.Paul set up Christianity as a new religion and started despatching converters to different parts of the globe, Christianity confronted several well established religions and cultures. A bland desert religion was unable to attract new entrants. For example, the Roman civilization, the Inca civilization etc, but the populations were converted at sword point. However , the populations had great difficulty in forsaking their old religion and culture. Christianity was a bland religion, no dancing, singing, music, nothing was permitted. The Romans believed in great celebrations with pomp and show. They observed December 25th as Saturnine Day, with lavish festivities. Under great pressure from the local Romans, the Church turned a blind eye to the festivities. In course of time, instead of Saturnine Day, it was simply substituted as Christ’s birthday. This is the earliest instance of the church stealing another religion’s festival and appropriating it as theirs. Even Christianity itself saw its foundation being built on a Pagan festival. This is the reason why many fundamentalist Christian sects do not observe Christmas.
Another problem faced by the Church was the absence of an official language. Islam has Arabic language, Hinduism has Sanskrit, but Christians have no formal religious language. During the period of Christ, the language spoken was Aramaic. This died long time back. Hence the early Christians had no language to conduct their affairs. Go to any Mosque anywhere in the world, all rituals are in Arabic, go to any Hindu temple, Sanskrit is used. Because Christianity developed a strong base in Rome, the Latin language was borrowed. Even today, the churches in Kerala use Latin. Incidentally, this also exposes the canard of St.Thomas. St.Thomas, according to Kerala Padres came from W.Asia directly to Kerala, that means he knew only Aramaic language, but there is no trace of this language in Kerala !
Thus Christianity borrowed the local language. This presented a great difficulty. The local language describes the local beliefs, if a foreign religion borrows a local language it will result in total confusion. Thus, when Christians use Hindu names like Nirmala, Amala, Vimala etc to describe a Jewish lady, it should not be forgotten that there are Hindu goddesses who are legal owners of that name since time immemorial. The Christian defence is that these words mean “pure”, “unsullied” etc and therefore they are using it. But think, if Islam started using local language, they also have gods who are called as “pure” “unsullied” etc, they have a specific Arabic expression for that. Had they also started using Nirmala, Amala, Vimala, then what would be the confusion ? Islam realized long time back that using a foreign language would lead to utter confusion and chaos, that is why they have permitted only Arabic language for conducting their religious affairs. Here also, Christians tried to create confusion, in Malaysia, they started calling Christ as Allah, just like they are calling him Parameshwar, Mahesh, Prajapati etc in India. The Malay Muslims recognized the mischief and forbid the Christians from misusing the word Allah. Hindus also need to aggressively prevent misuse of the names of their Gods & Goddesses by the Catholics (it is only the Catholics who indulge in copying and imitations. Other denominations are very strict).
By inculturation, the cultural sensibilities of the converts are respected. In India, conversions were effected by the English, French,Dutch,Portugese, in all these cultures for example, kissing was permitted between the bride and the bridegroom openly in the church on wedding day. However, out of respect for the Hindu tradition of not publicly displaying affection, the church accepted non-kissing, this is one example of inculturation.
Similarly, Westerners come to church wearing shoes or other footwear, but Hindus do not do that. So the first wave of converts were exempted from wearing footwear inside church.
The practice of kneeling and praying was not there among the early Christians in W.Asia and Rome, this was a Heathen practice done before kings and royalty. This was borrowed by the Christians,
Nowadays, especially in Kerala, the catholics are indulging in rampant copying. Is there any sanction for such copying ?
Use of Hindu Nilavilakku:
The favourite activity of Padres is lighting Nilavilakkus. This is what the Bible says:
New International Version
“Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in themand added incense, and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command.”
King James Bible:
And Nadab and Abihu , the sons of Aaron,took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD,which he commanded them not”.
Thus it can be seen that lighting Nilavilakku is totally unauthorized by the Bible.
Use of Hindu Temple musical instruments:
The New Schaff Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Samuel Macauley Jackson – the organ was a means of enjoyment by society in general, its use was rejected in early Christian circles.
A History of the Christian Church, Lars P. Qualben –“Singing formed an essential part of Christian worship, but it was in unison and without musical accompaniment.
St.Basil, expressly condemns music. Gregory the Great absolutely prohibited the use of musical instruments.
Dancing was the primary factor in John the Baptist’s beheading. Dancing activities are not permitted by Seventh Day Adventists, Brethern and Pentecostal denominations.
Thus, all the imitations, copying and plagiarism being indulged in by the catholics have no sanction in the Bible whatsoever.Therefore copying is not inculturation. Copying is simply stealing.