Editor’s Note: Reverend Pat Bailey of Telluride’s Christ Presbyterian Church continues his provocative series about the pursuit of spiritual values in the context of contemporary religious beliefs. Please take a moment to digest his carefully considered thoughts and comment. (Prior posts are readily available simply by typing Pat’s name into Search on the Home Page.)
In my doctoral dissertation I am claiming the need for a re-visioning of the Christian church’s theology and its understanding of mission, the need for a more natural, integrative theology and for an earth-focused, contextual approach to mission. In my next few blogs, I will be making my argument for these needed changes.
The trend of tensions between orthodox Christian claims and felt experience is not limited to a Western context, but it sometimes speaks also to the cultural sensitivities of those who have experienced colonization (political, economic, and religious) by Christian societies. While living in Korea, I first learned about the Korean church’s discussion of the tension between some of the old Korean customs and the Christian beliefs imposed by missionaries. Much of the discussion revolved around the ancient custom of visiting the graves of ancestors at Chuseok.
The early missionaries and the church they created in Korea saw Chuseok as an expression of ancestor worship and so forbade its observance. The exclusion of Chuseok celebrations and practices has raised the question rather pointedly as to whether or not Korean Christians can honor their ancestors and their culture’s experience of divine presence and spiritual expression prior to the Christian missionaries arrival at the end of the 19th century.
American Indian theologian George Tinker asks the same question of his community’s experience of missionary preaching with its “clear inference that ‘God’s’ love (in the Jesus event) was denied Indian peoples until God, in God’s graciousness, sent White people to kill us, lie to us, steal our land, and proclaim the saving gospel to us.” (See George E. “Tink” Tinker, American Indian Liberation: A Theology of Sovereignty, 2008)
I think that these experiences reflect a lack of vision on the part of Christian theology regarding both God’s presence and activity in the world and the range of human experience and interpretation of the world. Perhaps one way of honoring the Ute presence in Telluride’s past is to acknowledge the experiences of divine presence and spiritual expression of their ancestors and culture.
No direct questions to ask this week, but I would love to hear from you about what you have read so far.