Here’s a sober caution for the Emerging Church Movement. Writing on inculturation Aylward Shorter notes:
“Our first task in approaching another people, another culture…is to take off our shoes, for the place we are approaching is holy.” So wrote Max Warren, Secretary of the Church Missionary Society from 1942-1963. As we have seen, human cultures are vehicles of divine truth and theatres of God’s salvific action. Like Moses before the burning bush, we must take off our shoes. Cultures must be respected. Disrespect for culture is an abuse of a human right and not even evangelization can ignore this obligation. The transformation of culture that is worked by evangelisation should lead to its enhancement, not its diminishment.
A common form of disrespect for culture is to refuse to take it seriously as a coherent and whole system of images and values. Instead, an eclectic, “pick and mix” approach is adopted, whereby cultural elements are lifted from the culture and inserted incongruously into otherwise culturally foreign contexts. This happens, for example, when African cultural elements are incorporated in a liturgical celebration that is otherwise entirely western in character. This is acculturation, or the borrowing of disparate elements, but it is not inculturation.
Hmm. Pick n Mix not true inculturation? Methinks we need more than sampling and iPod shuffling to enculturate into postmodernity too.
Take note also about his comments on ascendant Christologies amongst African nature religionists. I trust you’ll be able to join the dots as to how this applies to Nature Religions and Earth-orientated spiritualities in the West. If not … well you can always ask.