Reconciling or differentiating culture, faith, and the future

World Religions
This article ( ) introduces a young South African woman who is both a traditional diviner and an administrator in the banking industry. She is an example of a new generation of traditional practitioners that straddle the worlds of traditional society and modern technological society.

The common view in modern technological society is that all phenomena can be explained by science and all problems solved with engineering and medical expertise. As a result, most South Africans view traditional practices as “unsophisticated, uneducated, and backwards”. However, this article also mentions that the majority of people seek traditional practitioners for assistance in the event of illness.

Can this be evidence of the incompleteness of a technological worldview, whereby spirituality is disregarded or discounted? Although people may think that the “right” thing to say is that traditional practices are “backwards”, their spiritual beliefs are demonstrated by their response to trouble/illness. At the surface there are changing perceptions of the value placed in these traditional practices and yet there is still evidence of a strong reliance on them.

Could these new practitioners bring the traditional practices into modern society as some combination of technological and traditional beliefs? There is a drive to bring traditional healing into the administrative structures such as government regulation. This could offer protection to people that utilize these services by way of regulation and also acknowledge the value placed on these services by offering them through medical insurance.

This was done in BC many years ago whereby traditional Chinese medicine is regulated and covered by some insurance plans. This drive is also representative of a desire to preserve traditional beliefs and culture and bring them into the future, affirming the value of traditional culture within the modern context. People such as the young woman highlighted in this article that operate in both the traditional and modern settings will be key in negotiating the future of traditional practices in Africa.

Another interesting aspect of this article is that the young woman is also a professing Christian who sees her traditional spiritual practices within the context of her relationship with God. Does this mean that some traditional beliefs are adopted into an expression of Christianity? Or is it the application of Christianity onto the cultural framework of traditional African society?

This leads into bigger questions of religion and culture that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explores in his book, Truth and Tolerance. Can we whittle down the Christian faith (or any faith) to a core set of beliefs outside of cultural influence and then add on aspects of traditional beliefs that work for the overall goal of the religion (in the Christian instance, relationship with God) later?

Does this mean that the cultural context of a new convert must first be “wiped clean” and then selectively built back up? And if so, how do we separate culture and faith? How do we contend with Romans 12:2 to “not conform to the patterns of this world”?

This article touches on interesting issues of traditional vs. modern society and culture vs. faith. I look forward to comments from others! SH

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