Kyle posted a comment to a previous blog about Lakota funerals asking, "I wonder if you've thought about doing a little reflection on whether or how much "syncretism" is present in such "joint" rites...?" I have been thinking about that very question a bit in the last few days.
I wanted to wait until I had done an entire Sunday proper, so here are my initial thoughts. Having preached 3 sermons today at 3 different churches, I feel I can say I have my feet wet in that regard.
As an aside, my first service was at the Church of Jesus in Rosebud, SD. It is apparently the oldest church of any denomination on the reservation. Built just a year after the reservation was incorporated in 1884. I meant to bring my camera along and take a few photos, but I forgot. I will try to take some pictures next Sunday and post them. Interestingly, the are still small (probably 20 or so there this morning) but active and are having a priest ordained there next month.
"Church of Jesus" did not sound particularly Episcopal, and I started to wonder why. We have plenty of Churches of the Holy Spirit and Holy Trinity, but no such "Church of Jesus" that I have ever heard of. Are we trinitarian snobs, only naming churches after one person of the Trinity and not the other? Food for thought...
In any event, as it turns out, most everyone on the Reservation, if they aren't adherents of traditional Lakota religion, are, at least nominally either Catholic or (more likely) Episcopalian. In fact, there are more Episcopal churches on the reservation than any other denomination. As urban-centric as [T](p?)EC(usa??) (sorry, our church is in acronym crisis at the moment, and i am not sure which Algebraic equation remained standing after General Convention) has become, I find that quite refreshing.
Back to the Syncretism bit...Lakota culture is very strong here, and for many, many years, syncretism of any type was largely forbidden. This came not just from the church, but also from the "We has to civilize these here people" mantra which came from the larger white culture and government. This, of course, led to the whole Native American boarding school phenomenon which ended in tragedy on many levels and still harbors (and rightly so) bitter resentment among a whole generation of people.
My initial thoughts on "syncretism" are actually to reflect it back to the church at large. As the original sycretism was not bringing Native (read: Lakota) culture into the body of Christ, but the (white) national Church syncretizing to the racist white culture which was largely bent on completely destroying and completely assimilating Native culture. I guess my initial reaction is to paraphrase Jesus in saying that you need to remove the beam from your own eye before you start in on a critique of whether Native spirituality has any place in the Church.
I realize that is somewhat of a flippant endictment and deflects the question. All that having been said, I do understand the danger of going to far with sycretism, as the integrity of the Christian message can be lost. I intend on giving a more theological analysis of that at a later time. Seeing as this is a blog post that has already rambled on far too long, I will post more on this on Monday or Tuesday as I have a nice little holiday.