Inculturation is a theological term referring to the incarnation of the divine and the human occurring within a cultural experience. For those of us who are Christians inculturation is experienced when we experience Christ within the dynamic of our cultural expressions. This can be a very positive experience but it can also be negative. It is positive so long as Christ is allowed to transforms the culture in a way that expresses the life giving values that identifies the dignity of all creation and leads a community to strive for justice and peace based on a shared compassion for one another. It can be negative if a cultural expression ends up co-opting Christian symbols in a way that further’s the social interest of that community. An honest reflecting on the process of inculturation is important for us to see if how we are allowing the image of Christ to relate within our own cultural expression.
With this post I would like to offer a cultural context of inculturation that examines how it took place in my parent’s nation of Colombia and with the amazing experience that took place with the people and this prominent symbol of faith for Latin America. Below I have attached a powerpoint presentation on the history of La Virgin de Chiquinquira followed by a few comments that I have and an impressive video that was done commemorating this central cultural intercession.
As you can see, the experience of God within the cultural identity of a people develops in some curious stages that depict the struggles between a culture allowing itself to be transformed by a Christian experience and on the other hand trying to periodically co-opt the experience. The initial experience occurs with an indigenous woman and her son but witnessed to by a Spanish woman who is considered very devout. While the officials recognize the validity of this reality notice how they then they remove this image from the indigenous population to a more urban area on a couple of occasions. Furthermore, what are we to make of the participation of this revered image during the conflict for independence that is again protest by the local and religious community? How do we redeem this with the ensuing violence that becomes part of the Colombian reality from the war of a thousand days to an entire generational period of violence called “La Violencia” only to be followed by the drug war.
And yet, we should also consider how the culture allowed this divine expression to help transform them toward a value of peace starting perhaps with Pope John Paul’s action of praying for peace. Is it significant that the national prayer for peace in 1999 may have coincidentally brought closure to the violent drug war and has allowed Colombia to experience some form of social stability?
These are questions worth considering. Inculturation has a great value for cultures that allow themselves to experience conversion and metanoia towards the authentic Judeo-Christian values that express the love of God to one another and all creation. Colombia has been able to develop this expression of inculturation with the relationship it has had with its patronness La Virgin de Chiquinquira.