Media Contact: Curtis Prather
Alexandria, VA – Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) is proud to announce the publication of Syncretism and Christian Tradition: Race and Revelation in the Study of Religious Mixture (Oxford University Press; 2020). Christianity has always mixed with local cultures. Yet, in the last century, the term for such a mixture—syncretism—became an insult in Christian theology. Find out how racism has shaped Christian understandings of religious mixture, then discover how the Holy Spirit can reveal Jesus amid such mixture. “Syncretism and Christian Tradition is a provocative rethinking of how Christian theology is engaged and enacted by various cultures and the racial stereotypes that such engagement provokes,” said the Rev. Melody Knowles, Ph.D., vice president of academic affairs and associate professor of Old Testament. “Please join me in congratulating Ross’ recent publication with Oxford University Press.” Syncretism has been a part of Christianity from its very beginning, when early Christians expressed Jesus’ Aramaic teachings in the Greek language. Defined as “the phenomena of religious mixture,” syncretism carries a range of connotations.
In Christian theology, use of syncretism shifted from a compliment during the Reformation to an outright insult in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The term has a history of being used as a neutral descriptor, a pejorative marker, and even a celebration of indigenous agency. Its differing uses indicate the challenges of interpreting religious mixture, which today relate primarily to race and revelation. Despite its pervasiveness across religious traditions, syncretism is poorly understood and often misconceived.
Kane argues that the history of syncretism’s use accentuates wider interpretive problems, drawing attention to attempts by Christian theologians to protect the category of divine revelation from perceived human interference. Kane shows how the fields of religious studies and theology have approached syncretism with a racialized imagination still suffering the legacies of European colonialism. Syncretism and Christian Tradition examines how the concept of race figures into dominant religious traditions associated with imperialism and reveals how syncretism can act as a vital means of the Holy Spirit’s continuing revelation of Jesus. Kane is assistant professor of theology, ethics, and culture at VTS, where he also directs the doctoral programs. He received his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. His work appears in academic journals such as Journal of Religion in Africa and Anglican Theological Review, and in popular publications like Christian Century.
Founded in 1823 as a beacon of hope in a country new and finding its way, Virginia Theological Seminary has led the way in forming leaders of the Episcopal Church, including: the Most Rev. John E. Hines (VTS 1933, D.D. 1946), former presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church; the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker (VTS 1954, D.D. 1978), the first African-American bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington; and theologian, author and lay preacher Ms. Verna J. Dozier (VTS D.D. 1978). Serving the worldwide Anglican Communion, Virginia Theological Seminary educates approximately 25% of those being ordained who received residential theological education. Visit us online at www.vts.edu.