Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dancing and the Religious Life

Wilfred Cantwell Smith was a renowned historian of world religions. In his comprehensive study on faith, Towards a World Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), he likened embracing a religion as taking part in a dance.

“One does not ‘have’ a dance, one takes part in it. The pattern one may learn from others; but a dance pattern does not become a dance until someone dances it.” This is so true. We can study a religious text or be an observer in a religious ceremony. Unless and until we get off our high horses and come down to ground level and take part in the dance, we would never understand what religion is about. We can learn the steps and the form but it is in doing that we truly experience what religion is about.

For Smith, living a religious life is a “complex interaction” of four factors:

(1) “an accumulating religious tradition”… in order to fully participate in a religion, we need to know the religious instructions, doctrines, rituals, symbols and the meta-narrative of the religion. In other world, we need to know their story.

(2) “the particular personality”… being religious also means the interaction of our personalities with the tradition. Who we are determines how we embrace the religion.

(3) “the particular environment”…our environment, ethnicity, culture, socio-economic status, education and community bias influence our embracing the religion.

(4) “the transcendent reality”… understanding who the transcendent reality is which is the focal point of our beliefs.

When we embrace a religion, these four factors come into play. Therefore, everyone’s religious experience is unique. No two persons can have the same religious experience. Being religious take on a distinctive and unique character for each one of us. This promises to be interesting as we take to the dance floor with the Lord of the dance.

Being religious in the dance gives us an alternative way of seeing life, of being and of living.

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home