Culture and Religion

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The only way in which Christianity and other religions exist is in concrete, definite cultural environment. We receive, live, express and transmit our faith through culture. Culture is a reality which is difficult to define because it covers everything in human life. We can look at culture as the worldview guiding our lives. Such a worldview gradually developed from millions of agreement among members of our society through the long period of time. Our leaders have taken it upon themselves to make us aware of the standards of judgment and of conduct, which have to guide us in relating with other people. Together with other members, they have conditioned us in many ways, mostly unconscious, to accept as “natural,” and therefore to follow critically the cultural patterns of our society.

An accepted culture covers all aspects of human life. It is a system that includes beliefs, values, customs, and institutions. Together, these components unite a society, giving it a sense of identity, dignity, security, and continuity.

In spite of the fact that culture has a fundamentally positive trust, as a whole, it is ambivalent. It contains both elements that are positive and negative, humanizing and dehumanizing. We have to realize that culture is created and recreated by people for the purpose of making life in society more human. Anything that hinders this purpose must be removed, but whatever promotes this purpose must be used. Since we are not mere recipients of culture, we can modify, preserve and change it. We can do this because culture is not a static reality. It is historically situated and is changeable.

Religion is concerned with our search for meaning. We try to answer the fundamental questions of human life by placing them against the horizon of the Ultimate and the Unseen. The answer is linked with the manner in which we establish human relationships, organize them, celebrate them. We express this answer in different ways by using symbols, signs, beliefs, customs, stories, and more. It is within this world that our self-understanding takes place. By saying this, we have already stepped into the world of culture. We realize that religion cannot exist without cultural expressions.

Religion, however, is not submerged into culture. Cultural expressions and embodiments of religion can and should be challenged by new experiences of faith. This is also true for Christianity of the past. They are a product of a meeting of faith and culture. In this sense, Christian tradition can be viewed as a complex that is made up of particular and local traditions resulting from the encounters of Christianity with wide variety of peoples, cultures, philosophies, and thought patterns.

Although religion is not submerged into a culture, it is closely linked to it and cannot exist without it being expressed within a particular cultural context. Christian Faith is received, lived, expressed and transmitted on the basis of a culture. The church teaches in the Evangelii Nuntiandi that “the construction of the kingdom cannot help but take over elements from human culture and cultures.” The Puebla asserts that “culture s are not vacuums devoid of authentic values, and the evangelizing works of the church is not a process of destruction, but of consolidating and fortifying those values, a contribution to the growth of the “seeds of the Word” present in cultures.

The issue of culture is particularly important in the Filipino situation because of the cultural imbalances caused by two successive waves of colonization. Through the influences of the Spaniards and the Americans, we were acculturated. They have upset of the traditional balance of the indigenous society.

Christianity and the Gospel do not ignore or destroy our Filipino culture. They need it and make use of it. They preserve all of its humanizing values and strengths, and make every effort to bring the culture to a...
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