Ethnographic Study of Poland IV: Postmodern Animism

Posted: April 9, 2013 in Animism, Catholic Church, Ethnography, Europe, Missions, nominal Christians, Postmodernism
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Poland is undeniably Roman Catholic, statistically and culturally. In light of its Catholicism, the following instruction from a Lausanne paper still rings true: “Formulation of effective strategies for reaching nominal Christians among Roman Catholics involves at least five basic components: correct attitudes, correct doctrine, consistent lifestyles, community and interaction, and practical application and solutions.”[1]

However, the ethnographic survey we did showed me, in part, how superficial that same Catholicism is in the lives of many Poles. Most of the people in our survey cling to beliefs that seemed animistic – regarding the spirit world, ancestors, places of spiritual energy, and ways to achieve spiritual success – not to mention the magic spiritual qualities attached to relics, crucifixes and pictures of Mary. In addition, all of the people in our survey were postmoderns – with the possible exception of our oldest male. The relativity of truth, the reliance on feelings for direction, and the subjective nature of what it meant to be “good” all portrayed a postmodern worldview. And I was surprised! Twelve years as a participant observer, and I still thought Catholic influence had kept Poland more modern than postmodern.

So, although the Lausanne paper mentioned above is still appropriate – it’s general enough to apply to postmoderns as well as Catholics – I think some adjustments need to be made in my own apologetic approach. A consistent lifestyle, community and interaction – from the above strategy – should be top priorities. A defense of absolute truth remains necessary – but it will be ignored if not accompanied by relationship and a consistent lifestyle. Some of our respondents mentioned they listen to people who demonstrate compassion and sacrifice on behalf of others. People like Mother Theresa. Jesus asks the same of us. When we love and live for others, we will gain a hearing.

We also need to rely more on the power of God and prayer. Animism is a utilitarian view of God, dependent on objects and rituals to manipulate the spirit world. In addition, we need to be careful not to fall into an evangelical animism that simply replaces one ritual for another. Thankfully, we have immediate access through prayer and a relationship with the Creator of the Universe to unlimited power that can radically transform lives. The Shrine of the Black Madonna in Częstochowa will not save Poland, nor will the many new relics from John Paul II. The Jewish Messiah, despised and rejected, crucified for our sins – once and for all – can save Poles.

Next up: Freedom in Christ from the burden of manipulating God.

[1] LOP 10: Christian Witness to Nominal Christians Among Roman Catholics, Thailand 1980

Comments
  1. […] In the final post, I’ll give a short conclusion to the ethnographic report, and include the questions we used. Ethnographic Study of Poland I Ethnographic Study of Poland II: Ontology Ethnographic Study of Poland III: Axiology and Epistemology Ethnographic Study of Poland IV: Postmodern Animism […]

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