Braunlein, “We are 100% Catholic”

September 22, 2012

Braunlein, Peter J. 2012. “We are 100% Catholic“: Philippine Passion Rituals and Some Obstacles in the Study of Non-European Christianity. Journal of Religion in Europe 5(3):384-413.

Abstract: Philippine Catholicism is usually seen as a variant of a non-European Christianity, which was formerly introduced by Spanish missionaries and colonizers into the Philippine Archipelago. Philippine passion rituals, especially self-flagellation and rites of crucifixion, are commonly interpreted as bizarre phenomena of a pre-modern folk-religiosity or archaic survivals of `our’ past, or as a post-colonial mimicry of European religious history. The perspective on Philippine Christianity is always governed by European discourses, whether religious, scientific, or common sense. This paper is an attempt to question dichotomies such as `European’ and `non-European,’ `modern’ and `pre-modern,’ `authentic’ and `inauthentic,’ etc. In the study of religion such dichotomies, I argue, create problems of conceptualizing diversity within one religious tradition and behind such distinctions lurks the implicit self-perception of the West of being exemplary `modern.’ I use Philippine passion rituals as a hermeneutic challenge. Crucifixions are analyzed as media events and from the actor’s perspective, by historicizing the missionary encounter, and by scrutinizing concepts such as `syncretism’ and `identity.’ `Translation’ and the `histoire croisée’ approach are proposed as helpful analytical tools for the study of Christianity.

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