I'm here at the American Academy of Religion annual meeting, which is really stimulating and very interesting. I'm exhausted tonight [an introvert can only function in an extroverted shell for so long!], but I wanted to write a quick post about my presentation this morning. My panel was on the concept of dual religious belonging [two panelists discussed Christian/Buddhist religious belonging, and the other two discussed Jewish/Buddhist religious belonging]. I was looking at the misinterpretation of Shin Buddhism by Christians, including Barth--did you know that he described "Yodo Shin" [no, Jodo isn't spelled with a "Y," but that's how Barth spelled it] as the best "heathen" parallel to Christianity? He also characterized it as "Japanese Protestantism."
Anyway, one of the comments from the audience suggested using religious "participation" rather than "belonging:" Richard Payne had pointed out that for Buddhists, "belonging" doesn't carry the same soteriological import that it does for Christians, and therefore doesn't seem to function as an identifying category in the same way. So, the suggestion was that we might talk about people "participating" in different religious rituals, for example, but that such participation might not necessarily impact one's religious identity as such. As a Christian, I'm not really sure that works--I think it IS an identity question for us.
We all agreed that we are trying to put language and a framework around a phenomenon that is pretty slippery, and, in many ways, still functions primarily as a sociological category: individuals describing their own understanding of their personal religiosity, rather than as some kind of "third alternative" to which one might aim or aspire. In the end, I argued for an "Other-infused" single belonging [like a "Buddhist-infused" Christianity]--where one retains one's primary religious identity, but acknowledges [and even celebrates] the way in which that identity has been shaped, changed and transformed by one's encounter with another religious tradition. Somehow, that feels more desirable to me.
Still thinking about it all.....