Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Closer Look... Animism

Wow, I've really let things get outdated on here! Life marches on and here we are nearly into December! This semester of training has been so helpful in a number of ways. I'd like to try and give a glimpse of a few things we've been learning...

Church Planting

The first module we had in this class was on animism, the belief system of the vast majority of tribal groups in the world. To be concise, animism is the belief that the spirits (of dead ancestors, living creatures and even inanimate objects) can be manipulated. We learned that those with this belief system live in fear that their sacrifices and gifts have not appeased the spirits and that they will suffer for it. Their animistic worldview is full, just like our worldview is full, and their minds are not blank pages.

The animistic person has answers for everything that happens in their life, just like we do. For example, if one of us were to go hunting and failed to get the deer he shot at, he would believe that he simply missed because he had poor aim, or another factor affected the aim or the trajectory of the bullet, or that the deer made an unpredictable move. We would base our conclusions on our experience and the scientific laws we know are at work in the universe. Let's say an animist went on a hunt and failed to get a deer. Because of his animistic worldview, he would believe that he failed because the spirit of the deer didn't want to be shot today or that the spirit of the gun was not happy with him.

Afterward, the person from our culture and worldview would go out and do some target practice, or he'd check out his gun to make sure it was working properly, or he'd simply go hunting on another day and hope that things would turn out differently. The animist might try hunting on a different day to hopefully get a deer that wanted to be shot, or he'd find another weapon with a happier spirit. In some circumstances he may even sacrifice to the spirits to appease their anger if he thought that may be the problem.

We've learned that animists live life in a realm which has been called the "Excluded Middle", where physical existence and spiritual existence meet. This middle area is hard for a Westerner to understand, because it has no place in our culture nor do we have any methods by which to analyze things that happen in this realm. But for the animist, this is where life happens. Our teacher showed us a picture of a tribal man with a large gash in his head. When he showed up at their house for medical treatment and they asked him what had happened, he said, "Oh, the spirit pushed me off the path." And in his understanding that really was what had happened, although we'd just say, "I tripped."


5 comments:

Jean said...

You have chosen some beautiful pictures to enhance your blog.

Jean said...

A nice informative article.

Anonymous said...

I agree:) Patti

Sabrina said...

ditto :)

Pat VE said...

Have they suggested how the word of God, the gospel, penetrates this type of thinking. With God all things are possible.