Inculturating American Culture

Inculturating American Culture May 7, 2009

I thought I would take a beak from my normal political ranting, and devote a subject yesterday to the tender subject of Catholic weddings. A rather uncontroversial subject, one might think, and indeed, the thread was a lot of fun with people sharing their different wedding liturgical experiences.

And this comes this, the return of the political. Dale Price responds with a mocking post entitled “Inculturation is only good if it’s not American culture.” The subject of that post is pellucid from the title. Mr. Price seems to be accusing me of deriding particularly American traditions, while being open to liturgical customs from other cultures. He says quite explicitly that while Filipino and Latino customs are praised (or at least tolerated), the problem is with the “blanket exclusion of American ones.” Of course, my post was mainly concerned with what I think is an inappropriate form of wedding procession — it was not focused on inculturation at all.

Think about this for a minute. I’m often accused of criticizing America, and I do criticize America, but one of its great strengths is its diversity, its multiculturalism, its catholicity. It has always been more open to immigrants and accepting of immigrant culture than European countries. This is a great boon. Of course, there has always been an ugly nativist undercurrent that swells and recedes with various political developments. Right now, it’s home is in the Republican party, which has (sadly) become the party of a dying white southern rural culture, a culture that feels highly vulnerable now white Americans will be a minority within a generation. Think of Sarah Palin’s “real America”. Think of the ugliness you see on Fox News.

So when Mr. Price accuses me of deriding American wedding traditions, what he really means is that I am deriding certain wedding traditions that originate in European culture. Filipinos with their own traditions, liturgical and otherwise, are also Americans in this country, and their traditions are equally American.  The same is true with Latinos, with African Americans, with Vietnamese. But no, Mr. Prices sets up a dichotomy between “American” and “others”. The implication is clear — the others are not really Americans at all, are they?

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