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Reviewed by:
  • Hyphenated Christians: Towards a Better Understanding of Dual Religious Belonging, and: Buddhist and Christian? An Exploration of Dual Belonging
  • John D'Arcy May
Hyphenated Christians: Towards a Better Understanding of Dual Religious Belonging. By Gideon Goosen. Oxford: Peter Lang, 2011. xviii + 172 pp.
Buddhist and Christian? An Exploration of Dual Belonging. By Rose Drew. London: Routledge, 2011. xii + 274 pp.

At a time when so much is being written about interreligious dialogue and comparative theology, not much attention has been paid to the experiences of those who have ventured from one faith tradition—usually Christian—into the spiritual world of another, a striking exception being the chapter on Abhishiktānanda in Jacques Dupuis's Jesus Christ at the Encounter of World Religions (1991). The books under review represent a giant leap forward in reflection on what has come to be known as "dual belonging." Each draws on extensive empirical research, in Goosen's case separately published,1 in Drew's citing a dossier of in-depth interviews, which are interwoven with references to published works. The theological reflections in each case are thus anchored in firsthand testimonies of those who claim to belong in some sense to more than one tradition. Borrowing terms that might be used in German, while Goosen explores the Bedingungen der Möglichkeit (conditions of possibility) of there being such a thing as dual belonging at all, Drew provides the Probe aufs Exempel (test case) by entering deeply into the experience of six Christians who, in significantly different ways, claim allegiance to certain forms of Buddhism: Roger Corless Sr., Ruth Furneaux, Ruben Habito, John Keenan, Sallie King, and Maria Reis Habito. No summary can do justice to the richly textured material they offer for our reflection. The interviewees' ruminations are repeated verbatim, with all their hesitations and ambivalences, which gives us a wonderfully refreshing alternative to the stilted prose of so much theological writing. Whereas Goosen incorporates the hyphen into the conception of his work and its title, Drew deliberately refrains from using it, and the subtle difference between "Buddhist-Christians" and "Buddhist Christians" turns out to be extremely interesting.

As the authors were unaware of each other's work at the time of writing, it may be useful to consider some of their key themes in parallel, noting differences and agreements. One of Goosen's main aims is to establish criteria for dual belonging that distinguish it from syncretism. He defines dual religious belonging "as occurring when a person has a first major religion and draws on a second to a greater or lesser degree according to the three criteria of doctrine, practices and actions" (Goosen, p. 19). Drew is more inclined to accept syncretism or "patchwork-religion" (Drew, p. 216, citing Schmidt-Leukel) as an element in all religion, and with Ninian Smart she envisages "an inter-system consensus about criteria" (Drew, p. 218). This point from her conclusion harks back to one she makes in her introduction: each dual belonger is considered to have one primary religious adherence onto which another is later grafted, much as one begins [End Page 150] life with a mother tongue but then learns to speak other languages (Drew, pp. 3, 6).2 Goosen's way of putting this is that we are only enculturated once (Goosen, p. 143), with the result that one's original religion remains dominant while the other, as it were, is in a minor key (Goosen, p. 23). Both authors stress that their observations are made on the basis of the experience of those they interviewed, even if this experience is non-conceptual (Goosen, p. 17; Drew, p. 66). Yet Sallie King insists "that there are no grounds for constructing a hierarchy when it comes to theistic and unitive experiences" (Drew, p. 71). Indeed, King claims to belong "one hundred per cent" to her Quaker and Buddhist allegiances (Drew, pp. 34, 202), whereas Goosen lays down that one's adherence to a second tradition will always be less than 100 percent (Goosen, pp. 143, 161). Where they agree is that dual belongers must be prepared to live with ambiguity (Goosen, p. 50), albeit in a "fruitful tension" which for King is...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9472
Print ISSN
0882-0945
Pages
pp. 150-154
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-03
Open Access
No
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