Last stop in this little series of traditional Asian religions…Shamanism and some insights into how it may affect the context of Asian American churches today. All this info courtesy of Prof. Rodger Nishioka.
Shamanism refers to a range of traditional beliefs and practices concerned with communication with the spirit world and is based on the premise that the visible world is pervade by invisible forces or spirits that affect the lives of the living. In contrast to animism, shamanism requires specialized knowledge or abilities. Among the functions of the Shaman are healing, storytelling, fortune-telling, leading rituals for cursing or cleansing and birthing or dying. The Shaman mediates between this world and the other world through ecstatic experiences and “soul flight.” In many ancient Asian traditions, there is a strong history of female shaman.
How has Shamanism influenced practices in Asian American churches?
- A ready acceptance of the Holy Spirit and belief in its power in our daily lives combined with a sense of evil spirits opposing the Holy Spirit leads to lots of attribution to Satan.
- Significant reliance on the Holy Spirit and spiritual experiences that are often highly emotive and emotion charged.
- Congregations look at the preacher as the shaman and may expect him or her to be closer to God and to act as an intermediary or intercessor in some way.
OK, to this I have to add my own testimony that Korean Christianity is highly influenced by shamanism as an inordinate amount of concerns are passed on to the pastor with his/her chief responsibility providing the blessing and fulfilling some spiritual (or superstitious) aspect. Whether it was the opening of a business or the final prayer at a meeting or the sought after prayer for healing, the pastor was the shaman. This is what leads to a lot of the notion that a pastor is a white-collar profession among Koreans. Also the notion of 통성기도 (praying out loud together) ecstatically has its roots in shamanism as well. The invisible world of Shamanism is baptized under the more Pentecostal strain and spiritual warfare is huge in some circles. Koreans are known for their passion and in the spiritual context, shamanism gave voice to that passion and energy for so long, it is hard to distinguish whether or not that is our mode for worshiping Christ now that we have become Christian. What’s the alternative look like?