Original Research - Special Collection: Spirit Rising Tracing Movements of Justice

Back from the Crocodile’s Belly: Christian formation meets indigenous resurrection

S. Lily Mendoza
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 73, No 3 | a4660 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v73i3.4660 | © 2017 S. Lily Mendoza | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 May 2017 | Published: 17 November 2017

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S. Lily Mendoza, Department of Communication and Journalism, Oakland University, United States and Department of Practical Theology, Faculty of Theology, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Undoing all forms of domination – including, in particular, religious domination – remains a crucial imperative of our time, given that domination constitutes a spirit-killing dynamic that distorts, oppresses and throws living beings (both human and non-human alike) out of synch with themselves. One form of domination in colonial contexts is the totalising claim to a monopoly of ‘the’ truth that effectively delegitimises and demonises all other ways of seeing the world. This essay grapples with the question: What happens when the ‘One True Story’ encounters other faith stories? Riffing off my (coedited) anthology, Back from the Crocodile’s Belly: Philippine Babaylan Studies and the Struggle for Indigenous Memory (dedicated to the memory of the Filipino indigenous women and men healers impaled on stakes by early Spanish missionaries and left on river banks for crocodiles to feast on), I narrate my personal journey growing up as a Filipina Methodist pastor’s kid, becoming a born-again believer and an aspiring Christian missionary trained by Philippine Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and the Navigators, and belatedly coming to grips with my relationship to my country’s colonial history and its consequences for me and my people’s struggle for wholeness and authenticity. What happens when my wholly formed Christian subjectivity becomes challenged by the resurrecting call of spirit to indigenous and earth well-being? Informed by a multilayered cultural memory, I trace my faith learnings from an encounter with deep ancestry in the ‘belly of the beast’ and its larger significance for today’s social movement struggles for sustainability and global coexistence.


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