Religious traditions live by translation, as religions are expressed not only in different languages but also in various social and cultural contexts. Artists, missionaries, public theologians, scholars, and teachers have always sought ways to communicate religious convictions and questions to new audiences. Those efforts at translation often bring controversy, as the recent history of Christianity, from Wyclif and Tyndale to the Roman Catholic Church’s new English translation of the Roman Missal, abundantly shows. Still, translation remains essential to religion, particularly in a globalized world that gives access to, and responsibilities toward, people whose voices would not have easily been encountered generations ago. This new access—through the proliferation media, greater ease of travel, and perhaps especially the extent of current migration—is changing daily lives throughout the world, challenging people to negotiate the differences that emerge. As people interact in new ways, dominant cultures find themselves not only translating, but translated into, new social realities. In these interactions, translation has served too often as a tool of colonization, including the destruction of languages and cultures. But it has served as well in the service of enculturation that enriches religious traditions, as in the artwork and vital community of San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral, and the transformative dialogues that can arise between religions. What new possibilities for our lives and our religious traditions are emerging through such translations? What valued wisdom of the past are we in danger of losing? Where might we need to acknowledge that different languages and worldviews are incommensurable, impossible to translate fully enough? And how, as teachers and scholars of religion, can we assist our students, our faith communities, and our world in the translations necessary to meet the challenges of our time?
Thursday, October 13, 2011
I'm so very long behind in blogging. I have several posts I'm trying to finish and others I'm beginning to sketch. It's, of course, terribly difficult to get such things done when you work full-time in Baltimore and go to school in DC (with mid-terms right around the corner), plus other obligations. Hopefully, I'll be able to get some of these and other things done. In any event, I wanted to pass along this announcement from one of my long time favorite academic societies, although I'm yet to attend one of its conventions. The theme is both timely and provocative.