Tribal Theology

The term Tribal Theology was first used in a book by Rev. Rosiamliana Tochhawng titled ‘Towards Tribal Theology: The Mizo Perspectives (1989). Tribal Theology aims to liberate the tribal people from their unfortunate condition characterised by violence, ethnic crisis, division, under development, poverty, alienation, and suffering. Thanzauva suggests a ‘Synthetic Praxis’ to be the method of Tribal theology. Synthetic Praxis is the combination of theory and practice in which neither the theory nor the practice has primacy. It involves rigorous theoretical reflection, but it insists that it should emerge from the practice that will bring transformation. It reflects on the difficulty of ethnic, cultural and political identities of individuals from the subject of people, land and the sacred power to grant them hope.’

The key characteristics of Tribal religion are:

  1. Absence of written scripture
  2. Absence of human made images or temples
  3. Traditions have been orally passed from one generation to another
  4. Natural objects are accepted as symbols of Divine
  5. Worship of ancestors
  6. A belief in nature, human, Divine, spirit continuum

The Tribals worldview perceives all realities arise from the totality of creation and not just humanity. In the dominant christian traditions, humanity is the central point of reference. But in the tribal worldview, creation is the central point of reference. The whole reality including humanity, the supreme being and spirit, or spirits are approached from the perspective of creation. The trees, animals, and birds are given spiritual significance (totems) and considered to be directly related to humans.

The tribals considers land to be sacred, they believe that through the land people become one with the supreme being. Their ancestors and the spirits and other parts of creation. They believe that everything is organically related to one-another. Lijaba is their earth entering Supreme being who enters the earth with the seeds and rises again with the crops. For the tribals, creation is the manifestation of the Supreme Being.

The concept of time from the tribals is cyclic in nature. All the festival and religious activities of the people are centred on the soil cycle. People expect the years to come and go in the endless rhythm. They expect the events of the rainy season, planting, sowing, harvesting, dry season, rainy season to continue forever. It is centred on the soil. Therefore when the environment is destroyed, the tribals do not have time. They are left in a vacuum. People do not know what to do.

Christian theology therefore has to be reconstructed using a space-centred worldview. In the Tribal Christian Theology, God is perceived as the integral part of creation, one who is organically related to the creation. God is not a king who rules from above. Christ is there not in believers hearts alone but he is organically related to the total ecosystem. Jesus shares his being with the whole creation. Holy Spirit works not only in the hearts of believers but also in the whole creation. Humans gain their freedom only in relation to the rest of creation. Earth’s resources are sacraments for the tribal people. Church is understood here as God’s micro-universe with a mission to transform the whole universe.

Tribal Christians have adapted traditional songs and music, dress and costume, traditional laws related to marriage and inheritance and also “village state” polity.

The Gospel values are already present in the tribal culture of India. The tribals already have the consciousness of an egalitarian society. They already have in place a community ownership of means of production, distribution according to needs, democratic form of government and consensus in decision making process. The tribal society is neither hierarchical nor patriarchal. The tribals were more open to the gospel because of their culture and world-view.

Bibliography
A Tribal Theology From A Tribal World – View  – K. P. Aleaz
https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ijt/44_020.pdf

Tribal Theology – Tribal Theology was first used by Rev. Rosiamliana (mahasoe.com)
https://mahasoe.com/2020/09/26/tribal-theology/

define: synthetic praxis – Google Search
https://www.google.com/search?q=define%3A+synthetic+praxis

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