In a few days, the decorated tree, born in the Protestant tradition, and the crib, from the Catholic tradition, will resume service. The conifer (Nordic), the family of Jesus (Jews from the Levant), visitors from afar (the Magi from the East): all the ingredients for an intercultural encounter are gathered, for a feast called to bring together. But beyond the symbol, what about intercultural experience in the Churches today?
Protestants readily claim a particular ability to experience the encounter of cultures. It is true that the absence of a centralized liturgy gives their cults a remarkable flexibility of adaptation, ranging from a 45-minute service, without musical instruments, to Sunday marathons of a whole day, mobilizing multiple sermons and music. exuberant. The Reformation also developed the translation of the Bible into vernacular languages, putting an end to the imperium of Latin. Finally, the proliferation of Protestant churches of all types is part of a multipolar acculturation, as close as possible to local demands. At the time of the interconnected “global village”, would the Protestant churches have a vocation for a happy interculturality?
The evolution of the Protestant scene belies this prognosis. In France, many assemblies experience forms of interculturality, but without developing their potential for lack of tools. Other communities remain culturally juxtaposed, without bridges. Finally, many Churches practice, without saying so, a form of assimilation, which relegates new parish cultural contributions to the rank of foil. Aware of these issues, the Protestant Federation of France had set up the Mosaic Project in September 2006. This FPF service aimed to promote mutual knowledge and mutual cultural enrichment. The rise of “immigrant churches” carried this momentum. Today, the momentum has run out of steam. And the Mosaïc Project ended. Across the Atlantic, same observation. At the start of the Obama years, several church networks, supported by the monthly Christianity Today, claimed to want to overcome the “divide” (racial divide) between black, Latino and white churches. The Trump era, marked by multiple identity folds, dealt a fatal blow to these dialogues. What happened ?
The rise of social networks, which Protestants are very fond of, is playing its part, at a time when algorithms favor the logic of affinity conformism. Another cause is the rise of nationalism. The fact remains that the intercultural Christian challenge is not about to lose its relevance. Especially since it produces double trigger effects.
First, on ecumenism. As Jean-Claude Girondin (1) reminds us, there can be no ecumenism of theology and piety without cultural ecumenism. Is it not also from its culture that we speak to God? Then, on fraternity, this famous “living together”. Cultures which mutually enrich each other in the Church, carried by a shared hope, isn’t this a way of embodying this “fraternity” so desired, so little practiced?