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This review is from: The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation (Paperback)
For Western Europe and its colonial sons and daughters, it is all too easy to omit critical reflection upon our Christian heritage as received through our germanic culture. So, thank goodness that Mr. Russell has shaken us from our easy-going slumber with his study, "The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity" ("GERMANIZATION.")
The book is written with a non-polemical, matter of fact, academic tone. But, it can nevertheless be jarring to readers of broader germanic descent -- i.e., all of post-Roman Western Europe and its colonial extensions -- to examine the historical development of its religious peculiarities in light of the broader Greco-Roman and Oriental Christian Tradition, which, of course, pre-dates the reception of Christianity by the various germanic tribes that overran the western half of the Roman Empire and conquered all of Western Europe and colonized the New World. Indeed, it is all too easy for Western Europeans and North Americans to fall into the trap that the Christian traditions its cultural patrimony somehow represents normative Christian simply because it is the Christianity that we know and have been formed within.
While Christianity traditionally has managed to "indigenize" itself into both numerous and various specific ethnic groups (Hellenes, Arabs, Slavs, Celts, etc.), one of the costs of such a process is cross-inculteration, in which such indigenized Christianity sometimes takes on characteristics of the receiving ethnos to such an extent that and objective observer may fairly consider the Faith to have been somewhat corrupted or distorted in its new manifestation rather than having completely succeeded in "baptizing" the pre-Christian ethos. In short, sometimes, the tail wags the dog.
What Russell manages to achieve in GERMANIZATION is to convincingly identify the major aspects of the reception of Christianity into Western European--i.e., Germanic--culture that represent examples of the culture corrupting the cult, rather than the cult redeeming the culture. The eye-opening process of reading GERMANIZATION can be quite discomfiting, as he is demonstrating objective flaws in the received patrimony of Western Christendom, of which most of Russell's readers are bound to be heirs, whether they themselves are particularly religious or not. Hence, do not be surprised if GERMANIZATION touches some nerves.
The great virtue of GERMANIZATION, however, is that it enables objective readers within the germanic Christian tradition to better recognize the corruptions and imperfections that have arisen in germanic Christianity during the reception, incultration and cross-inculteration process. And, those that will, can embrace the freedom to resist, and even to purge, the corruptive germanizations from our Christian patrimony and thereby walk a more authentic Christian path.