Sociology of Theology - A Sociological Analysis

A religion such as Christianity makes universal claims of the nature of “the Christ is the saviour of the world”. Although theologically Christians are delighted to make such claims, these pronouncements have basic sociological dilemmas which should be addressed.

On one hand, this is a subjective statement of believers of that particular religion which has no or less implication for others. At the same time, in extreme conditions these beliefs could force the believers of a particular religion to implement arrogant methods of evangelism to try to convert the rest of the members of the community to their own religion.

In the field of sociology, there is generally a dearth of research to analyze the link between these universal theological statements and the group identities of the people who make these claims. For instance, when the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British missionaries made statements of this nature, these statements were not just mere religious utterances confined to the faith arena. They had sociological impacts which created tensions between existing local realities.

All these colonial powers in Sri Lanka had superior attitudes connected to their ethnic and religious identities, which made them believe that they had a responsibility to put the so-called “natives” in the colony on the correct path. Here sociologically and theologically it is important to investigate the evolvement of this superiority attitude related to the ethnicity and religion of the colonial regimes.

Regarding these types of colonial and post-colonial ethnocentrism P.B. Horton and C.L. Hunt have noted,

The history of colonialism offers many illustrations of the blunders into which ethnocentrism leads. The nineteenth century saw the development of colonialism, a philosophy which calmly assumed that Western nations as the carriers of a superior culture had an obligation to take over the government of Asian and African regions.

The ethnocentrism which made the colonial officials so obnoxious to the natives also made these officials unable to recognize how deeply they were resented. (They knew that their presence benefited the natives; why couldn’t the stupid natives see their conquerors’ superiority?) Colonialism has therefore ended with startling abruptness, and Western ethnocentrism is now being replaced by a still more rigid and intolerant native ethnocentrism of the African and Asian peoples

This statement highlights how colonial ethnocentrism has been replaced by still more rigid native ethnocentrism. A typical example of this is the development of “Sinhala Buddhism” in Sri Lanka, which has been playing a crucial role in the ethnic tension in Sri Lanka.

Although there are many researches and studies done on this aforementioned Sinhala Buddhism there is a dearth of literature in the academic arena on the ethnic tendencies of Sinhala and Tamil Christians in Sri Lanka. Therefore it is required to study and analyse what happened to the colonial ethnocentrism of Christians after independence in 1948 and now how local ethnicities are intertwined with Christianity in Sri Lanka to determine the behaviour of Christians in Sri Lanka.