Yes, I’m still here. Yes I have posts brewing in my head – about octuplets and potty training and new jobs and doctors and all kinds of crap. But it’s been a bit crazy, what with the new job, and the potty training, and the new schedule. SO, I promise to have a more personal post soon. BUT I wanted to share two things:
First, YAY and Congrats on the arrival of Addison over at Mommy J’s. She’s beautiful and we here at Love and Chaos are so happy for you!!
When I was in college, I went on a mission trip to the island paradise of Trinidad.It was quite the sacrifice: warm beaches, curried goat, tropical jungles, handing out a few tracts.It was my first experience with a religion that was completely foreign to me, and it was surprisingly disorienting. For all the rigidity and certainty of my beliefs, being immersed in such a different culture planted questions in my head I tried to ignore, but often couldn’t, since signs of this alien religion were impossible to ignore.The porches of the houses erupted with brightly colored flags, which our hosts explained were meant to represent that family’s household gods. I remember visiting the holy shrines where Hindus prayed and felt very uncomfortable. Born and reared in a Christian ghetto, coming face to face with such an unknown way of life bothered me. Because I did not understand it, I demonized it.Literally. I assumed that those golden, colorful statues were the manifestations of demonic activity. Indeed, to even recognize their beauty as art would be to appreciate the dwelling place of demons.I felt unsafe, spiritually — as if during the walk to the site where we were building a church, hundreds of evil spirits slipped from the folds of the flags on houses to assault me and my faith.We bought the materials and provided a lot of the back and arm strength to frame the church. It was worth it, if it helped to stem the tide of idolatrous Hinduism, if it we erected a beacon of light to the true God, shining amidst a false religion.Most of us didn’t know what we were doing.One evening, we were mixing cement, rather poorly I might add. We had to carry our own water to wet the dry mix and struggled to turn the water and mix quickly enough with our shovels.
Then, out of nowhere, a man walked up with a hose from his house, offering it to us. Shortly afterward, a group of men from nearby houses came out to teach us how to mix, and to mix quickly.
I didn’t understand. We were Christians. The flags in front of their houses told me that they were not. We were the religious competition. Yet, here they were, helping us build a house of worship meant to proselytize them, to tell them they were headed for hell, to tell them that our way was the right way. Here they were, a group of people living in poverty, offering us water from their own spigots from homes whose showers barely trickled enough cold, clean water to dampen the hair.
I didn’t understand how they could be such good neighbors to us.
I wouldn’t have returned the favor if they were building a Hindu temple in my backyard.
I would have protested.I would have stood up and preached about the one true God who trumped the lesser gods of the Hindus. I might have even put up a lawn sign quoting a few favorite scriptures.
Time and again, this strange generosity happened, this unnatural welcoming of the religious outsider. A local Hindu family slaughtered a goat, curried it and offered to feed us a traditional Hindu wedding feast served on banana leaves.It was difficult to force a cross in anyone’s face when all they did was open their arms to us. I began to wonder just who needed saving: us or them.
It wasn’t until years later, when I began to comprehend the dominant understanding of God and religions in Hinduism that I began to grasp why they welcomed us so.
To them, we were all on the same side, climbing toward God, hoping to improve the welfare, the lives and the souls of everyone.
To them, we might have called our God by different names, but we were working toward the same summit, even if we held vastly different beliefs. In fact, one of Hinduism’s most defining characteristics is its vast diversity of philosophy and beliefs within it.
Imagine if this concept penetrated, completely, all the religions of the world; if religion wasn’t about competition between gods slugged out by mortals, but about mutual uplift of each other and solidarity with the poor and oppressed.
Not to say that all religions are more alike than they are similar, though some certainly are. Not to say that those differences aren’t important or constitutive to all religions either.But it is to say that in spite of those differences there remains a way, an imperative even, to lay down the weapons of spiritual warfare and join hands in the love of neighbor, to feed the hungry, comfort the sick, shelter the homeless and orphaned, to empower the repressed and downtrodden.To divest our own power — spiritual, national, economic and personal — and invest in the oppressed.A world such as ours demands it.