I just got back from an incredible trip to India and I have still yet to let my thoughts about the trip settle. But I do have this to share – when it comes to spirituality, Indian society is unapologetically religious. Places like India and Thailand give me pause because my western mind sees almost nothing but harm in having a dominant religion infused throughout a country’s culture. India is a diverse country. Even within Hinduism, its polytheism allows for people to choose their preferred god(s) and people share openly about their own devotional practices. They’ll talk openly about whether they are devoted to Shiva or Krishna, for example. Yet the top tourist spots in New Delhi are Muslim in nature or origin.
Although my trip was coordinated by a secular charity, the villagers would not shy from the integrity of their spiritual practices. The volunteerism component of my trip began with a Hindu blessing under the direction of a priest who sang a prayer. When meeting villagers and exchanging cultural questions, they asked us about our gods and saints. I was more than happy to speak to those subjects even though I could sense the unease among my secularized travel companions. Every dinner we shared was accompanied with some sort of night time entertainment and one night we were regaled by what was essentially a singing prayer group. Imagine having Critical Mass over in Canada to entertain foreign visitors!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about syncretism at all, nor am I a cultural relativist. But observing people with different faith traditions live out their beliefs steadfastly encourages and reminds me that the lifestyle of putting on Christ has integrity only when lived out openly and without fear. I pray that I can continue to be a strong ambassador of my convictions to those with different ones.
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