Monday, December 31, 2007

India 2007

Back in 1974 I first visited Brazil. It was my first time to be in another country and really be able to see another culture in action. That first experience of another culture was life changing. My world expanded on that day and I would never be the same.

I have just returned from 8 days in India with my dear friends Mani and Pam Maken and my world has expanded again. Truly, India is nearly beyond description for me. The purpose of my trip was to preach the dedication service of a church building the Makens financed. It is the first Christian structure in the entire history of the city called Deri Bassi.

I have spent my entire life working with the inner life of people in the Americas. Often people in the Americas don't even seem to know they have an inner life. Indians know the inner life exists!

Seeing and experiencing India opened a window on an entirely new level of religious life and thought. Never have I been in a culture that was so openly and passionately religious. I am sure it will take a while to process it all. It was overwhelming.

Here are some preliminary observations....

1. Religion will continue to shape our world. The west (USA and Europe) with their bent toward secular thinking will not be able to stop the religious momentum that continues to build in the east. Getting rid of Christianity will not stop religion from coming west. Getting rid of Christianity will only make the eastern momentum pick up speed. A religious tsunami is headed west.

2. Christian leaders who hope to be relevant in India must address the inner spiritual life questions that eastern religions address every day. Going to heaven when we die is not the question being asked in India. How to have a happy marriage is not number one on the list either. Their arranged marriages for the most part do last. They think heaven and hell are here on earth.

The question I saw being asked was about what does life mean right now and how do I connect with the very real spiritual realm to benefit me today. Hinduism, Sikhism and Islam have clear, if confused, answers for the Indian population. I did not sense the Christian community was truly in this discussion in India. That may be the effect of only being 2% of the population, but I just did not sense the Christians were taken seriously. I know 8 days is not time enough to know this for sure, but my contact with non-Christian Indians made me feel like they don't think we have anything to offer from the west except capitalism.
The non-Christians wanted to talk to me about commerce and capitalism (and Brazilian soccer) but they looked on my title "Pastor" as not very impressive when compared with "Iman", "Priest" or "Guru". No non-Christian asked me to explain Christianity's claims for today. When I tried to get in the discussion they looked at me as if the people from the west have no clue.

3. Ideas have consequences. Indian society is tragically chaotic and unjust. Shocking is not a strong enough word to describe it. " The poor are poor because they need to be poor to learn what they need for their next life" is an idea I heard repeated by some very intelligent religious leaders. This idea has left the poor on their own and it shows. 7 million live in the slums of Delhi where I spent my last night in India.

Interestingly, this idea about poverty being deserved made for a safer environment than Brazil. I guess the poor have accepted their lot in life and do not use their poverty to justify violence toward those who have more. I was in places in India that I would have expected violence to be rampant and found myself being told by Indians who were with me to calm down and relax. In Brazil I would have been looking for a quick way to escape.

4. The Abide Message fits India perfectly. The word satisfaction was made for India. Moment by Moment and 24/7 ring true in India. The door to the Abide Brazil ministry is open in India because abiding is about NOW.


Rachel said...

just don't tell me you';re moving there!!!

jcsemp said...

Glad to hear about your trip. We had heard you were going. We are having Rudy Johnson come to our house this coming Friday, Jan 4, so he can share with us the story of how many were blessed in Peru with new soccer uniforms donated through a friend of ours.
John and Carole

Aaron said...

Hey Pastor McCord...This is Aaron Skinner...formerly from FBCWH...Not sure if you remember me...I'm on staff now at First Baptist Woodstock...Happily married...and about to embark on my own adventure towards a ministry dream...possibly even in South Florida. I've contacted Guy Melton to discuss whether the dream is a fit for SoFla or not...Looks like things are going well for you in Brasil...I'm glad to hear it...I bookmarked your blog today so that I can keep reading.