True story: My mom is planning a baby shower for my wife, and it may involve a Hindu priest.
I don’t actually care — if she wants to handle the bulk of the planning, we can have it at a local Scientology center for all I care — but it is a little strange since our family was never Hindu to begin with. For my mom, the principle seems to be that any religion will do, and Hinduism overlaps enough with Jainism that no attendees will care. (This is the same mother who believes in a capital-G God even though Jainism doesn’t teach that one exists.)
So I completely get where Nirpal Dhaliwal is coming from in an essay he wrote for The Guardian. He talks about his Sikh mother who really wasn’t well-versed in theology:
She was born into Sikhism, but — like many Indians of her generation — her knowledge of her religion was never strong. She could never name its 10 founding gurus; nor had she any interest in its monist theology which encourages an internal experience of God through meditation.
Her Sikhism was an emotionally driven, personal mish-mash of various customs from across the subcontinent — most of it Hindu. She visited temples daily, prayed each morning and chanted Sanskrit hymns — without understanding a word — while wafting incense through the house. And she fasted — a lot.
My experience with religion in the Indian-American community has been very similar. It’s a giant buffet of random beliefs. (Cafeteria Krishnas?)
But everything changed for Dhaliwal’s mother when she found Jesus:
… she gave away all the Sikh and Hindu iconography that decorated her home, replaced them with crucifixes and was baptised into her new faith. She now reads a Punjabi-language Bible every day and watches Christian cable-television channels.
In many ways I’m happy for her. Her life is much simpler with the one-stop-shop that is Jesus, compared to the chaotic spiritual buffet she sampled from in the past. She no longer marches to temples bearing heavy loads of bananas, coconuts and gallons of milk as offerings…
If she’s at peace, I’m happy for her, too. But let’s admit she replaced one form of nonsense with another. Reality never comes into play here. It’s all about convenience.
Maybe it’s just easier to fall into a new theology that’s so simple — accept Jesus and you’re saved — rather than constantly reinventing your own faith using various beliefs from all the religions around you. There’s a reason evangelists love visiting countries where local superstitions have dominated for so long: they offer a theology that’s much more concrete and thought-out. It’s no more accurate or honest than whatever it’s replacing, but it comes with a built-in community and language, and that’s enough for many people.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Jim for the link)