This Makes Me Feel Uncomfortable
I’ve occasionally felt uncomfortable when reading Islamic articles or transcript of speeches by Muslims that have very ‘militaristic’ overtones, for lack of a better term. You know the ones I’m talking about, where there seems to be this general feeling that spreading Islam throughout the world is all-important and that all of the ‘false’ religions (and atheists) should just get out of the damn way. For some reason, that kind of talk always makes me think of the many defenses that were written in favor of European colonialism – there’s a perverse sense of entitlement there, a kind of ‘We can take over because we’re right‘ that just makes me extremely annoyed.
You can imagine my sense of disgust, then, upon reading this article from the Baptist Press:
INDIA (BP)–The Hindu god who removes obstacles was no match for a tree limb.
Southern Baptist representatives Brendan and Alyson Strizek* watched from a balcony as celebrating Hindus tried to navigate a trailer-mounted image of Ganesha through a narrow alley. A low tree limb soon blocked the 10-foot idol’s progress. The crowd, unable to back the trailer out of the alley, tried in vain to sever the tree limb so the idol could proceed.
“It took them about 45 minutes to figure out what to do,” Brendan Strizek said. Finally, a child removed the top of the makeshift temple covering Ganesha, barely giving the idol enough room to pass under the tree limb en route to a time of worshipping the idol, also known by the names Ganapati and Ganesh.
“If that’s not the perfect picture,” Alyson Strizek said. “They’re expecting this god to remove obstacles in their lives, but he can’t even remove a tree limb.”
I have no idea who ‘Alyson Strizek’ (it’s a pseudonym) is or what she’s like in real life. She could be the nicest person alive, for all I know. But the quote above makes her sound condescending in the extreme. Here we have a group of people who worship statues of a man nailed to a cross; who, if pushed, could almost certainly provide no evidence whatsoever that their own god has ever done so much as physically move a tree limb, and yet they have the nerve to belittle another religion for being ‘false’? Look, I think Hinduism is a great big sack of crazy as well, but this whole ‘Poor heathens, we just need to show them real religion!’ attitude makes my stomach turn.
The article goes on to get even more surreal when it starts describing aspects of Hinduism that the Christian audience is presumably supposed to find bizarre or quaint:
“There’s a lot of disappointment that they would devote so much of themselves, so much of their time and money, to something that is just clay,” Brendan Strizek said. “It’s obvious it’s not living, and there is no response back from this clay statue — but they are still devoted to it.”
Each fall, Hindu families and communities celebrate the Ganesha Chaturthi festival in Ganesha’s honor, crafting idols in Ganesha’s image from clay and plaster. Many compete to have the largest, most ornate Ganesha idol possible, with some communities pooling their resources to make 30-foot statues.
Hindus take the idols into their homes for up to 10 days, where they follow a set of rituals in caring for and worshipping the idols.
“They provide food for it when it’s in the home, and they treat it like it’s a person,” Brendan Strizek said.
On the 11th day of the festival, with great fanfare and celebration, the Hindus take the Ganesha idols to rivers, lakes or the ocean where they submerge and leave them to symbolize the cycle of creation and destruction in nature.
I’m not sure if the forced inclusion of the phrase ‘the idols’ twice in one sentence is just bad writing or an attempt on the author’s part to drive home a point.
The first quote up there is just ridiculous. ‘It’s just clay’? ‘There is no response back from this clay statue’? Do I really need to point out what’s so weird about this?
The whole thing reminds me way too much of that Islamic attitude I mentioned, but with a healthy dose of European superiority thrown in with it. Quick, bring Jesus to all the misguided Asians and save them from their silly elephant statues! Here’s a super idea: how about we all realize that a person’s beliefs are their business alone and only interfere if they ask us to? No proselytizing, no superiority complexes, and no trying to convert the foreign heathens.