Christianity and Pluralism (3): Easter and a Co-opted Christianity

Lesslie Newbigin, the inspiration for this series, has a great story about a time when he was a young Christian missionary in India. It really helped me to grasp this next topic. He recalls:

When I was a young missionary I used to spend one evening each week in the monastery of the Ramakrishna Mission in the town where I lived, sitting on the floor with the monks and studying with them the Upanishads and the Gospels. In the great hall of the monastery, as in all the premises of the Ramakrishna Mission, there is a gallery of portraits of the great religious teachers of humankind. Among them, of course, is a portrait of Jesus. Each year on Christmas Day worship was offered before this picture. Jesus was honored, worshipped, as one of the many manifestations of deity in the course of human history. To me, as a foreign missionary, it was obvious that this was not a step toward the conversion of India. It was the co-option of Jesus into the Hindu worldview. Jesus had become just one figure in the endless cycle of karma and samsara, the wheel of being in which we are all caught up. He had been domesticated into the Hindu worldview. That view remained unchallenged. (GPS, 3)

Every culture has a set of beliefs its members take for granted. Newbigin calls this its plausibility structure. Read more of this post

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Pithy Post: When the Ashes are Washed Away

On Ash Wednesday, and during the whole season of Lent, Christians around the world remember their mortality. Today, many of us remember it by putting ashes on our foreheads. It evokes that famous passage in the Bible:

For dust you are
and to dust you will return.
We remember intentionally and communally what we all know personally each time we lose a loved one. Our world is broken, we are broken, and we will break.
But are Christians just a bunch of morbid mood killers? No. We sit in the reality of our ashes so that we can fully celebrate it when Christ washes them away. Lent ends with Holy Week! Lent ends with Jesus taking on our mortality, donning our ashes for us, dying on the cross, and then raising from the dead on Easter day. Lent ends with Jesus washing away our ashes in the cleansing water of baptism.
Lent ends.