I’ve invited several people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.
(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)
Today’s post was written by Surit Dasgupta. I think Surit is the first person from India to write a guest post for me. You can connect with Surit via his blog “Christ Our Lord.”
When I was twelve years old my dad brought me a very special gift on my birthday. It was a book called “Stories from the Bible – The New Testament”. I was fond of heroes, heroes who would triumph over evil against all odds, heroes who would protect the weak and the oppressed. I saw so many of these mythological characters in Hindu scriptures, there were warriors, lovers, and damsels in distresses. But when I finished reading about Jesus Christ I knew I had found the greatest Hero among all. I wanted to become a follower of Christ and there was nothing that was going to stop me from doing it.
As a Hindu, I was accustomed to rituals and clergy. The priest, better known as ‘pundit’ in Hinduism, would never allow a common man like me to touch the ‘deity’. I laughed at the pundit in my mind. I had a special secret – Jesus Christ. He was my guru and no one else. The rest were all man-made. Little did I know that these man-made aspects of religion were coming back to haunt me in my Christian life. I tried to find out what they were but I realized that they were all around me.
On Sunday meetings, the system in our local church was mechanized and very institutional. There was a ‘presider’ and he alone would determine who participate in the ‘service’. There was a preacher who would bring the ‘sermon’ which usually lasted 40-50 minutes. There was a strict almost classroom-like discipline which bounded the entire congregation. But there was something lacking and I knew it. The freedom to express Christ at will was non-existent. There were a couple of elderly members who were virtually sitting through the entire service (except that they had to ‘stand-up’ for the communion). These members had no-one to speak for them. There were disguised threats thrown by pulpit-armed preacher (I was a part of it) at members he didn’t like. No one dared say anything when the sermon was being delivered. And the most horrifying thing was that Christ was choke-holded into being a Spectator as well. It was Hinduism all over again!
It was at this point that someone gave me Frank Viola’s “Pagan Christianity?” to read. You can probably guess what happened afterward. I and a couple of other Christians protested against this mechanical institutionalism practiced by the local church leaders. We were ordered to ‘hush up’ and refrain from teaching our ‘false doctrine’. All we wanted was that everyone have the freedom to speak at will in the assembly.
One congregation considered our plea. There was an American missionary in that congregation and he wanted to hear us out. We moved to that congregation and were allowed to have an open-participatory meeting on Sunday. Everyone, except the missionary, was puzzled at what we were trying to achieve. Once that meeting began it all looked so very similar except that all of a sudden everyone had the freedom to choose their songs. There were people who said nothing in the usual Sunday ‘services’. These people were suddenly starting to ‘open’ their lips and say words of encouragement. People started to pray at random for one another. There was laughter… laughter at a Sunday meeting! It was surreal! It was so unlike an institutional church. It was like… like a family.
My mind now traces back to those first traces of Jesus in my childhood memory. He was the ultimate Hero – One who is the Protector of the weak and oppressed. Now He has a family – the church.