Going where God leads us (being faithful on the big things… starting with the little)

One of my favorite Biblical parables is that of the talents, and it is one that was often taught in elementary school. There are two versions, that which is found in Matthew (25:14-30) and the other in Luke (19:12-27). In any case, one question I remember coming up is why the servants were given different amounts. In one sense, it doesn’t really matter; we see that the master has chosen correctly, and those servants who were given more were faithful with what they were given.

The other day, though, I was trying to recall the passage about being faithful in the little things, and I found it in Luke 16:10. Those who are entrusted with big things don’t usually start off in doing the big things; they are entrusted with little things, do what they should, and are rewarded with being entrusted with even bigger things. Those servants who were given larger amounts were, assuredly, servants who previously had been faithful in smaller things.

This touches on things going on in my own life at the moment. I feel as though I am on a journey of faith, and that I have been called to do something of great consequence. I feel as though I need to accept this and follow, performing my role in the story, and God will do His. It’s kind of frightening, for it’s like Peter walking on the water – in faith he can do it, but without, he can’t. But it has also been working to deepen my faith, to trust God more, and to reach out to others who strive toward that same type of faith for support. It’s a big thing, yes, but I feel as though I have been being prepared for a long time toward this with the little things. I pray that I am up for the challenge. I don’t know exactly where this road will go, but I work on trusting God in this matter.

Advertisements

A bit about religious experience

Life has a funny way of getting crazy. For us, these last couple of years have been crazy, filled with both the good and the bad, lots of stress, and an abundance of God’s grace. As a result, I’ve really had very little time to sit down and write, though the thoughts are constantly going through my head.

As a kid who was raised around Protestants, one thing that was constantly emphasized was having an “experience” of God or of Jesus. This, of course, makes sense, because without any sort of Liturgical consistency, without believing that what we partake of in Communion is the true body and blood of Christ, basically the best one can hope for is some sort of religious experience.

For me, this didn’t sit right, though I didn’t understand why. I think part of it comes from the fact that when one “accepts Christ into your heart”, there is supposed to be some sort of feeling of certainty that one does, in fact, “belong to Jesus”. Even from the time I was very little I tried to do the thing that God instructs in the Bible, and I wanted to go to Heaven and be with God when this life ends. But I don’t know when I “accepted Jesus”, because I think I asked for it each time we were invited to in school, and I daresay a good number of other times as well. I don’t want to say it was meaningless, because, of course, it’s not, but I never had the kind of religious experience I figured would accompany the certainty of the enormity of such an action.

Many years later, I became an Orthodox Christian. It was comforting, on many levels, that the idea of religious experience is really downplayed. One doesn’t need a miracle to worship, to pray, to integrate ones’ self into the fabric of the Church. Things ‘otherworldly’ are met with some skepticism, with the realization that we, as mere mortals, can be tricked and confused by many things disguised as ‘religious experience’, and that we ought to be wary of it.

The down side to this is that it seems like many believe that the only people who have genuine ‘religious experiences’ ought to be monks, nuns, and clergy. Therefore, now being an Orthodox Christian, when I do feel like there has been something in my life that one could call ‘religious experience”, it’s hard sometimes even to discuss it. I’m sure that this is the case for some Protestants as well, but I grew up around people who regularly told stories of the inexplicable that they chalked up to God’s working in their lives; God called them to do this, God made something happen, etc. Surely it’s not a bad thing to acknowledge that when we endeavor to follow God, He works wonders in our lives. However, when this is the only thing that people have to try to ascertain whether one is on the right path, it can be a dangerous thing as well.

Christ is Risen! (Music on Monday)

In the Christian world, Pascha (Easter) is the greatest celebration of all, even eclipsing Christmas. Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who was born of a virgin. Easter, though, celebrates the resurrection of Christ from the dead, and in so, the destruction of death itself, and the foreshadowing of the final destruction of evil. Every Sunday is a little bit of a reminder of this, but Easter is the pinnacle of this.

Forgive me for the “blog silence” as well… Things just get crazy, and it’s hard to sit down and write!

Daily Mail Hit-Piece on Religious Practice

The Daily Mail, a newspaper from the United Kingdom, and one of the most widely-read online newspapers in the world, recently posted the story of an Indian girl by the name of Aradhana Samdhariya, a 13-year-old who died, allegedly as the result of taking part of a religious fast. The article begins thus:

“A 13-year-old girl died in Hyderabad after she was forced to fast for 64 days as part of a community ritual of fasting during the holy period of Chaturmas.

The city police launched an inquiry into the incident after a child rights NGO demanded a probe.”

Chaturmas is a Jain period of fasting, but not knowing much about Jainism (about .4% of Indians identify as Jains), I have no idea what this fasting entails. Orthodox Christians, for example, often fast by reducing the amount of food eaten and eliminating certain foods, but it is almost unheard of to try to completely abstain from food during all the Orthodox fasting periods. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast completely, but only from sunup to sundown. Unfortunately, no explanation of what a typical fast for Chaturmas looks like is provided. In one book reference I found, albeit referencing Chaturmas in a Hindu context, it describes the Chaturmas fast as a period of cutting back, not necessarily of eating nothing for the entire period.

The article also says the girl was forced to participate by the family and community. However, in a Reuters article covering the same topic, it states that, according to the parents, the girl was a willing participant, and that she had completed a similar fast last year.

One huge discrepancy between the two articles is that the Daily Mail claims that the girl was only in the third day of the fast when her blood pressure dropped precipitously, and was then taken to the hospital, where she died. The Reuters article claims that everyone was already celebrating the end of the fast, which had been completed the day before the girl died. If the Daily Mail is correct, it is almost certain that another medical issue was at play here, as a healthy 13-year-old would probably be hungry from not eating anything for three days, but may even handle it better than an adult. As for the longer number, one has to assume that it wasn’t a complete fast, and without further information, it’s hard to make any judgement on what actually happened.

I also put the following things out for consideration: This girl lived in India. From the pictures, she was quite beautiful, and it looks as though her family treated her well. Consider, too, that in India, daughters are often considered a liability, and by their teens, many are working in terrible conditions trying to survive or have been married off. This girl was still attending school – a Catholic one at that – and was in the 10th grade. In this type of culture, had the parents not cared, why go through the bother and expense of educating her? Was no one at her school aware of what was going on? Again, this is a point where the articles differ, but the Daily Mail also claims that once the girl’s blood pressure dropped, she was taken to the hospital. If this was truly murder, as some have characterized it, why go through the trouble and expense.

The fact of the matter is is that this type of story is written and disseminated in large part to try to discredit religion and to ridicule those observing religious practice outside of designated places of worship. The Daily Mail piece is self-contradictory and poorly written, but serves as a place for commenters to denounce religion and congratulate themselves for being so ‘reasonable’ rather than religious. For this reason, I consider the article a ‘hit-piece’. Considering all the children in India who live in deplorable conditions, I have a hard time understanding why this case is garnering so much attention, including calls from an NGO to have the parents arrested for murder and their other daughters removed from their custody. The Reuters article even has a quote from an area politician. Call me cynical, but when the politicians get involved, it leads me to suspect that the uproar over this case may have more to do with certain Hindu political factions that are intolerant of minority religions in India more than anything else.

The sad thing is that sometimes children will die, some even in ‘preventable’ deaths. But even in the case of ‘preventable’ deaths, it doesn’t mean that a death was deliberate or could have been foreseen. This is a tragic story, yes, but hardly the outrage that many seem to make it out to be.

(As for outrage and barbaric practices involving children, check out this story pertaining to Ashura Warning: extremely disturbing images), also from India and reported by the Daily Mail as well as highlighting India’s minority religions, but which the Daily Mail has no ‘expert’ or politician denounce.)