In the end I leave Jesus among other gods.
Having done so, I feel like a traitor, betraying who I really am.
Inside out, through and through, I am a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. You know the forms that ask for details about yourself—height, weight, race? There needs to be a place for me to simply check off “SDA.” That would better describe me than my skin color or ethnic origin. To be honest, I am a biased, prejudiced Christian who has a difficult time making allowances for anything remotely different.
I’m at the corner of a crowded street, waiting for my ride. A man comes up to me. His typical, curious Nepali nature compensates for his deficiency in English. Soon he’s asking me questions about the pimple on my face, Bush and Iraq, and even about my married life. I’ve done this before so I take it all in stride—Intrusive as the questions may be, every step of invasion into my privacy leads closer to my soapbox. Throwing him the bait, I begin reeling him in. Sure enough, the conversation swerves to religion. And I give him the “my-way-is-better” spiel.
Why only one God? He asks. Before I can respond, he lists the benefits of having more: There’s power in number. It’s more versatile. You have a choice. Each god has a specialty (Kali for vengeance, Laxmi for wealth, Ganesh for success, Parvati for power)
I try other angles. Grace. State of the dead. Eternal life. The Cross. We go back and forth. Obviously he’s not impressed by Christianity. And for an unusual Nepali moment, there’s awkward silence.
One god, only! He exclaims with sympathetic head wagging. I’m indignant now. The conversation has gone far beyond a friendly discussion. I’m offended by his sympathy. The car arrives. And just before I get in, I tell my new friend in my best smug, Christian tone, I don’t need more than one God–because my God is an all-purpose God!
A few months later I run into my new friend. Excitedly he waves and shouts Good news. Good news. Jesus now is in my house! He proceeds to give details. I am thinking I need all-purpose God. So Jesus I have put right in the middle of my other gods. So I am doing puja (worship rituals) to Jesus also every morning. Before I can respond, he says he’s in a hurry and leaves.
I am shocked by the man’s grave and sacrilegious felony. I am disturbed by mental images of Jesus in a pagan home. Is Jesus in the form of an idol or a painting? Does Jesus now sport a red, rice flour and yoghurt tikka on His forehead, and a marigold lei around His neck? Pictures of Jesus at the breakfast table with my friend and his gods haunt me. Nightmares of me leading lambs astray keep me up at night.
The verdict is in: I have single-handedly put Jesus in the slammer with other gods. How do I make it right? Maybe I’ll run into the man again and I’ll have a chance to bring Christian clarity into his life. But then, maybe I will never see him again.
Where it is illegal to proselytize, evangelism cannot be neatly packaged into 12, easy-to-understand lessons or long Bible studies over hot cocoa. Usually you have only one, five-minute opportunity to share Jesus. You either use it or blow it.
I, the Christian, squirm at what I’ve done. But, now and then, when the guilt wears thin, I say to myself: I did the best I could. After all, isn’t witnessing about sharing Jesus with whomever whenever you can—and the convincing and conviction the work of the Spirit? It’s not like Jesus is throwing His hands up in the air and saying, “Look what Fylvia’s done! How am I going to get out of this mess?” My Jesus can take care of Himself. My Jesus will defeat the other zillion gods and rise victorious. My Jesus will show the man that ONE all-purpose God is ALL he needs. Right?
After all, isn’t Jesus among other gods better than no Jesus at all? I remain confused. My biased Christianity continues to have trouble making room for any thing but.
With those thoughts I leave Jesus among other gods.