Friday, March 13, 2009

The Strip-Tease of Religion

Night before last I was driving home in the countryside and from a distance saw a performance in progress at a local countryside temple. My Taiwanese passenger matter-of-factly responded, “Oh, it’s a striptease performance.” IYesterday I asked a teacher about them and read a few online blog articles. These strip-tease performances are common at some weddings, funerals, and major temple celebrations (such as the god’s birthday party, which is probably what was in progress that night). And yes, the strippers do take it all off, at least some of the time, and even let the men touch.  (maybe a Taiwanese reader of this blog can provide helpful insight as to the religious significance of these performances).

Whenever identified as a Christian, a common response we hear in rural Taiwan (well, anywhere in Taiwan, for that matter) is that “all religions are good”, “all religions are the same”, etc. because they all espouse standards of morality, encourage people to upright living, etc.  Are they really the same?

Historically in the Christian tradition both the body and sex have from time to time mistakenly been denigrated as being “evil”. Only the spirit is good, our spirits will eventually go to heaven, sex is bad, etc.

Wrong! In truth, God created our bodies. He intends for us to enjoy them in the proper way, with the proper person, at the proper time, to eat right, exercise, take proper care of our bodies, etc.  Part of the good news then is: our bodies are good! Therefore, we don’t want to denigrate or abuse or mistreat them. We want to respect ourselves and others because this is the way God made us.

In actual fact, even Jesus Christ, resurrected from the dead, now positions Himself at the right hand of the Father in a transformed human body. Furthermore, those who go to be in the future with him will not be disembodied spirits; they too will have bodies. We are created in the image of God. Our bodies then are good.

How then to respond to the comment “all religions are good, all religions are the same?” Those who follow Jesus have certainly messed up over certain historical periods in their own way (see “Crusades”), and each and everyone of us have our secret and not-so-secret warts of which we are not so proud today. Some individual Christians even turn away from God to attend strip-teases, etc. But as far as I’m aware, Christian weddings, funerals, or Christmas celebrations (birthday of Jesus) do not include strip-teases as part of the formal celebration event. So whether it’s this particular issue, or some other, if we say that Buddhism and Taoism, Christianity, Falungong, etc. are really all the same, are we being fair? Are we not disrespecting the nuances and distinctives of each and every one of these world views as we reduce and assimilate them into one nebulous faith concept? Aren’t we just teasing ourselves?

World Religions/World Views individually promote their own way of doing things and seeing the world, atheism and relativistic pluralism included. They each have their own system of do’s and don’ts.

I’m so glad I follow a person, Jesus. Following Jesus is not about following a system of do’s and don’ts in itself. It’s not about enforcing a set of rules, of forcing that set of rules on others, of abolishing traditional cultures, world views, and celebrations. In actual fact, Jesus liberates me from all doing and not doing just for the sake of the rules themselves. Rather, I seek to follow God’s way because that is like following an instruction book that will lead me to a wholer and healthier life with God both now and forevermore. No, I’m not there yet, and I have no desire to dictate my way to others, but I’m wanting to continue walking down that road myself, with whoever wants to come along. I’m following a Person, God Incarnate, risen from the dead.  And for this, I dance and celebrate (with my clothes on, however).

1 comment:

Amrita said...

A big Amen to that