WE'VE HAD A LOT ABOUT CHINA IN THIS ISSUE, yet we haven't forgotten the world's second most populous country. I spent some time in India this summer and will offer some reporting in forthcoming issues of WORLD-but I came back thinking of Stonewall Jackson, who is said to have thanked God every time he took a sip of cold water.
If you visit India you probably can't drink water from a tap without getting sick. People use streams and other bodies of water as bathrooms or places to dispose of waste or dead bodies. When brushing my teeth I had to remember not to run tap water on my toothbrush, and it was a simple and good pleasure upon returning to America to be able to do so.
Driving in India is like playing a Nintendo game where cars come at you furiously from all directions. As with the water supply, everything flows into narrow highways: Ox carts, bullock carts, bicycles, motor scooters, glorified golf carts called autorickshaws, slow trucks, fast cars, and even an occasional elephant. With vehicles traveling at such a range of speed, passing is frequent and very dangerous, and horns blast frequently at everyone and everything, even cows. The big difference between cows and pedestrians is that cows, being sacred, always have the right of way.
Oh, and did I mention that almost no one wears seatbelts? True, some rearview mirrors in U.S. cars sport fuzzy dice, but Indian dashboards regularly boast little statues of Ganesha, an elephant-headed god who might offer some protection. Or might not, because karma- loosely translated as fate-determines who dies when, and in most Hindu beliefs no prayer can affect anything in this life. (Prayer, though, may lead to a better placement in the next, reincarnated life.)
I say "most Hindu beliefs" rather than "Hindu belief" because in Hinduism, as with Indian rivers and Indian roads, almost anything goes. Every urban temple I visited had a carnival atmosphere, with loudspeaker-blaring music, drums, food and merchandise sellers, and a variety of booths for making fruit and vegetable sacrifices to major gods, popular local deities, and even dancing cobras. I also watched goats getting their throats cut for ceremonial feasting at folk temples. (The corpses twitched for 70 seconds.)
Many writers these days leave out some grotesque details as they praise Hinduism's "inclusiveness," and they have a good point. Hinduism, racist when it comes to caste, is in other ways a very open-minded religion. Christ as God's incarnation? That's fine, since many Hindus believe that the great god Vishnu has had many incarnations, a.k.a. avatars, and Jesus might as well be one of them. Just don't say that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, because many Hindu minds snap closed when an "exclusive" faith of that kind is advocated.
Creeds such as the almost-1,800-year-old Nicene are examples of what could be called Christian narrow-mindedness. Ancient theologians argued at length about some of the words that many of us still recite regularly in churches: The description of Christ as "being of one substance with the Father," or the description of the Holy Spirit "Who proceeds from the Father and the Son."
The particular resolution of creedal disputes was essential, but so was the sense that the disputes had to be resolved. Christianity early on developed a habit of thought that led people to say some things are true and some things are not, some beliefs are in and others are out. That's because the God of the Bible is a God of order. In the beginning He created the heavens and the earth, and then He kept separating: light from darkness, dry land from water, life from dirt or stone, animals from plants.
God then separated man from animals, not following the ancient Hindu idea that humans in a future life can become cows, cockroaches, or demons. God also distinguished between man and woman, not following the modern American concept that gender doesn't matter. God even had the first man name all the birds and beasts-"Whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name"-and then the first woman. That's order.
Almost from the beginning, though, man substituted disorderly conduct for God's plan. Adam and Eve decided to sit in judgment on God by taking seriously Satan's insinuations. Cain chose murder over brotherly love. Noah's neighbors chose folly over preparations for a flood. Lot's left-behind sons-in-law stuck with Sodomy.
Bottom line: Societies are not necessarily orderly, and we should thank God and earlier generations of Bible-minded Americans for each drink of clean water. Worldviews are central and opposition to biblical truth has consequences because, as Moses wrote in Psalm 90, "From everlasting to everlasting, You are God."