Archive for September, 2009

What’s his last name?

September 26, 2009

“What’s his last name?”, my Indian friend asked.

In India you can tell a lot from a person’s family name.  The provinces are named after the people-groups who live there.  So Andhra Pradesh is “the province of the Andhra people”.  So a family name will say where you live – or at least where your family is from.  It will suggest what language you speak.  It will say what caste you are – largely denoting a persons place in society and the economy.

His family name is “Titus”.

“Titus?  That’s not an Indian name.”

“He’s Christian.”

“Oh.  Christian names mess everything up.”

And I understood what she meant.  Indian society is ancient.  It has thousands of years of tradition dictating who a person will be, based on the family in which they’re born.  It is orderly and structured and predictable.

Christianity throws a wrench in the works.  A Christian is re-born into a new family.  Their identity in the family of God supersedes their natural family and caste. Suddenly their place in society is undefined – or perhaps, redefined.  This is certainly part of the reason for recent violent Hindu attacks against Christians.  The entitlement of the upper castes is threatened.  The freedom of the gospel is possibly more significant in India than anywhere else in the world.  Unlike Muslim countries ruled by religious councils, India is officially a democratic nation with freedom of religion.  But it seems the relatively recent democratic concepts are a thin veneer on the age-old traditions of the society.

And yes, in fact.  Christianity does mess all that up.

prayer and pride

September 17, 2009