Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Health Craze Sweeps India

Scientific research has shown that antioxidants are extremely beneficial to health, possibly even helping prevent some forms of cancer. Wine has been found to be a significant source of antioxidants, as is unleavened bread. So many secondary schools and private Hindu colleges in India now offer a service to ensure that their students are able to take advantage of these health benefits in what is called "communion time". Some Hindu fundamentalists have objected saying that this is no more than western religion encroaching on their schools. But cooler heads have prevailed, with more moderate Hindus suggesting that students recite "do this in remembrance of Krishna" to ensure that this regimen is not at all related to Christianity.

We asked the Director of Nutrition at a leading private Hindu college whether he had concerns about this practice. From the email response: "I see no danger of our Hindu students becoming Christians. Besides I have been taking grape juice for years for the antioxidant benefits and I have no desire to become a Christian". It was unclear from the response why grape juice and bread was not just added to the lunch menu rather than being dispensed in communion time.

Reaction from a leading Christian college has been mixed. Some professors have seen this as an opportunity that will facilitate the evangelization of India. Others insist that "communion time" is a powerful spiritual discipline that, even though historically it has been associated with Christianity, can also be used by Hindu devotees to help in their spiritual formation. Still others insist there is no spiritual connection to the ritual itself, so it can be secularized and used by Hindus solely for the health benefits.

Respected Christian leader Dr. Tony Campolo was asked whether this might be common ground for the evangelization of Hindus. He said No it is not. "[But] ...if we are looking for common ground, can we find it in mystical spirituality, even if we cannot theologically agree?". We also asked evangelist Rev. Billy Graham what impact this could have on the future of the evangelism in India. Rev. Graham said "[Some good Hindus] ...may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their heart that they need something that they don't have and they turn to the only light that they have and I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in Heaven".

We asked a spokesman from a leading Christian graduate school whether the Bible would commend the use of communion by other religions. The spokesman said "from my contemplative meditation and Lectio Divina, I feel that God is saying to me, even though this may look like a western religious practice, when Hindus do communion time it is purely a Hindu practice having nothing at all to do with Christianity. Besides, many conservative Christian leaders have been blessed by using eastern spiritual techniques for years. It is about time that we return the favor".

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