In Living World Religions class, we just finished the section on Hinduism. I must admit that going into this class, I was almost completely ignorant about Eastern religions, especially Hinduism. I still am not as familiar with the religion as I would like, but I learned some interesting things about their worldview.
One of the more outlandish claims (to my Western, egalitarian eyes) is that of the Caste System. There are four main Castes, in a hierarchical system, with sub-castes in each of the four. But then there are the Outcasts, or the “Untouchables.” These are people who are “reincarnated” with some sort of defect, disease, or simply born into poverty. Essentially, their plight is their own fault – a result of some great failure in past lives. They are not allowed to associate with people in the other castes, they are given the lowest of the lowest jobs, and are given little more than table scraps to eat. They can’t live in the city; they must live outside of civilization. They are beat down, dragged out, spit on, tortured, even killed all because they are deemed “Untouchable” by the rest of society. What’s worse, despite laws to the contrary, people refuse to help any of these outcasts…because it’s their own fault they are the way they are.
This just got me thinking…Jesus came for the untouchables and the outcasts. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He touched lepers. He healed the blind and the lame. He fixed a woman with a bleeding problem. He raised the dead.
When his disciples asked him about a blind man and who was responsible for his condition – him or his parents? – Jesus made it clear that the man’s blindness was not the result of sin, neither his own nor his parents’. God had a purpose for the man to be born blind.
When questioned by the Pharisees about why he ate with sinners, Jesus replied that it is the “sick” who need a doctor, not the “healthy.” Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. He touched the untouchables. He made room for the outcasts. He preached the good news to the poor.
Hinduism is about as opposite as it gets to Christianity, and the caste system is just one small example of this. We have a God who is not detached and uninterested in an individual’s plight in life. My God did for me what I could not do for myself. We are all untouchable compared to God, but he took on flesh, became like one of us, and touched the untouchables. That’s my God. That’s my Savior.
Yes, Hinduism is very far from Christianity.The interesting thing about that is that when I took the World Religions class we visited a Hindu temple in Chicago and were told by a priest that the many Hindu incarnations were like the Christian Trinity. We all were stunned that they would see such a comparison.