saturday and sunday

Not so long ago, Barby and I had a pretty typical weekend in Bangalore.

On the Saturday, Barby and I wandered through the local shopping area. She is dressed in salwar kameez (and I am occasionally wearing a kurta). As we wander, it is hard not to notice the many Indians, young adults and young families, dressed in jeans and t-shirts. As they stream in and out of McDonalds, KFC, Dominos, Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Krispy Kreme, we find ourselves seeking out the latest little Indian dhaba to sample some simple authentic Indian cuisine. This time it is an upstairs room, almost with a view.

On the Sunday, Barby and I wandered into church. In the opening half of the service every single song we sing is written and arranged by people foreign to India. In the second half of the service, every single illustration in an illustration-laden sermon is sourced from, or about, people who are foreign to India. And there I sit, as a preacher who can spend 6-8 hours trying to turn a NZ sermon into an Indian one - and as a teacher of preaching who can spend 6-8 months gathering local newspaper editorials to ensure that my NZ preaching class becomes an Indian one.

Why do I bother?
We are trying so hard to be local. They are trying so hard to be global.
I feel a few things as I process these observations.

I feel understanding. There is a global culture - marked by things like fashion and food in society; by worship and teaching in church - which works like a tide flooding into every local bay around the world. This tide is powered by the media and the internet. It is unavoidable. Waterfalls do not turn off with a tap. I understand the attraction for the global by the local, particularly when it feeds hopes and distracts fears. I will not resort to cheap criticism.

I feel surprise. In the mind-shaping arenas of media and politics and education, including theological education, there is just so much rhetoric around contextualisation and the importance of being Indian (in this setting). The public debates. The academic papers. They are full of it. And yet, the masses so often seem to want to walk in another direction.

I feel empathy. There are huge challenges in all this for India. India is a bit like Europe, with all that diversity within a common, yet fractious, identity ... except that India has almost twice the population and it remains one single nation.  It is astonishing. So when we climb our ivory towers and rabbit-on about being local, which 'local' will it be?! Sometimes people find it easier to meet around the global.

I feel sadness. May I be permitted to say that much, with respect and care? Without merely playing the nostalgia card and living in my (Indian) missionary-kid past, I do feel a sadness, particularly in church. As I participate in worship and as I listen to teaching, could the space given to local be increased just a little bit more? In the fullness of time, we may find that it is needed by the global.

nice chatting



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