If one wants to convert a church into a Hindu temple, well fine, but say that it's a Hindu temple, and don't pretend it's a church.
There is interreligious dialogue -- a central part of the Christian witness especially in a pluralistic society such as India -- and then there is a complete capitulation to the religious relativism that is a key motif of Hinduism.
Some things are quite unproblematic:
Even the Last Supper as portrayed by Da Vinci reflects a strong indigenisation.And some even admirable:
Christ and his disciples are shown seated eating from banana leaves.
"Without any discrimination on the basis of caste or religion and seeing everyone as equals, it is a good thing," added Joseph, Devotee.Absolutely, but that's what Christianity preaches. It doesn't need to pretend to be Hindu to do so! And then ...
And atop the Church is a huge "Om" where there's normally a crucifix. Father Antony insists there's a method to this confluence of religious symbolism.Yes, definitely. And how many mosques does one see with the "universal" Om atop the minar?
"Most of the Rig Veda symbols are neutral. They do not pertain to any religion, not even to Hinduism. Say "Om" or the kirtans in Rig Veda - they go beyond religion and Gods. They are part of a universal religious search and can be practiced by all religions," he added.
How has this been received? Well I'm sure the general sense among the largely Hindu elite will be: oh good, finally someone among the Christians gets it. "No one path is better than another. All roads lead to the mountain" and all that are axiomatic here, where any kind of departure from this mantra is seen as dangerously sectarian, leading to violence. According to the news report however,
Public opinion is divided in this small fishing hamlet. While some see it as an attempt to convert people to Christianity, others view it as a dilution of the Christian ethos.So, let's just pretend to be Hindu, and the Hindus will still think we're just sheep in wolves' clothing.
But who would want to convert to a Christianity that is, well, basically Hindu?
And why just Vedic Sanskritic Brahmanical Hinduism? In all my experience of top-down "inculturation" in India (mainly in long conversations with Jesuits at Pune's De Nobili College years ago), my constant question was -- why just this slice of Hinduism? What about other dimensions of Hindiusm? What about the Dalit experience? And what about that other Indian religion, which has coexisted with the majority in the subcontinent for a millenium: Islam? Why doesn't "inculturation" lead to some kind of Islamization of things? And what about the genuine culture of Latin Christianity that has developed in places like Goa, organically and unplanned over the past 500 years? Does that not count for anything? Is it all just colonial baggage?
I recall a conversation with John Allen in Rome, when we were talking about evangelization. He thought that there were many elements in the Indian church that didn't even think it was necessary. I nodded; I'd come across that sentiment often.
Well, here's a nice example (and I'm basing all of this on this NDTV report; I know nothing else of this project) of the dominant culture "evangelizing" Christianity.
And for a church that doesn't even display the crucifix, well, it might be wise for them (and for all of us) to remember St. Paul's words to the Corinthians about the Cross: foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. And, it would seem, to some Catholics in Kerala as well.