Friday, April 27, 2007

Christ, My Bodhisattva | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

A South Asian immigrant who came to Christ and has run for Mayor of London twice. Christ, My Bodhisattva | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction
I recall my first visit to church here, my first church ever, St. Paul's Onslow Square. I went to the evening service, so none of my friends or relations would see me going. The first thing I looked for on walking in was the shoebox. I wanted to take my shoes off: This is holy ground, and you're asking me to come in with my dirty, filthy feet and go into the presence of God? This is not right; this is not holy. I must take my shoes off. But they told me there was no place for shoes. So I went to sit on the floor, in the proper position of respect, and the usher said to sit on the wooden bench. Then the organ blasted out, and I thought, Who has died? Because organ music was just for funerals in my mind. It was an alien experience. There's a whole lot of unlearning to be done in asking how we can communicate the message of Jesus with simplicity [in a way] that will take these barriers away.

In the end, I've found I've been able to use my skills in business to help start some of these translations. We've produced a series of books and cds that connect with the South Asian experience. Fortunately, I was able to pay for publication, because in the early days, not many Christian publishers were willing to take on a book that talked about Jesus as the bodhisattva who fulfilled his dharma to pay for my karma to negate samsara and achieve nirvana!


St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...


Gidoomal's commments remind me of "First Day in Church," a poem spoken by Larry Norman on his "Only Visiting this Planet" (1972) album. I'll paste lyrics in a separate comment--Izzy does a great job imitating Larry's pseudo Cockney accent on the recitation.

Gidoomal states:
It was an alien experience. There's a whole lot of unlearning to be done in asking how we can communicate the message of Jesus with simplicity [in a way] that will take these barriers away.

I'm sure that Lewis or Muggeridge would hrrrumph at the thought of simplifying what should be an alien experience (high church worship), to make the ceremonies more familiar or accessible.

God reveals Himself mysteriously as well as simply. We have the contrasts in Scripture between Jesus talking to the woman at the well or teaching by a charcoal fire fish breakfast, and the worship shown in Revelation 4.

(He might have been just as confused had he walked into a "low church" Charismatic healing service.)

Maybe the services don't need to change; we need more of us to be like Phillip, calling out to his friend Nathaniel "Come and see," and them walking with him to Jesus.

I hope that this is what is being accomplished through his publishing of materials to connect with, or be a Phillip for, the South Asian Community (versus watering down any of the Truth in the name of accessiblity or relevance.)

St. Elizabeth of Cayce said...

Now, as Promised,

First Day in Church
Larry Norman

Lyrics retrieved from

(Best read with a Cockney accent, or at least your best attempt at one)

The first time that I went to church was on a Sunday morning
And from what I'd heard, I figured I'd spend me whole time yawning
At 18 years of age or so, I thought I knew it all
Me hair was long, me jeans were tight
I loved a knife and buckle fight
Provided mates stood left and right
And those we fought were small

But me mates and me, we'd never been, so off to church we filed
We marched inside, about three abreast
Straight down the middle aisle
Some of us were smokin' cigs; Ron was sucking candies
We sat in what they call a "pew"
Then looked around to see just who'd come inside
Let me tell you, everyone dressed like dandies

And the row behind was full of dames
You shoulda seen their looks!
And one old dear, she gives me a smile
And offers me some books
Tah! We open 'em, pass 'em around
You shoulda seen the words, all set out like poetry is
And Sam says through his lemon fizz
"These books is fer the birds"

"Shhhh! Tsk tsk tsk tsk!"
One old lady says
And the whole place buzzed
And Sam turns around and says
"Oh do hush up, you make more noise than us"
We looked around the building then
It really was revealing
Sam says, "Hey mates, I get the score
"There ain't no carpets on the floor
"Look at the rafters; they're so poor they can't afford a ceiling
"Can't afford electric either; using candles everywhere"
"Shut your face," I says to Sam, "I'm be listening"
So was Ron

And from the left, without a noise
Came a line of little boys
And Sam says, in a puzzled voice, "Coo, they've all got nighties on"
Then came men, in robes and banners
"Look at that one, must be queer
"And they dare condemn us for the way we choose our gear?"
And then there's the minister, who's job's to preach
The Minister Whats-his-name
Those real long prayers, and what he preaches
Sounds just about the same

I came to church to listen -- close
But I can't understand their chatter
It's like "mumble, mumble, shifting sinking sands"
And words like judgment or reprimand
Well, me and me mates can't understand talk quite like that
I'm used to talking with me mates
With words that has a meaning

If people like that sort of stuff...
Well, let them, that's okay
But let me tell you what I feel
I feel we need someone who'll deal in words and thoughts
And things that's real -- I'd listen to what he'd say
Me mum once said,
"Son, Jesus came to help young men like you"
But Jesus came so long ago, Mum, and I don't think it's true

But is there anyone here, right now, who can explain to me
Is Christ a myth? A madman's whim?
Some say Christ can cure our sin
Is there a way to contact Him?
Or will I die not knowing how?

Listen, I only came to church to see if they could offer hope
But everything that happened there was way outside my scope
Like afterwards, outside, was a beggar on the grass
He held out his hand, and people'd smile, then they'd pass
I'm sure he reached for something real
For something more than cash

He begged them for a little cheer
And they all pretended not to hear
I get the message,
Loud and clear:

Church is middle-class.

St. Izzy said...

There are a few transcription errors with the poem, which 1) is a poem, not a song, as it has no music, 2) is entitled "The First Time that I Went to Church," and 3) was released NOT on Only Visiting this Planet but on the much more rare Street Level.

nerd with a whole scad of Jesus Music on his iPod