Like most in Eastern culture, my history begins here in the land of my
father. He was born in the ancient city of Madurai. Dating back to the 3rd century, Madurai, known as “the temple city,” is steeped in Hindu legend and the worship of idols. Today it is one of the oldest cities in South India.
As I was walking out of our evening event last night, I wearily sensed the torment of a thousand demons in city streets. Seeing the masses giving themselves over to worthless idolatry stirred a deep irritation inside of me. Upon returning to my father’s homeland,I found myself not feeling very at home.
Hinduism seems to induce the spell of an immediate reality over its followers. With a live-for-today ideology and perpetual fear of impending doom, it offers no reason or wisdom to meet the needs of its followers. In the ditches of poverty, Hindus daily prostrate themselves in worship to self-constructed gods. Each god embodies the fulfillment of unrestrained desires and fears. From identities of death and greed to sexual perversions and lust, the variety of idols is abundant. Hinduism unknowingly punctuates the insatiable hunger of the human soul to worship. It confirms that those who do not worship the living God will fall imprisoned to the worship of self-fulfilling desires.
The unsettling characteristic of this truth is that it isn’t limited to the mind of Indian paganism. This error is evident in every human heart. Looking through the lens of Hindu ideology, I see many resemblances in American culture. Cloaked in intellect, pride, and religious tradition, westerners also lay prostrate in worship to self-constructed gods. Gods of the West prove to be the fulfillment of unrestrained desires for monetary wealth and social or political power. Many times with religious fervor, followers worship ungodly passions and are enslaved to their own lusts. In India it may look like fearful worshippers falling before Kali because they are indoctrinated to fear death. In the US it looks like prideful worshippers falling before gods of sexual perversion, wealth, and fame because they are indoctrinated to worship pleasure. In both cases, worship is the natural response of the soul whether toward a false god or a god made in the image of ones own desires.
Defiantly and against every self-worshipping culture, Jesus calls his disciples to deny their self-worship and follow Him. His key to eternal bliss is to find fulfillment in enjoying His presence. Jesus leads the longing soul to an eternal spring of satisfaction by presenting Himself as the source of all pleasure. Glancing at Jesus, many fail to believe His claim of Godhood. To these He simply offers the invitation, “follow me.” While demons outrageously demand worship by awakening the deep wickedness in us, Jesus challenges us to lay aside our wicked ways and take on His nature of self-sacrifice.
Today the god of self-gratification has even re-masked itself within the church. Appearing as a voice of tolerance, it screams intolerably at the disciples of Jesus, demanding compromise. Surges of new teachings focused on self-fulfillment have polluted the mainstream of Christian theology. The seduction is intended to lead believers into the bondage of an ancient prison, the cell of self-worship. As the “strong delusion” of truth pervades in our culture, God watches to see his children overcome the seductive demons of self-worship. As James Russell Lowell writes,
“Truth forever on the scaffold,
Wrong forever on the throne,
But the scaffold sways the future
And behind the dim unknown
Stands God within the shadows
Keeping watch, keeping watch over His own”