Cameron goes Hindu
Politicians in a democracy are under immense pressure to be all things to all people. Cranmer has discussed St Paul’s injunction at length, and notes that the ‘seeming’ was never supposed to compromise core values, corrupt the gospel, or lead people astray. In the quest for power, David Cameron is showing himself as a man not only prepared to live with Musims, but to worship with Hindus. But while the former is a wholesome pursuit, the latter is fraught with naïve dangers against which he ought to have been advised.
It is true that St Paul became a Jew to convert Jews, and a Greek to convert Greeks, but such inculturation did not extend to the worship of other gods: indeed, to have done so would have been to transgress the first commandment, and he specifically warns against such practices (1Cor 4; 8:1; 8:7; 10:19). It is one thing to share fellowship with one’s neighbours, and to love one’s neighbours; it is quite another to practise their faith or worship their gods.
But in what sense is David Cameron worshiping?
Actually, he is not only worshipping, but being worshipped. On his visit to the Neasden Mandir to celebrate Diwali, Mr Cameron is garlanded and has a dot placed upon his forehead. This dot – a ‘bindi’ – is a religious symbol which represents divine sight. The Taittiriya Upanishad exhorts Hindus to ‘atithi devo bhava’ – to ‘revere your guest as God’ – and such reverence begins at threshold to the temple.
But the bindi is not only a representation of a ‘third eye’ of divine sight; it shows that one is a Hindu. It has mystical meaning, for it sees things the physical eyes cannot see. Hindus seek to awaken their inner sight through yoga. The forehead dot is a reminder to use and cultivate this.
There are different varieties of bindi, depending on to which particular sect or denomination of Hinduism one belongs. But to the general public, it is simply a sign of what a person believes.
The bindi is not the equivalent of wearing a hijab, or removing one’s shoes in a mosque or gurdwara, or the wearing of a cross, a turban or a kippah. None of these are imbued with mystical truths or esoteric apprehension. To the Hindu, the bindi is knowledge of eternal truth, and it sets them apart from all other faiths.
It is noteworthy that it is only the professing Christian politicians who are prepared to subject themselves to such practices, and risk idolatry or leading the weak astray. For cultural-political reasons, it is unlikely that a Sikh politician would agree to be so anointed, and it is inconceivable that a Muslim politician would ever consent. Indeed, the Muslim is not likely to even enter the temple.
So while the other faiths are happily defining themselves by their creeds, segregating themselves by cultural practices and attire, separating themselves in ghettos and distinguishing themselves from each other, let the Christians go on adapting to the needs and customs of the alien, and let Christianity go on absorbing all that is pagan, embracing pluralism, hindering the transformation of culture - just as it has ever done.