Friday dawned a new day -day one in India.
Plenty of lovely hot water with great pressure...so good to wash away the previous day of travel!
Our day began with breakfast and prayer and a greeting from the hotel general and desk managers. We met in the morning with a wonderful man named Ashley whom Sathi had met at a conference a week or so earlier. His work is in literature and gender studies and he is an advocate for gay rights in India. Fascinating. I have been struck, both in my reading to prepare and in the first glimpses of life here by how young we are as an American society, and how ancient India is. The notions of class and caste that undergird this place are rooted in millennia of social, political, economic and educational structures. Ashley's work is deeply focused lifting identity politics, moving beyond defining people by the labels we as society use to organize the varied data of life before us. In a lot of ways, this became the framework for my day - and possibly for the time here. How is it that we can operate in societies that accommodate our individuality rather than seeking to check and prioritize a series of boxes that characterize us and our needs, abilities and privileges?
Ashley also talked about being politically Christian - a valuable term that needs set beside the language of rationality and faith. How can one adopt a stance that respects the principles of Christianity- love, justice, mercy, radical inclusiveness - without any expectation or reliance upon some personal experience of Christ. This is the best paraphrase I can do in my semi-sleep deprived place. We raised the question then, is it possible to be politically gay? A fascinating topic for consideration...that despite our own experience of sexuality, we could adopt and live with an ethos that recognizes gender differences as highly individual and not a dichotomy that describes value, worth, ability.
Herein lies a pondering for the trip. Can we in small faith communities shed our affection for labels and polarity to be radically loving?
And that was all before lunch. In the afternoon we visited a massive hospital. I was struck by the masses of people lingering everywhere...waiting. Waiting for care, for a loved one, for hope, for drugs, for answers. There is more humanity per square inch than my entitled personal space expectations can handle. And the conditions in the hospital seemed bleak. Unclean, poorly lit, crowded with bad access. Narrow halls. Stairways. People waiting everywhere.
How much of our space and cleanliness are truly necessary in our American lives? I want to hold onto this for some later thinking. It made me wonder how much out pride and compulsive excess wastes resources that could be building Kingdom.
And therein lies the final theme I will share for this post. What does it mean for us to help people move toward Kingdom and away from salvation as the focus of why we gather as Christians. My brain is grappling to put it all together, but it is the question that keeps showing up.