“I saw the truth,” said Launceston woman Kim Grainger. She had just participated in Holy Switch, a documentary that took young people from six different observant religious families and swapped their lives for a week. Anglican Christian Kim went to stay with Hindu Aakash Tolani’s family in Sydney.
The ABC series began last week and we saw a Kim enchanted by the mix of Hindu and Indian culture in her wealthy host family. I was intrigued to know how the switcheroo had impacted her, if it had rattled her faith.
“At first, I was completely thrown by just how similar these faiths are on the surface,” Kim shared with me, “they identify and live by all the same Christian values that I live by, it just looked a little more glamorous!”
It certainly did. Especially when contrasted with the chilly scenes of Tasmania that met Aakash as he stepped from his taxi in the dark of night to traipse to the door of a modest weatherboard home. Kim’s arrival was by boat to the family’s private jetty, sun high overhead, and she was greeted with a Hindu blessing ritual. (Some have accused the producers of having an agenda for these mean contrasts and a questionable final edit.)
“When you are in an environment that is so loving, accepting and on the surface so similar, it is really challenging to see the differences between faiths,” Kim mused. “But I cannot accept their way of worship and their concept of Karma if I am to accept the grace of Jesus.”
This was a sticking point for Aakash who could not get past the “arrogant claim” of the Christian faith that access to heaven is only through Jesus Christ. That premise made him uncomfortable, coming from the Hindu religion, which he described as being “very open”.
“God could be he, she or gay,” he said.
Aakash was right you know – there is just one way to heaven. But absolutely everyone has equal access to the choice that leads there.
“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:12-13)
All you need to do is look at the life of Jesus to know that Christianity is all about love, acceptance, hope and grace. Jesus extended a hand to the scum of society, he rebuked the arrogant know-alls and he urged people to look out for the most vulnerable. Then, he died in our place to secure us a place with his Father in heaven. Can you get any more inclusive?
Kim continued, “We have life and hope because of this Gospel, if people are offended by it and think our message is one of arrogance and condemnation, maybe it is these people who are the ones being judgmental.” Little kick in the guts there. I don’t blame her – her faith’s been under fire.
But if you watched the episode, you would have also seen Kim tear up at the end, when it came to goodbyes. As she quietly wept she explained that she feared for the Hindu family’s eternity. We saw Kim experience the Hindu belief with open-hearted abandon, her love for strangers grow quickly and lavishly. Some might have asked if her faith had been weakened by the experience. But in that vulnerable moment we saw the strength of Kim’s faith convictions, and her sorrow in knowing the truth.
The truth that there is only one way to heaven and his name is Jesus.
As printed in The Examiner newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 20, 2013.