In the Western world we think that everything is physical. You get a headache, you take medicine, you feel sad for too long and you take medicine. Here in India, you get a headache in church, and the assumption is that this is spiritual. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t had enough water and it is hot in the building. You act lazy and cross for a week, and it is also a demonic attack, though in America we call it P.M.S. It is very easy to look down on the common views in the East as superstitious.
I have a very good friend named Peter who started dating a girl last year named Pooja. Peter and Pooja go to Delhi University. He is a Christian and she is a Hindu. But they got along well, and she was cute. They would travel by metro and even hold hands as they walked through the station. Peter was swept off his feet. He would talk to her for hours in the evenings and go early to college to meet her. At first he was trying to share his faith with her, and she was interested. At least she was interested since she was interested in him. She agreed to visit church, but only if he would visit the temple. He was not willing to visit the temple. I asked him if he could just go and observe the temple, and he said he would not feel right about it.
Then during a festival time when Pooja and her family were doing special daily worship rituals, Peter mentioned to me that he didn’t feel well and he accredited it to Pooja’s idol worship. Peter was so distracted during midterm exams that he did not do as well as usual. Peter called me on my birthday and I talked to Pooja too, I thought they were getting serious enough that I might get to meet her despite the fact that I was sworn to secrecy regarding her. After a few months, I asked about Pooja, and Peter said they actually weren’t compatible. It wasn’t just the religion thing. Then a few days later Peter called me over to his house, he had been crying. “I told my mom about Pooja,” Peter told me. I was surprised. Why would he tell his mother about Pooja if he was going to break-up with her anyway? His mother made him call his Aunt who is a prophetess. She asked him a lot of personal questions. Then she told him he had to end it the next day. Peter told me that something about going out with Pooja had put him in a spiritual paralysis, and he knew he needed to break-up with her but he didn’t have the strength. Now, he had a reason. His aunt and his mother were demanding that he end the relationship. The next morning his mother drove him to his aunt’s house where she prayed over him for a few hours. That night he called Pooja on the phone and broke up with her. He felt awful about how hurt she felt. But a week later I asked Peter how he was doing, and if he thought he did the right thing. He was still mourning his lose, but he showed me some marks on the bottom of his feet. “They were warts that were getting bigger, and when I broke up with her, they started to heal,” he explained to me.
So, is my college educated friend backwards and superstitious? Or is my American worldview blocking me, from seeing the spiritual in the ordinary? What if the stress of being in a relationship is how Peter was distracted from studying and the warts formed, but this was an outward expression of spiritual warfare? In the West, we are concerned with the question of how something happens, where in the East the concern is over why something happens. Here in India, as in many places in the world there is a consciousness of the impact of the spiritual world on the physical world, a consciousness that westerners could learn from. Not that we should be overly preoccupied with demons, angels, or cures but that we should understand that this spirit world is part of a biblical worldview. It is also a part of much of the historical and present cultural understandings of the world. We should also admit that we are sometimes the blind ones. What if there is not only a “Higher Power,” but many “powers” at work in the world? And, if the God of the Bible is your God, then all of these powers at war affect world events and interpersonal dynamics. However, in the end all the powers ultimately will summit to God. If you are a praying person, I encourage you to pray and ask God to open your eyes to see what is going on beyond the physical things around you, and see what happens.