Hinduism is the predominant religion of Bali, but not of Indonesia. Indonesia is mainly Muslim.
Bali is a little diamond in the rough.
Hinduism is a religion that I don’t begin to understand. I knew it was polytheistic. And my dad told me before I left to watch out for the offerings that are everywhere on sidewalks.
But none of it makes sense until you get there.
There are statues of gods everywhere. They guard bridges. They stand in shrines with yellow umbrellas and draped in little sarongs.
In front of every business and in front of things you don’t realize are sacred, there are these little woven baskets full of rice, flowers, trinkets, incense and various gifts to the gods. They are for good luck and good fortune.
One time I saw bottles of beer near the offerings. Thirsty little buggers.
I’ve read stories that during Jesus’ quiet years, he was off traveling through India, and he picked up Hindu traditions, and brought them back to Israel and integrated those ideas with Judaism.
After visiting a Hindu culture, it felt more plausible.
Hinduism is what Christianity wants to be, but in full practice, and not just in metaphor.
One of my biggest criticisms of Christianity when I was growing up was that everything was metaphor. You bathed in the blood of Christ. You drank and ate Jesus’ blood and body. Your sins were cleansed. Hymns are chockfull of actions and ideas that you don’t really do. They are “spiritual”, and not actual physical acts.
You offer yourself as sacrifice, but not really. Not literally. It’s a figurative act.
Can you sing, “Bor-ing.”
Because of that, Christianity always felt like empty gesture. It still feels like that as an outsider when I visit church with friends or family.
But not the Hindus in Bali. When they say they are bathing for forgiveness, they are literally bathing. When they offer sacrifices, they are literally offering sacrifices (not just money) to their shrines, to their lives. They offer sacrifices every day.
It almost feels and looks genuine.
A culture of compounds
During a day trip in Ubud, our last destination during our trip, I asked our driver as many questions about his religion as I could.
He told me that families bind together, from babies, to brothers, sisters, moms, dads and grandparents. Many Balinese live in compounds, which are areas with wall boundaries. Your families wealth is indicated to others by the size of your compound and most importantly, the size of your shrine area to the gods.
In the “Grapes of Wrath” sense of the word, families go through life together, helping each other from birth to death. This is a commonality found in South Asia.
This is what the Amish attempt to do. They shun technology, electricity and phones so that they’re forced to visit rather than call. I admire this about the culture.
While Americans go out of their way to isolate. Unless you live in a large city, you live with your close family, you commute alone. And you sleep in a large-ish house.
Knowledge, fertility, farming, there’s a god for that
Unlike the current culture of evangelical Christian, the Balinese value knowledge.
There was a spot in the temple for every element of your life. Knowledge. Cleansing. Fertility. A god for having a baby boy. And a god for having a baby girl.
There is applicable dress to showing your religiosity. Much like here in the states, religion is a familial and social point of binding and growth. Only in Bali, and much like Islam and some Catholic sects, they do it every day multiple times a day in a very public way.
Unlike Christianity, Hinduism doesn’t seem to evolve with the times. At one time, people literally bathed in blood, but that wouldn’t fly today. So people stopped. People still get baptized, but when a Christian says, “I was cleansed at church in the holy spirit,” it’s figurative.
Christianity has secularized itself, and yet screams at everyone that it wants to stay traditional.
Christianity should take notes from the Hindu culture. Hell, it looks to me like Hinduism is what Christianity wants to be, but is just too afraid to realize.
So while the rest of us secularists are worshiping progress … get your traditions back, Christians. It looks and feels less fake.