Religion is dynamic, joyful

(The following article was posted in the “Inner Voice” column of the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest English language daily newspapers, on 26 July 2004.) The Church of England wants to be more relevant, according the The Sun, one of the UK’s leading tabloids. An article in the July 20 edition of the tabloid quoted Kelly Hughes of London’s Ministry of Sound as saying, ” Churches needs to be less formal and more music-led”. The Gita has an interesting take on this: “One whose happiness in within, who is active and rejoices within, and whose aim in inward is actually a perfect mystic,” and that such a person is “liberated” (5.24). In the report, the Bishop of London felt clubbing offered a sense of belonging and was a mystical experience. Young people want to explore the realm of the unknown. In this sense, they strive to enter the province of mystics and be liberated. Perhaps the church has been influenced by the half-million Hindus living in that country. Singing, dancing, and colorful festivals are part of Hindu lifestyle. The church is increasingly concerned about loosing its influence among the young. It hopes to reinvent itself so as to be more meaningful to those who could determine its future. Maybe it’s time Henry VIII’s creation turned East. Music, dance, drama and succulent snacks continue to hold sway over today’s youth. Clubbing and recreational drug use usually involves going out, being with friends and risk taking. Being bored is not where it is. Maybe that’s how the Bishop sees it. A genuine spiritual twist to peace and happiness; achievable by being with friends, facing exciting challenges, and singing and dancing? Perhaps English Christianity can discover that religion is dynamic and joyful, not lugubrious. Maybe the Bishop’s on to something. Perhaps the world’s largest faith can borrow a leaf from Hinduism, now number three in the religion charts. (The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON governing body commission)