Sunday, January 24, 2010

Avenging Elephants

I don't blame people for not following the news from India. After all, the place is like a thousand miles away or something. And the only time we ever talk to India is when we've a question about our bank statements, or can't get the printer to work right.

So here's the story, and I'm playing it straight down the middle.

Summer of 2008 a Hindu leader was murdered in the rural province of Orissa. Local Maoist guerillas claimed credit. For some reason, that caused anti-Christian violence. Missionaries, nuns, native converts were the targets. Rapes, people burned to death, converts run out, their homes taken.

Exactly a year later the elephants showed up, and they're still there. These elephants, two herds totaling about 25, they go "stompy stompy" a lot. They behave at times irrationally, and at other times like a platoon of soldiers on a mission. Everyone is agreed their new neighbors came from 200 miles away, yet nobody recalls seeing them en route, nor can explain why they chose Orissa.

Well I got that part wrong. LOTS of people are explaining why the elephants chose Orissa. Many Indian Christians see it as the vengeance of God visited on those who hurt His/Its followers.

I take no position on that really. God can do anything He/It wants to, except break His/Its promises. But I ain't missing a chance to put polytheism under the microscope!

Easy for monotheists to see polytheism wrongly. Look? All that Zeus stuff looks pretty silly to me too, but it's flawed to think ancient Greeks went around saying, "Yeah, it's a load of crap, but whaddya gonna do?" No, ancient polytheists were devout, and so are the modern ones in India. I know that for sure, as I was recently chatting with a nice Indian woman on the phone and we got on that topic while she was renewing my library card.

This elephant invasion has some people in Orissa really spooked. That because elephant is incarnation of Ganesha, a primary deity. And the elephants are going "stompy stompy" in what feels like sentient behavior to the folk in Orissa. They've killed dozens, destroyed homes and crops in ways that don't match with usual elephant stuff. The elephants seem angry.

Me, I can say that a stressed population of higher mammals will act out in agression. But I'm not a polytheist. The elephants showed up right around the annual festival honoring Ganesha. And Hindus believe in reincarnation, so killers in Orissa are perhaps wondering if spirits of victims have come back to exact revenge.

Now I'm pretty sure God never sent elephants to visit Nero over the martyrdom of early Christians. Had that happened, it'd probably be in some book or something. But I don't place limits on the Creator's perogative to talk turkey to different people in different ways. I take no position on avenging elephants.

Can't help but observe though? There are some Hindus in Orissa right now, fairly shook up. Perhaps they'll be a bit more tolerant towards Christians in the future.

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