Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Misled

Walking around Hong Kong, whether sight-seeing or just wandering the streets, it's so easy to see how people have been misled. How time, tradition, and culture have drawn people to false religion. Most of the time it seems relatively innocuous - it's just everywhere, and there enough tourists around some of the places to really take the spiritual edge off. 


For example, we visited the Tian Than buddha - the largest seated bronze buddha statue in the world, situated on top of a mountain. It's really a gorgeous area, with a particular scenic bus ride to get out there. And it's very touristy. Someone in our group mentioned that as Christians we know we can safely walk through a site like this when there's a Starbucks on the grounds. That's when you know it's more tourist attraction than spiritual haven.


And yet, there are still people scattered around, praying. Burning incense. Kneeling. Bowing.


It's heartbreaking. It might be even more heartbreaking because of the totally empty spiritual atmosphere. You really just get the feeling that these people are grasping at thin air. There's nothing present - not even a malicious spirit - to hear their prayers.




They climb the 228 steps up to the statue, where they kneel to pray. We even watched little children going through the ritual. I wanted to run down and hug them.


Back in the city, Jonny and I wandered down some side streets, and there were probably a dozen of these little shops within a mile or so. Here you can come to pick out an altar and a household god to put in it:


You can see similar shrines set up in or outside almost every shop you enter. Jonny asked someone once if they believe in the gods. The answer basically amounted to being afraid not to - it's something that's always been done, so they are afraid to offend some spirit. Most of these people have never heard about unconditional love and grace.


I don't have a nice, neat, conclusion to this. It just makes me sad. The faces of the locals as we walked around town all looked very sad. There's a sadness in everyone's eyes. There's no deep joy or peace. I don't know what to do about it. I don't know what it means for me. But my heart breaks.

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