Saturday, October 21, 2006

Dynamic Equivalence

Today is Diwali (many Indians have difficulty with the letter “w” so it is often pronounced Divali). It’s one of the most important celebration for Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. Perhaps in your community, anywhere in the world, there are Diwali celebrations going on. What is Diwali?

Hindus have different reasons for celebrating Diwali, but perhaps the most popular historic reasoning behind it comes from the popular Hindu epic, "Ramayana." In the epic, Lord Rama returns to his kingdom in Ayodhya with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana after a 14 year exile; during his exile, Rama killed the 10-headed demon king Ravana, who among other things, had terrorized citizens in his country and had even kidnapped Sita. It is believed that people lit oil lamps along Rama's path back home in the darkness as a sign of solidarity and adulation.

Diwali is known as the “festival of lights,” as people decorate their houses like Christmas ornaments and strings of colored lights. In every window is a candle to guide Rama back from exile. Symbolically it is good’s victory over evil. Many believe that the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi, visit the faithful on this day.

It’s also a festival of noise as throughout the night firecrackers and other fireworks continue through the night.

This Diwali I am in the south teaching cross-cultural classes. Diwali does not have as strong a tradition in the south as it does in the north, but still I hear “cracker’s” going on throughout the night. In our neighborhood in Delhi my wife tells me that night sky is lit, smoke hovers over the city of 12 million.

Missiologists and cross-cultural communications specialist look for the “dynamic equivalent” of such cultural events. As a Christian it’s easy to make the application of victory over darkness through the Gospel message. Followers of Christ do not have to show Him the way; He is the Light that helps us find our way to the God of all people, and cultures.