Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What About Bob (Singh)?

I was on a night train last week with Bob Singh. Bob (a name I’ve given him) is an American WASS (white Anglo-Saxon Sikh) who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He wears a white kurta, turban and sports a long white beard. I’m guessing Bob, who seems like a good-natured fellow, takes on the roll of Santa Claus in his community around Christmas time. He is sitting one row in front of me so I can’t hear all of his conversation but, like all Americans, he talks loud and constant. I piece together that he has been a Sikh convert for over twenty years. Being from Santa Fe, a city known for their ethereal cosmology, Bob probably hardly gets a second glance from the citizenry. Bob has found a truer path to peace and tranquility and he proudly wears a silver medallion around his neck in honor of his guru.

What’s interesting to me about Bob is he’s traveling with Indian Sikhs and one young man is interested in what other people in America think of his conversion? I can’t hear Bob’s reply, but what strikes me is Bob’s ignorance of his enlighten experience. It’s okay for him to discover the truth, if that’s what he believes, but does he know that most of those around him do not share his faith out of conviction? Ninety-nine percent of Sikhs are of that religion only because it is a part of their cultural identity. That would be true of most Muslims, Buddhist and, though to a lesser degree, Christians. Those Bob proudly identifies with are a people who, if they did want to follow a different faith, would probably be barred from doing so. The few Sikhs I know who are followers of Christ tell stories of disinheritance, ostracism and persecution. The people Bob glibly is sharing his testimony with are citizens of a country that has anti-conversion laws. For a Sikh to take on the faith of Jesus would mean a loss of status in their society, which would be changed to OBC (other backward caste), which is one of many reasons why they are not open to the Gospel.

We are all in search of truth. Bob, and a lot of other Americans who embrace eastern religion, would do well to understand that the shining path to nirvana is seldom chosen freely. Bob should thank God he lives in a country that allows him the opportunity to seek truth unconstrained. It’s a privilege that his new brothers and sisters will never experience.