Saturday, March 30, 2024

Holi Saturday? CUW Employee Doubles Down

At Prabupadha's Palace of Gold, Moundsville, WV, 1991

Concordia University Wisconsin’s Facebook Page continues to honor the Hindu festival Holi - which fell in Christian Holy Week this year. One of their employees (at Ann Arbor), an Academic Support Specialist, has lashed back against criticism of CUW by scolding those of us who don’t approve. Her Facebook profile makes no mention of her religious beliefs, nor do I have any mutual online friends with her - which suggests that she probably isn’t a Lutheran. But she is belittling Lutheran laity and clergy who have expressed a theological objection to something that our university is doing. And during Holy Week.

I guess she knows better how Lutheran Christians should treat this matter than we do. This is one of those times when the name of our university system is ironic. Indeed, in terms of the vaunted goal of fostering “Lutheran Identity,” Discordia Wisconsin has a lot of "Lutheran Indentitying" to do.

In response to my pointing out that Hinduism is not a culture but a religion, and that there are indeed Indian Christians - including Lutherans - and that “there are a lot of ways to celebrate Indian culture without endorsing rituals to Hindu gods,” her reply was to educate me as follows:

Hinduism is a big part of the culture in India!  There's nothing wrong with learning other religion [sic] and cultures [sic] holidays and traditions!  It's surprising to me that others spend this much time being angry.  Bring love into the world not anger.  I'm not directing this at just you but everyone who is ridiculously upset in these comments.

Understanding, respecting, and observing with the people who celebrate different religious holidays than us [sic] is not the same as idol worship.

It is a good thing to be knowledgeable and accepting of different cultures (and yes religion is apart [sic] of culture.  I will not be commenting further but again would suggest looking at the love and acceptance you can bring into the world through God instead of the hatred and anger.

She concluded her correction of me and all the other "hateful" Lutherans with a heart emoji.

I'm not suggesting that every employee must be a Lutheran.  But to show such callous insensitivity to her Christian employers and supporters of the university suggests that there is either no training for non-Lutheran and non-Christian employees so that they know what we believe, teach, and confess, or HR is prioritizing woke idealism over a commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ and our confession of the faith.  Or maybe, and perhaps more likely, it's just not a priority.

This is classic wokeism: to scold us for expressing our opinions based on our faith - and then couch it in syrupy love-talk.  But we know what it is, and we know where it comes from.  

Instead of engaging further after accusing all of us of hatred and not properly confessing God, her response was to block me and remove "Academic Support Specialist at Concordia University Ann Arbor" from her bio.  I double-checked the screenshot to make sure that I'm not misstating things.

Again, I'm not suggesting that Concordia employees all be Lutherans, but it would be helpful if they respected our faith and did not attack us during Holy Week.  

On a personal level, and as a postscript, I would encourage everyone to find an authentic Indian restaurant, preferably with a buffet, and try everything.  Indian food is wonderful (and, of course, varies considerably depending on region).  And I personally find Indians to be delightful and fun to hang around with.  My best friend when I lived in New York (a Hindu) and his roommate (a Muslim)  - took me to a countless number of Indian restaurants in Manhattan.  I once had an Indian cab driver try to refuse to take my money because I spoke with him in a few words in Hindi (I said some things that made him laugh).  I was making authentic chai at home long before it became popular in America, and probably before my critic was born (the secret is that you have to start with the dark, black, tannin-rich Assamese tea that makes your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth, none of that American sockwater).

One of my fondest memories (from thirty-three years ago) was driving in my tiny little ford Escort, crammed together with four of my Indian friends, leaving the Upper East Side of Manhattan at 4:00 am to drive to Moundsville, West Virginia, to visit a strange curiosity: an exotic gilded building - which was a Hare Krishna shrine.  One of my Hindu friends was not impressed with the Hare Krishna sect, as she believed that they were, what we would call today, LARPers - not real Hindus.  But we all had a great time on our roadtrip (see picture above, taken long before smartphones and selfies.  I'm easy to pick out.).

So, far from being ignorant of Indian culture and hateful toward Indian people, and in need to being scolded and educated - as my critic seems to surmise - I have great affection and respect for Indian culture.  It is a false accusation to accuse us of hatred, though that is currency among young people who want to discredit instead of constructively engage those who hold different beliefs than they.  They should apply their criticism and their woke bromides to themselves.

All of that said, and as St. Polycarp declared before his execution: "I am a Christian."  And the Lutheran confession within Christianity is what Concordia University Wisconsin is committed to.

CUW and its employees ought to respect Christians and the Christian faith.  It seems like so little to ask.  And though it is a bit early liturgically, I'm going to say it anyway: "Christ is risen!"

At the Assam Center, Edison, NJ, 1991, I'm on the left, and Prayag is on the right.  Good times!

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