“YOU ARE GOING TO BURN IN HELL FOREVER!” was the introduction of Christianity to Raja from Tom. “Since you do not believe in Christ, you will burn in the fire of hell and all the people you love will also burn in hell with you,” he added.
The two boys were sitting under a tree in their village in India along with Raja’s high school sweetheart, Sareena. The cool breeze of a late summer served as a stark contrast to what was just said. Raja was born a Hindu – deeply religious since childhood. Sareena was born a Sikh. Although Raja and Sareena were from two different religious worlds, both respected the other, loving each other regardless of religion.
While both were good friends of Tom’s, neither could agree on the matter of hell. Raja felt a wave of fear rising inside. Not for himself, but for his love, Sareena. “How could anyone burn someone like Sareena in hell simply because she did not ‘accept Jesus’?” he thought. Raja was brave enough and young enough to not fear hell but he could not imagine the love of his life ever seeing the smallest shadow of sorrow.
“Why should we burn in hell? Don’t we always do good and pray to God daily?” he protested. “My priest tells me that God is but one and so we both have the same God. Why would God send us to hell – just because we do not know anything about Christianity? It’s not our fault that we weren’t born into a Christian family. We believe that the whole world is a family, created by one Father – the Creator.” Raja continued his protest as if his religion demanded rationalization.
Sareena usually did not get into religious arguments, but today she supported Raja, “Our Holy Book also tells that, ‘God is one, but he has innumerable forms. He is the Creator of all.’ So who is noble and who is evil!? If this is true, how can anyone go to hell for not accepting Jesus?” continued Sareena.
Raja was already on the path of discovery. “Does God exist?” was his constant inquiry. “Who am I?” was the parallel posed.
It appeared natural to him to maintain seemingly paradoxical positions of deep faith and inquiry at the same time. It seemed that deep faith allowed Raja to have questions about God and himself.
As he was a seeker, he would love to know about God from other religions. Most Indian religions coexisted while respecting their differences; Christianity was the exception – in its harsh judgment of non-Christians.
“It must be how Tom interprets Christianity,” was the usual dialogue between Sareena and Raja as they walked together to their different temples. In Sareena’s temple, there were no idols while Raja’s temple was replete with them. The contradictions in their theology on idols didn’t seem to matter one iota. Both Raja and Sareena believed there was an Omnipotent God, so he could be in both their temples.