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Yes, but Rada Rani: Empowerment comes only through the Gospel

July 5, 2007

I indulged in reading a tragic feature this morning, probably to set myself up for an acute episode of polemical outrage. Women as empowerment bearers tend to set off this response in me more than most things.

The way some women make themselves useful is to maintain a power base and make sure that social factors under their control–and they want lots of control over social factors–always have a clutch of victims outside who need help, or “empowerment.”

The feature focused on widows in India, who are compelled by Hindu custom to head north to some horrible town called Vrindavan in northern India before their shadows can afflict anyone with bad luck. Cast out by friends and family, they flee the moment their husbands die. They shave their heads and don white garments to mark their pariah status. They go to Vrindavan to die. There, they beg until they die. The point of dying in Vrindavan is that these people believe that dying there will break the cycle of reincarnation. If they die in Vrindavan, they can stay dead. This, evidently, is the great Hindu aspiration.

I plead complete ignorance of Hinduism. Although I have studied “the world’s great religions,” Hinduism’s cosmic algorithms are too complex for anyone to understand; consequently, it is subdivided into bazillions of subcategories, each with its own complexities.

Christians understand empowerment and where it comes from. “The truth will set you free.” We are prisoners of sin until Christ breaks sin’s chains and saves us from its reign and from the consequences of death it once held over us.

But these dreadfully afflicted Hindu widows are prisoners of sin as well as so many of its progeny: cruelty, ignorance, poverty, injustice–the products of defective theology.

Hindu is not a particularly evangelical religion, because most of its adherents believe its values can be attained through any sincere belief system. The religion grows pretty much with the population of India, which is no small measure.

Well-meaning organizations, like Womens’ Rights International, seek to “empower” women trapped in the cycle of social injustice, poverty, and neglect. They don’t seem to have a solution for the overarching problem: a fatalistic, wrong-headed, sin-infected worldview.

I want to wish them well, but they make me want to scream. I know they cannot accomplish their goals because their goals are not guided by truth. Only the truth can set these widows–or anyone–free. Only the Gospel can bring courage, hope, justice, and peace. Only the Gospel can dispel the irrational, cruel myths that bind these widows and darken their lives so horribly that the only thing to which they can aspire is to stay dead.

But I’ve heard the empowerment people’s response before: These women have suffered from enough religious oppression. Empowerment means something else.

No it doesn’t!

One Comment
  1. July 5, 2007 12:44 pm

    Another Hindu/Buddhist variant: “living goddesses.” One young girl was stripped of her title by a “government trust that manages the affairs of the living goddesses” for helping make a film about them.

    I don’t know which is worse, having a governmental agency managing the affairs of goddesses or a non-governmental agency managing the affairs of the godless.

    “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. “

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