January 2018
From Pastor to Pasture

Taking Off the Hobbles

Cows were everywhere!

Some were zebu-type cattle (white, tan or brownish colored cows with horns, a hump on their back and a lot of ear – what we would typically refer to as a Brahman-influenced cow). In southern India, most of the cattle were a variety of water buffalo and they looked a lot better than the zebu-type did. They were bigger boned, had much better udders and teats, produced more milk, had a lot more meat, and just looked a lot healthier and more productive.

When I say cows were everywhere, I literally mean they were everywhere! They were in the streets and highways, doorways of businesses downtown, walkways … wherever they wanted to hang out and nobody seemed to care. All the vehicle and foot traffic just adapted to the cattle, yielding to them and being very careful not to disrupt their activity or lack of it. The cattle always had the right of way whether they were crossing the road or lying down right in the middle of it.

I do not claim to be an expert on Hinduism. In fact, I know very little and am just now beginning to study it to see how we can best reach Hindus with the Gospel message of the one true God. What I did not know is that (depending on who you talk to or what you read) there are from 300,000 to 330 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism.

Honestly, it is difficult for me to grasp how anyone could understand or know what to worship in Hinduism when practically everything is or could be a deity at any given moment.

Additionally, there is really no proper or prescribed way of corporately worshiping these gods and goddesses. Though there are many temples throughout India (often several in one block) and many public and roadside shrines, most is individual worship. Hindu worship involves offerings, prayers and rituals to the idol(s) of the deity considered most suitable for the individual’s needs and desires.

I knew when I went to India that cows were a deity and most animals are respected (or revered) because of the Hindu belief in reincarnation. Every living thing could be someone’s ancestor or predecessor. The cow, however, is the highest idolized and worshipped animal because of what it gives: milk, cheese and butter; and it pulls the plow – all critical to the people’s survival. Therefore, the cow is the ultimate representation for all animal life.

Perhaps that explains why hundreds are lynched every year in India for butchering cows to feed their hungry families!

Consider these quotes from Gandhi: "Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Here is an unbroken record of service which does not end with her death. Our mother, when she dies, means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when she is alive. We can make use of every part of her body – her flesh, her bones, her intestines, her horns and her skin. Well, I say this not to disparage the mother who gives us birth but in order to show you the substantial reasons for my worshiping the cow." (H, 15-9-1940, p. 281)

"I would not kill a human being for protection of a cow, as I will not kill a cow for saving a human life, be it ever so precious." (YI, 18-5-1921, p. 156)

Wow! That is hard for us to imagine, isn’t it? However, there were several observations I made regarding the worship or the association of deity with cattle in Hinduism that are very self-contradictory.

The first is how the try to control the cattle. Most of them spend their entire lives hobbled so they cannot walk a full stride or completely stand upright. Their front feet are tied together and another rope attaches the hobble to a halter, keeping their heads down. In some cases, the back legs are also tied together and connected to the front hobbles – the cow actually limps or moves in a short, awkward, often painful-looking cadence. I have no doubt that, even if the hobbles were removed, many of these cattle would never be able to move properly.

Another striking contradiction is that India (> 80 percent Hindu) is the largest exporter of beef products in the world, comprising 23 percent of the world’s beef export market! Brazil, Australia and the United States follow at second, third and fourth, respectively. Though most of India’s beef is carabeef (water buffalo), it seems counterintuitive that, in a country and a religion where beef is seen as a deity and illegal to kill or eat, the same people would be the world’s largest exporter of dressed beef!

As U.S. cattlemen and ranchers, we also love and value our cattle. We treat them humanely. We take great care and great pride in the fact that we provide the safest and most desirable beef and beef products in the world. We surely promote the eating of beef and using every part of the animal we can to make a profit. The difference is that, for most of us, cattle are not considered a deity or object of worship.

However, if we are not careful to keep our priorities in order, cattle or anything else can become idols. In fact, anything we elevate to the level that it comes between us and a right, intimate and personal relationship with God has become an idol, whether we admit it or not. I certainly see a lot of that in our culture today! Cattle, cattle breed associations, sports teams, money, houses, vocations, church buildings, political power, social standing, material possessions, travel, family – you name it and you can see it today as an idol, elevated to the level of deity and worship in the lives of many in our culture today. I saw a lady last week in a t-shirt that read, "Football is the reason for the season" and it surely appears that for many, this is true.

Excluding the billions spent on church buildings for our own comfort, what is actually given and spent to take the Gospel and the love of Christ to the world doesn’t even register in comparison to what we spend on just sports alone in America! We can save that discussion for another day.

On the surface, the Hindu’s view of cattle as a deity seems strange and self-contradicting. However, it has striking similarities to how we sometimes view, treat and use God in our Christian culture. How often do we knowingly or unknowingly replace Him on the throne of our lives with other gods and idols to suit our own purposes and desires? How often do we put our own desires above the basic needs of others?

How is that we have gotten to the point where we so easily and readily try to hobble or limit God’s power and authority in our lives and culture? (A true God cannot be hobbled – but we can limit what we allow Him to do in our lives and our culture.) I am old enough to remember when the Church took primary responsibility for the care of widows, orphans and the needy instead of the government! We all prayed in school. We learned the 10 Commandments and the Golden Rule, and even memorized Bible verses in school. Everybody honored and participated in prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance at football games and all other public events. A preacher delivered an evangelistic message at the baccalaureate service. We even had evangelistic guest speakers and presentations during the school day. One regionally local visitor I remember was Geraldine, a lady ventriloquist who shared the Gospel through her wooden partner Ricky.

Today, society says God has no place in our public lives, the Bible has no authority in governing morality; there are no moral absolutes, and even Christmas trees and nativity scenes are being prohibited. We are told it is no longer acceptable to have a Bible on our desks; to say, "God bless you" or "Merry Christmas"; and we better not talk about Jesus at work or school! Some want God removed from all our founding documents, the Pledge of Allegiance and currency. Every religion has rights and protection except for Christianity. It is being silenced and becoming more and more irrelevant in influencing culture. Yet we sit silently by and let it happen! We have hobbled God by basically disinviting Him from every aspect of our lives and culture, and we wonder why all the evil is happening!

Don’t you think it is time we take the hobbles off God and invite Him back onto the throne of our lives (publicly and privately)? This will require confession that we have sinned against Him. It will require we turn away from our sin and follow Him. It will require we eliminate our idols. Many will oppose us and it will cost us! But what will the costs be for our future, for the future of our children and grandchildren – and even for the world if we do not turn back to the only God who loves us and can bless us and is the One who will one day judge us?

 

Glenn Crumpler is is president of Cattle for Christ International, Inc. He can be contacted at 334-393-4700 (home), 333-4400 (mobile) or www.CattleforChrist.com.