Short answer – you don’t. But before I elaborate on that I need to issue a little rant about the holiday period.
I hardly have enough private time to chant my rounds. What I do is wake up earlier, pretend that I’m still asleep, and chant before people realize I’m up. Writing for this blog is nearly impossible, too. No one cares what I do on my computer but the overall atmosphere in the house is such that I just can’t concentrate on my posts when everyone around is chatting about family news, current news, new Star Wars, and everyone expects to be listened to and given replies, small talk is unavoidable. My consciousness is just not in the right place, sorry.
Practically it means that I will surely miss a few days here and there. I intend to make up for them when I have time but that would probably be after new year, not before that. It also screws up my train of thought because my brain is overwhelmed with all these opinions on mundane matters I’m expected to entertain. As a result my consciousness is contaminated, my mind is wandering all over the place, and it’s just not as good as usual. Who invented these holidays and for what purpose? Worst time of the year ever.
Anyway, continuing from the last post about Christians – how do we talk to them successfully? My answer is that it’s impossible and for a very simple reason – our message is meant for those who realize they are spirit souls and as such are ready to accept their eternal constitutional position as Lord’s servants. Kṛṣṇa’a servants, to be exact, but Kṛṣṇa isn’t proper God in their understanding of the term and we don’t serve “Lord Kṛṣṇa” ourselves so we can let that one slide.
Kṛṣṇa accompanies as as the Supersoul and in this feature He acts as a Lord and accepts our service. He also does that as His mūrti and as His name. “God” is one of His names and it carries enough potencies with it to rule over the universe but personally, as a resident of Vṛndāvana, Kṛṣṇa isn’t God. So, when we talk to people about God we should be careful about suddenly introducing serving Him in one of the five rasas and other such esoteric truths.
Anyway, the basis of all spiritual knowledge is the fact that we not our bodies but spirit souls. “Christian”, otoh, is a bodily designation and on that platform any spiritual realization is impossible. Devotional service must be sarvopādhi-vinirmuktam — free from all kinds of material designations, or free from all desires except the desire to render service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. If we talk to people on any other basis then bhakti does not arise and saṅkīrtana does not happen. Saṅkīrtana means talking to devotees, not souls’ bodily designations. We can’t have saṅkīrtana with Christians just as we can’t have saṅkīrtans with cats and dogs.
The difference is that Christians possess a human form of life and so have the capability to transcend their bodily conditioning while cats and dogs can’t. Sometimes, by the mercy of the Lord, even dogs can be engaged in service and perfomr as sort of saṅkīrtana but normally it’s not possible. Christians should generally do better but not if they keep seeing themselves as such.
What should normally happen when we preach is that we ask people who they are and what they do, or find out this kind of information by other means, and then we tell them how our books are relevant to their lives because they are not actually their bodies but spirit souls and as spirit souls we need to develop spiritual knowledge. If they express interest in yoga we can tell them that there are other, better kinds of yoga than simply exercising in a gym. If they are interested in astrology we can tell them that our books describe the past and the future of the entire universe and explain why astrology works – because of the three guṇas acting under the influence of time and that planets are like crystals shining spotlights of this “guṇa energy” or some such. Then we tell them that as spirit souls it shouldn’t be our main concern and we need to put astrology into a spiritual perspective.
One way or another but we should quickly find a way to go from people’s conditioned nature to their eternal position. We start by talking to welders and accountants but we always end by talking to souls and we should make this transition as fast as possible, because that’s where saṅkīrtana finally starts. Talking about yoga and astrology is not saṅkīrtana, just a necessary prelude. It’s for this reason that we shouldn’t talk to Christians but make them understand that they are not their bodies and continue talking to them as souls, not as Christians anymore.
But aren’t Christians supposed to be God’s servants in their own right? Do they really have to give up this particular designation? Śrīla Prabhupāda told us not to try and convert religious people into Hare Kṛṣṇas so there must be a way to talk to them as Christians.
In answer to that – yes, they are God’s servants in their own right, but when they talk to us that right ceases to matter. As spirit souls they are God’s servants regardless, designating themselves as “Christians” becomes only a hindrance at this stage.
Christianity is not all useless but the only thing it’s good for from the spiritual POV is that it makes people understand “I need to serve God”, everything else that comes with it is nonsense. They do not understand the soul, they think the soul is our temporary subtle body – mind, memories. emotions etc. They do not understand that all living beings ARE souls, they think that some of them HAVE souls while others don’t. Inside their heads is unholy mess. “If you are have a soul then who are you? ” – “I’m me”. Thousands of years of Christian science and they haven’t gotten even to spiritual ABC.
And just think what being a “Christian” really means – fact is, you can’t say for sure until they clarify what kind of Christians they are exactly. They have two thousand years of history and the exact definition of “Christian” has been tweaked countless number of times but popes, synods, priests, reformers, politicians etc. etc. Their current understanding is a reflection of all those decisions or reactions to those decisions. Catholic or protestant? Anglican or other kind of protestant? Orthodox? Greek or Eastern? Adventist? Mormon? What difference does it make? A lot to them but none to us and none to their souls.
That’s why we should stop talking to Christians the moment they announce themselves as such and tell them that as eternal souls we all must serve God with all our hearts, dedicating every minute of our lives. When we talk about God like that it becomes saṅkīrtana, when we argue about eating meat and reincarnation it stops being saṅkīrtana, as simple as that. It’s a shame they don’t accept reincarnation but we shouldn’t let this issue derail our saṅkīrtana efforts. They understand that they will have some kind of life after death and that’s good enough for us, we can talk about selfless service instead and how to achieve it, how to organize our life in such a way that we can always glorify the Lord. We can also tell them about God creating the universe and how great He is, they won’t argue against that and so it will become saṅkīrtana.
Just don’t let their Christian conditioning get in the way and ruin everything.