I just realized that it’s one of John Lennon’s songs, not the elevator musak they play around this time of year. Either way, Christmas is impossible to avoid and so are Christians. I don’t know of a good strategy that works on them, I know lots that don’t. Perhaps reflecting on our experiences with them we can come to a better understanding of what Christianity is and how can we penetrate its defensive shields.
Off the bat, there’s a famous assertion by Śrīla Prabhupāda that Christ is a corrupted version of “Son of Kṛṣṇa”, which is often taken by devotees to mean that Christ and Kṛṣṇa are the same. I don’t know any Christian who has ever been impressed by this argument so it’s not for them, for others it’s mildly amusing and the result depends on whether they like this kind of outrageous ideas or become deeply suspicious of anyone advancing them.
The fact that Prabhpāda was most likely right doesn’t matter, the idea is outrageous by modern standards and modern knowledge of Christianity. We can also site supporting arguments about Christ being in India, none of them are accepted by Christians either. At best they’d note it as something to check back with their pastor and we can be sure they’ll hear nothing good about us there.
We can impress people with our knowledge of Christianity until we run into a proper authority, if we think that we somehow can defeat thousands years of Christian science and convince them they are all wrong we are delusional. It won’t happen if only for a reason that people won’t give up their long held beliefs regardless of the evidence, and even our “evidence” is shaky.
I know of a devotee who learned all the Ten Commandments by heart, which is very unusual even for the practicing Christians, and he used it to impress upon others that when he says Christianity and Kṛṣṇa consciousness is compatible he is speaking as a Christian authority. It works on some, until they get in touch with real Christian authorities, and then they feel cheated and their trust abused. There’s just no good way to make Christianity and Kṛṣṇa consciousness work on this level.
There’s a devotee, won’t mention his name because he is still around, a prominent member of ISKCON, who spend years if not decades researching reincarnation and vegetarianism in early Christianity and other ancient cultures. It was all very impressive and I myself was totally convinced, until he went to debate his findings with real Christian scholars. They shredded his theory to pieces. I don’t think he deserved this and their arguments were spurious but that’s what happened. You just can’t fight with pigs and not get dirtied.
If “Christian scholars” were any intelligent they would have accepted the message of Lord Caitanya a long time ago or at least had given up meat eating. Their intelligence, however, is good for reading books but useless for controlling mind and senses. All they do is selfishly justify themselves, there’s no true spiritual inquiry there whatsoever. There probably are some scholars who would be receptive to our philosophy and still stay with Christ but they are not the ones called to put those impudent Hare Kṛṣṇas in place. You can’t win against the people they bring forward for this particular task.
Say we mention Jesus’ time in India. There’s a legend that after ascension he went to Kashmir and died there, this time for good, and there’s even a tomb. It’s a nice story but most likely a total fraud invented by western “travelers”. Any Christian with a mobile phone can debunk it in seconds. The story is plausible but only until you hear the other side version of it. The truth doesn’t matter here, it’s what people know, what they think and how they react. It might work on some but then their reaction later on when they discover the “real” facts about it in their churches is unpredictable, probably extremely negative, and they’ll tell everyone they know about it, too.
We can also site apocryphal gospels as proof of this or that but the key word here is apocryphal – they are not accepted by the Church, if we rely on them then all we do is dupe people into believing conspiracy theories. Doesn’t matter whether they contain truth or not, it’s a political battle for hearts and minds and if we take on the Church head on we will probably lose. Politics and accompanying duplicity should have no place in real saṅkīrtana, it’s a crutch for those who can’t and a staple for those who won’t give up their material attachments.
Duplicity is one of the anarthas, we can’t keep it. If we see a not very sophisticated opponent and bring an argument that we know doesn’t work on anyone with actual knowledge then what it is if not duplicity?
Hmm, if only it was that easy, because a real saṅkīrtana devotee doesn’t care for such mundane norms and won’t hesitate to lie if it helps the person to penetrate layers of illusion coving his soul, like his mind and his intelligence. What these layers think about the lie is immaterial, they are just matter acting under the guṇas and orders of the Lord, we have no quarrel and form no relationships with them. To succeed in this endeavor has to see the soul, though, not material forms grown around it. A real saṅkīrtana devotee can pull it off but imitators will be severely punished.
Speaking of material energy – we must acknowledge that the entire western civilization is a result of JC’s preaching, a testament to his spiritual weight and power. This can be explained in many ways, let’s say that uncompromising logic of science is possible only because scientists, who were all Christians then, wouldn’t allow any compromises in their search for truth. The pathos of an ideal scientist is that of an absolutely honest person – a religious principle, the last one still surviving in this age.
This means that when we rely on comforts provided by the civilization we must acknowledge the role of JC in starting it and millions of people who followed him and in the course of their search created so many wonderful things. We can’t say that we don’t care about JC because we are Hare Kṛṣṇas. How about hot water in the middle of the winter? Why can’t we be grateful about that?
What I’m driving at is that we should not artificially distance ourselves from Christianity and juxtapose it with Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and then try to prove that Christ and Kṛṣṇa are the same. People can smell this duplicity even without realizing it, there’s something just off about this attitude, it won’t work.
I think the ideal option is to take a straw in our mouths and humbly beg Christians to improve in their own faith. Kṛṣṇa consciousness would be a real upgrade there but we need humility first and we need to see Christians for who they are, which isn’t easy either. I think I’ll write more about it tomorrow.