Christmas day, and the school of 2000 children that fills all horizons from my window has employed its favourite device of torment to full effect – its loudspeakers. For an hour this morning rang a child’s voice giving an impressively well delivered rendition of the story of baby Jesus being born in the manger. Now they are playing Jesus Christ Superstar, which is one of my favourite movies ever.It is curious that the Christian story is presented directly without any notion of competition or fear. Thais, and probably Buddhists the world over, do not have the idea of fearing other religions as heresy, competing world views, or a subverting device of Satan. They look on them much as a Briton would regard the story of Guy Fawkes or Vampires.
For their inclusion of various customs many westerners consider the Thais to be very animist, following an amalgam of spirit worship and misunderstood Buddhism. But Thais pick up new customs not through any real belief or intention, but just because they are sanook – fun. And because they are interesting. Without the feeling of threat that other cultures suffer when presented with something alien. Loy Krathong is a good example. Writes one Christian missionary:
The sad part about Loy Krathong is that the reason most Thais release these krathong’s on the waterways is to appease the spirit of the water. They ask forgiveness for polluting the water, etc and then ask for blessing from the spirit as well…. One of Satan’s biggest tactics here in Thailand is that of fear (fear of spirits, ghosts, etc)…
Fear seems to be on the side of the Christian however.
Thais assume that their Western Christian neighbours are as open-minded and safe in their own traditions as the average Thai is. But that is not always true. Looking at the Presbyterian Missions to Thailand a much more sinister story emerges. The missionaries are deliberately trying to draw Thais into their activities, with the express design of working in bible class and teachings. Thais are friendly to the missionaries as they are to everyone. Since Buddhism has no fear of other’s religion, and Buddhists have no real desperation to convert others, Thais assume the same attitude is refeleced back. Little do they know that they are being befriended with the single minded purpose of being led to conversion…. Another Christian missionary blogs:
There is a constant demand for English teaching here. It’s an easy and steady source of meeting Thai people Our prayer is that these small communities of students that do catch on, would be exposed to the Gospel through the friendship of their teacher, and the many ministry events (and Thai worship) that we invite them too. We could see the Lord changing the hearts of an entire class all at once, as they come to hear about Jesus all together for the first time.
While I admire the strength of character of the Thai school outside my window in dedicating the day to Christmas stories and traditions, and I wish could see Jesus Christ Superstar as well as I can hear it, I just can’t quell the groan that fights its way up and out from between my lips when the Christmas Carols start playing after the movie.