I was struck by its colors. Bright red and yellow and blue and green . . .
But then it was gone. Nick* was driving too fast. But, oh wait! There was another one. This one looked similar, only it was bigger. Rainbow-colored dragons with yellow spines leaped from its peaks. Black-bearded men holding whips perched nearby. I was agog.
But then it was gone.
“Would you slow down?” I wanted to punch Nick.
“You want to see temples?”
I said nothing.
“There.” He pointed through the windshield. “Aaaaaand there.”
Sure enough, another small temple was coming up on our left, followed by another.
Nick looked at me. “You’re pretty observant, you know that?”
This time I really did punch him.
From the moment I arrived, it was easy to see: The Taiwanese are a religious lot. Most practice a combination of Taoism and Buddhism, and, as I later learned, they integrate these into almost every part of their lives. Locals consult various gods for everything from what to name their unborn child to remembering what they’ve studied for a test. Worship involves incense sticks and offerings: things like fruit, cookies, a bag of chips—almost anything will do. Animals are slaughtered at certain festivals, too.
It was a world I wasn’t prepared for—a world about which I didn’t have a clue.
It was a world that changed me for forever.
I made friends with some of the locals. They helped me survive—aided me with day-to-day living and taught me (a little of) the language. Most importantly, though, they taught me about their culture and beliefs. They explained the history behind certain festivals, and told me how much their religion was tied to their culture, too.
And it got me to thinking . . . Here in the States, nearly 80 percent of adults say they are Christian. In Taiwan, less than 5 percent do the same. So how much of religion is cultural? How much of life has to do with how—and where—we were raised?
This past weekend thecelebrated the : Through His life and death and resurrection, by grace, we are saved. But today I’d like to tack onto that. If than death, could He not also be greater than religion? Greater than location? Greater than culture?
*Nick was the American director of the the English camp where I worked. I took his place the following year.
Images: Google (Taiwanese temples)
- the missing piece (jesscy.com)
- alone in an igloo (jesscy.com)
- this contradictory life (jesscy.com)
- on privacy (jesscy.com)