Friday, September 25, 2009

The elephant in the room

Calgary zoo has erected a statue, in the image of the Hindu god Ganesh, in front of its elephant enclosure. Concerned Christians Canada (CCC) has launched a formal complaint regarding the display of this quasi-religious symbol. They claim that the image serves to indoctrinate people into the Hindu faith and that it contravenes the religiously neutral paradigm which must be honoured in public space. It also apparently makes the zoo into a less than safe family friendly venue.
See C.C.C. statement here --- CBC News story here
I have this weird image in my head of a family walking through the zoo and the Dad goes dashing on ahead to the Elephant area and throws himself in front of the statue to protect his family from the danger of looking at the statue.
This irks me. How can a modified symbol that has been stripped of its religious symbolism hold any power whatsoever? Can this thing really make the zoo unsafe for families? Is an exposure to muted version of another religious icon so powerful that it will cause unsuspecting onlookers to covertly be influenced toward Hinduism? Is the protective power of YHWH that weak? If seeing this image for Canadian Christian children is harmful should we not be making efforts to extract the children of missionaries in India for exposure to the more accurate version of the their gods displayed even more publicly?
Shouldn’t it be Hindus who are annoyed here? Isn’t this actually a flippant treatment of their religious symbols which are to be held in honour? Isn’t removing the religious symbolism a problem for Hindus?
Does anyone remember that this is the image placed in front of the elephant cage?
What about other Christian religious symbols that adorn the public spaces of space we live in? Should we remove these symbols as well?
In our own town a public museum has been developed with public monies in the space that used to be the Mennonite church, how inclusive is that imagery to the significant portion of Coaldale’s population that still adhere to the Buddhist faith?
Has anyone from the CCC really taken a look at the political optics on this?
How is this anything but an opportunity to demonstrate the resilient confidence that Christian virtue in the context of pluralist diversity? Is it not true that the Christian principles have their most salient meaning in the face of pluralist milieu?

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