An Indian Big Mac

If you grew up in the 70's you probably remember hearing this jingle (perhaps even sang it yourself):

Two all beef patties,
Special sauce,
Lettuce, cheese,
Pickles, onions,
On a sesame seed bun

What was that an ad for? Do you remember? Or did the title of this article give it away? 🙂

The McDonald's Big Mac has been popular since the restaurant chain first introduced it, and I suspect that little ditty helped propel it's early success (although I am no fast food historian).

However, go to a McDonald's in India (as I did last December) and you will have to change the first line… It is "two all chicken patties." Apart from that, it's the same double-decker sandwich (except that I suspect the "special sauce" varies a bit too).

Do you know why the Big Mac and every other meat burger (other than fish) are almost always chicken and not beef? Because cows are considered sacred by Hindus and 80% of India is Hindu. Thou shalt not eat what you worship, if you know what I mean.

What I could not understand, however, was something I saw when I took a Sunday trek to the historic city of Mysore (from where I was staying in Bangalore). I had previously noticed that even though cows are considered holy, Indians do own them. Since it's not unprecedented, even in the Western world, for people to own sacred items…that wasn't much of a head-scratcher for me.

What was new from the trip through farmlands, however, was seeing bulls being used to pull massive amounts of cargo. I even remember seeing one pair seem to almost collapse under the weight of the huge cart of sugar cane they were pulling. At least to my mind, a sacred animal wouldn't be conscripted into hard labor…yet, not only were these cows bearing a heavy burden, in some cases their treatment bordered on cruelty.

I tried to (respectfully) ask my drivers why…but their English wasn't good enough for my puzzle to be solved. The next day I got a chance to ask a couple coworkers the same question (he being Muslim and she being Hindu), and her explanation as to why "vehicles" of the cow God, Nandi, would give milk (females) or bear burdens (males) was very simple.

"It's its purpose."

So, even though Hindus worship Nandi and will not kill its bovine manifestations, their system of belief allows them to derive direct, practical benefit from the sacred.

"It's its purpose."

Those words rang in my head. It would be easy to judge Hinduism, accusing them of creating a God that suits their purpose. Somehow they can venerate the same creature they work the living daylights out of. Paul in Romans 1:25 has harsh enough words related solely to worshiping an animal, noting in his time people "exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator."1 Could you imagine how he would react to this self-serving version of creature worship?

As I said, "It would be easy to judge Hinduism"—but are we non-Hindus really that much better than them? Don't we, in many ways, create gods that suit our purposes? Even within Christianity, don't we often carve and chisel a God that will welcome us to eternal bliss on the other side of death, but who does not demand anything too uncomfortable of us on this side? A divine being that can allow us to somehow have the basest of desires and motives, yet still somehow allow us to feel self righteously better then those not as enlightened as us?

As I thought about this article it hit me that there might be a little more to the second commandment than what appears most obvious in these simple words:

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth (Exodus 20:4).

Yes, our Lord was responding to the idol-worshipping practices of the nations that surrounded Israel—traditions the Jews had trouble not falling into (until their Babylonian exile)…but I also wondered if perhaps the Almighty was saying, "Do not create your own Gods." We Christians may not bow down at the feet of statues, but wouldn't it be fair to say we carve versions of a holy one that…well…fulfill "its purpose"?

And we, of all religious peoples, have the least excuse. Others worship beings that don't exist—a situation that demands they sculpt their own gods, unwittingly or not. We, however, have a Lord who has revealed Himself from the very first day we existed (as He walked with our original parents in the Garden of Eden). He followed that up with further revelation of His character (e.g. prophets and Scripture) culminating in the ultimate and crystal clear communication of exactly how He is…

Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 1:1-2).

No…we who God has called into His fold have no excuse producing versions of the Lord that fit our purposes. Instead, we need to fit ourselves into His purposes.

And maybe then those who worship Nandi (and its bovine manifestations) will be drawn away from their imaginary god and to the One who came to show them (and us) the way, the truth, and the life.


1 All Scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Version.


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