It is the 26th of February 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1891.
Today we turn our attention to the Third World. "Now," you might be thinking, "isn't that a dated and possibly offensive term?" I'm glad you asked. The answer is… it's complicated. Third World is a term used during the Cold War to refer to places that were neither 1st world nor 2nd world. The "1st world" was the United States and her capitalist allies. The 2nd World was the Soviet Union and her communist allies. The "Third World" was self-consciously non-aligned. Following the Fleetwood Mac doctrine, these countries were going to go their own way.
And there is perhaps no better example of a "Third World" country in this sense than India. They are the most populous democracy in the world. With 75% of the world's spices, it has been an invaluable trade partner for many, and its strategic location between the Middle East and China has made it a major geopolitical player as well.
Don't worry if your knowledge of India is insufficient. A relative lack of knowledge about the ancient land and peoples isn't new here in the west. In 1498 Vasco De Gama first arrived in India and was surprised to find a Christian population. You may remember that tradition records that the apostle Thomas was in India as early as 52 AD to convert, among others, the Indian Jewish population that was said to have dated back to the time of King Solomon. Of course, the Catholic Church wanted these Christians to be more Latin than indigenous and thus sent Francis Xavier and others to latinize the Christian population. Much of the indigenous people would keep their older Syriac rite and be known as "Thomas Christians," a kind of Eastern Catholic.
Now fast forward to the 19th century, I know, it's a big country with a long history… India is now a British colony. Indian Christianity under the British crown was looking more and more "1st world". Was there a future for an indigenous expression of Indian Christianity? Enter Brahmabandhav Upadhyay. Brahmabandhav was born Bhavani Charan Baneijea in 1861 into the Brahmin caste. Bhavani would become an advocate of a Hindu reform movement before being attracted to the message of Jesus. In 1891 at the age of 30, Bhavani was baptized on the 26th of February.
Taking the name Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, he would become the father of modern Indian theology.
A significant concern that marks the thought of Brahmabandhav was the excessive "westernization" of the church. Brahmabandhav claimed that if Aquinas could use Aristotle that Indians could similarly assimilate the Hindu philosophy of Sankara.
Quick note: be careful with how you understand "Hindu." It wasn't until 1893 that "Hinduism" as a world religion was introduced at the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. Hindu is essentially a catch-all phrase for indigenous Indian religion. Brahmabandhav referred to himself as a Hindu Christian, which wasn't a syncretistic remark but rather a statement about Indian Christianity.
From 1901 Brahmabandhav taught Christianity by way of the Vedantic ideals. He also became an agitator against the British imperialists noting that a genuinely Indian expression of Christianity would only be possible in a free Indian state.
In 1907 Brahmabandhav was arrested for sedition. While imprisoned, he had an emergency hernia surgery and died from post-op complications at the young age of 46. We remember the beginning of his short but illustrious career as the father of Indian theology on the anniversary of his baptism on this day in 1891.
The reading for today comes from a contemporary of Brahmabandhav, Sadu Sundar Singh.
The cross is like a walnut whose outer rind is bitter, but the inner kernel is pleasant and invigorating. So the cross does not offer any charm of outward appearance, but to the cross-bearer its true character is revealed, and he finds in it the choicest sweets of spiritual peace.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 26th of February 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by Christopher Gillespie, who is like a walnut whose outer rind… nevermind. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. You can catch us here every day, and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.