Thursday, November 02, 2006

What Would YOU Do?

From Marshall Sahlins here:

"There is a story often repeated in European annals of the strenuous efforts convince the Hawaiin King Kamehameha of the comparative merits of Christianity." In 1798, the American trader Townsend heard that:

Capt. Vancouver was very anxious to Christianitze these people, but that can never be done until they are more civilized. The King Amma-amma-hah told Capt. Vancouver that he would go with him to the high mountain Mona Roah and they would both jump off together, each calling on their separate gods for protection, and if Capt. Vancouver's god saved him, but himself was not saved by his god, then his people should believe as Capt Vancouver did. (Townsend 1888:74)

This expirement did not appeal to Vancouver, and he not only declined to perform it, he did not even mention it in his "Voyage." Thus ended the discussion on religion. (Golovnin 1979:207)

This makes me wonder: what would I do in this situation? Part of me thinks that this is exactly the kind of challenge that God relishes. I think of Elijah at Mt. Carmal, mocking the prophets of Ba'al, and calling on God to vindicate his role as a prophet and to bring Israel back to God (I Kings 18:16-46). But then I think of the temptation of Jesus - how he refused to jump off the temple even though he would be saved (Matthew 4:1-11). Perhaps we are not to put God to the test that way.

Of course, it's not a clearcut answer. The Hawaiian case was for the cause of the evangelism of an entire people (like Elijah), and not for the selfish motivation suggested by Satan in the temptation of Jesus. But the temptation story is much closer by comparison to the story described above. I just don't know what I would do. What would YOU do??

Grace & Peace