Posted by: jadanzzy | November 19, 2007


Watch the Darjeeling Limited. I take it back. I heartily recommend you watch the Darjeeling Limited. I thought it was wonderful. A part of ‘wonderful’ had to do with the soundtrack. Wes Anderson is a soundtrack master.

But I will not write about parallels of their spiritual journey to my spiritual journey. Or even what a “correct” spiritual journey should look like. I’m going to talk about that word, “correct.”


In a later part of the movie, images of Indian children are shown dressed in neat button down shirts and khaki slacks singing praise songs to their Lord Jesus in English, while the brothers’ mother is adorned in a white linen sari-type garment very appropriate for the surrounding culture.

And I thought, ‘Why is that?’ Why do the Indian children wear Western-style clothing and sing songs to Jesus in English? It bothered me to no end. It was a testament to missionary ideology and culture that is so prevalent in the imperialistic West. I asked myself, Why the hell did I not see this before?’

The spreading of Christianity is the spreading of Western culture? Why? When we go on short-term missions, or even long-term missions, why do we insist on VBS and bible schools that teach English? Jesus came not to promote a culture-bound faith, but a faith pervading culture.

I can embrace the traditions of our ancient faith expressions. I will. But I think about the countless forms of belligerence, oppression, military conquest, and imperialism in the name of some Jesus figure and I see Jesus on the cross.

Doesn’t make sense.

This may not be new to you. It’s new to me. I haven’t read any Leslie Newbigin or David Bosch.

I think I understand Brian McLaren now when he says that Hindus or Buddhists can be followers of Jesus while remaining “culturally” Hindus and Buddhists. My dream is to, one day, hear a Muslim sing the words of Jesus so beautifully and truthfully as many Muslims do when reciting the Qur’an.

I said it in a previously somewhere on this blog, but Christians do not have monopoly over the saving work of Jesus Christ.



  1. i haven’t seen it yet, so i haven’t read this post yet. yet i feel bad for the goose egg you’ve received thus far, so here, habacomment~!

  2. Let me first say that with a resounding “okay, I agree”. Westernized Christianization is a sad phenomenon and one that will take a few more decades yet to untangle.

    So okay, I agree.

    Now for the caveats (of course I haven’t seen the movie yet):

    1. I know I haven’t seen the movie still, but they do speak English in India. Many of the churches I attended in India were English-speaking, including many that were mostly native Indians.

    There WERE, where I went, Tamil-speaking ministries present, though. Is it wrong to say that most cultural practices are more closely linked to their ethnic and people-group histories than to religious custom? That in fact, most of the time the two are not so intertwined as they once were? I think you’d find that the Muslim in Pakistan, the Muslim in Indonesia and the Muslim from sub-Saharan Africa don’t share as much in common as we might think.

    2. Khakis and button-down shirts, too, are prevalent in India. Even in Chennai, where it’s more traditional than a place like, say, Mumbai (where girls can get away with wearing jeans), at least men wore button down shirts and pants much more than they wore the traditional lungis. I think we have the British to blame much more for that than Christianity. Christianity in India existed in the first century, with St. Thomas’s arrival in Kerala establishing the Seven Churches (according to tradition). One might say that in a way, the culture of Indian Christianity predates almost everyone else’s.

    3. Therefore, I might posit this. You’ve asserted that faith should pervade culture more than culture pervades faith. Could it be that in Darjeeling Unlimited, that’s exactly what’s on display? The mix of thousands of years of Indian culture, combined with the bitter but unmistakable British imprint of relatively recent imperialism? Did the movie not portray English-speaking Indians wearing button-down shirts and pants at any other points in the movie? I’m just curious, because from my short experience there, that’s a big part of the India I saw.

  3. I see what you’re saying. I didn’t even consider those things.

    And I concede to your cultural observations.

    However, I can’t help but wonder how much imperialistic damage was done by “His/Her Majesty, by the grace of God” or something like that…

  4. i finally watched the movie. i’m sad that your post doesn’t really reference the movie as much as i thought it would. 😦

    anyway, as for clothes, i remember watching the michael w. smith song which included these video clips from a martyred missionary. his name escapes me. anyway, this missionary and his friends went to ecuador, befriended the tribal people, somehow offended them, then were cannibalized. his wife, with the help of a translator, bravely goes to those same people and by a miracle converts the whole tribe.

    what put a damper on the otherwise triumphant moment was their clothes. before they were converted, the tribal people were mostly naked. they looked like tribal people. after the conversion, they wore t-shirts and khakis. it was clear enough, through the bible reading and testimonies about jesus, that they were changed. i didn’t expect them to change clothes too.

    maybe their old clothes represented an old past for them, and it was some collective, thought-out decision be “out with the old and in with the new”. but i thought – wouldn’t it be a much more powerful display of the gospel if they kept their old clothes? that christ could transform an entire tribe of cannibals is miracle enough. i felt the same discomfort with western christianity that you felt watching the darjeeling limited.

    a passing yet troubling thought: did you watch the movie just thinking about christianity?!?!? did you miss out on the pathos of the middle child?? did you feel his regret when the indian child died, or the sense of loss, knowing that his father also died in his arms? did you feel his panic when he tried to get the car before the funeral, that if he had just gotten it earlier when his father asked then he wouldn’t have gotten hit by a taxi? i thought the movie was awesome, and much more palatable than anderson’s previous films. its darker than rushmore, now that i think about it. even cruel at times. =/ like, the youngest son. he’s really sad. bahh wahtever. submit comment.

  5. Yes, my whole “christianity” thing was only spurred on by the initial shot of the activities of the convent. Sure I felt bad here and there that their search for true spirituality was off the mark in ways.

    But how could I have not seen the things you refer to?

    I just wasn’t referring to anything else but the scene at the convent. Narrow-sighted? Definitely.

  6. chris – Jim Elliott

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