Exploring Religious Identity: Mennonites and India
Granta 137 tackles the subject of religious identity and spirituality. Miriam Toews pens a powerful memoir on her life growing up in a conservative Mennonite community in Manitoba that captures the complexities around reconciling one's personal values with those of their religious community. Malcolm Gladwell explores the same themes in the Mennonite community from a starkly different perspective in his Revisionist History podcast, with Episode 9 - Generous Orthodoxy.
Toews' piece resonates with those of us who have grown up in a particular religious community, but are disconnected with the values and doctrines of the faith. The cultural and communitarian aspects of faith are harder to shed, as they are often deeply embedded in one's identity.
Also of note is the essay by Aatish Taseer (son of Salmaan Taseer, a Pakistani politician assassinated after coming to the aid of a Christian woman in the country charged under its blasphemy laws, and Tavleen Singh, a respected Indian journalist of Sikh origin). The Interpreters (paywall) attempts to chart the old and new in India, by exploring the people and sites of Benares or Varanasi (the City of the Dead in Hinduism), but leaves the reader with much broader insight — how self-realization and spirituality are intricately tied in South Asian religions ("the personal self was a site to discover the supreme self; spirituality and self-discovery were inextricably linked"), and how the path towards modernity (new India) may exclude certain segments of society (old India) from its fruits. The quote that follows is written about India, but could very well be used to explain circumstances in another country:
...old India has not found a way to pass on the germ of its genius. And as long as old cultures fail to find a path to renewal, no one — least of all Europe — will be spared the rage of people who knew they were once something, and whose confidence has been broken