It is important for Christians to understand other cultures and religions. As we continue learning about other faiths, this post will aid in our understanding of Sikhism. As stated before, I do not believe that all religions lead to the same end or that all religions are equally true. However, I do believe in Religious Liberty. This is the idea that people should be free to practice whichever religion they choose. While we may not agree with one another regarding our spiritual beliefs, we can seek to understand one another and treat one another with kindness and respect.
Sikhism and Christianity in conversation:
Sikhs and Christians hold to wildly different beliefs about the nature and character of God. They also have a number of different traditional practices, but as with any religion there are some things the groups can learn from one another. Sikhs hold their scriptures in high reverence. When people own a personal copy they are required to treat it with respect. Christians tend to have many copies of the Bible and often do not take extra care to treat the physical book with reverence even though they believe it is the actual Word of God. Additionally, Sikhs wear a band on their wrist to remind them that they are to do what is right. Such a physical reminder of our need to overcome sin is not required, but for some a similar item might be helpful. Likewise, Sikhs can learn more about the significance of doctrinal belief from Christians. Because their scriptures contain only songs, it is easy for practitioners to not fully comprehend their belief system. Teaching more about doctrines might help Sikhs become better practitioners of their faith. Additionally, Christians often make their Scriptures available in the common language of the people and hold services in the native tongues of their location. If Sikhs made available more information in the native language of people in regions where they have Gurudwaras people might not be so skeptical about learning about their religion.
Below is a conversation I had with Harbhajan Singh, who is a Sikh teacher in the DFW area near where I live. In our conversation he explains a number of different Sikh beliefs and practices. Sikhs desire to please God, live a devout life, and they trust that God will save them. Their beliefs include elements common to Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. They are also one of the youngest modern religions in the world. I hope you too will find the conversation educational.
An Overview of Sikhism
Origin: 1469 AD
The Guru Grant Sahib or Adi Granth is the sacred text of Sikhism. It is a collection of prayers and songs of worship. It is written in a form of the Hindi dialect from the Medieval era known as Gurmukhi. People typically do not own a copy of the text themselves, but they visit their temples to read it. Their temples are called Gurudwaras.
Sikhs believe that there is one God and that people go through cycles of birth and rebirth (based on Karma) until they come to believe in God while in human form and find salvation. Salvation comes when people devote themselves to God and he takes them out of the cycle of birth and rebirth. Sikhs believe that all religions are equally valid and as a result they do not evangelize or try and recruit new members.
In Sikhism, the Gurudwara is always open for the poor and needy. It is a place of refuge. People attend worship services where they sing and listen to spiritual messages. Sikhs believe in complete equality for all people and as such, anyone male or female of any ethnicity can hold any position in the Sikh faith. There are no offices reserved for only men or women.
Sikhs consider it a calling to provide protection for those being persecuted. As such, they are known as both warriors and worshippers. While they have never been afraid to go to war or provide protection for those being persecuted (of any religion, ethnicity, etc.), they also believe in providing care to their enemies who are wounded just as they would for their own soldiers.
Dr. Scott Shiffer has a Ph.D. in Christian Theology from the B.H. Carroll Theological Institute and has been teaching religion classes since 2006. He leads Transformation Media Ministries, an organization to help believers think biblically about culture in America. Scott has given numerous presentations including one at Oxford. He has spoken at church retreats, youth retreats, conferences, and has taught discipleship classes for over 10 years. Scott is married and has three children. He has a heart for helping believers draw closer to God and for aiding them as they are faced with new challenges in America every day.