Why is it that so many people like to worship on high places? This morning, a friend and I hiked up a steep mountain at the end of a peninsula in Prajuab province, Thailand. At the top, there was a glorious view of the surrounding area - ocean to the east, coast to the north and south, and distant mountains to the West in the direction of Burma. But on top of the mountain, there was also a small shrine to the Buddha’s footprint with accompanying Buddha images. Throughout Thailand, there are lots of shrines and yellow Buddhist prayer flags on the tops of hills and mountains. Every time I see them, I can’t help but think of the high places in the Old Testament that the Israelites worshipped on. When the Israelites worshipped on these high places, it was usually idolatrous worship in violation of the First Commandment (and probably the Second Commandment as well).
Recently, I have encountered a couple of stories that have highlighted the fact that many Thai people are as devoted to money as they are to Buddhism - perhaps even more attached to money. We visited a small church in a nearby province last week and one of the leaders told us of a new believer who would only come to church when her son, who isn't a believer, could come watch her home for her. Now, her son hasn't been coming, so she stays home on Sundays because she is afraid that theives will break into her house and steal her many possesions when she is out. Break-ins are not uncommon in Thailand this is just such a sad story because
We recently took a field trip to Southern Thailand to check out a potential ministry opportunity in Nakorn Sri Thammarat province and, among other things, we observed how much the people there are into a particular amulet called Jat-Tu-Kham-Rama-Thep. In fact, the amulet comes from Nakon Sri Thammarat and is so immensely popular right now that people come from all over the country to buy up these amulets and resell them at a 30-60 fold profit. Jat-tu-kham, unlike a lot of other amulets, is not a Buddha image but is an image of an ancient king of Nakon Sri Thammarat who has been elevated to divine, or angelic, status. Every place in Nakon is selling these things - restaurants, beauty shops, malls, convenience stores - everyplace. It's idol madness, really.Something really notable about the Jat-tu-kham, besides the fact that it is so immensely popular with Thai people, is the probable reason why it is so popular. I recently read an article in a Thai national newspaper's weekly magazine that said the Jat-tu-kham amulets are popular because what the amulet promises corresponds to Thai people's current needs - i.e. the desire to have money and get rich! The economy is down and people want something to help them make money (or get rich, perhaps). Listen to some of the names of the different editions (or models) of the amulet that