The Heavenly Neighbor from Hell

What would you – a devout Christian – do if your next-door neighbor erected a 20-foot statue of an Indian god in his backyard, as an object of worship?

Would you complain to your neighbor? To the local authorities? Would you consult a lawyer? Or would you decide that nothing can be done, and so do nothing?

This is the predicament facing a man in Auckland, New Zealand (formerly my home town).

His Hindu neighbour commissioned in China a giant statue of the god Shiva, shipped it to Auckland and, having obtained local council approval, has just erected it on his property. Asked why, he told the New Zealand Herald: “Do you need a reason to pray? I don’t think so.”

According to the newspaper report:

But neighbour Bryce Watts, a Catholic, said the marble statue was “bizarre” and “offensive”.

“Religiously and culturally it’s a bit insensitive to us and I can’t believe they’re able to do this. Part of our property looks at it and it’s part of a religion we don’t agree with,” he said.

“I don’t see why we should have it poked down our throats in such a big way.”

… “I’ve been to the council and asked about it and evidently it was within their rights to do it…It’s 10 metres [32 feet] from our boundary which is within the rules where you can build a building. It’s like, ‘bad luck, if you don’t like it, it’s your problem’. I find it really hard to believe in this day and age that this can happen.”

Really? Welcome to the multi-cultural 21st century. In this day and age it seems that just about anything can happen.

Though I too wouldn’t want a 20-foot Indian god statue next door, looming over my property. I would feel there was something spiritually menacing about it.

When we lived in Japan we visited some friends whose home overlooked a Buddhist temple and its cemetery. I was not then a Christian, and remarked to my wife that in fast-paced, frenetic Tokyo living next to a cemetery must be pleasant – so quiet and tranquil.

My wife shivered and said there was no way she would live next to a cemetery.

But back to that statue. Maybe the neighbor, a Catholic, should erect his own massive Virgin Mary. Or perhaps he should take an interest in his neighbor’s religion, and then invite the neighbor to a church service. Who knows where that would lead? Or should he simply move out?

I’m not sure what’s best. What do you think?

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