Can Christians visit religious attractions while on holiday?
Now that Malaysians are getting ready to go on holiday (evidenced by the long queues to renew our passports), the question in some people’s minds is: can Christians visit religious attractions like temples, shrines and mosques while on holiday?
Our region, Southeast Asia, is home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Many of these are religious in nature; Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Bagan in Myanmar, Borobudur in Indonesia and so on. Then there is Penang and Melaka, whose Peranakan museums and Straits Chinese temples contain elements of ancestor worship.
Some are of the belief that the world’s great cultural and architectural wonders are to be appreciated, while others believe that territorial spirits and demonic activity are so strongly rooted in some of these places that Christians should not even step foot into them.
Some take the middle ground by saying it’s alright to visit, but not do anything to compromise their belief in Christ, such as not picking up prayer items, not buying religious souvenirs home, or even not taking photos of religious artefacts.
But how should we approach this carefully? Perhaps the questions below can help you think through your decision when planning where to go and whether to go:
- Check your motives. Often, why we want to visit a place is more important than whether or not we visit a place. Is this a childhood dream or an important bucket list to tick off before a certain age? Is a photo opportunity all you’re looking for? Are you simply following the tour programme and going along with the group? Knowing the why is important so that you can see things in the proper light if you choose to go.
- Do some research. Do you know where you’re going and the historical context of the place you’re visiting? It may help to do a bit of homework, so that you’re spiritually prepared for what you may encounter. Then, you can better decide if a site’s architectural beauty is of great benefit to your personal knowledge and life experience, that it can lead you to catching glimpses of God’s glory through different cultures, and equip you to share Christ more effectively.
- Guard your heart. Are you spiritually strong and on guard in order not to be negatively influenced by what you see, read, hear or touch? Will you also be with people who may be stumbled as a result of your actions? Use wisdom in all circumstances and if you’re feeling spiritually uncomfortable when stepping into a place, then it may be a good idea not to continue on.
Finally, it may be apt to meditate on these two verses written by the Apostle Paul:
- “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive.” (1 Corinthians 10:23)
- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
About the Author
Wan Phing Lim is a contributor to Our Daily Bread Ministries Malaysia. Born and raised in Penang, she studied Politics before turning to a career in writing. She loves coffee, books and films.
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