South India has a bull taming sport called jallikattu in which a bull is released into a crowd of people and one or more person try to hold onto the hump of the bull while the bull tries to escape. In 2014 the Supreme Court of India banned this sport as it was cruel to the bull. The bull tamers and spectators regularly get killed. Strangely people all over Tamil Nadu have been demanding the ban be lifted, risking human life and continue the cruelty to animals. Although most city residents have not watched the sport yet thousands have been protesting that the ban be removed.
The situation reminds me of the riot in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19. Paul had been ministering in Ephesus for two years and “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul”. But Demetrius who made silver shrines incited people saying “Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods …” Immediately there was a great riot and “some were shouting one thing and some another, since the crowd was confused, and most of them didn’t know why they were meeting.”
Although the history of jallikattu is skimpy, it appears that the shedding of blood during this sport was a form of blood sacrifice to appease the local deities during the Pongal harvest festival. Looking at it from this angle, there seems to be a good explanation why people who have no connection with this sport, have been taking to the streets for days and nights to keep it alive. It appears that evil spiritual forces are unhappy with the ban and have whipped up frenzy in the minds of the people to ensure that blood continues being spilt every year.
Ancient Rome had extremely violent games where gladiator fought against others or against animals or against slaves, wild animals including lions and bears fighting other animals or mauling slaves. Christianity slowly brought an end to these violent sports. In the 5th century, monk Telemachus when he witnessed the gladiators for the first time was so appalled that he jumped into the arena shouting “In the name of Jesus stop”. Though he was killed, the incident shocked the spectators and the emperor who immediately issued an edict banning gladiator sports. Let us not loose our saltiness in Christ and be “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled on by people.” (Matthew 5:13) Let us be the salt and light of our world.