Holy Switch Compass ABC1
Review by Larry Marshall
WOULD you swap your Christian home for two weeks and step into the shoes of a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim or a Jew? Are you adventurous enough to discover the unknown and experience the perspectives, cultural practices and religious rituals of a person of another faith?
Holy Switch is a reality TV show based precisely on this premise. It asked six young Australians who are deeply observant in their own faith to become switchers – to swap faith families for two weeks. It also required their family or faith community to host the other switcher in their place for that time.
The aim was not to shake their beliefs but rather to foster understanding of how the faith journey of others compares with their own.
In essence it took the slow work of inter-faith understanding that has been going on for years in religious communities and compressed it into bite-sized pieces for the cameras.
As icing on the cake, each episode is set during at least one significant religious festival or event. It certainly makes for fascinating television viewing.
The six protagonists are intelligent, questioning young Australians facing the challenges of our secular society whilst abiding by the rules of their faith traditions. For each of them, their faith is a way of life – it informs everything they do and who they are as people.
They are also on their own journey of transition into adulthood. On occasion the challenges and differences they encounter in their new faith environment leave them nonplussed.
In the first episode Kim, a committed Anglican youth leader from Launceston, switches lives with Aakash, a devout Hindu with a love of Bollywood dancing, from western Sydney.
Kim is fascinated by the rich cultural milieu she has entered. She is enchanted by her wardrobe of soft colourful clothes, the tasty food, the rituals of song and offerings of flowers, her henna painted hands and the energy of the dances she is taught.
She is a princess with only one big worry. All of these kind people will never go to heaven without knowing Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile, Aakash misses his rich curries and the vibrancy of his culture. He is also flustered at the theological certainty shown by Kim’s friends. These evangelical young Anglicans assure him that he will go to hell if he does not know Jesus. Aakash is looking forward to going home.
In the second episode the switchers are a young Buddhist monk and a Maronite Catholic who coordinates the youth ministry in his church.
Freeman follows the teachings of the Tibetan line under the Dalai Lama. He has a similar warm humour and inquisitiveness as his Holiness often displays.
Freeman seems genuinely fascinated and quickly at ease with the ceremonies of a Maronite Catholic Church in Sydney.
But his switcher, youth ministry co-ordinator Anthony, is all-at-sea with the Queensland Buddhist retreat’s schedule of slow guided meditation, simple living and unfamiliar spiritual teachings. There is even a proselytising bent to his interactions with other seekers at the Buddhist monastery. “Each religion is a ray of truth, but Catholicism is the fullness of truth,” Anthony confidently declares.
In the final episode of Holy Switch Mobinah, a committed Muslim woman from Bonnyrigg in Sydney, switches lives with Jordane, a Jewish woman, recently returned to her home in Melbourne after a year on a kibbutz in Israel. The family spaces they enter into are very different to their own.
Jordane is an independent, modern woman who finds the daily rituals of early morning prayer and extended family life quite suffocating.
She is also thrown by a political meeting she attends which is in support of the rebels in Syria.
“I feel very uncomfortable here,” she declares.
Jordane is also missing out on the Jewish festival of Passover and, in her private evening cameo to camera, admits that she would “love a beer right now”.
Meanwhile, the peace and quiet of the Rabbi’s home in Melbourne seems like another world to Mobinah. However she eagerly watches as the Rabbi officiates at a wedding and a baptism and her camera captures it all with fascination.
Both young women agree that they thought they knew the other faith, but they have learned so much more in these two short weeks. “I am leaving a better Muslim than I came,” Mobinah says, nicely summing up the value of the whole exercise.
Uniting Through Faiths