The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Why should Benny Hinn pray for India? (Letter to Editor)

Publication: Deccan Herald
Date: January 20, 2005

Sir, Why make such a big fuss about Benny Hinn's Festival? What will happen if he blesses India? Will the problems of poverty, corruption, communalism be wiped off from this land? Moreover, he has made some derogatory remarks on other religions. On the other hand, we had Swami Vivekananda, who said 'just as all rivers join sea in the end, so also all religions lead to God" India also had king Ashoka who preached equality of all religions. According to him, Compassion is the basis of all religions. If he is a true humanist, he would have never spoken bad or made statements about other religions.

Some investigations in USA has proved that he is a fraud and he doesn’t possess any healing powers. He is cheating innocents and making huge money. One investigation even points out that he spends a lot on his personal security. Why does he need huge security arrangements , when he has healing powers?

When some people in USA, the most advanced country believe in him, what to say about India, where illiteracy and ignorance is widespread?

Moreover why should he pray for India? He should pray for USA for committing heinous crimes like war on Iraq and killing lakhs of people.

Same rules for all religions!

Sir, If the Binny Hinn's forthcoming visit to Bangalore had provoked a controversy, much of its blame has to be accepted by the media who had painted him as some sort of Godman or Healer.

The question is how Binny Hinn looks at himself? We can get a cue from his Prayer Meeting in New Delhi three months ago for a select group of Cabinet Ministers, Parliamentarians, Bureaucrats and Supreme Court Judges. The program was recorded by Binny Hinn Ministries and telecasted by God's Channel repeatedly in several occassions, much before the present controversy erupted. In this meeting Binny Hinn started his session with a starkling revelation " I can't heal even a fly". He went to clarify it was only God by His power who could heal and that power could be accessed by all for free by prayer.

The media also does not care to highlight the process behind Prayer Meetings like the Festival of Blessings. For more than six months, thousands of ordinary people had each day gathered at Jakkar Grounds (the venue of the meeting), fasting and praying that God unleash his mercy on the thousands who are expected to come to the meeting on the hope of getting healed. There are millions of Binny Hinn supporters around the globe, who also fast and pray daily for the same purpose.

Lastly, the Bible tells us that Jesus had promised that if 3-4 gather in His name, what is asked for will be given. Christians believe that the power of this promise will be upscaled if millions synchronized their prayers. In short, prayers are answered to individuals who have faith and not by Binny Hinn's supposedly miracleous powress. Accordingly, Binny Hinn within this understanding is hardly a healer, even if people gets healed at all in the prayer meetings he organizes. He is at best a catalyst that makes all this process possible.

Another misconception is that Binny Hinn declares people as healed. If one follows Binny Hinn televised programs, he does no such thing. It is people in the audience who declare themselves healed. It is possible that some get emotionally carried away and claim a healing when no such thing takes place. Others may deliberately fake a claim just to cast the organizers into disrepute. It is impossible for organizers of such mass prayer meetings to thoroughly investigate the claims of healing in except to treat claims at their face value, though they may later try to document evidence which may take several months, if not years.

The other misplaced charge is that the Festival of Bessings at an attempt of conversions. Even if it be the case, in the absence of coercion or inducement involved, what is the fuzz all about? India is a free country. As citizens, we all possess the right to make choices. In this case, we can choose either to attend or not attend such meetings, if it is perceived as designed as a conversion trap.

If Binny Hinn's meeting has to be banned for whatever reason, let it be a precedent and applied to all religious meeting to avoid discrimination from here on. If the forces that oppose Binny Hinn does so simply because he is a foreigner, let them in the same breadth call for a similar ban on overseas visits for the likes of Sri Sri Ravishankar, Mata Arutanandamayi etc. Otherwise it overtly smacks of hypocrisy and discrimination!
Rajan Alexander

Fallen prey to the fundamentalists

Sir, Your editorial "Faith Healing?" seemed to mock at all those believers and to draw outright conclusions that Benny Hinn is a quack!. If only all religions are put under scientific scrutiny and all belief systems sought be explained in scientific means, there would be no religion that would come out clean!. Knowingly or unknowingly you have hurt the sentiments of a section of your readers who hold Benny Hinn in esteem. While it’s true that he is controversial, your editorial just on the eve of his arrival in Bangalore was tantamount to a smear campaign and definitely not in the Indian ethos of welcoming a guest!.

While the participation of the Chief Minister and other government officials in their official capacity can be questioned as this is a religious function, no one can advice them not to participate in their individual capacities. The secular government simply has no business to be associated with this program except for facilitating and making sure proper protection is meted out to all attendees in view of the serious threats spelled out by fundamentalist and rogue elements in our society.

While the issue of pamphlets being circulated with objectionable material on Idol worship needs to be investigated and the culprits dealt with seriously for causing communal disharmony the suspicions regarding his mission of conversion are baseless and unfounded fears. Benny Hinn or even his pop cannot effect conversions on the intelligent Indians. Conversion is a matter of spirit and cannot be achieved by hypnosis or any other dubious means as his critics point out. If only this were true, the Church would have employed professional hypnotists!

Tens of thousands Christians and non-Christians, plan to gather in show of solidarity and pray for our country. Does this not hold a promise for communal amity and brotherhood in our strife torn society?. For once, have you fallen prey to the fundamentalists who always view the minorities with suspicion?.

Chezhiyan Anandaraj


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