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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Response to CSM Article "A New Breed of Missionary"

Bhalchandrarao C. Patvardhan
kurundwad@eth.net

Scott Baldauf’s balanced article made most refreshing reading indeed. However, Western thinking on the subject is usually fraught with typical misconceptions about India, especially its majority community, because our English language media habitually projects them to the world in particularly bad, misleading or surreal light. Had the author been privy to an unbiased and honest source for his information, the outcome might certainly have been more forthright than it is. Be that as it may, and while complimenting him, some points need to be addressed (and possibly set right) in the sequence they appear in the text, paragraph-by-paragraph, possibly at the risk of some repetition.

Biju Verghese is perfectly free, at least in pluralist India, to believe what he will, however illogical, archaic, anachronistic or ridiculous his beliefs may seem. Ideally, the state would not question his sanity merely on the basis of personal belief. It will only intervene if his faith-based activities tend to extend to those beyond himself and his immediate dependents and pose a threat to law, order, public health or morality of the larger community. By his own admission, however, he has no intentions of keeping his convictions restricted to his immediate circle, seeking instead to get the larger community to subscribe, “at any cost”, to the wild fantasies he shares with others of his ilk. In spite of sufficient reason for the state to take steps to curb evangelical enthusiasm, however, it is not doing what it ought in this direction, partly because of self-serving political compulsions of those running it and partly due to a laissez-faire attitude of an unruffled and fragmented majority. That he hasn’t a shard of evidence outside a heavily doctored document like the Bible to substantiate the imminence of doomsday seems to make no difference to all concerned. (It must be the height of gumption, one should think, to regard non-Christians by self-righteous epithets like “the unreached”.)

Incidentally, the “new breed of missionary” of which Verghese is part, is apparently so much more insidious and vicious than the older incarnation that even a fellow-evangelist like the recently late (and, if media comment is to be believed, also lamented) Pope John Paul II was obliged to launch a diatribe of condemnation. It was reported on the 16th of October 1992,

"Alas, Pope John Paul II has disserved himself by speaking ill-chosen words about evangelical Christian denominations. Addressing the Fourth Latin American Conference of Bishops in Santo Domingo, the pontiff portrayed these Protestants as `voracious wolves' menacing his Catholic flock. Evangelicals have made great inroads among Latin Catholics.”

It is largely a myth, especially in connection with underdeveloped regions of India like Jhabua, that the “Christian message” attracts converts, just as it is equally flawed to believe that “converts welcome the chance to free themselves from a low-caste status within Hinduism”. More implausible are the other two considerations forwarded as possible reasons for conversion, viz. “adding to … existing beliefs” and assertion of one’s freedom to choose religion.

The Christian message means virtually nothing to the deprived tribal (“80% in Jhabua”); the only message that - to him - is cause for greatest cheer is the certain prospect of a square meal which the evangelist promises. It is to the material content of the evangelist’s sales pitch that he opens his empty stomach; he utterly lacks both motivation and patience to lend an ear to the perfectly convoluted ‘spiritualism’ of eternal sin and redemption parroted by the missionary.

The second proposition about caste status is equally untenable because pre-conversion social stratification is observed to continue into post-conversion lifestyles with undiminished tenacity. Let alone laity, even the clergy is not free from it.

The third argument presumes the far-fetched existence of a kind of hobbyist – someone who fancies himself a ‘religion collector’ of sorts. No prizes for guessing how infinitesimally insignificant this number might be as a proportion of destitute sections of Hindu society most vulnerable to material evangelical sops! But for the appearance of this statement in a reputed journal like the CSM, it might merit to be summarily shunned out of hand (perhaps with even some amazement thrown in for good measure)!

The last reason proffered - assertion of one’s basic freedom of conscience – is much higher up in the scale of ‘hierarchy of motivation’ than basic wherewithal for survival, and might become a noticeable factor only after more basic needs of target populations are satisfied. None in Jhabua certainly, or elsewhere in India who have submitted themselves to evangelical guile, can justly be expected to evince motivations higher than those of bare survival!

The success of “recent Christian missionaries”, as stated earlier, could be attributed as much - if not more - to weak, pliable or non-existent political will at best, and an unwholesome and tacit state sponsorship at worst. The political system is afflicted by a post-Independence malady called ‘secularism’ in its worst muddled Nehruvian form, which condones openly injurious minority hostility and suppresses even perfectly legitimate, democratic majority activism. More unwilling than unable to recognize and concede that conversion necessarily leads to de-nationalization, every political party that tirelessly quotes Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar day in and day out, most conveniently omits what both those great men had to say about the perversion.

Paul McKenna had this to write about Gandhi:

“Indeed, Christian missionary efforts seemed to amount to a Europeanization and a denationalization of India. Gandhi saw little in the Christian missionary project that impressed him. And when he spoke to missionary groups (as he often did) he did not hesitate to tell them so. ‘Unfortunately, for the last 150 years, Christianity in India has been inextricably mixed up with British rule. It appears to us as synonymous with materialistic civilization and imperialist exploitation... Its contribution, therefore, has been largely of a negative character.’ ”

Quoting Dr. Ramteke, Dr. Arun Kumar Sinha writes about Dr.Ambedkar:

“Further, being a nationalist to the core of his heart conversion to Islam and Christianity for Ambedkar, would have meant denationalization of the scheduled caste people and contrary to national interest.”

However much one would wish to gloss over undeniably harmful effects of conversion, therefore, they are bound to create a “volatile - and at times violent - religious atmosphere”. The backlash of importunate missionary activity has of late assumed more severity because of a slow but sure awakening among Hindus to the real subversive intent of what is being decreasingly regarded as pure ‘service’. For this reason perhaps, evangelism has not remained as inexpensive as it probably once was when ‘faith in Christ’ was its own reward for preachers. The need for inducting stuntmen, conjurers, mercenaries and showmen in the conversion ‘industry’ had perhaps then not been felt because the victim, besides being extremely tolerant, was also blissfully unaware, indifferent and unwary. Things have changed considerably since. Need for newer methods and approaches is being increasingly felt. With lifestyles and operating costs of ‘televangelists’ and conjurers (a.k.a. ‘faith healers’, like Benny Hinn, for instance) to maintain and favorable media reportage to be bought, funding agencies must naturally feel the pinch. Hence the emphasis on quick harvesting of souls. ‘Time is Money’, after all!

By qualifying ‘some’ of the missionary work as “aggressive and unprincipled’, Ajai Sahni unwittingly exonerates the rest as indolent and noble. ALL direct missionary work is unprincipled and thus deplorable. Even as gentle a soul as Gandhi could not contain his disparagement, expressing it as graciously as he could:

“The great educational and curative institutions of Christian missions I also count amongst indirect results, because they have been established, not for their own sakes, but as an aid to proselytizing.”

He is also reported to have stated in an interview:

“If I had the power and could legislate, I should certainly stop all proselytizing” (1935)

Why ought one at all to tamper with the faith of another is something that beats reason. The preacher’s faith is as unproven and irrational as the victim’s. Both assume that his belief is the best. The only difference, however, is that while the victim considers his faith is best for himself, ungrudgingly leaving others to believe what they want, the preacher feels his faith is the best for ALL without distinction, and actually gets paid for holding and spreading the ludicrous principle.

According to an almost concerted international consensus on writing about the Gujarat riots of 2002, the golden rule to be observed is: ‘scrupulously and completely avoid every mention of the premeditated incident that sparked off those riots’. (Briefly stated, and for the information of those cleverly shielded from facts, a train that had just pulled out of the Godhra railway station was stopped a few miles away at a certain crossing, when a bogey carrying 58 Hindu passengers was locked from without and set alight by a mob of about 200, waiting in ambush for what was obviously a pre-planned operation. How else could so many persons materialize out of the blue at the spot some miles away from town at 7 in the morning equipped with material that was sufficiently volatile to fatally trap and incinerate people inside a railway bogey built mainly from uninflammable material like steel?) Without even attempting to condone, much less justify those riots, but on the contrary strongly condemning them, one cannot wish away the reality that it was a reaction of a people, traditionally known for characteristic equanimity and tolerance, who felt driven to the wall and decided that it was ‘thus far and no further’. The experience that a decrepit political system was eminently incapable of addressing and assuaging their anguish supplied additional impetus to the local Hindu for taking the law into his own hands. If “nearly 1,000 Muslims were murdered by their Hindu neighbors”, it was hardly because the latter were intolerant of religious diversity or had a particularly enviable track record of suddenly deciding one Sunday morning to go out in a hunting party and butcher some Muslims before lunch! It was entirely because those very neighbors had characteristically, deliberately and consistently, for longer than can be recalled, failed to conduct themselves as all ‘good’ neighbors ought. Unprovoked, premeditated incidents like Godhra have a long history and are almost the rule. Hindu reaction is the exception. So much for reporting Gujarat.

Another pet subject that is equally de rigueur in reportage about religious conditions in India is attacks on Christians. The general international ‘rule’ followed in this case is: cautiously avoid every mention of the missionary who provokes majority ire in the first place and consequently invites Hindu reaction. Every such report about “atrocities on Christians” is so replete with pathos that the classical Greek Tragedy might easily qualify as a Comedy! Even Indians, not to speak of others who read all those accounts in the domestic, leave alone the international press come away in tears as nervous wrecks, with the firm conviction that the community is faced with imminent and total annihilation! However, an objective and honest analysis of news, police as well as judicial reports will indicate how incorrect is the impression, mischievously created by sweeping and irresponsible pen pushing, that the Christian community as a whole is being persecuted. On the contrary, nowhere else in the world are minorities safer than they are in India. In fact, things have come to such a pass that it is the majority culture that is in dire need of special protection!

The Hindu is well aware by now that the doctrine and the religio-commercially motivated hierarchy propagating it is much more responsible for all the ongoing menace than any number of individual Christians, all of whom were in any case ensnared into the faith for every reason other than spiritual conviction. Unlike evangelical preoccupation with ‘increasing the flock’ with numbers of ‘believers’ (for which very reason Mother Teresa “encouraged members of her order to baptize dying patients”), the emphasis in Hindu tradition has always been on the ‘spirit’ and ways and means of ennobling and elevating it. The body, after all, is but an emblem of the mind. Thus, it is the Church and those working for the propagation of its feigned and outlandish spiritual (but extremely successful, imperialist) doctrines that is perceived as the ‘mind’ behind the subversion, and becomes the target of Hindu opposition. The lay Christian – the ‘body’ - is hardly touched, if ever at all. Nevertheless, misrepresentation has always worked well for fund-raising drives in a nominally Christian West, especially when the affluent US citizen, in his wisdom, just last year voted into power the so-called “Religious Right” that conjures up dreams of a theocracy in this day and age. So much for the First Amendment! It should surprise none that, so often in his speeches, President Bush himself even sounds so much like an inveterate preacher. Because it calls the shots globally, the US Administration has every motive and requisite gumption to unfairly accuse India of alleged religious rights violations. Bush speaks and the world sits up to jot down pearls of wisdom.

“Colonial Legacy”

That “invaders spread Hinduism through conquest” is the kind of news one had anxiously long waited to hear in connection with the meek and cowardly Hindu! The ‘straight pen’ with which Baldauf makes this remarkable statement is admirable for singular courage! Let him show his readers ONE SINGLE instance in history where Hinduism was spread by the sword. He can’t, because there is none. If the Hindu ever entertained expansionist desires, they were always cultural, not territorial, political or military, and were achieved through a handful of teachers - not armies of soldiers or preachers. True, “Religions on the Indian subcontinent have jostled with each other for millenniums (sic)”. But their reasons for giving battle were antipodal. Islam fought a long war (which it eventually lost quite comprehensively) against Hinduism for well over a millennium (8th - 18th Centuries) because it wanted to subdue and uproot Hindu culture from its native soil as it had done every other religion it had intimidated, be it Christianity in North Africa, Zoroastrianism in Persia or Budhhism in Afghanistan. On the other hand, Hinduism merely reacted militarily to an unprovoked aggression upon its own right of survival and equitable co-existence as a distinct civilization. War was not something Hinduism had wanted or invited. It was forced unwillingly, which it undertook with gusto and immense success entirely in legitimate self-defense.

As to why the education and the health care rendered by Christian missions cannot rightly be called “good works” as stated in the article, is quite another story. Suffice it to say, there is ample evidence (as also formidable opinion of people like Gandhi) to show the real, surreptitious intent of what is cleverly palmed off as altruistic activity.

Christian aggression on indigenous culture in underdeveloped areas and among destitute populations will continue to increase. So will the severity of Hindu resistance. Having nothing in its doctrine that even approaches Eastern thought systems in quality, content, depth, richness or diversity, evangelism can progress only through material bait held before the hungry eyes of a people impoverished mainly by several centuries of wanton religious, cultural, imperial and colonial avarice.

If “schools and other institutions set up by the missionaries were not primarily driven by the objective of conversion”, it was because the colonial master had employed a multi-faceted strategy to undermine indigenous vitality, and a quick overview of his methods would be quite in order.

The first was direct conversion – change the belief system and denationalize the population. Forcible conversion with military assistance had worked remarkably well with native populations in both the Americas and in Africa, but could scarcely be implemented in India because of the strong (even if somewhat disorganized and latent) decentralized Hindu cultural vigor. This strength again abundantly manifested itself during the 1857 “rebellion”, as mentioned in the article. It thus became necessary to entice people with a pretense of ‘egalitarianism’, ‘love’ and ‘care’ – concepts essentially alien to Christianity. In those days of poor communications, yield of this approach was meager, the number of preachers available for ‘God’s work was limited and, most importantly, open support from an avowedly ‘fair’ government was absolutely unthinkable.

The second strategy, which was slower but overcame many of the difficulties intrinsic to the first, sought to denationalize the Hindu by cunningly imparting a disdain for his heritage through schools set up under the new education policy. This took a generation or two to accomplish, but the results were scintillating. Accomplished scholars like Max Muller were hired to subtly establish superiority of Christianity and relative insufficiency of the numerous indigenous persuasions. The true nature of Max Mueller’s ‘scholarship’ may be judged from the following:

“Max Muller wrote to his wife (ref. Friedrich Max Muller, Life and Letters, Vol.1; London: Longmans, 1902, p328): 'This edition of mine and the translation of the Veda, will hereafter tell to a great extent on the fate of India and on the growth of millions of souls in that country. It is the root of their religion and to show them what the root is, I feel sure, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it during the last three thousand years." [emphasis mine]

‘Scholarship’ of the Max Muller variety also helped in another direction, complementing the main motive. By sanctifying untenable hypotheses through a show of scholarly research, Hindu society could be fragmented into smaller caste or ethnicity-based factions and pitted with greater ease, one against the other, to ensure general Hindu debility. The myth of the Aryan Invasion, the subsequent North-South divide and the vicious casteist politics of Ramaswamy Naicker are glaring examples of some of Macaulay’s ‘achievements’. With the government discreetly pitching in with this groundwork, it is not surprising that traditional missions were left unhindered to concentrate on health care as a front for their essential conversion work. Staines was just one of the hundreds of his kind that strut around the Indian countryside doing the ‘Lord’s Work’ as defined and planned out for Him by the Church. (Perhaps, the Lord Himself is not aware of how unrecognizably the Church has twisted the meaning of ‘His Work’, and one wonders how astonished He would be if ever He finds out!) The extreme cultural provocation that Staines’ plainly offensive activities supplied to the otherwise peaceful, even docile Hindu may be estimated from the gory manner of the missionary’s death. (Some reports of the time even mentioned his past lapses into willful violation of financial and weapons laws.) By the way, Gladys Staines was awarded the Padma Shri Award, which is NOT the highest Civilian Decoration as incorrectly stated in the article; the ‘Bharat Ratna’ is. (Frankly, even a doctrinally sympathetic Sonia Gandhi might have needed to lapse into her native Italian to explain the award of the Bharat Ratna to Ms.Staines!)

An attempt of a slightly different kind but with similar objectives was made a few years ago by another ‘scholar’, James Laine, through a book, ‘Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India’. Essentially a teacher of religion, he blundered into history, and sparked off untold turmoil in sociology and politics of the Maharashtra region early last year! Probably because his training / current placement as a student / teacher of religion had numbed his ability to distinguish between fact and fiction, he included in his thesis what might be rejected as inadmissible material without another thought. The obvious aim of the enterprise was twofold. One, deconstruct the exalted image of Shivaji that transcends every conceivable distinction existing in Maharashtrian society. Two, create a schism between the so-called ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ castes by implying that the ‘real Shivaji story’ had been commandeered to serve the interests of the former class. The second objective was partly achieved through the resulting vandalization of an institute for oriental research in Pune perceived by miscreants as a ‘hotbed’ of upper caste scholars and so deserving of their severe attention. But Laine may be said to have bitten off a trifle more than he could chew on the first score (as the contents of our response will show)! The point to note with concern is: attempts to interfere with mischievous intent in the internal affairs of India are still underway through innocent-looking scholarship.

Another effective tool employed to fragment Hindu society was the census, and ‘state-approved’ religious and social classification made with the ostensible purpose of facilitating that administrative exercise.

In this connection especially, and also generally, it needs to be understood and appreciated that ‘Hinduism’ is not a ‘religion’ in any sense of the word, in that it does not claim a single prophet, single book or universally prescribed modes of religious observance the way many world religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam do. It is a conglomerate of myriad philosophies that developed in response to needs of clime and time. Its emphasis on individualism guarantees to everyone perfect liberty of choosing the persuasion that best suits his intellect and condition. Hence we find great divergence between the religiosity of Hindus belonging to different parts of India. This notwithstanding, all of them are no less Hindu than others despite these manifest differences. Of the six traditionally accepted schools of indigenous Indian thought, known as the ‘shatdarshans’ or six philosophies, three do not make even belief in God a pre-condition for spiritual development! As a consequence of this unique feature, one may be an atheist and Hindu at the same time. This unique characteristic of Hinduism becomes difficult to understand and appreciate due to established norms of academic and intellectual pursuit. If the tribal Hindu worships animals and trees instead of the more ‘formal’ Gods of the Indian pantheon, it does not make him non-Hindu by any stretch of the imagination because ‘belief’, per se, has never been Hinduism’s concern – outlook and conduct always has. This is quite the opposite of prophet-based monotheisms, especially of the Biblical variety, where ‘belief’ is the paramount concern, everything else being subordinate. It is this paramountcy of faith over human reason and humaneness that has been the greatest cause and perpetrator of human misery. However, that is beside the point we are currently addressing, but was a necessary aside on account of an accretion of incorrect conceptions about Hinduism.

Mr. Sahni ought to first make it clear to himself that “Hindu nationalists” are not involved in “conversion activity” that “has grown more intense”. They are either preventing further evangelically devised de-nationalization, or are engaged in bringing back to their traditional fold those who had been forced by circumstances to submit to missionary machinations. They do not receive foreign funds, nor do they enjoy clandestine support from governments the way evangelists do. On the contrary, Hindu nationalist activity actually faces severe discrimination even from the Indian state. Secondly, before making inane statements like, “adivasis, or tribal citizens, ….. have long practiced a religion predating Hinduism” let Mr.Sahni tell us at precisely what point in history, according to him, Hinduism commenced as a religion. If even an ‘educated’ Hindu holds such muddled notions about his heritage, less said the better about others!

In recent years, even those leading comparatively more comfortable lives in larger Indian towns, which makes them less susceptible to material bait, have been at the receiving end of “aggressive” missionary attention. As such, the quality and intensity of the missionary’s work with underprivileged rural populations may well be imagined. Statistics about ‘church planting’ or prospective plans as quoted by Varghis might be exaggerated, but not by much.

“Speaking in Tongues, Miracles”

Baldauf’s comment about the video (in which P.G.Varghis of the IET is most probably seen spinning yarns about Christian Love and hysterically frothing at the mouth over apocalyptic fixations) shows that the missionary does not even feel the need any more for disguising his real intentions! A certain Cardinal Francis Arinze (who, incidentally, is one of media’s bets for the now-vacant papacy) must be admired for a forthright statement he is reported to have made a few years ago:

“The Church's primary mission is evangelization. Has the Church anything else to do? No. Evangelization is central to the mission of the Church. The task of evangelizing all people constitutes the central mission of the Church. The Church has no other assignment. If Catholics today won souls at the rate that the early Christians did as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Father would very soon have to close down the Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue because there would be nobody left to talk to.” (‘The Examiner’ of October 18, 1997, quoted)

A web page providing details about the current status of some 788 plans for world evangelization from the year 30 C.E. to 1988 may be accessed by anyone looking for cheap entertainment! It bears the hilarious title,

“Monday Morning Reality Check
Inform! Remind! Persuade! 1.1 billion people have yet to hear the Good News”

and appears to have been constructed in all seriousness. Who in his right mind would even think of engaging in such a weird study unless principals who felt a need for the tabulation paid him well for it? The new initiative in all its hi-tech forms is but another in a long series of campaigns to amass funds intended to be used for religious conquest of the generally trusting and tolerant populations in Asian countries like India. Pope John Paul II’s Ecclesia in Asia needs no reading between the lines to estimate the utter ruin the Church intends for the Christianity-free world. All of its untenable claims about the historicity, mission, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, upon the prevalence of which alone Christianity stands or falls, are now on the verge of being debunked by inconvenient discoveries like the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the West, depleting parishes, ever-rising average ages of priests, decreasing Church attendances and emergence of ‘alternate’ philosophies show how seriously people truly feel about the faith. As if the ludicrous doctrine wasn’t appalling enough for thinking populations in traditionally Christian countries, exposure of the clergy’s active involvement in every kind of ‘sin’ from money laundering, drug dealing, overthrowing governments to homosexuality and even pedophilia are providing urgent cause for public indignation and disillusionment. While the Vatican is no stranger to intrigue and murder, one might have thought it had outgrown the penchant in this day and age. But suspicion abounds that John Paul I may actually have been murdered in 1978 for the various measures he was proposing to initiate for extricating the Vatican from utter disrepute. With its credibility as a force for good at an all-time low, the only hope of survival that the Church can entertain now is by subverting the “vast and vital continent” of Asia, and manipulating limitless tolerance and abject indigence of teeming millions of the “unreached” to its advantage. In reality, the “great harvest of faith” about which the late Pope wrote in that conceited document (which he had the temerity to issue while he was yet enjoying Hindu hospitality on Indian soil), has nothing even remotely to do with spiritualism. It is a last ditch attempt at brute survival, no more no less!

“A Call for Dollars”

Baptists, or other “aggressive” groups, are not the only denomination responsible for using indigenous tradition for the perversion called conversion. The Vatican issued an offensive greeting to Hindus in the year 1999, which upset even the Indian Christian clergy, when no entreaty had been made to the Vatican for a homily, just as India can do perfectly well without dubious ‘spirituality’ marketed by the missionary. Besides stating that Diwali was based on “ancient mythology” (implying that the no less untenable Pauline myth of ‘Jesus Christ’ was historical fact) and making superlative claims for its doctrine, it said:

“The Christian faith also is essentially built on fundamental openness to the Transcendent. The mystery of Jesus Christ reveals fully the religious nature of the human person. The Christian faith presents Jesus as the ultimate fulfilment of the human heart's restless searching: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known" (John 1:1 8).

“In the person of Jesus Christ, God is revealed to humanity. "Jesus does not in fact merely speaks 'in the name of God' like the Prophets, but he is God himself speaking in his Eternal Word made flesh." (Pope John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 6). This is why Christians throughout the world will soon be celebrating the Year 2000 as the Yesu Christa Jayanti. This occasion is a suitable moment to reflect together on the human family's common pilgrimage and to seek ways of ensuring a future of peace and solidarity among all people.” [emphasis mine]

A greeting card like this might require the undivided services of a crypto analyst to be comprehended by even a reasonably well-read recipient, just as an encoder was most probably also needed for drafting it! (If so dense and tortuous a ‘philosophy’ makes any sense at all to some gifted reader, I should be grateful to hear from him.)

“Hindu Activists mobilized”

Returning to the article, by separate treatment of tribals as ‘animists’ in census counts, that section of the population was cleverly defined as non-Hindu. As an unfortunate consequence of that far-sighted British initiative, it becomes necessary today for a Ram Shankar Chanchal Trivedi to emphatically state what otherwise ought to be beyond any doubt: “Adivasis are Hindus”.

Both Trivedi and Bhuriya are correct in anticipating dangerous outcomes of conversion activity, but from differing viewpoints. Trivedi is worried for those who would unwittingly fall prey through material temptation to Christian evangelical machinations and subsequently contribute to augmenting the nation’s woes. Bhuriya is worried that the “Hindu right” would increase in efficacy to further thwart the masterfully planned de-nationalization process marked out for him by his employers, thereby costing him his job and, if he is too much of a stickler for quick evangelism, possibly even his life. After all there is no telling how many Dara Singhs a threatened and cornered Hindu society may be capable of throwing up!

A church not interested in conversions is no church at all (see Arinze, below), and what Bhuriya says to his Hindu friends about “drawing a line between good churches that serve and bad churches that are only interested in conversion” is so much balderdash. Either the Hindu friends are very, very stupid or Bhuriya is very, very clever. The fact that he has opted for a professional career in conversion tips the scales in favour of the first alternative.

Verghese is correct in stating that “all the best schools, the best hospitals, are run by missionaries”, echoing the first part of Gandhi’s estimation of the indirect benefits of missionary activity (see above). But to say, “the moment Christian missionaries leave, their social development will stop” is conceited. As Gandhi said seventy years ago, again in connection with indirect missionary benefits, ‘it has forced us to put our own house in order’, meaning that Hindu society is becoming alive to the neglect, needs and aspirations of those existing in a condition of helpless indigence. The state, many corporates as well as voluntary organizations, big and small, are today actively engaged in matching the work of missions, service for service. And these are growing in volume and reach. Perhaps it may take a while longer than otherwise, but at least the work will be done for its own sake and not with the aim of proselytizing.

“Hindu Nationalist Outreach”

Why speak of Christians, most Hindus will also “agree that the Hindu reaction against Christian missionaries is more deeply rooted in economics than in religion”. The reason ought be obvious to anyone who is able to see through the façade of ‘goodness’ into the entrails of the Christian doctrine and its two millennia old blood-soaked history. The whole ‘religious’ sham is essentially hard economics. Conversion of entire populations on industrial scales, territorial conquests, annihilation of native cultures – at times to their last vestige, colonization, including the latest - globalization, all have just one base objective: economics and commerce at others’ expense. ‘God’ is nominated on the board of directors of the business enterprise via the fabrication called ‘His only Son’ to evoke sufficient ‘religious zeal’ among Christian soldiers to plunder without inconvenient moral compunctions. With prime real estate holdings throughout the free world and international business interests in innumerable profitable commercial undertakings, the description of the Church as ‘Poor’ (a popular theme, by the way) must certainly qualify for inclusion in Guinness Book of Records as the ‘misnomer of all time’! It is but natural, therefore, that the Hindu will also be concerned more with economics when reacting to evangelism. After all, although Latin might be the language of the Christian scripture, lucre is the only language the evangelist understands.

If the Hindu has begun to regard the past unfair treatment of tribals with due concern and is now committing himself to its correction by providing education, creating opportunities, encouraging involvement in the democratic process and other measures, he must not just be lauded but also actively encouraged. At least the tribal will be saved from unwholesome de-nationalization. Instead, the approach has sadly been one of looking askance at the long needed and welcome development. And this is incomprehensible.

===

As a final word, the concept of Hindutva has suffered great distortion at the hands of both its promoters and detractors because many have really not bothered to find out precisely what it means. Suffice it to state, the concept is nothing more nor less than a political statement founded on the democratic principle of ‘one man one vote’. And it must be emphasized that it has nothing even remotely to do with a ‘Hindu’ theocracy, because nothing of the description exists. Even in the heyday of indigenous rule, the king may well have been Hindu, Jain or Budhhist by personal persuasion, but the ‘state’ he administered was entirely free of religious or sectarian nuances so that every other religion was given equal opportunity to co-exist. However, if the inclusion of the root ‘Hindu’ in the word inspires horror and indignation in the minds of the ‘correctly secular’ among us, we ought to remember that Hinduism, in spite of the best efforts of missionary and mullah alike, still happens to be the way of life followed by a vast majority of Indians. Even keeping aside for a moment the ideological content of Hindutva, which in any case is strictly democratic, we need to appreciate that even by nomenclature, the concept ought not to seem any more theocratic or less democratic than political parties flaunting names like ‘Christian Democrats’ or ‘Muslim League’, that evidently enjoy willing acceptance globally. Why single out Hindutva for censure?

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