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, August 08, 2006

Save Our Souls Incorporated

by ASH05 blogs on Sulekha

I went for my haircut on the afternoon of December 24. My hairdresser is a friendly middle-aged Chinese lady. Around the time she had the clippers close to my neck just below the ear, she asks, “You are Christianaah, Sir?” I have known her for close to five years now, and the topic never came up. I was a little surprised but told her I am not. I was curious why she asked that question. She says, “Most young people these days aah, they become Christian. Many Indians and Chinese lah!”

I probed further. “Why, do you see many coming to your place becoming Christian?”

She laughs. “No lah! Come to my shop and become Christianaah?”

She continues, “Many young people these daysaah, they want to be modern lah! So become Christianaah! My nephew also go to Church now. Don’t know aah, these days…young people… they want to be modern lah…” It trailed off, whatever she wanted to say further.

I tipped her the customary dollar, and just before I stepped out reminded her that Lee Kuan Yew, one of the most modern minded men around is not a Christian. But there is an element of truth in what she said. The self-hating Asian wants to be known as David Xi, the ridiculous Aloysius Ping, and the comical Sylvester Selvam, or even Tweety Bird Nagaratnam but not Dandapani Gunasegaran. It is not just a name change. Not like the guy in the Chinese Buffet on Main Street that all grad students go for take-aways. “Hi, my name is Alan,” he says acclimatizing himself to the American milieu, hiding his parents’ earthbound pots and pans. No, not like that. What we see a wholesale transformation. Transformation to the extent that they make it a point to condemn or ridicule Buddhism and Hinduism.

They do feel modern and let that slip out in an unguarded moment. It is not necessary that the fellow’s economic status goes up. He just feels hip, and he finds that some visiting Americans or Europeans are taking an interest in him. He shed that old despicable skin, and now he feels completely white inside and yellow or brown only on the outside. Salvation! But reach into his heart and scratch that paint, you can clearly see shades of yellow, dark brown and pitch black. The painful awareness that all he is doing is putting on an act, satisfying himself for the moment but with the knowledge that he will never be white enough. I could bring up my children to be white, he tells himself. No more Chinese or Tamil. Mummy and Daddy talk in English to you from now on, okay? (Kid grows up to ridicule his father’s Chinese accent!). The patterns are the same. Identical as we would see in the great land of secularism.

My hairdresser is a devout Buddhist, and I know that. But I do not know for how much longer. My wife’s colleague, a third generation Singaporean, comes to the temple alone. She is single all right, and she looks after an ageing mother. The mother converted about ten years ago. So the father is a Hindu, the mother is a Christian, the brother is a drunk who repairs cars, and this girl is a devout Hindu who has to go to the Perumal temple every week. I see families riven apart as a senior or junior member is hijacked by the Soul Savers Incorporated. I had (had) a colleague who was so proud of his William name, he would frown if any of us called him by his Chinese name. He did not attend his father’s funeral because the old man wanted to be cremated in line with tradition. Our man does a lot of Church work, you know! Cremation is against my faith, lah! So I did not go!

Fortunately in Singapore, some sensible people recognized that if evangelicals can convert, Buddhists also should be allowed proselytize; so can Hindus. As long as they register. Only Jehovah’s witnesses are banned (they were asked to testify what they witnessed, and the guys started saying I was peeping into the bathroom kind of stuff). So are ISKCON under the weirdo clause of the constitution.

Why am I writing all this? Good Question.

There is a perception in India that caste system is chiefly responsible for the conversions. To some extent it is correct. But it does not tell the whole story. When you look at the Soul Saver Hordes invading Southeast Asia, you realize that these people are out to hijack souls for UNOHU, and not to save people from their misery. The Asian Tigers and the Chinese prospered by remaining Buddhists or Taoists. They did not need these guys. They have a good family life, and a decent social life, each according to his or her means. Meanwhile, the Mormons, the Tabernacles, the Burn-in-Hell Born Agains descend on the continent to tear apart the stable social fabric in the name of God. Not to forget of course, the Boy-bum brigade.

It is when you see what is happening in this part of the world, you realize that the motive has always been anything but holy. It is their intent to make you feel miserable about yourself, and make you even more miserable for the rest of your one short life by inducing more guilt, and cement the gaps if parents made any mistake of not filling some gaps here and there. According to these characters, happiness and having a life are sure ways to be miserable in life.

For New Year’s, I descended on my unsuspecting parents. Walking down the street in Hyderabad that evening, I see two white boys (I guessed as much; they were Mormons) conversing with a polite couple. Husband and wife listened to them, were politely nodding their heads to the invitation to attend service. Of course, they won’t. I know that because I know them. I was tempted to approach those two boys and give them a sermon myself. But left it at that. Now, most of you know Mormons. They are probably the best of the lot in America. Compared to the Baptist, anyone is an angel. Most Mormons are tolerant and open minded. At least the ones I knew. But they are also all men with a past. A past in Peru, La Paz, Angola, and now in Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Hyderabad. Perhaps the ones I knew benefited from that exposure for two years in the Andes as they reached new heights of ecstasy without having to know Him.

The couple they were talking to in Hyderabad did not need any saving from the clutches of the caste system. Well, they sort of needed that because they are upper caste, and may miss out on a few things if the state government introduces reservations for Christians also.

I said the couple “will” not give in. On second thoughts, I will change that to “may”. I was thinking of the time when Jehovah’s knocked on the door of my friend’s apartment. This guy was doing post-doc and came with his wife. This was mid-90s. Wife stayed home. The brigade comes in, and she receives them in good humor, listens to them, and politely says, “I know you are doing good. Let my husband come back. I will talk to him.” She did not know how to say No, get your weird asses out of here. The pressure was too much. At once, they said, no need to wait for your husband. We will baptize you right away in the bathtub. She at last got scared enough to scream, and a couple of Indian neighbors came in and rescued her. THIS IS A FACT.

So, friends, Let us put paid to this nonsense that these guys are out to do any good. They do it for themselves because the fools believe that every soul poached is one extra point with Peter. They are in a living hell for some illusory heaven they mortgaged their lives for, and they want you and me too dragged into it. Ah, by the way, there is also this small matter of a few billions of dollars in it. High time we tell them what they are since they do not know what they are. But we Indians, we know what we are!

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