Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Damned and the Saved

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tsunamis and War: is the end of days here? Has your soul been saved?

Well, to help you on your way, you can check out the guys mentioned here by Sepia Mutiny's Manish. Don't miss the discussion in the comments section - very interesting stuff.

Anyone familiar with the issue knows that there is a problem regarding Christian missionaries in India (for that matter there's a problem regarding Muslim preachers too, but let's table that one for another day shall we?). Upper class and upper caste hindus find Christian missionaries offensive and intrusive, Christian missionaries see themselves on a holy crusade and fascist Bajrang Dal thugs see all this as a good opportunity to burn people alive.

Now for the history: Christian missionaries have been coming to India for a long time and have done their fair share of good and bad. They set up schools and hospitals for the poor (and the rich - the top schools and colleges in the major metropolitan cities in India were invariably set up by Christian missionaries). They brought the ideas of equality of individuals, the benign nature of Divinity, and the notion of helping your fellow man regardless of social station. They also rubbished our traditions, undermined our social harmony, dismissed off-hand any wisdom in Indian religious traditions and acted as handmaidens of our imperial overlords, providing theological justifications for our continued subjugation.

So where does that leave us today? Well, India is a free country, so people have the right to proselytize and to convert. There's nothing really that the government should do to stop them. Our society however, should act like a mature one and adapt to a new situation. Christian missionaries today are backed by a lot of cash, zeal and infrastructure (television channels, global networks etc.). Just like the quality of clothing produced in India is expected to get better by competing with foreign brands, the quality of our ideas should be honed by the constant challenge brought by missionaries.

Defend your beliefs and you will understand them better. Also, accept whatever wisdom is provided by the new ideas and reject the baggage. I like that - there's something essentially Hindu to such a response.

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