Uncle Sam is indirectly funding religious conversion in India – Rupa Subramanya

Rupa Subramanya“If the US government doesn’t act to change its policy stance, there may well be a policy reaction by the current Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government has already put under the scanner foreign funds flowing into environmental NGOs which it believes are detrimental to the country’s economic development. If dissatisfaction with large foreign funds supporting large-scale Christian proselytisation continues to grow, it’s conceivable that the Indian government may restrict or at least scrutinise such inflows as well.” – Rupa Subramanya

Barack ObamaAre church and state really separate in the United States? And how does that affect US foreign relations with countries such as India?

An unsettled and ongoing debate in the area of foreign development assistance concerns the extensive role played by faith-based organisations (FBO). In the US context, in particular, FBOs have been heavily involved in the delivery of both domestic social and foreign development assistance activities funded by the US government. On the foreign front in particular, the involvement of FBOs is seen by its proponents as a projection of US soft power in the area of foreign policy.

Despite uncertainty about whether it is even constitutional, given the US First Amendment’s “establishment clause” separating church and state, FBOs have played an important role, starting during the administration of President Bill Clinton, carrying through that of George W Bush in a significant way and continuing into that of Barack Obama.

USAIDOne of the principal avenues through which FBOs receive taxpayer support is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Indeed, several major US-based FBOs, which receive USAID funds, are active in India in a big way.

An obvious concern is that when explicitly religious organisations are funded by tax dollars, what happens if those organisations are tempted to use the funds for proselytising activity rather than just the intended humanitarian or charitable purpose?

In theory, this is not supposed to be an issue. USAID has strict rules which prohibit FBOs from using government funds to engage in proselytising or other explicit religious activities. But this is problematic for at least two reasons. First, nothing prevents an FBO from quickly transitioning from a humanitarian activity such as disaster relief to evangelising to the same group of people — and such activity is widely reported. Second, as monies are fungible, the fact that FBOs receive government support means that they can transfer money away from humanitarian activity toward proselytising, and still come out ahead financially.

Human Life InternationalIn Africa, American evangelical Christian groups (some funded by the US government, others not) have brought not just humanitarian assistance and a proselytising mission, but have an explicit agenda to promote socially conservative values, such as opposition to abortion and homosexuality. Here in India, Human Life International, a far right Catholic group that is against a woman’s right to choose and is widely seen as anti-Semitic and homophobic has established a centre in Goa, which was inaugurated in 2011 and praised to the hilt by former Congress minister Eduardo Faleiro.

Samaritan's PurseOne of the most important and controversial American evangelical organisations active in Africa and India and which receives substantial US government support is Samaritan’s Purse. Headed by the influential evangelical leader Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham, the organisation has received support from both Republican and Democratic presidents — despite their support for anti-homosexual and anti-abortion rights around the world. Franklin Graham also said made no secret of his disdain for other religions. After visiting India as a young person, he spoke of “hundreds of millions of people locked in the darkness of Hinduism… bound by Satan’s power”.

Operation Christmas ChildSamaritan’s Purse has also encountered controversy with “Operation Christmas Child“, which is active in India and elsewhere. The program gives shoebox gifts, packaged in the US and other western countries by donors and distributed to needy children in the developing world. These boxes contain toys, clothes and other accessories and are accompanied by bibles and invitation to learn the Gospel and the Christian faith. Samaritan’s Purse’s own promotional video shows young children in India being presented with gifts, starting to attend church as a result, and then converting to Christianity.

As Samaritan’s Purse’s shoebox gifts makes clear, proselytisation takes many forms and is an increasingly sophisticated and savvy enterprise. It’s much more than the traditional modus operandi of a missionary going to a backward community with a loaf of bread in one hand and a bible in the other.

Business SevaTake Partners Worldwide, another recipient of US government money which is active in India through an Indian NGO, Business Seva. They’re a Christian network devoted to a “business as mission” (BAM) model, which sees business activity not just as profit-making but as an avenue for evangelising. One of their success stories in India is Olive Technology, an IT company based in the southern city of Hyderabad.

Olive TechnologyThe company offers bible lessons and other support services for their Christian employees and provides IT support to other Christian missionary organisations. The company’s founder suggests that Christians ought to be “overt and zealous” in the public expression of their faith, with the BAM model being one avenue for doing this.

While the opacity of funding arrangements would make it difficult or impossible to prove that US taxpayer money has directly supported evangelical activity, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that US-funded FBOs such as Samaritan’s Purse and Partners Worldwide are heavily proselytising in India, quite apart from whatever humanitarian or charitable work they may be doing. And this is leaving aside all of the non-government funded US-based evangelical organisations active in India, which don’t even have to maintain the pretence of separating humanitarian from evangelical work.

Rajnath SinghThis sort of activity, blending charity and Christian evangelism, has aroused the concern of the Indian government. “Can social service not be performed without resorting to conversion and will any country allow changes to its demographic character?” asked India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently while addressing a government commission charged with protecting the rights of minorities in India.

As it happens, such concerns are not new. Because of India’s history of almost two centuries of British colonial rule, Christian missionaries have been extremely active in the sub-continent long before independence in 1947. Indeed, Mahatma Gandhi himself expressed a similar sentiment before India’s independence, when he said, “I hold that proselytising under the cloak of humanitarian work, is to say the least, unhealthy. It is most certainly resented by the people here.”

Quite apart from the distaste that people may feel for proselytisation piggybacking on top of humanitarian work is the very India-specific issue that the country’s majority religion, Hinduism, is along with Judaism, the world’s only major non-proselytising religion, which creates an unlevel playing field when confronted with aggressively proselytising faiths such as Christianity and Islam. That, in turn, has fuelled a debate on whether the central government ought to pass legislation to restrict conversion (some Indian states already do).

Nepalese ChildrenIndeed, concerns about Christian proselytisation have recently flared up in neighbouring Nepal, which until recently was a Hindu kingdom in which conversion was not allowed. After a secular constitution came in 2007, there was an influx of Christian missionaries and apparently a sharp rise in the Christian population, provoking a backlash from the majority Hindu, Buddhist and Kiranta (a blend of animism, Hinduism and Buddhism) communities.

At present, the backlash against widespread Christian proselytisation in places like Nepal and India is largely localised, but one cannot rule out the prospect of a serious blowback on the United States.

Advocates of the use of FBOs as soft power tools of US foreign policy, such as President Obama and various scholars, have stressed that FBOs with ties to local religious organisations may be less intrusive than official US government intervention as administered directly by USAID. But this misses the fact that US FBOs active in India and elsewhere carry considerable baggage, namely the evangelical mission itself, which in reality is their self-proclaimed raison d’être.

The Indian experience with FBOs such as Samaritan’s Purse and Partners Worldwide, to name just two discussed here, suggests strongly that the next US president, whichever party he or she may belong to, ought to seriously reconsider the way that the US government supports FBOs working overseas.

Prof Lee MarsdenDespite being couched as support for FBOs broadly, the reality is that under Presidents Bush and Obama, this has really meant supporting Christian organisations to the exclusion of almost all others. According to Lee Marsden, a professor of international relations at the University of East Anglia in the UK, and a critic of the role of FBOs in US foreign policy, the first five years of the Bush presidency saw only two out of 159 major grants to FBOs being awarded to Muslim organisations, despite the large number of projects being undertaken during this period in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Marsden documents that this trend has continued into the Obama administration, with very few US-based Muslim organisations receiving any USAID funding. Marsden’s research corroborates a year-long Boston Globe investigation which found that USAID grants heavily favoured evangelical groups engaged in proselytisation overseas.

This is to say nothing of Hindu, Buddhist or other non-Christian FBOs which simply aren’t in the picture.

If the US government doesn’t act to change its policy stance, there may well be a policy reaction by the current Indian government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The government has already put under the scanner foreign funds flowing into environmental NGOs which it believes are detrimental to the country’s economic development. If dissatisfaction with large foreign funds supporting large-scale Christian proselytisation continues to grow, it’s conceivable that the Indian government may restrict or at least scrutinise such inflows as well.

Chiristian Aid MissionIt’s noteworthy that the principal concern of one US-based Christian charity, Christian Mission Aid, which funnels money into India for proselytisation, is not the alleged persecution of the Christian minority in India but rather the concern that the flow of foreign funds into India might stop and therefore jeopardise their evangelical mission.

Either way, it seems unlikely that the status quo is sustainable, and irrespective of what countries such as India do, it’s in the US national interest to revisit the use of FBOs as a tool of foreign and development policy.

Going forward, either grants to FBOs should be genuinely inclusive, and widely engage non-Christian FBOs, or the next administration should seriously consider turning the clock back to the days in which the makers of US foreign policy and development assistance took seriously the First Amendment. – FirstPost, 27 March 2015

» Rupa Subramanya is an author and economist based in Mumbai. Follow her on Twitter @rupasubramanya

World Vision India

Evangelism abetted by Christian principal in a Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam college – IndiaFacts Staff

Dr M. D. Christopher

SVU College of Arts, Tirupati“Until Hindus take back their temples, it is advisable not to donate to Government-controlled temples. If Hindus really wish to donate, then they will be better served by donating it to a Hindu organization which really cares for Hindu causes and the Hindu community.” – IndiaFacts Staff

The Principal of the Sri Venkateshwara Arts College who goes by the name of Dr M. D. Christopher has been accused by the students of college and various student organizations that he is aiding Christian proselytization. If one looks at the happenings at the SV Arts College in the recent months, there is a strong possibility that this allegation is indeed true.

Evangelist literature is being distributed to students in the college campus. The manner in which the evangelist books are distributed is quite alarming and would not have been possible without the helping hand of the college administration. The students of the hostel are specially targeted for this soul harvest. Evangelical books and other literature arrived in a postal package and were addressed to each student by his name and they were in fact delivered to his room in the hostel. The students say that such distribution of books has happened many times over.

Students allege that complaints about this missionary activity to the Principal  and TTD officials have fallen on deaf ears. The students of the college directly point fingers at the Principal. The Principal has appointed to his staff a person named Rajkumar. Rajkumar is alleged to have given out the names and addresses of the students to the missionary organization distributing the literature. In spite of repeated complaints, no action was taken by the Principal. The Principal is also accused of appointing non-Hindu staff. A complete report (from TV9 Telugu) on this incident can be found here.

SVU College of Arts, TirupatiVandalism at Sri Venkateshwara Arts College

The walls of SV Arts College were painted with portraits of freedom fighters, poets and kings a couple of years back for the World Telugu Conference. The students and the local community over there were maintaining it well and keeping a watch to ensure that there were no posters/bills pasted on them.

However, a couple of days ago, miscreants disfigured these portraits by placing a Christian cross mark on the faces of the luminaries. Even the much celebrated Sri Krishnadeva Raya of the Vijayanagar empire was not spared from this crude expression of superiority of faith.

The College already facing the brunt of missionaries boiled again with student and religious organizations taking up protests. Whether this was done by mischief mongers or by Christians will perhaps be revealed in an investigation but the blame again has to be placed primarily on the shoulders of the college Principal and TTD for not keeping such vandalism in check especially when this very College with same Principal has been in the eye of storm for the past few months for missionary activities. The complete report (from NTV) on the vandalism at SV Arts College can be viewed here.

YSR taking communion from a Christian priest.TTD: Trojan Horse and a symbol of secular Government tyranny

During the YSR and Kiran Kumar Reddy-led Congress rule in Andhra, the state witnessed evangelism on a massive scale. The TTD too was not spared. There were reports in the Telugu media about the employment of Christians in TTD. Due to public outrage, a Government order was also issued directing the TTD to have only Hindus on its payroll. Swami Paripoornananda of Sri Peetam, Kakinanda had to protest again as the order was never implemented.

A Christian pastor was recently apprehended by the police after making a video of him along with his comrades visiting Tirumala and calling the Hindus as devil worshippers. The TTD staff have repeatedly failed miserably to stop such incidents. On many occasions, missionaries used to distribute evangelist material openly but the TTD was utterly inefficient in stopping this vulturesque preying on Hindus.

First, the TTD should not have hired a Christian principal or any staff it a college run by it. After reports and strong evidence of support for evangelism by this Principal, it should have dismissed the Principal. On the contrary it asked the police to lathi-charge the protesting students.

The reason for this incapacity of the TTD is because it is subject to political influence and appointment of people to positions including the Endowment / Executive Officer are appointed by the ruling party. How can the Hindu community be served if the administration is not seen as a service of the Divine but as a career option?

Many Hindus are not aware of the fact that several prominent temples including TTD which gets thousands of crores as revenue are taken over by various state governments and the most of the revenue goes to the state treasurer. This is the reason one sees many hundis placed all over precincts of Government controlled temples. Many mindless rituals are done just to extract money from the devotees worldwide. The TTD has become a master at selling tickets to various redundant rituals and utsavams.

This Government control of temples is a throwback to the colonial past where the Christian British and Muslims Kingdoms used to take over the revenue generated from temples as tax. It was also a mechanism to hurt the Hindus in terms of demography. Donations made by devotees which would have gone to the development of the poorest of the community went to a foreign colonizer. At the same time, the British government planted several Christian missions across the country which targeted the same poorer section of the Hindu demographic that would have gained benefits from the donations made to temples.

State Institute of Temple AdministrationNearly seven decades after Independence, the pattern has not changed. Secular state governments have taken over several Hindu temples, the Community’s money is looted by the government—money, which is supposed to protect the right to practice and propagate the Hinduism, one of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. Hindus live in an independent and secular country but their fundamental right to freedom is severely curtailed. How is the Hindu community supposed to take care of its poorest when the community’s hard earned money is taken away from it?

The Christian community which has a huge proselytizing mission with massive funds backing it, has extensively benefited in Andhra and elsewhere as they have targeted the poor amongst the Hindus for conversions. They have gained massively in demographics due to this tyranny perpetrated on the Hindus. A foreign religion is being given such massive advantage over a native religion which swears by nationalism and deep-rooted philosophical and spiritual traditions spanning thousands of years. How long will it be before India becomes another Philippines or a South Korea, nothing more than a Christian outpost of the West.

Imagine the number of schools, colleges, hospitals and other institutions Hindus could have built and sustained and how it would have changed the lives of poor Hindus. The secular state governments and the central government have become the biggest roadblocks to the prosperity and safety of Hindus.

Swami Dayananda SaraswatiThe long-term goal for Hindus should be to free Hindu Temples from Government control. There are several organizations working across the country towards this goal.

The Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha already has filed a case in the Supreme Court. In a seminar on temples, I had once heard from Swami Dayananda Saraswati that none of the state governments from the south had answered the questions put forth by HDAS in the honorable Supreme Court. Given the rate at which the judiciary functions, one should expect that Hindus are in a for a long grind and by that time, severe damage would have been done.

It would be better to lobby with a supposedly pro-Hindu central government to remove the Hindu Endowments Act completely from the Constitution. Please contact the various BJP Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assembly and ask them to remove this draconian act that is killing the Hindu community.

Narendra Modi & Rajnath SinghThe silence of the Narendra Modi Government in this regard is disheartening. The Government is aware of the problem, it is also aware of the fact that it is the Hindus that voted them to power. It’s been nine months since the NDA came into power and yet it has not taken any concrete steps to provide equality to Hindus. Hindus need to make their collective voices heard and bring pressure on the Modi Government. If it fails to act despite this, the BJP should be shown its place in the sun.

Many times, Hindus complain that Hindu organisations could have better spokespersons to represent them in the media. However, the travesty is that people donate to a government controlled temple like the TTD in crores but not to a Hindu organization that could protect our Dharma. That should tell us something.

In the end, until Hindus take back their temples, it is advisable not to donate to Government-controlled temples. If Hindus really wish to donate, then they will be better served by donating it to a Hindu organization which really cares for Hindu causes and the community.

Tirumala Tirupathi DevasthanamsThe road ahead

The TTD has taken a token action of ordering an investigation and a criminal case has been registered. But that by itself does not guarantee that such incidents will not recur in the future. Readers are requested to call up the official TTD numbers or email them to immediately dismiss the college principal on the grounds that he happens to be a Christian. Please ask the TTD to remove any non-Hindus from its payroll be it from colleges or from temple administration and all institutions run by it. To get a swift response from the TTD, readers should contact the Executive Officer(EO).

E-mail Ids:

Executive Officer: eo@tirumala.org

Joint Executive Officer, Tirumala: jeotml@tirumala.org

Joint Executive Officer, Tirupati: jeotpt@tirumala.org

Chief Vigilance & Security Officer: cvso@tirumala.org

Public Relations Officer: pro@tirumala.org

Phone Numbers of TTD Officials:

Executive Officer: 0877-2264160(c), 4977(o), 4393(o)

JEO Tirupati: 0877-2264877(c), 4231(o)

PA to the Executive Officer: 0877-2264545

Public Relations Officer: 0877-2264392

Central Reception Officer: 0877-2263922

Chief Accounts Officer: 0877-2264752,4213

Chief Vigilance & Security: 0877-2264390

Devasthanam Law officer: 0877-2264317

Dev. Educational Officer: 0877-2264396

Dharma Prachara Parishad: 0877-2264490,92,93,94

Overseas Temple: 0877-2277718

Complaints/Suggestions: 18004254141

Article Source: IndiaFacts, 22 February 2015

 

Religious Freedom: Whose freedom is it? – Virendra Parekh

Virendra Parekh“The Church claims the right to freedom of religion, by which it means its own right to convert others, and never the other way round (recall its strong condemnation of Ghar Wapsi). Christian evangelical efforts in the world today constitute nothing less than an open declaration of war on other religions. What it forgets is that if missionaries have a right to preach the Gospel, ancient societies professing pacifist non-proselytising religions have a right to defend themselves.” – Virendra Parekh

Narendra ModiThanks, but no thanks. That would be the reaction of discerning missionaries to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much awaited intervention in the ongoing discourse on tolerance and religious freedom. He has obliged them at last, but with a twist which negates much of the favour.

On the face of it, it would be a matter of immense satisfaction to the Church that the political head of a non-Christian secular country attended a purely religious function (organised by the Church to celebrate the sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia) and spoke of ‘tolerance’, ‘freedom of faith’ and ‘the individual’s right to adopt the religion of his choice’.

The satisfaction was heightened by the context. Having availed of India’s hospitality for two days, the US President Barack Obama thought it fit and necessary to harangue us heathens on virtues of tolerance and religious freedom. “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines,” he intoned in Delhi.

The hypocrisy of this moral grandstanding was astounding. Obama’s remarks were made shortly before he flew to Saudi Arabia, a country which openly denies religious freedom in theory and practice. Pakistan routinely and systematically persecutes its Hindu and Christian minorities, but remains Obama’s frontline ally in the so-called war on terror and receives guns and dollars in large quantities. Yet “Nowhere is it more important to uphold religious freedom than in India.” Back home in Washington he bemoaned the “acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji.”

Obama also has a Christian agenda for South AsiaThe hand of the missionary network behind the remark was too obvious to be ignored. It was no coincidence that the US Commission for International Religious Freedom, which was instrumental in the blacklisting of Mr. Narendra Modi after the 2002 Gujarat violence and believes that religious freedom in India is comparable to that in Afghanistan and Turkey, welcomed the President’s remarks. As pointed out by Vamadeva Shasta [see comment below], Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, is connected to Southern Baptist groups who have global missionary networks, but would not mention this in public or condemn the bigotry of Southern Baptists, who would not accept the Hindu, Buddhist or Sikh paths as valid.

An editorial in The New York Times asked the prime minister to break his ‘deafening’ silence on religious intolerance.

And now Narendra Modi has spoken what was expected of him, but with important improvisation. For the missionaries, it is bad enough that he wants every Indian (and not just Hindus) to have equal respect for all religions. He appealed to ‘ALL’ religious groups (and not just Hindus) to act with restraint, mutual respect, and tolerance in the true spirit of this ancient nation.

He went on to say “My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence.” This reference to the right to adopt a religion of one’s choice is no doubt a big (and reckless) concession to the Abrahamic creeds. But there is a double qualification here. The right to retain one’s ancestral faith precedes the one to choose another; secondly, the change of religion has to be made ‘without coercion or undue influence’, if at all. The standard Hindu position is that we should stick to the tradition we are born into, while respecting and learning from other traditions. Modi went as close to that as possible under the Constitution.

But Hindu intellectuals and organisations need to go further.

They should ask bishops and maulavis whether they are prepared to extend the same tolerance to Hinduism and Hindus that they routinely expect from others as a matter of right. If they are, they should stop conversions and jihadi terrorism. If they are not, how can they expect tolerance from the Hindus?

Ram SwarupFor Abrahamic religions, religious tolerance and freedom of religion is a one-way street. According to World Christian Encyclopedia tolerance means that Christians should “show genuine religious tolerance to at other expressions of faith in Christ.” But so far as other, non-Christian religions are concerned, religious toleration “does not deny their convictions about Christ and his church or abandon proclamation, evangelism or conversion”. The Christians retain their right to “believe other religions false and inadequate” and to “attempt to win (adherents) to faith and Jesus Christ.” (The World Christian Encyclopaedia by David B Barrett OUP 1982 reviewed by Ram Swarup in The Times of India, July 14, 1985)

This view of religious tolerance and freedom of religion is implicitly accepted by the modern West in its dealings with other, especially eastern traditions. But they run into a big problem: How to sound liberal without ceasing to be. You scratch them a little and the old theology of Christian superiority shines forth undiminished.

In the last hundred years, western scholars have developed a new intellectual apparatus to attack non-Christian religions and gods. The language of this attack is not theological but psychological. Brazen attempts to subvert and destroy other traditions are paraded as right of the individual to practice a religion of his choice.

This touching concern for individual rights is a cloak for theological arrogance. In Christian theology, a pagan is more than just a nasty physical fact; essentially, he is a lost soul needing to be saved by Jesus and his Church missionaries. Thanks to the powerful Eleanor Roosevelt with the Spanish version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsmissionary lobby in the UN, its Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 states that every individual has a right to embrace the religion or belief of his choice. This has been interpreted as the right of the Church to seek converts among the world’s peoples without hindrance by whatever means and regardless of the consequences to the man and society. It has opened the doors for questionable proselytisation and conversion tactics with lethal consequences to native traditions across the world. The missionary apparatus is a real threat to the genuine freedom of faith.

The Church claims the right to freedom of religion, by which it means its own right to convert others, and never the other way round (recall its strong condemnation of Ghar Wapasi). Christian evangelical efforts in the world today constitute nothing less than an open declaration of war on other religions. What it forgets is that if missionaries have a right to preach the Gospel, ancient societies professing pacifist non-proselytising religions have a right to defend themselves.

Hindu organizations should work for a new and equitable definition of freedom of religion to end this theological warfare and bring peace among religions. The UN must recognize explicitly that countries, cultures and peoples of tolerant philosophies and religions who believe in live and let live too have a right of protection against aggressive, systematic proselytizing. The new charter will assert that an individual’s right to religious freedom includes the right to practice his faith in peace free from uninvited attacks upon his faith and family, and not to be forced to compromise his faith as price of accepting help in times of societal or personal upheaval.

M. K. GandhiThis is the view that Narendra Modi should articulate next time when he holds forth on freedom of religion. Most of the non-Christian world, targeted by the Church, will endorse this view. He could also share with his buddy Barack a few things Gandhiji said about the missionary activity and conversions.

In a note to a missionary, Dr. Thornton, Gandhiji wrote, “if the missionary friends will forget their mission viz. of proselytising Indians and of bringing Christ to them, they will do wonderfully good work. Your duty is done with the ulterior motive of proselytising. When I go to your institutions, I do not feel I am going to an Indian institution. This is what worries me.”

Gandhiji’s advice to the missionaries was five-fold. First, stop conversions altogether as “it is the deadliest poison that ever sapped the fountain of truth.” Second, if you must convert, direct your efforts to those who are in a position to assess these matters properly. Do not target the poor, the illiterate or the destitute. Third, even for that effort, it would be better for non-Indian missionaries to return to their countries and attend to problems there. Those problems are large enough to engage all the missionaries that can be made available there. Fourth, in doing any kind of work among people, compliment the faith of the people, do not undermine it. Do not denationalise them. Finally, instead of living the life of the Church, live the life of Jesus, of piety, of the Sermon on the Mount. Let that life, that example, persuade people to embrace Christianity if they will, not this salesmanship.

Like the Mahatma, many modern Hindus have wondered why the Church cannot emulate the example of the Ramakrishna Mission and make the tribal understand his own religion better. What is the need for introducing him to Christ, the Bible and Christianity when his own objects of devotion, veneration and spirituality can serve him equally well?

Like communists, the Church too has contributed a lot to the corruption of language, loading innocuous phrases with self-serving but sinister meanings and connotations. It is time to undo the damage not just to the language but also to the thought. That will be the beginning of real tolerance and freedom.

» Virendra Parekh and is a Senior Journalist in Mumbai, writing in English and Gujarati on nationalist, economic and political themes and issues. He is the Executive Editor of Corporate India.

Narendra Modi addressing at the National Celebration of the Elevation to Sainthood of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Mother Euphrasia, in New Delhi on 17 Feb 2015_

Testimonium Flavianum: The Jesus passage in Josephus is a forgery, says expert – D.M. Murdock

D.M. Murdock / Acharya Sanning“In the end, it can be argued convincingly that the Testimonium Flavianum as a whole is a forgery and therefore does not provide evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate.” – D.M. Murdock

Titus Flavius JosephusThe passage about Jesus Christ in Jewish historian Josephus’s writings (Antiquities 18.3.3/63) has been debated for centuries, as concerns its authenticity totally, partially or not at all. This brief Testimonium Flavianum (TF) is put forth by Christian apologists as the “best evidence” for the historicity of Jesus, but it has been declared many times to be a forgery in toto. A recent study by a renowned linguist confirms this analysis of the entire passage as an interpolation by a Christian scribe, likely during the fourth century.

The most popular view of the Testimonium these days among critical scholars is the “partial interpolation theory,” which posits that a number of Christian-sounding phrases were inserted into the passage, which is nonetheless original to Josephus. Nevertheless, many scholars, historians, researchers and writers over the past centuries have held to the analysis that the Testimonium in toto is an interpolation into the text by a later Christian hand.

Most of the reasons for questioning the TF’s authenticity can be found in my book Who Was Jesus? and articles “The Jesus Forgery: Josephus Untangled” and “Does Josephus prove a historical Jesus?” Suffice it to say that there are a dozen or so scientific and convincing arguments against authenticity, including its abrupt introduction into the text and its omission in early Christian writings, as well as its pious language.

However, this pious language is not simply part of the supposed Christian insertions postulated by the partial interpolation theory but is present in the entire passage. The recent linguistic examination of the Testimonium’s original Greek shows the assessment Prof Paul J. Hopperof the entire passage as an interpolation to be correct, as it gives other scientific reasons to view the whole TF as a Christian profession of faith, rather than a report by a sober historian.

The author of this study published in 2014 is a professor of Humanities at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Paul J. Hopper, a longtime scholar who has been publishing peer-reviewed articles in journals for over 40 years. Hopper’s linguistic analysis of the TF in his article “A Narrative Anomaly in Josephus” is definitive and adds significantly to the numerous other arguments against the passage’s authenticity evinced over the centuries.

In this regard, Hopper comments:

It is suggested that the Jesus passage is close in style and content to the creeds that were composed two to three centuries after Josephus.

He further explains:

The Testimonium itself is, when compared to the surrounding episodes, unusually short. Its very brevity is a suspicious feature, one that has led some defenders of its authenticity to suggest that while parts of the text are genuinely Josephan, the text has been tampered with by later Christians wanting to erase scandalous content.… In fact, however, the syntax of the Testimonium does not display the kinds of discontinuities we might expect to find if substantial changes such as major deletions or insertions had been made.

Here the linguist states that the syntax or arrangement of words and phrases of the TF shows no sign of either removals or insertions, the former put forth to explain the TF’s brevity and the latter as in the partial interpolation theory.

After discussing the history of TF criticism, Hopper concludes:

There is, then, reason to suspect that the Jesus episode is a later insertion, dating from more than two hundred years after Josephus’s death, and probably absent from most manuscripts of the Jewish Antiquities until even later.

Jesus the New ApolloThe Testimonium’s syntax and morphology indicate it was written as an apology or profession of faith, rather than a historical report. The passage seems to be addressing criticisms, as if written for those who had challenged Christian doctrine at some point after the religion had been established. Its structure reflects protest, and “Methinks it doth protest too much.”

The problems with the TF, therefore, go beyond a few Christian-sounding interpolations and extend to the syntax of the sentences themselves. To wit, they are composed not in typical narrative styles, but resemble more closely the writings of early Church fathers and apologists of succeeding centuries.

As concerns plot, the TF as a whole represents a summary of the gospel story, as recounted in the New Testament, not drawn from separate historical reports or oral history. As Hopper remarks:

… It is from the Gospels, and the Gospels alone, that the Jesus Christ narrative in the Testimonium draws its coherence and its legitimacy as a plot, and perhaps even some of its language. It is not just that the Christian origin of the Testimonium is betrayed by its allegiance to the Gospels, as that without the Gospels the passage is incomprehensible. … The Testimonium does not so much narrate to first century Romans new events, but rather reminds third century Christians of events already familiar to them.

The evident Christian context of the TF speaks also to genre or category of subject matter, likewise examined by Hopper, who states:

The Testimonium is anchored in a radically different discourse community from that of the rest of the Jewish Antiquities. The Testimonium reads more like a position paper, a party manifesto, than a narrative….

Nicaean CreedAgain, the Testimonium Flavianum as a whole sounds like a Christian “political statement,” creed or profession of faith, precisely as so many have averred in the past.

Hopper next says that the “closest generic match for the Testimonium is perhaps the various creeds that began to be formulated in the early fourth century, such as the Nicene Creed (325 CE).”

Hopper’s linguistic analysis is yet another nail in the Testimonium coffin and should convince fence-sitters, although Christian apologists likely will never relinquish this “best evidence” because without it their claims to historicity are threadbare indeed.

In conclusion, Hopper states:

The narrative grammar of the Testimonium Flavianum sets it sharply apart from Josephus’s other stories of the procuratorship of Pontius Pilate. The most likely explanation is that the entire passage is interpolated, presumably by Christians…

In the end, it can be argued convincingly that the Testimonium Flavianum as a whole is a forgery and therefore does not provide evidence for a historical Jesus of Nazareth crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate. – Examiner, 9 February 2015

See also

» A longer and more in-depth analysis of Paul J. Hopper’s work on the Testimonium Flavianum can be found at Josephus’s Testimonium Flavianum Examined Linguistically: Greek Analysis Demonstrates the Passage a Forgery In Toto. See also Jesus passage in Josephus a forgery.

» Dorothy M. Murdock, also known by her pen name Acharya S, is an American author and proponent of the Christ myth theory. She writes books, and operates a website named Truth be Known. She argues that Christianity is founded on earlier myths and the characters depicted in Christianity are based upon Roman, Greek, Egyptian, and other myths.

Obama insults India, Krauthammer defends her – David Cohen

Barack Obama

David Cohen“Obama might have said: ‘Many of those acts of intolerance have been perpetrated by missionaries and NGOs from our own country.’ Few Americans are aware of the coercive, deceptive and abusive tactics used by some American missionaries, funded by stateside religious groups, to convert Indian Hindus to Christianity. The worst offenders go well beyond the open exchange of Charles Krauthammerreligious ideas, and are appallingly disrespectful of Hinduism and Indian culture.” – David Cohen

Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio talk show Friday, columnist Charles Krauthammer launched into a devastatingly hilarious riff on President Obama’s infamous National Prayer Breakfast speech last week. Obama, of course, invoked the Crusades and other ancient grievances lest Christians get on their “high horse” over the recent savagery of Islamist extremists. Krauthammer’s take:

This is a combination of the banal and the repulsive. The banal is the adolescent who discovers that, well, man is fallen and many religions have abused their faith and used it as a weapon. This is what you discover when you’re 12 or 17 and what you discuss in the Columbia dorm room. He’s now bringing it to the world as a kind of revelation. And he does it two days after the world is still in shock by the video of the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot, as a way of saying: Hey, what about Joan of Arc?”

But Krauthammer was particularly taken aback when Obama’s sanctimony abruptly swerved eastward: Obama inexplicably called out India for supposed (and unspecified) acts of religious intolerance. “What the hell is he doing bringing India into this?” Krauthammer wondered aloud.

That question was certainly on the minds of many Indians. Obama had recently returned from a visit to India, where he received a hero’s welcome. Alas, India’s love for Obama appears to be unrequited.

Krauthammer strongly defended India’s honor:

Here he is essentially insulting [India], and it’s because it’s a Hindu country. It’s not Muslim. I mean, he’ll say [people committed terrible deeds] in the name of Christ. He won’t say in the name of Muhammad and in the name of Allah. He won’t use those words. And then he goes after India, which is probably our strongest, most stable, most remarkable, democratic ally on the planet, considering all the languages and religions that it harbors. It has the second-largest Muslim population on Earth. And yet he goes after it as a way of saying hey, everybody here is at fault. They are not at fault.”

It’s good that India is on Krauthammer’s radar. Krauthammer is probably America’s most respected conservative opinion leader. With a weekly column in the Washington Post and a daily platform on Fox News’s excellent Special Report panel, Krauthammer continuously injects his wise insights directly into the political discourse.

Krauthammer is also a strong supporter of Israel. He may not be aware of a rather counterintuitive conclusion that I reached in a recent column: No country has more supporters of Israel than India. That includes the U.S. and, in terms of absolute numbers, it even includes Israel. To be sure, the Islamist and leftist brands of anti-Zionism are predictably well represented in India. But the widespread affinity for Israel in India, especially among the Hindu majority and most particularly within Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s base, is something that’s not sufficiently appreciated in the U.S. or in Israel. Much of that affinity derives from India’s shared experience with Israel as a prime target of Islamist extremism. With its large population and burgeoning economic clout, India will be a key ally to both Israel and the U.S. in the coming years. For Israel in particular, Modi’s India can provide an enormous exception to the Jewish state’s isolation in the developing world.

In his National Prayer Breakfast remarks, after talking Christendom down from its high horse, Obama turned his attention to his recent hosts. After paying condescending lip service to the fact that India is “an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity,” Obama proceeded to his actual purpose: calling out India for religious persecution, “acts of intolerance that would have shocked” Mahatma Gandhi.

Had he been so inclined, Obama might have added: “Many of those acts of intolerance have been perpetrated by missionaries and NGOs from our own country.” Few Americans are aware of the coercive, deceptive and abusive tactics used by some American missionaries, funded by stateside religious groups, to convert Indian Hindus to Christianity. The worst offenders go well beyond the open exchange of religious ideas, and are appallingly disrespectful of Hinduism and Indian culture. This is perhaps the primary sticking point in what I believe is a natural alliance between the GOP and the BJP (Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party). However, it is a sticking point that can be overcome with education: I am certain that most Christian conservatives in the U.S. are not aware of the abuses committed by some American missionaries and would not approve of them. (This, by the way, is another bond between India and Israel: Jews and Hindus generally do not proselytize, and generally do not wish to be proselytized.)

When Obama lamented the supposed “acts of intolerance” in India, of course, he did not have American missionaries in mind. According to the narrative of espoused by Indian leftists — who, in an ironically colonial way, crave the validation of Western leftists — Hindus are oppressing India’s minority religions. I would bet that certain Indian leftists have Team Obama’s ear. Many Hindus, for their part, feel besieged by Muslims and Christians aggressively trying to increase their numbers through conversion. If you think it implausible for Hindus to feel besieged in a Hindu-majority nation, consider the case of the Pandits, a Hindu community from the Muslim-majority Indian state of Kashmir. Islamists drove them out of Kashmir a quarter century ago with a murderous terror campaign. They now mostly live in internal exile in other parts of India. (There are poignant commonalities between the Kashmiri Pandits, a very learned and accomplished community, and the Jews.) – The Daily Caller, 9 February 2015

» David Cohen is former US Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior. He is a practising attorney and consultant in Los Angeles.

Christian missionaries meet Modi’s estranged wife Jashodaben – OpIndia Staff

Jasodaben with Christian missionaries

India Crossed-Out

Peter … invited Jashodaben to join their mission. The report further states that Jashodaben showed her willingness about joining the team. She appreciated the invite and said that she would like to work for the mission. – OpIndia Staff

According to a report published in Amar Ujala, a team of Christian missionaries recently visited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s estranged wife Jashodaben. Brother Peter Paul, who was one of the visitors, said, “I have heard about her prayers and her loneliness. Her soul-touching story affected me. I heard through newspaper that she is in Mumbai.  I searched for her whereabouts and went to meet her with my colleagues.”

“I have worked with Mother Teresa for 10 years. I saw a glimpse of Mother Teresa in Jashodaben”, Paul emphasized. He also added that Jashodaben has same positive aura as Mother Teresa had around her.

Peter and his team have also invited Jashodaben to join their mission. The report further states that Jashodaben showed her willingness about joining the team. She appreciated the invite and said that she would like to work for the mission. However, she also added that the final decision will be taken by her family. Peter stressed that he is not advertising religious conversions, but he wants Jashodaben to help lots of destitute and helpless Hindus by teaching Geeta and Ramayan to them. He believes that it will also help Jashodaben to get liberation from the lifestyle she is living.

It is interesting to note that while Hindu groups are maligning their names by getting involved in redundant regressive proceedings like Ghar Wapasi or Valentine’s Day diktats, Christian missionaries are smartly spreading their messages by helping people to liberate through social activities and self-enlightenment. If Hindu reformer groups keep prioritizing trivial issues over important issues like women upliftment, they will surely be sidelined by all the communities over a period of time. – Opindia, 6 February 2015

Tribals are Hindus, Hindus are Pagans – Koenraad Elst

Bada Dev (Bara Dev)

Dr Koenraad ElstAt the 5th Gathering of the Elders (Mysore, 1-4 February 2015), I was originally only present as an observer. But when a Hindu lady speaker had addressed the social philosophy of the Gond tribe, I felt it necessary to give a fitting reply, as it was contrary to the whole aim and spirit of the conference. To my good fortune, the next speaker failed to show up, so the chair asked me if I could improvise a lecture. – Dr Koenraad Elst

How deep the Christian missionary influence has penetrated the Hindu psyche, was shown by this rendering of the Gondi worldview. The first aim of the missionaries is to convince the tribals that they are not Hindus. (After that, they will tell them that their religion is very close to Christianity, and that their self-acknowledgment as Hindus would constitute a “conversion” while their baptism would only constitute a “fulfilment” of their natural religion.) So, the lecture on the Gonds taught us that their religion is the very opposite of Hinduism because:

  1. They worship Barâ Dev while Hindus worship Ishwar;
  2. They consider the North auspicious; Hindus, the South;
  3. They bury their dead; Hindus cremate them;
  4. They believe in service to others (“jai seva!”), Hindus only in their own Liberation;
  5. They believe the world is real, Hindus believe it is Maya (illusion).
  6. They are divided in 12 exogamous phratries, Hindus in endogamous castes.

Against this, we notice that:

  1. Barâ Dev [or Bada Dev], “great god”, is modern Indo-Aryan for Sanskrit Mahadeva, same meaning and a name for Shiva (“the benefactor”, which itself is a flattering name for the fearsome god Rudra, “furious”), for whom another name is Ishwar (“lord”). Within Hinduism, it is perfectly normal for a god to have different names, and for different divine personalities to overlap. There is simply no opposition between Barâ Dev and Mahadeva.
  2. In Vastu Shatra, a front-door should not be built in the south, as it is deemed inauspicious, which is the same valuation of the south as among the Gonds. (For now, I take the speaker’s word for what exactly constitutes Gondi culture.) Even if it was different, it wouldn’t constitute a meaningful contrast: in China, the local habitat edology (fengshui) holds the south as positive and as the correct location of the front-door, due to a different climate: In the cold Yellow River valley, warmth was welcome, so the sunny south was good, whereas in hot India, men shield themselves against the sun. Yet, nobody derives therefrom a meaningful contrast between Indian and Chinese traditions, least of all the missionaries. Whether Chanakya or Confucius, all non-Christians are going to hell.
  3. Hindus since Vedic times have known both cremation and burial. Infants and saints are still buried. In some corners, Hindu burials persist, e.g. among the Gonds.
  4. Hindu society has always believed in social responsibility (Dharma, ca. “taking up your role as a specific part of the whole”), including the need for Seva, “service”, a genuine and ancient Sanskrit word (in contrast with Adivasi, “aboriginal”, which is a neologism devised by the missionaries in the colonial period). This was not put in the centre, and rightly so, but it was fully accepted. This duty was not discharged by clerics, as in Christianity, where hospitals were traditionally manned by nuns, but by laymen, mostly in the extended family. Ascetics, by contrast, were freed from social duty because they had taken up another duty, viz. pursuing Liberation, which to the laymen is mostly but a theoretical goal which they don’t actively pursue. Liberation is not “selfish” but impersonal, and requires a great deal of self-abnegation, even more than Seva.
  5. Only a small percentage of the Hindus even know about Mayavad, the doctrine that the world is a fata morgana created by the magic power of the gods. It is a specific philosophy of Shankara, conditioned by his struggle against Buddhist idealism (Shunyavad, “doctrine of Emptiness”), which in turn is also not the whole of Buddhism (indeed, the Buddha himself would not have recognized it as his own teaching). Shankara is widely appreciated as a great debater and as the founder of the ascetic Dashanami order, but his philosophy has few takers. Gonds too are free to follow , nothing prohibits that, but they too would by and large accept the world as real. And anyway, even if there were a difference in worldview pitting all Gonds against all Hindus, that would not save them: as long as they don’t believe in Jesus, they are all going to hell.
  6. The Gonds are, like most tribes, an endogamous group, and this group is internally divided in twelve exogamous groups, which anthropologists have called phratries. Hindu castes are by definition endogamous groups, Jati-s or “castes”, and are divided in exogamous groups called Gotra-s. If you consider each caste separately, you could, by this logic, start saying that they “don’t have caste”, because internally they are not divided in endogamous groups, only in exogamous groups. So, the situation among the Gonds is exactly like in Hindu castes. Tribals are just as endogamy-conscious as Hindus. When a Flemish Jesuit in Chotanagpur ca. 1890 wanted to put his converts to the test, he had them sit together across tribal lines for a joint meal, a very small matter compared to intermarriage, and even this they found scandalous, so that most invitees did not show up and 7000 converts in the region defected. It is one of the many myths professed by the secularists to spite the Hindus that tribals are “noble savages” practising Ur-communism and not afflicted by social divides like caste.

Lord Jagannath in the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Puri Jagannath TempleThe whole discourse on tribals is warped by the Aryan invasion theory. As a consequence of the hypothesis that speakers of proto-Sanskrit entered India ca. 1500 BC, the American situation is projected onto India: in both cases, a European population came to dominate the natives. Then, just like the European conquerors of America were considered civilized and Christian, while the Amerindians counted as tribal and Pagan, this cultural equation was projected onto India: the Vedic conquerors were non-tribal and non-Pagan, while the natives count as tribal and Pagan. So, working inside this paradigm, the missionaries tell the scheduled tribes to maximize their differences with the Vedic backbone of Hinduism, and the secularists have written a few times that Hindus cannot count as Pagans and that tribals who get “sanskritized” into the Vedic mainstream are “converts to Hinduism”.

The picture becomes very different when, as all evidence indicates, the Vedic Aryans were native to India. This implies that there simply were different tribes, including the Veda-composing Paurava tribe, some of which became more “civilized” than others, e.g. some became literate, others only later, yet others not until the modern state foisted literacy upon them; or some developed business acumen while others remained economically naïve. This is a normal development found on all inhabited continents.

Yagna in progress.That is why many features deemed tribal and contrasting with the image a foreigner gets of Hinduism when the taxi brings him from the airport to his hotel in the metropolis, also appear in Vedic tradition when you go and see it in the countryside, or when you study how it was in the past. Thus, worship in the open air is not a tribal feature contrasting with Hindu temple worship: in Vedic society, worship was equally in the open air. The tribal feature of aniconic nature worship, always contrasted with the Hindu worship of idols, was just as much in evidence in Vedic society and is still seen in the “primitive” layers of Hinduism, where you find snake worship, tree worship, sun worship, etc.

Yet, even if there had been an Aryan invasion, that would not have made the Vedic Hindus any less Pagan. We have heard testimonies here from Latvian and Lithuanian Pagans, who take pride in their language being closely akin to Sanskrit. They are not Indian, yet they are just as much Pagan. If the Vedic Aryans had contrasted with the native Indian tribals, if they had been different in all objects and practical details of worship and of mores, that would still not have saved either the one or the other from hellfire. For that is ultimately the criterion for being Pagan or not, regardless of all the distinctions invented to confuse matters. You are a Pagan if you do not partake of Christian salvation, i.e. if you go to hell. And that is where they belong: being to a smaller or larger extent fire-worshippers, Pagans must feel most at home in the endless fires of hell. – Koenraad Elst Blog, 4 February 2015

Tribals from various states of India hold placards during a protest against Christian missionaries in New Delhi yesterday. The demonstrators appealed to authorities to protect the culture of indigenous people, claiming that evangelical Christian missionaries are forcing them to convert to Christianity.Photo: AFP September 7, 2011

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