Do Indian Christian converts cease to be Indians?

World Religions
The recent report about the issue of Indian Christian converts in South Africa (http://bit.ly/14erBhM ) shed lights onto my understanding toward Hinduism. An Eastern Indian pastor in South African, who uses Tamil in preaching and teaching, is accused by Indian nationalists, Thillayvel Naidoo, who is a party leader and linguist. Naidoo claimed that “those who reject their religion (Hinduism) lose the right to be completely Indian.” The nationality and religion are understood by some eastern Indian people as indivisible.

It is hard to define what Hinduism is. The richness of Hindu religion practice and philosophy makes it almost impossible to find a universal doctrine for Hinduism. In India, the religion practice and belief varies greatly from place to place. The term of Hinduism is first used by British as the name of all local religions besides Muslim. As a result, it is fair to say that the unified religious system so-called Hinduism never really exists.

Yet the area of Hindu is constantly under invasion. The British occupation, the latest one, set great influence on the development of Indian nationalism. It could be fair to say that Hinduism is a term to define the identity of a wide variety of local religion other than Islam and Christianity. Under the rule of Britain, Indian began their religious reformation. Ramakrishna developed a creed to unify the various religious systems in Indian culture. According to him, there is true reality lies behind all illusions in the world. Although we couldn’t attain the divine truth, the incarnation of God in all gods makes truth attainable through all the gods of different Indian religions. Through worshipping these gods, no matter which one, the true God is worshipped.

Worshipping in Hindu religion begins at home. Each home has a shrine. In this sense, the worshipping of a certain god is part of the home identity. Hindu religion also has close connection to calendar. The life journey, birth, marriage, and death are also connected with the religious practice. All these practice are communal. Hindu people understand person as part of a religious community instead of being an individual. From this sense, it is understandable why Thillayvel Naidoo will made the claim that those Christians lose the right to be completely Indian.

The Christian input of incarnation is a very interesting factor for me as a Christian to understand the evangelical work toward Hindu people. We could see how this is incorporated into the Hinduism belief. Yet Hinduism is, by large, against the Muslim belief. I believe the difference in their attitude toward the two most-important Abramic religions sheds some light onto the evangelical work among Hindu people. How much the Hindu Christians could develop a Christian theology respond to the Hinduism belief while still under the orthodox trail? At least, to be converted as an Indian Christian shouldn’t means to reject all what they do as a Hinduism believer.

One thought on “Do Indian Christian converts cease to be Indians?

  1. You’ve raised an interesting idea here, because the lines between a person’s nationality, culture, and religion are sometimes blurry. This is why Naidoo’s comments are somewhat understandable. If, as you say, the Hindu belief system includes the cultural expression and nationality, then by rejecting one part of this identity system would be to reject the whole thing. However, if we were to reverse this idea we could ask Naidoo whether a person who wanted to adopt Hindu beliefs would have to then become culturally and linguistically Indian, and also integrate into the Indian community in order to be fully Hindu.

    One of the things that the early Apostles of Christianity wrestled with was which of their cultural and religious beliefs from 1st century Judaism should be continued, and which laws and rituals should be obeyed by those who had converted to become followers of Christ. Did they need to be circumcised? Did they need to follow Jewish dietary laws? They ended up deciding that only a few requirements were necessary for non-Jewish converts to Christianity to follow. This shows a distinction between Hinduism and Christianity. While Hinduism is both a religion and a cultural expression, Christianity can incorporate multiple cultural expressions. This is what the Christian pastor seems to understand, but Naidoo cannot accept.

    Very interesting article – thanks for posting!

    Brian

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