While first encountering a Christian missionary, Hindus are often met with a lovely smile and pleasing personality. Following that encounter, one might possibly receive some educational material, medical assistance in some form, or some other form of help such as promises of food, for example. Yet, a very few Hindus realize with whom they are dealing. Many westerners, including a large number of Europeans, have dismissed fundamentalist missionaries as zealots, ignorant, disorganized, and not speaking for the totality of Christianity. While it is easy to accept this rationale, one should ask whether this is the true and complete story. Few Hindus invest the time to recognize, acknowledge, or seek to understand the enormity of missionary organizations, the financial resources, the training programs, and the power that is the missionary movement. In light of this daunting task, let’s examine a few of the facts:
Christianity is not a movement of enlightened people, but it is a mixture of a variety of organizations that are founded upon a few basic fundamental teachings and a major principle–conversion. In reality without conversion, there simply would be no Christianity. While initially a small Jewish sect, the religion developed through its primary method of growth—conversion. To ask Christianity to not convert is akin to asking the day to be the night and the night to be the day. It is simply against their nature. Now, this conversion agenda is cleverly hidden behind what Christians would claim to be the well-intentioned ideology of saving souls from eternal damnation (Hell), which is fundamental to the majority of Christian ideologies, and is a central theme behind the majority of Christian missionary movements. It is critical for Hindus to understand this fundamental tenant of Christianity—conversion at any cost. Likewise, Christian theology, among the majority of sects, believes it is in a war with a disembodied spirit (Satan), and they want to be the winner, with the primary qualification for winning being conversion.
Illusions of Financial Struggle
While often portrayed as impoverished, the missionary movement is in reality a financial powerhouse. Let’s examine several organizations. We begin with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). This is a group of approximately 16 million people. Let’s look at a few of their missionary strategies:
- Their primary goal is to organize designated local leaders of missions. This will lead to the development of mission teams taking their gospel worldwide.
- Training of missionary members for service and mission needs.
- Obtain continuing financial support. (Source: http://www.sbc.net)
Though, it is difficult to track the financial position of the Southern Baptist Convention as it consists of numerous smaller groups within the United States, there does appear to be one very telling number. The non-profit search engine Citizen Audit reports assets for one group in excess of 46 million dollars. This was the Lifeway Christian Resources of the SBC, which appears to pay benefits for retirement, etc. Though, not directly related, it does indicate the potential financial power of this one organization. While we like to think that Christianity is a poor and undeveloped system, we often forget that they have almost 2000 years of experience and practice regarding conversion. They are polished, proficient, organized, and in essence a well-oiled machine. They produce sophisticated DVD’s, booklets, and other materials, teaching how to convert people. Additionally, they provide comprehensive instruction on the additional skills required by the missionary movement. The skills vary from farming techniques to camel training. Backing these organizations is a powerful government lobby and more money than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of some countries. Now let’s delve a little deeper into the financial backbone of Christianity:
The SBC provides a great variety of support materials specifically aimed at the conversion of members of other cultures, who are not engaged in the practice of Christianity. As previously noted, it is difficult to obtain their complete financial information currently. But, let us examine one of the groups associated with the SBC to gain insight into their potential financial status. The SBC is strongly connected with the International Mission Board, which again is a financial powerhouse. According to their own reports from 2003, they earned estimated stock returns of $23 million on investments. A special fund-raising program in 2002 was estimated to have acquired a whopping amount of 115 million dollars . So, what is the financial budget for the International Mission Board? For 2004, their annual operating budget was listed at approximately 258 million dollars. This is just an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. But, these players are small compared to the wealth of the Catholic Church.
While western news media is filled with threats of bankruptcy by various Catholic parishes due to awards for child abuse and pedophilia, the Catholic Church itself appears to have been able to keep its financial picture more obscure from the public. While some parishes do publish financial statements, many don’t and thus, creating a lengthy search of public records that spans numerous organizations. Here’s the financial picture that has currently been put together using reported financial statements by Business Week:
Business Week reports that the Catholic Church has almost $790 million in assets, though much of this is in real estate. Additionally, the same source estimates that the Catholic Church had revenues of $7.5 billion in 2000. These estimations are based on money coming from parishes. It is unknown how much is obtained by the church in Rome. Additionally, they are also the largest operator of private schools in the United States, with an estimated 2.5 million students . Interestingly, the Catholic Church also owns hospitals, accounting for roughly 17 percent of admissions in the United States , allowing them to tap into the highly profitable and lucrative health care industry. This is tax-free money that can be used for other Catholic agencies. These amounts of money would make them a fortune 500 company, if they were a public held entity. This is a highly successful model that is used globally, attempting to corner the market in healthcare and education, which ultimately works to destroy traditional religions and erode their financial sovereignty, while cleverly disguised and presented as compassion for the poor and suffering.
The 7th Day Adventist Church is strongly engaged in missionary work and they report a total tithe offering of $1,772,879,408. Around 2003, they were reported as funding over 3000 projects in over 100 countries. Additionally, they own and operate numerous hospitals, publishing interests, and schools. They also operate the largest Protestant healthcare system in the United States. They run such a huge financial empire, it is difficult to track all monies that they receive. But, in 2003, they reported a profit of a little over 200 million for their health care business alone. Again, this is tax-free money, which is directed towards other projects.
We have focused on only a few Christian groups, which represent only a small percentage of the overall number of Christian missionary groups operating in the United States. A casual glance at even small groups will reveal them to be financial powerhouses. The New Tribes Mission is a relatively small and possibly unknown organization to most Hindus. But they reported revenues of almost 39 million dollars and a missionary budget of 29 million dollars a year in 2003.
Many of these groups also actively participate in research, so as to understand changing patterns within society. Once they understand the changing perceptions and patterns, they design programs to address the needs of the changing community. This is one of the most concerning changes within the Christian movement. These dynamic strategies allow them to effectively test and measure the performance of different strategies. Some seminaries have brought out educational materials on how to open dialogue between Christians and other groups such as Hindus with the explicit purpose of conversion. This is often presented as ‘creating a dialogue’ or ‘having a conversation’ about areas we have a common interest in. This appears to be an ongoing process as groups are continually making adjustments to further their indoctrination programs and various agendas.
While missionary groups often state that the majority of donated funds go towards assistance to the poor, it is difficult to confirm the actual expenditures, since, often monies will go back to the organization for other expenditures. The primary point being that many of what would be commonly classified as ‘minority religions’ within India have solid financial backing from larger western organizations and could be gaming the system. Most disturbing is the realization that many of these religious leaders appear to have little to no conscious relationship with divinity; evidenced by Mother Teresa’s own claims, “I am told God lives in me—and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great that nothing touches my soul.
This brief analysis would not be complete without examining the salary of missionaries. While salaries are likely varied, reports regarding the Christian Missionary Alliance suggest that the average salary for a lead pastor are approximately $50,000.00 (U.S.) per year. With salaries reported as high as $73,000 (U.S.) per year. These amounts are considerably higher than the national average for wages in the U.S.
Mistakes regarding Christianity
Hinduism being a Dharmic tradition and therefore, a more evolved religion, has always shown great tolerance for a diversity of views, especially relative to Abrahamic faiths historically. Christianity would be called a young religion relative to the older Dharmic traditions and is actually a broken lineage. In other words, a system that continues to exist and function without self-realized successors.
Within the last 100+ years or so, there has been a growing movement, largely facilitated by the “New-Age” movement and a handful of Hindu leaders to link Christianity and Hinduism, initially appearing among the scholars from the 1800s. We have seen weak theories associating Jesus with India, Buddhism, and other religions. Quotes from Christian saints mistakenly presented as tolerance for other religions. The more modern creation of the term “Christ Consciousness” has grown in popularity as it appeals to the samskaras of one who has rejected traditional teachings, yet longs for a connection with the tradition; what is interesting is that this philosophy has no connection with Christianity or any other religion. Interestingly, I am not convinced that the majority of those that follow the ideology of Christ Consciousness fully understand its meaning, as “The Center for Christ Consciousness” website defines Christ consciousness as ‘the highest state of intellectual development and emotional maturity .” Obviously, Hinduism and its multitude of sects generally suggest that one move much further in awareness and realization, which transcends the intellect alone. It appears that these types of terms (Christ Consciousness) are created in order to establish some form of validity for the group that sponsors the said terms. New-Agers have often used the term Christ consciousness, which again is not an established dogma or accepted religious teachings within any major Christian theology, in an effort to retain an association of like-minded individuals; interestingly, it appears that some Christian groups are embracing this new theology. Some being so bold as to suggest rejecting religion and simply accepting Jesus. These views are likely an effort to combat a growing disconnect with religion emerging in the west. Even Hindus refer to Jesus as “Christ” giving little thought to what they are saying. Christ is a term referring to one as being a savior. In Hinduism, we have no saviors or anything to be saved from. There is no salvation, but rather there is liberation. So, when terms such as “Christ” are used, it subconsciously reinforces Christian dogma within the mind of an individual. Often through insecurity and/or samskaras , the groups will try to affiliate with some form of Christian symbols, teacher, or teaching. This is common with “A Course in Miracles”, which was a book rooted in dreams and visions. I have personally met individuals and teachers of this program that insist it is simply teachings from Jesus. It appears that someone just decided that it must be Jesus teaching these things, while there is no record (that I know of) as to the source of the dreams claiming to be Jesus.
Hindus should recognize that one of the most successful formulas to be put forth by Christianity is the “Christian Persecution Complex”. This argument is still common in the United States and other areas of the world, designed to generate sympathy and a false image of the ‘little guy’. Christian groups have been known to use this argument even while in power within a country. Yet, historically, we have seen few groups that are oriented toward persecution more than Christian groups.
Hindu’s image problem in the west and possible solutions:
According to a Harvard study on religious pluralism, the number of Buddhists in the United States is estimated to range from 2,450,000 to 3-4 million. The number of Hindus is believed to be 1 million to 1.3 million. The latest estimates place these numbers at roughly 11% of the U.S. population. One might ask, ‘Why are the number of self-identified Buddhists increasing and the number of Hindus not?’ While numerous factors can contribute to this issue, clearly Hinduism has not presented a clear picture of itself to the west. While Buddhism has not presented a clear picture as well, they have managed to establish themselves as or are perceived as, the authority on meditation. Additionally, Buddhists have been very successful producing product in the form of books that consist of simple quotes, short stories and easier reads that require less commitment; with smaller numbers of the public moving into deeper or serious study of Buddhism. This watered down version of Buddhism appeals to many westerners, who largely comprise the ‘new-age’ group.
Hindus cannot continue without creating a self-identify for themselves and the world. This is most evident with yoga. Millions of westerners have embraced the Hindu practice of yoga; yet, they do not self-identify as Hindu and frequently attempt to redefine historical Hindu/yogic terms in ways that distance yoga from Hinduism. Slowly we are seeing a stripping away of most Hindu concepts in yoga and distancing from Hinduism by the majority of practitioners, despite the growing cottage industry of ‘spiritual travel’ to India. Hindus should consider taking the lead in educating others about the true meaning of the various components of the nomenclature of Hinduism and yoga. While the initial reaction, based on the high number of participants and enormous financial power of Christian groups, is to withdraw from conflict or interaction. Hindus must become more visible and active in their community. Education must become a top priority for all practitioners of Hinduism. The experience of Hinduism must be brought back to the masses, especially the practitioners of yoga. The relevance of the religion must be returned to the average Hindu and those that practice Hinduism without realizing it. Education of children must become a priority. Training in their own religion is critical to Hinduism’s survival and viability in this millennium. Additionally, Yoga should be reintroduced with its Hindu roots and retain its rightful place as a Shad Darshana within Hinduism.
Hinduism is facing a crisis with the increasing Christian conversion focus being placed on their culture. Their strength is unity within the great diversity of Hinduism. It is not enough to be a Shaivite, Vaishnava, or follower of a Goddess, etc. All groups must unite under a common banner of Hinduism, while retaining their individual group affiliations. The strength of Hinduism is in its sheer numbers, with over a billion Hindus worldwide and its comprehensive Dharmic knowledge. Hinduism is an important, vibrant religion that has much to offer the world and the masses. It contains the greatest volume of recorded religious teachings the world has ever seen.
So what is the solution? Involvement! Hindus must invest in their future by committing time and money to organizations that provide education and training. These should not just be large or personality driven groups, but small local community groups as well. Hindus must provide time and financial support to India, to aid in protecting groups such as various tribals and others.
It must become better organized, teaching love and tolerance, but standing against forces that are attempting to destroy it. Hinduism must become better organized. A formation of a group(s) that speak for Hinduism is essential and must expand beyond the limited number of groups that currently exist. There should be local groups that fulfill this purpose as well. These groups must be financially supported, as one can see from earlier in this article, Hinduism is facing well organized and financially powerful groups. If each Hindu would donate one year of their life to this process, Hinduism would become a powerful political force, more importantly, Hinduism would rise to its proper position amongst the world’s religions, not only in the eyes of Hindus, but also in the eyes of the worldwide community.
7. Office of Archives and Statistics General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists accessed October 2003.
9. www.ntm.org accessed Oct. 2003
12. http://www.gotquestions.org/Christ-consciousness.html accessed 9/8/16
13. Samskaras refers to latent mental impressions that influence the mind