The Truth of Christian Missionaries in India

Note: This article was first published on Maria Wirth’s blog.

Christian missionaries have become increasingly visible and controversial in India. As I grew up as a Christian, I would like to share my observations from a personal angle.

When it comes to religion, I noticed that Indians tread cautiously. Care is taken ‘not to offend the sensibilities’ of the followers of other religions. Well, I should specify: Hindus take care not to offend the sensibilities of Christians and Muslims. As those are in the minority, it is argued, they need special consideration so that they don’t feel threatened by the Hindu majority.  It is true that those religions are in the minority in India, but worldwide, both religions are very powerful with great financial and political clout to achieve their objective which is to bring as many people as possible into their fold. This clout is reflected even in the Indian media and politics. Just observe how mainstream media report on minorities. I can’t help feeling that there is a clever Public Relation strategy behind the scenes. In contrast, Hinduism clearly has no PR strategy. ‘Truth will triumph’, is the motto here, never mind if it takes ages.

Sometimes I hear the following argument for a laid back attitude: ‘Just because missionaries despise Hinduism, it does not become bad.’ This is true, but it would not harm anyone and might benefit many, if Hindus would refute the obnoxious accusations that Hinduism is a primitive, polytheistic religion, as it certainly is not. One can present the profound tenets of Sanatana Dharma, as Hinduism used to be called before foreign rule, if not point out the shortcomings of the dogmatic founder religions.

Pointing out the shortcomings of other religions seems to be a taboo for Hindus. I wonder why. Debates on religious issues were common in ancient India and were of the highest order. Women also took part in those debates, which are recorded in the Upanishads. Adi Shankara challenged the Buddhists in debates. Yet today there is not much discussion on religion or philosophy. One reason may be that a part of the intellectual class in India has been influenced by the British to such an extent that they adopted the view that Hinduism is primitive without ever reading any of the ancient scriptures. It is a small, but influential group that is ever ready to defend the minority religions.

Often, Hindus declare that all religions are equal as they all believe in the same God as there is of course only one. Yet are they equal? Christianity (and Islam, too) refute this view. It declares that it is not only superior but “the one and only way” and therefore everyone needs to join it to be saved. The Church claims that Jesus Christ himself commanded to go out and convert. So they have the ‘duty’ to convert the whole world population to their ‘professed truth’. And the Church goes about it with great zeal and dubious means.

Of course every religion has good points. They all point to the Highest; they all stress the need for an ethical life. They all give hints how to connect with God. Yet one should be very wary if there are also ‘bad’ points, like if a religion divides humanity into those who are saved and those who are eternally damned.

So what distinguishes Christianity from Hinduism so that it feels superior? The main point is the status of Jesus Christ. It is just not enough to see in him a great enlightened sage or an avatar. He is claimed to be the only son of God, whom God had sent to earth and who, through his death, has saved mankind.  This of course is difficult to understand and cannot be understood. It has to be believed. It is a dogma and dogma means, there is no proof. So why should one believe it? Because it has been decided in some council some 1700 years back that this is the truth and Christians have to believe it.

Unfortunately Christians do believe it. I, for example, ‘knew’ already in primary school in a small town in Germany, that we, i.e. the Roman Catholics, were ‘right’ and all others, including the Protestants in the neighbourhood, ‘wrong’. As a teenager, however, I started questioning and almost lost faith in God. I could not believe in the personal God anymore who loves his Church and sends all heathens to hell. One uncle happened to be a priest and in his library I read about the history of the Church. It was an eye-opener – the decadence of the popes, the bloody conversion of South America, the literal killing of any dissent, the scheming for power and wealth… Together with religion I was about to throw out God as well, as He seemed inextricably linked with it.

Then I read an article on modern physics. It said that the whole creation basically is one energy. “This means there is a God!”  I realized. God cannot possibly be biased towards one group against another. He has to be the ground of everybody and everything.

When I came to India, I was amazed how profound her ancient wisdom was – a wisdom that does not have any dogmas and does not divide people into us versus them. ‘Brahman’ or ‘Tat’ of the Vedas is not a personal God that has likes and dislikes, but the invisible, conscious basis of all forms and names in this creation. This basis is there also in our own person and can be experienced, is claimed and this claim does not go against reason. “Enquire and experience” is recommended.

In contrast, Christianity demands belief and certainly does not encourage enquiry nor experience. A Church that branded her own mystics, who realized their oneness with God, as heretics cannot teach anything to India. She only can divide. Missionaries try by hook or crook to get converts and target especially the lower classes and even children. It seems as if they have a quota to achieve. They claim that Christianity is the right faith and Hinduism very wrong. The phrase “divisive forces” is used freely in India, but strangely I have not heard it in connection with missionaries where it were appropriate.

Christian theologians would do well to study Indian wisdom with an open mind. It would give them a deeper understanding of Jesus’ sayings, as many of them are cryptic, yet from a Vedantic angle easy to interpret. They would realize that dogmas are a hindrance in the process to uncover truth. Such openness would make religion spiritual. Mystics would be appreciated. No “us versus them”, no borders, no God who belongs only to one group and who condemns the rest, just a genuine search for the One Essence beyond name and form…

To expect broadmindedness from Church representatives seems a long way off. As of now their course is set on confrontation and Hindus are too polite to question the ‘one and only way’ bogus. While in the west many leave the Church, in India many join for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. Those converts may initially get some financial benefits but the price is high. They have to confess a belief in dogmas, in which they don’t believe. They have to despise the faith that they had held dear. They or at least their offspring will become convinced that they alone have the right faith and will look down on those who go to temples. In the process they lose their integrity and will become hypocritical, like so many in the west. And if conversion is not restrained, together with her children, Bharat may lose her integrity. Truth will have no place anymore.

  • Raj N

    Maria what about the evils of hinduism….most important casteism which u completely ignored. U say Hinduism believes in equality of religions, what about equality of human beings? What about dalits? Do u know what it is to be dalit in this religion?

  • Jacob sieve

    tell me about mumbai india missions

  • chandu

    You know in a court the person who speaks first seems to be right untill someone cross examines prov 18:17.
    Who said you that RCM is Christianity? They completely distorted the gospel. It was king Julian in approx 4th century Ad introduced paganisim in Christianity to engulf Christians in to his RCM wings, innocent people who don’t know the Bible or try reading it went that way. now apply logic to your mind, you are telling that you were raised in a Christian family yet you are not coverted. How can you think that we Indians or any other. Can get converted by hearing a news of 2015ago? So you are indirectly telling we are fools and you got freed. We Indians give up our charecter or culture for money and you are not?. You know what no one can convert any one by gospel but only by the edge of the sword. And you know Christianity never shed blood, now you may say what about crusaiders? It was Pope in 10the century mislead people same like Hitler. But what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount luke 6:27. To love your enemis and to do good to those who hate you, you said Jesus gave us command to convert all people. Yes he said not to convert but to tell the truth and to bear wittness not to give money or to threaten. You can Google some of try the missionaries who came to India and what they did, they Themselves were poor conning from forign land lost their children’s wives due to illness etc. For example William Carey he stoped SATTI mmovement. Gave a serampore university he himself learned Bengali, Sanskrit, tamil etc why? Just to convert Indians? For why? What drove him to this such a horrendous land on inequality and supestions, leaving comfort life for they family. They gave their life you can see his tomb in serampore like this lot many biblical Christian have come whom god himself sent. Without his power and permission no one can come as a missionary. Just a glimpse I give you what we Indians are before these missionaries.
    A lower cast has to tie a broom stick to his back so that when he walks the dust of his foot steps will be wiped out. And tie a cup around his neckso that he spits in that oonly. And he has to crawl when he walks by an upperclass house. No burial land will be given untouchability. No education. Not allowed to temples. What is this you tell me? Lastly without misionaries their is no education to all. And their will be no one to read you coment and
    mine. Christian missionaries robed none they themeslves lost for the sake of Christ because we are all one fall short of his glory defining our own good and bad, but Christ died for us so that we may reconcile to god through him and live for eternity. Hell is not compulsion it is a choice of mankind. He redeem us through his blood.
    Last iam requesting you to read bible. Know the truth read history I suggst you a book. How bible created mordern India by vishal mangalwadi. RCMP is paganisim not Christianity it seems to be Christian but their is no Christ and bible in it. If there is Christ in RCM god will not allow reformers or reformation. Lot of time in history kings, queens wanted to disrepute bible and Christianity throught sword and prison burning martyrs to steak but this is indistructable word of god. Iam not offending you but if you have any doubts isn’t not boasting but by gods grace I can explain to you. Give me an oppurtunity .

  • Steven Chavez

    The Lord made each person differently for a reason… to claim christians act the same is far from reality… But we know the flesh wars against the spiritual things of the most high… the truth is this world is in trouble, a dark storm is brewing anyone who thinks they can survive without the Lord better think twice.. we must repent our sins and live in Love.. because God is Love.. the bible says to Love your enemies..

  • Suresh

    If you want to know more about Jesus Christ, a hindu should read about Him thru Swami Vivekananda, Swami Bhakti Vedanta and by M.K.Gandhi.
    One should not come to conclusion about entire christians just by reading about Maucalay’s and G.U Pope,Caldwel.

  • Tzidkenu

    There are about 2 billion Christians in the world. It is plain ignorant to say that all of them are the same. I know two children who were abused and tortured by Hindu grown up men. Does that make ALL the Hindus bad? You have some Muslims who kill in the name of their belief, does that make ALL the Muslim bad?

    Christian missionaries would not lay down their lives to be in India if it were not for loving Indians more then their comfort. You said it right, hate Hinduism, but omitted to say love Indians. That changes the story.

    “The Church claims that Jesus Christ himself commanded to go out and convert. So they have the ‘duty’ to convert the whole world population to their ‘professed truth’. And the Church goes about it with great zeal and dubious means.” – WRONG. Jesus commanded to Share the news( that for our sins that were so great before an infinitely Holy God in whose presence sin cannot stand and infinitely Just who hates sin and punishes the sinner, in order for that sin to be paid for, only God Himself could pay. That’s the reason why He himself came down from heaven, lived among men and took the sin of the world that by believing in Him we are under His sacrifice and the sin that we could not pay was paid for and we are considered holy to be in the presence of God) that means give information. Here is the information, Take it or leave it. If it is not the truth, but you believe it, you did not lose anything. But what if it is the truth, what if Jesus is the only way to God, and you do not believe it?

    It is a dogma and dogma means, there is no proof. So why should one believe it? Because it has been decided in some council some 1700 years back that this is the truth and Christians have to believe it. Get your facts right. Not the 1700 , but Jesus himself said me and the Father are one.

  • Skeezix

    I am very sorry to hear what all you went through…and i am very saddened by the fact that Whom we call Christians are less christians than non-christians. But you, like many Christians haven’t done your homework well. As Christians or follower of any world view..you are supposed to seek into the theology of your world view.. the Judeo-christian world view presents a story whereby man slowly distanced himself from God through the course of history..and is given forgiveness and redemption in Jesus and i must also correct you there..Jesus told his disciples to preach the good news across the world, those who reject it is their choice..and should not and never be forced down on the throats of someone. I must admit many supposedly Christians do the same, and this should not have happened. But i must also remind you that only see the evil and suffering and the ill-deeds of such people, while the good-deeds of the many Christians across the world seem unnoticed to you. I must tell you again that Christians are human beings too..not Gods. and in trying to be more good everyday..they might have failed miserably.. But they do try their best.
    And i must also point out that Christianity is a “blind faith” which you seem to have the notion of. The first modern scientist were inspired to go into the spirit of inquiry. Pascal, Galileo, Maxwell are some examples.
    It is also based on the evidences presented out by history over the course of 4000 years of humankind. The person of Jesus Christ is not some concocted figure. He truly walked on earth when the vilest form of punishment “the crucifixion” was adopted.
    All worldviews must be studied and one given the freedom to choose.. And i being an Indian truly believes in the secular nature of the country..where people of all faiths can discuss and converse their worldviews and be allowed to choose their religion..but no forceful conversion at any cost.
    I must also point out to you again that the Right to LIfe,liberty are all the core teachings of Christianity upon which Modern Traditions of democracy are based upon.
    Gandhi rightly said ” I like their Christ but not their Christians” .
    But i must also point out again that you must look into the Bible and Jesus teachings as much as you went on to read into the HIndu scriptures. The world would be a different place if all Christians follow the teachings of Jesus. Peace.

  • Observer

    Christians are like arrogant teenagers who know a little but think they know everything. Their religion makes no sense. The only way Christianity could gain converts is by gimmicks and trickery. Even the most sincere missionaries are forced to use these tactics as they wouldn’t be able to gain any followers otherwise.

  • krishna

    the very idea of the article here is being reflected by the above comments which is trying to again show the way by christ which in itself is a dogma. even today in india as the autho mentions is converting the lower classes and is definetly seen in the places like north east.
    even after conversion these states are still not getting the right attention and it would just be matter of years when they reconvert of find other religions since the conversion was based on just their financial issues. as hindus and more so indians we have to realise that out religion gives us so much freedom and is quite mordern. we as a community have moved ahead and there are hindus who have become more powerful and intelectual. in todays youth we do not see any differences in caste or creed and move along as one. those days of castesim are slowly moving out. rapes are not commited by any religion its a criminal who has done a crime and please dont blame the religion for it. this shows the churches dogma that has manifested into many trying to prove a religion is bad.
    chirstians are welcome today to explore their religion back and become hindus again. this has been their culture and religion of their forefathers. but the question is are the christians willing to take the step. will the church let them go. as hindus we are always hospitable. nor do we go around converitng people and belive that god is one. this very nature of hidus are abused and the lower classes are lured into conversion and accepting the churches dogma. lets wait for a change hopefully one day the chirstian youth will return to their original religion and be hindus once again. they are a confused lot now. they follow the church but the culture is still hindu. till then lets wait and spread…

  • “In contrast, Christianity demands belief and certainly does not encourage enquiry nor experience. A Church that branded her own mystics, who realized their oneness with God, as heretics cannot teach anything to India.”

    Christianity has a long tradition and practice of making intellectual investigations into faith — there are loads of examples of such schools of thought, intellectuals, and inquiring believers, as I’m sure you know.

    There has also been, in every branch of Christianity (from Orthodoxy to pentecostalism), and in every age (from the early church until now), a respect for mysticism — despite bouts of infighting, factionalism, and persecution in Christ’s “name.”

    “To expect broadmindedness from Church representatives seems a long way off.”

    Many Christians — and in Christian writings themselves — recognize Christ as one precisely who breaks down the us/them divisions. There has been a lot of dialogue between christians and Hindus, consider Bede Griffiths.

    For Christians Jesus is the way, the truth, the light, — at the same time Christian preaching often goes the way of kenosis or emptying. Christ empties himself in service to others and does not insist on conversion by the sword.

    In fact, missionaries from mainline denominations in the 20-21st centuries often shy away from direct evangelization, almost to the point of morose guilt on account of the sins of their missionary ancestors, who are now viewed as ethnocentric.

    Christians, like other sects, need to be free to worship our God and that means educating both ourselves and other parties in the life of faith.

    Opponents will view such freedom of religion as if it’s an aggressive campaign to convert others. Often (apart from some fanatics) Christians are simply preaching, teaching, and worshiping within their own groups, and extending hospitality to outsiders, and would not resort to underhanded practices — still less violence — to try to convert anybody.

  • Philip

    A very well written article however the narration points to only the positive approach of Hindu’s and at the same time highlights the negative approach of the Christian missionaries. A ton of positive aspects have been forgotten to be mentioned and the positive changes they might have bought. Also extracting specific verses of the Bible does not paint the right picture. We could do that similarly for all religions.

    The truth about who exactly are the Christian missionaries or the larger population of the Christian evangelists in India is very less known. They did have a great influence of the British rule. Initially they were foreign Christian missionaries – they had come in peace to develop the underdeveloped regions in India. Christianity has been in India since the time of its birth – we had the first missionary – St Thomas the apostle of Christ who came to India and died in India. It was never a recently forced religion. They have remained in the eco system of India ever since mostly peacefully and has contributed to the development of India.

    There are still areas where help from the Indian government or anybody for that matter does not even reach for development. We still loom in a society where caste system prevails. Are they declared “all equal”? It’s a never ending problem where honor killing and rapes are happening in the name of caste system.

    I would like to continue with the thought that almost all religion has the challenge of being dogmatic. At the same time all religions if interpreted correctly would have the basics of being human.

    I too had a very string phase in my life when I questioned a thousands aspects of the Bible. The good thing was I had the choice and the freedom to do so. Unfortunately a majority of us do not have the freedom or if they do will not choose to question religion.

    Most of the Christian missionaries who force their teachings and beliefs in exchange for the benefit of economical value are not educated. Even considering the percentage of bare literacy in India in general – of knowing to read and write his or her name is at 73%. This grew from 12% from the time when the British rule left us in 1947. This literacy rate is not something we can benchmark on a person being educated. A high percentage of Christian missionaries or evangelistic groups in India fall in this category – they were in the near past converts. They don’t know how to be open minded because they fear to question religion. This however does not apply to the churches and the priests who are educated. I have come across several platforms where all religions have exchanged “spirituals” teachings.

    Finally I would like to say that no “religion” needs to feel threatened of “truth” not prevailing. The moment you start feeling threatened religiously one exhibits a different behavior as an individual and a group in the society. Irrespective of religion I would expect that to be taught by the society – to begin from within the family when you are born to the teachers in the schools, to cultures in organizations that it instills in us the basic concepts to “Being Human”.

  • karishma

    Maria it’s overwhelming to see individuals like you who have a realisation for truth.. Probably becoz of people like you humans exist, otherwise it’s more beastly looking at current situation in the name of religion. 🙂

  • Kalpana Agarwal

    I felt like a wary a travelle caught in the endless vista of a relentless desert, is suddenly confronted with an oasis of truth. A rare piece of honesty to be cherished. My heart-felt gratitude as a Hindu to the peopel responsible for this excelwlnt website.

  • Harsh

    Wonderfully written my marissa, its a big shame that in India in the garb of (pseudo) secularism people are being made to hate Hinduism and anything to do with Hindus. I hope better sense prevails and people see this big sham, Northeast is already facing the brunt of these missionaries and worse is in store.

  • Wonderful article. Coming from own eyes adds credibility. With the infiltration these guys are doing I am fearing a day when Truth will have no place anymore.!!

  • prasannakumar

    This is the reason why I feel swamy Vivekananda is very much relevant today and the youth of this country should arise and awake.

  • Very crisp. Wish the lefites and liberals read this

  • patnaikt

    Simply brilliant as always!

  • Brilliant!!!

  • Rai

    Well written article. Religious conversion is more like a game of hunting to garner more in the fold. Sadly the juggernaut seems to be churning fueled on the present global financial character which is well exploited by those on top of it. I really hope humanity can fight it out to set its sight on the real truth that ancients could dwell onto but present ones refuse to!

  • srini

    truth will prevail when truth believer fight for it.

  • Truth will always prevail!

  • Nicely written article.

  • A very well written piece. To the point and precise

  • Vijay

    great article !