Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Critique of Ammu Joseph's Article on Conversions

Guest Post by (Shrivathsa.Brahma):

Christian/muslim/communist apologetics is regularly bandied out as genuine intellectual discourse by chindu. The article by Ammu Joseph is a case in point.

The conclusions from the article could be summarised as follows:

  • Although the christian missionaries target vulnerable populations, one has to trust the wisdom of the same vulnerable populations who "make use of the educational, healthcare and other services of faith-based organisations without changing their creed", because you see, "After all, these are the people — not the educated middle classes — who repeatedly throw up election results that surprise and baffle political pollsters and pundits." The fact that malicious means are used to convert, the fact that physical force is used to convert, the fact that economic pressure is used to convert, all stand obfuscated.

  • Although the church has indulged in malicious slander of Hindu Gods and given rise to conflicts in converts' families, its ok because "for every story about a family divided by religious conversion there are many about families who find their own amicable ways of dealing with religious difference". Hail the (Indian?) family!

  • Although there is an open religious conflict in kandamahal, it is because of "a number of complex factors, including issues of land and livelihood, contributed to the recent eruption of prolonged violence — especially in Orissa. As in other situations, what appears to be a communal conflict is not necessarily or primarily rooted in religion. However, the power of religion is often used to rally the troops on either side of any divide". Even if you grant that  there are issues of "land and livelihood" in kandamahal? and for how long were they there? if they are here recently, who is the reason for such conflicts?

  • Although the christian religion is intolerant of any dissent, it is ok because "For instance, on a trip to Israel with a group of Indian artists (all Hindu) a couple of years ago, I found that many of them were more enthusiastic about genuflecting and lighting candles in various churches than I was". No acknowledgement or appreciation of the "pUjya bhAva" in the hindus towards anything projected as divinity, hence I think this sentence is a condescending remark. 

  • "At the same time it is impossible to disregard the role of religion as a source of security, comfort, succour and hope for large numbers of people. Many middle class Indians of different faiths find meaning in the teachings of one or other of a wide range of gurus (past and present), join various religious movements, and choose to make vows at places of pilgrimage associated with religions other than their own ...... Why then should Dalits or Adivasis — or any other citizens — not seek refuge in whatever faith answers their particular needs, spiritual or otherwise, at particular times? What right does anyone else have to question their right to do so". Seems like a QED, but what about the question of intolerance in the christian faith? what about the malicious slander they indulge in against Hindu Gods and Godesses? Have any of the "wide range of gurus (past and present)" ever indulged in slander of christianity? Have any of the "wide range of gurus (past and present)" ever taken advantage of the hunger to convert a person?

  • "For example, in his closing speech Dr. K.M. Munshi, well-known champion of Indian culture and founder of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, justified the inclusion of the right to propagate (along with the right to profess and practice) religion, saying: "I am sure, under the freedom of speech which the Constitution guarantees, it will be open to any religious community to persuade other people to join their faith. So long as religion is religion, conversion by free exercise of conscience has to be recognised. The word 'propagate' in this clause is nothing very much out of the way as some people think, nor is it fraught with dangerous consequences." " QED again.

  • "What a sea change there has been in public discourse in this country over the past few decades. If anything endangers Indian society and culture today it is the virtual abandonment of civilised debate over political and ideological differences and the widespread adoption of violent means to all kinds of ends." The writer here has totally obfuscated the fact as to who started the violence first. Was Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati killed by a bolt of lightning from high up in the sky? Or was he killed by the christians?

  • "At a time when unacceptably large numbers of Indians continue to have no access to basic needs such as food and shelter, when too many have too little access to education and healthcare, and when there is extensive unemployment and economic exploitation, not to mention social exclusion, across the land maybe we all need to rethink our priorities. Is religious conversion the best that we can do? Is it the worst?". This sentence seems to be either 

    • a planned addition to beguile those ones like me who generally look at the beginning and end of an article to see a writer's "abstract" and the end for its "conclusion". I hope the editor/publisher didn't fall into a similar trap.

    • Or it should be that the writer is genuinely confused that she concludes something one sidedly in the middle of the article and then she puts the same conclusion to question at the end of the article.


Anonymous said...

You couldn't expect anything more biased from Chindu's coverage & its take. If the converts have better education & health facility and all those human development index met then why the heck should they need job reservation?

Anonymous said...

If foreign money is used for the purpose of social service and upliftment of poor, then they may route the funds towards prime minister relief fund or NGOs or even to other religious society or mutt to demonstrate no interest in religious intentions!