published on June 9, 2008

By Pradeep Kumar


The book ‘Expressions of Christianity, with a focus on India’ presents a few aspects and dimensions of Christianity, in particular Indian Christianity. This volume is meant not only for the specialist intellectual but also for the ordinary man who is interested in knowing about Christianity, which is increasingly confronting him in his everyday life. In short, it gives an academic understanding of the subject of Christianity in India and also helps as a guideline to deal with the Christian experience in an objective manner, keeping the widest interest of the country as a whole.


The Vivekananda Kendra felt it necessary to bring out this volume on Christianity not because there is any dearth of literature on this subject in our libraries. On the contrary, such material is abundant at the present juncture. But it has been written by authors who are keen to present Christianity from a particular angle and with a particular motive.


There are writings by self-confessed missionaries, by acknowledged supporters of Christian imperialism and there are also writings from self-appointed secularists. Even so- called objective historians have been hesitant to come out openly and call a spade a spade. Their hesitation is mostly due to the fear of organized, hostile criticism which will not only adversely affect the book market but also make them vulnerable to charges of being communal. Unpleasant truths are very often played down or distorted, if not totally suppressed. The total outcome of all these is that an Indian student of Christianity finds it difficult to get the truth which is reliable and useful. A lot of misunderstanding has been created by interested missionary writers and Christianity in India and also about the methods Christian missionaries have used to propagate their religion in this country.


The book exposes the methods by which highly placed clerical personalities have unscrupulously tried to fabricate history for spreading Christianity in a systematic manner. The true history of Christianity all over the world, including India, shows beyond a shadow of doubt that missionaries have indulged in cruelty and violence for spreading their religion.The Goan inquisition is well documented and no one can deny or disprove it. The destruction of temples has also been recorded. Francis Xavier who was declared a saint has a history of the cruelest sort of violence used for spreading Christianity in the coastal areas of India. Letters written by Francis Xavier himself to the king of Portugal have been published wherein he publicly declared.


“I have no words to express the joy which I felt at seeing a number of temples destroyed by their erstwhile worshippers after they were converted to Christianity.”



It was not only the poor and the neglected or the outcaste and untouchables of Hindu society whom the missionaries targeted for conversion, though that was their loudly proclaimed objective. They had another strategy of selectively approaching important personalities who wield great influence over the society by their moral and spiritual stature and leadership qualities. They made persistent efforts to contacts and slowly win over such persons to Christianity. Sri.NarayanaGuru, the saint and reformer of Kerala was one such with whom they engaged in a religious dialogue. Similarly, they made serious efforts to appeal to Mahatma Gandhi’s religious sympathy and admiration for the teachings of Christ. Needless to say that their efforts had no impact whatsoever on these stalwarts. But what is significant is that such silly efforts were made with the firm conviction that these great souls are doomed to eternal hell if they do not get baptized and that it was their bounden Christian duty to save them.


The outcaste and the untouchable were inhumanly treated by the upper caste Hindus and their salvation here and hereafter would be assured if they became Christians. That was the carrot dangled before them. But it was only a ploy. The converted Dalits remained in the same plight with all their social and economic disabilities unrelieved. Even separate churches and separate sitting arrangements were provided for them, and equal social status- intermarriage and interdining, for instance-was denied. Even today, these deplorable conditions continue to prevail except nominally. The disillusioned Dalits clamor for better treatment.


The book will bring a clearer, better and more authentic understanding about Christianity in India and will ultimately pave the way for a better and more cordial understanding between all concerned. It deals with Christianity’s historical developments both in the West and in Asia. As the title suggests, the book looks at the practical, outer expressions of Christianity rather than its theological foundations.


What interests us is not how a Christian preacher might ideally present his creed, but how it has manifested in actual fact for pre-r non-Christian Europeans, for the natives of America, Africa or India-also for Western intellectuals who started questioning Christianity. The publishers acknowledge that they cannot do justice to such a vast and complex theme in a single volume, but have tried to offer an overview, of which the average Indian reader will usually be quite unaware as it is: while this perspective is frequently and freely discussed in West, it rarely, if ever, forms part of debates on Christianity in India. Indian Christians themselves have the foggiest notion of the history of their religion, its origins, its expansion, its institutions, its destruction of other cultures, the ways in which it was challenged by leading Western intellectuals, its clash with science, and finally its spectacular retreat in the West.


Just as histories of colonialism have been largely written by the colonial powers, in effect erasing the testimony of the colonized, most histories of Christianity- and in India, all of them –have adopted Christian standpoints as a matter of course. In this volume, the publishers sought to reverse the perspective and assert the right of the countless victims of Christianity to be remembered, and, when still possible, to be heard.


At this stage, sincere Christians usually object that if their religion does have a dark past, that past also has a brighter side: think of the spread of Christian values, or selfless service offered at great personal scarifies in the farthest corners of earth; think of the countless kind –hearted Christians who have been embodiments of compassion, charity or service; think of the vast amounts of literature, painting, sculpture or music inspired by Christian themes; think, finally of the great heights of spirituality reached by Christian mystics. Have such achievements not benefited humanity at large? And do not other religious have their own darker sides, too? Is it fair, therefore, to single out Christianity for a one-sided treatment? Is this not as bad a mis-portrayal as the one Hindus Complain of when it comes to their religion?


These questions contain partial truths. Partial, because the spread of Christian values, in the few cases where those values were practiced at all, was always at the cost of earlier cultures which were illegitimately assumed to be inferior, because every religion gave rise to literature and art, which conquering Christianity often destroyed, because Christian mystics have been far fewer than those of others religious ( especially India’s native religions) and were often regarded with much suspicion, sometimes persecuted, by church authorities, and because whatever dark spots there may be in non-Abrahamic religions, none has ever treated dissenters or adherents of other belief systems remotely as cruel as Christianity did.


There lies Christianity’s Central and persistent problem: it has been all too eager to practice its God’s declaration that “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” ( Genesis 8:21) – a dismal stamp of sin and evil put on humanity. Again , no non – Abrahamic religion or culture so demeaned the human being.


Nevertheless, if a Christian chooses to believe in a doctrine of original sin and redemption, of damnation and salvation, of eternal hell or paradise, the Hindu, for instance, will respect such a choice. If a Christian claims to find spiritual fulfillment in his religion, the Hindu will feel happy for him, even if the reverse is rarely true.


But the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Native American, African or Australian, the Neo pagan also have a right to ask


Why the spread of Christianity has meant so much misery and the dehumanization to non- Christian?


Why the “good news” and glad tidings” had to manifest through physical and cultural genocides, leaving trails of broken families and shattered cultures?


Why Christian colonizers stole land from non-Christian cultures when they were supposed to follow a commandment enjoining them, “you shall not steal” ?


 Why criminals and abusers among them were more often protected than prosecuted?


Why apologies have been so few and vague, and concrete reparations even rarer?


In this era of human rights, they are entitled to ask what will be done to restore the rights of those who threatened no other culture, but whose land and traditions were preyed upon.


And what will be done to protect the rights of those still preyed upon today. Those questions and many more, remain largely unanswered; our sincere Christians must address them.


For Christianity’s dark side is regrettably not confined to the past; a companion volume will focus on proselytism – a euphemism for predation-again adopting the perspective of the prey rather than the prevailing one of the predator.


The materials presented in the book are authentic and intended to stimulate an informed debate. The articles are arranged under the following five sections:


 Ø      Origins and early history of Christianity


Expressions of Christianity in the west


Expressions of Christianity in India and elsewhere in asia


Intellectual Challenges to Christianity


The decline of Christianity


All boxed items appearing in the book have been prepared by the Vivekananda Kendra’s editorial team.


The authors who wrote papers specially for this book and its forthcoming companion volume, Christianity: Proselytism and Conversion, with a focus on India; include eminent thinkers such as Michel Danino, Nicole Elfi, Sandhya Jain, M.Pramod Kumar and S.Aravindan Neelakandan.


A book of this nature might be opposed by the Pseudo-Secularists and by the liberalized and Westernized Hindus, who are interested only in continuing their Utopian ideas of Westernization and in whose eyes, Indian religious values are all superstitions.  Communists are bound to disapprove all what is written, in spite of the fact that they are still deeply immersed in the Hindu religion. The maximum opposition may be expected from the Pseudo-Secular politicians of today, who are always engaged in double talk.


EXPRESSIONS OF CHRISTIANITY WITH A FOCUS ON INDIA. Published by Vivekananda Kendra Prakashan Trust, 5, Singarachari Street, Triplicane, Chennai- 600 005. Tamil Nadu, India. Phone: 91-44-28440042: Email: [email protected] Website:



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