The Church's Long Journey

July 17, 2007
Shantanu Dutta

In a country where the talk of Christians attempting to proselyte and then convert never dies out and each day, it seems one more state enacts a Freedom of Religion Act (Uttarakhand is the latest!) Mark Tully arguably one of India’s most loved journalists and a confessed Indophile has spoken openly about his spiritual and inner journey. In the semi auto biographical book, India’s unending Journey, he talks of studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church where he was taught that the only way to understand God and know Him was through Jesus Christ and his position today as a pluralist. In fact at the book release, he mentions that the reason he wrote this book is that when he was young, he was taught that Christianity was the only way to God. But living in India has taught him that there are other ways to God as well and that it has changed him radically.

To me this piece of news says at least two things.  Firstly Christianity is not all or only about conversion. Compare Mark Tully’s “luck"  as he calls it in his interview to Shekar Gupta and the “fate” of Salman Rushdie. Sir Mark walks out of the Anglican Church and in fact the Christian fold altogether and the Queen, the Head of the Church of England awards him a knighthood.  The officially secular government of India(the UK is not officially secular) offers him a Padma Bhushan. Mark Tully’s luck is enviable, compared to the situation of Salman Rushdie loathed in several countries for writing a few stray verses in a book that few of the angry men in beards would have read. Imagine his fate if Rushdie had found and written about the virtues of pluralism as plainly as Mark Tully and remarked candidly in a chat that perhaps Islam was one of many faiths that had germinated in the other wise barren middle eastern soil.

The other thing this piece of news this tells me is that it is possible today for a Christian , and some one studying to be a priest no less, to declare that it is his conviction that there are other ways to God and walk out and still get accolades and honor. This is increasingly becoming difficult for say Hindus. With the Freedom of Religion Acts in force,  in an increasing number of states, it is no longer possible to write a book , announce a  Press Conference and say that he or she is not  a Hindu without going through a host of formalities and affidavits. But it would seem that for all its zeal and emphasis on conversion as bandied about in general, it would seem as if the church in general dos not care too much as to who comes and goes and who goes and why they have lost the beliefs they were born with.

So a question for the church. Does it really believe any more that Jesus and Christianity are the only way to God and Tully is mistaken that God can be found in many ways and places ….in the cathedrals and basilicas as well as the ghats of Benares? if so, should not the church look around and field a person of the stature of Mark Tully, not to confront him, but to engage him in a  dialogue and discourse to find out how Mark’s view evolved the way they did? Or Is it as they say, the church has lost the intellectual moorings to talk to opinion makers and thinkers like Mark Tully? But some times, I fear the worst. That no one in the church is clear as such as to what they believe. If so, the Christian faith should just take a bold step and rid itself of the bogey of conversion by reinventing itself - as an Art of Living Club. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar teaches Sudarshan Kriya. The church can teach Cross Kriya. No more. No less

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
eXTReMe Tracker
Keep reading for comments on this article and add some feedback of your own!

Comments! Feedback! Speak and be heard!

Comment on this article or leave feedback for the author

July 17, 2007
09:20 AM


What is your concern with the freedom of religion act? It does not violate any fundamental rights that the constitution guarantees. If it does, why dont you file a case in the Supreme Court

Secondly, why are you so sanguine about the Church in India?

Your man in AP, Chief Minister Samuel Reddy and Sons are bent on attacking Hindus and hindu temples. Mr Samuel Reddy has been generous enough to spend crores of tax payers money on building churches. His son YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, blew up Sunkulamma temple in Obullapuram village in Anantapur district.

In vast tracts of Orissa and Andhra, the church has been looting poor tribals of their possessions (read land) and what have they got in return? a Cross.....and may be a second hand motorcycle to drive after drinking country liquor

Let me tell you about two interesting experiences in Delhi

Way back in 1997, it was early days of my career. I was waiting on the ring road for a bus when a guy approached me. He gave me a piece of paper about Lord and all the crap about sinning etc. I asked him, what is this? He said they were having a meeting and wanted to check if I could attend. I asked him, what makes you think I will want to attend. He said, I was just asking. I then realised that there were many around, yet he came straight to me. I was bewildered. Am i some kind of magnet? Anyway, I let go.

Another day, i was having lunch at Sona sweets at Nehru place. Again, somebody approached me, this was for another event. Again, this guy came straight to me. I realised there must be something wrong with me. May be I look like the guy dying to become a christian. Nevertheless, after rejecting the offer, I questioned him. Shock of shocks, after multiple questioning I realised that he had two major criteria for recruitment

a. One needs to be dark skinned (which I was)
b. Should appear to be poor (May be I did?)
or both

Surprise of surprise, our church believes that every dark skinned and poor guy needs Jesus. Kya segmentation boss.........

The list goes on. Keep your prayer and preaching at your home. I have had enough of this missionary nonsense. Right from childhood we were taught about how all religions are equal (secularism). As I grew older I realised that most people believed their religion was the right way and the others were wrong. I really did not care much for Hinduism until then. Now I wonder, how can people tell others that their religion is better than others. If it is about meeting spiritual needs why does the Church have a marketing department (read: Missionaries).....

A. S. Mathew
July 17, 2007
02:26 PM

While waiting to catch a flight from Cochin to
Delhi, a young charismatic person took the seat close to me at the lobby. We started talking about business (he is the G.M. of an old and big
company in Kerala) and later on religious matters. For four hours, he listened to me
and asked me more questions. He told me " uncle,
I feel some sort of happiness to hear what you are talking about Jesus Christ". In Delhi, we said goodbye, and still we communicate through
e-mails. He repeatedly request my prayers for him and he wanted to know more about Jesus Christ.
When I meet people from different relgious background, I never will try to talk about religion, but about Jesus Christ, in whom there
is perfection of love, peace and joy. Christianity is like any other religion, but in the matter of education, humanitarian work and
social reformations, Christianity has done more than any other religion. With all the zeal I have, I tell about Jesus Christ to others,
and it is upto the person to have a personal
relationship with Him. God has given me the
opportunity to share my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, to the rich and poor, black and white, socially high class and low class. Jesus loves us, as we are and He does't like anybody forcing somebody to believe in Him.

July 17, 2007
02:32 PM

AS Mathew: but in the matter of education, humanitarian work and social reformations, Christianity has done more than any other religion.

Chandra: You are probably reading your 'own' version of history :-). Khush raho beta

July 17, 2007
10:51 PM

The Art of Living does not focus on religion. It speaks of exactly what its name is "The Art of Living". Religious beliefs are one's personal choice and the courses encourage people from all religions to participate. And they are absolutely free to pursue their own religion. The courses teach us to eat sensibly, exercise sensibly, and live with tons of love. Every religion also teaches all this, but there are religious customs too. As an Art of Living practitioner, one gets to learn ones own religious customs, but a double dose of what is really important practically:
"Eat sensibly, exercise sensibly, and live with tons of love"

A. S. Mathew
July 18, 2007
07:35 PM

Sri. Ravi Sankar is a good speaker and he is
quoting many truths spoken by Jesus Christ. I read an ariticle written by Sri. Ravi Sankar
based on Mathew chapter 5 which is called the beatitudes. In that passage, Jesus was teaching,
how to live like a king in this world by applying
spiritual truths because human beings are spiritual beings. If Sri. Ravi Sankar will give
some credit that he is borrowing some of the
spiritual lessons from the teachings of Jesus
Christ, it would have been great.

July 19, 2007
12:06 AM

AS Mathew: If Sri. Ravi Sankar will give
some credit that he is borrowing some of the
spiritual lessons from the teachings of Jesus
Christ, it would have been great

Chandra: Mathew, Einstein confirmed before dying that theory of relativity was also borrowed from Bible. Ladoo baant lo beta

Add your comment

(Or ping: http://desicritics.org/tb/5785)

Personal attacks are not allowed. Please read our comment policy.

Remember Name/URL?

Please preview your comment!