A New Kind of Christianity
by Rakesh Rampertab

see related article:  Lords Prayer Still Said in Public Schools       What is Hinduism?

                                            "I know who is coming with the Bibles and leaving with the diamonds."
                                                    —Forbes Burnham, to an Amerindian captain during a visit
                                                    to an Amerindian villlage.

About a year ago, an 87-years-old Hindu woman descended to the Grove Primary School at Grove, East Bank Demerara, to seek medical assistance from some foreigners there. According to the old lady, they wanted to “turn her into Christian.” In the end, despite her refusal to change faith, she was given a pair of spectacles. Sometime this school holiday, they will come again, if they have not already arrived. This was no isolated incident. In late 2001, the “Book of Hope” scandal surfaced, exposing a Christian organization’s (Assembly of God, I believe) attempt to distribute one of its books in certain public schools. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education continues to be a poor guardian of public school premises.

As a secular Republic, Guyana cannot tolerate foreign aid that requires the obstruction of our secular principles. Charity should not come with a discriminatory condition. The Guyana Red Cross Society lists itself as a “humanitarian organization” which works “without discrimination as to nationality, races, religious beliefs…” Consider our own Jesus Rescue Mission on Croal Street. In our telephone directory, one reads; “The JRM operates the Children’s Praise Hospital providing daily clinics with diagnostic services and pharmacy…it also offers bible classes…” At some point, pharmacy can become bible classes, and when this happens, charity takes the form of religious indoctrination. This kind of charity borders on hypocrisy and must be not be encouraged.

Today, this very kind of religious charity financed by the Bible Belt of America (Southern States) and states in the West (e.g., Utah, where Mormonism flourishes), is being distributed across the world (especially in Latin and South America, and Asia), converting non-Christians to Christianity. In 1989, Hinduism Today magazine noted that an estimated US$165 million dollars were spent in India alone for such conversion schemes. The two female American “humanitarian workers” who were arrested by the Talibans in 2002, were apprehended for trying to convert Muslims. In Guyana, these missionaries (many are Mormons), apparently, will set up camp in our public schools, despite knowing that our laws (similar to theirs in the US) demand a separation of church and state. What may begin as “humanitarian” work, often includes theological business and this translates into contempt for our Constitution.

Mormonism requires young men to do missionary work. The BBC estimates that 40% of all young Mormon men do this worldwide. These days, their staggering presence is everywhere in Guyana; in our minibuses, our villages, on our speedboats, and on our city streets, the well-dressed, tie-wearing missionaries go about “riding” the “circuit,” teaming up with their local supporters. They can be seen in traditional strongholds of Hindu-Muslim communities like Enmore, Herstelling, and Number 2 Village, Berbice. And where there are no Mormons, there are Presbyterians and/or various schools of “assemblies,” targeting and converting potential converts, including poor civilians who are often most willing to accept foreign charity and “gifts.”

Altogether, this is dangerous and faulty precedence being established among our religious communities. It is a threat not only to state laws, and Hindu-Muslim-African religion communities, but traditional Christianity itself, for the new believers are being indoctrinated along a commercial basis. The manner of conversion and the type of Christian conversion (in case of Mormonism, a somewhat discredited Christian sect not even 200 years old) will return to haunt us, because they involve some commercial cajoling. Where civilians are quick to accept less than 32 pieces of silver for a trade of faith, there is a shortage of spiritual integrity. One may profess a faith in Christ, but not without the modern miracles (free spectacles, injections etc.), and in some cases, an unnecessary slander (or defeat) of other faiths.

This can be found in prayer materials that show how the Presbyterian message is being tailored to the Indian mindset/community. An example is a book titled, “Sadhu Sundar Singh,” written by one Joshua Daniel, a “circuit rider” (or missionary). It is about a Punjabi holy man who eventually embraced the Gospel he once hated. On pages 18-19, one reads, “Indian religions are highly developed intellectual achievement of men,” but they foster “killing oneself and destroying one’s spiritual potentialities.” This is unlike when a man comes under the “influence of the Holy Spirit of God.” Then, his instincts are not killed, only “controlled.”

“Controlled” best describes the state of this new religion and its disciples. The very expression of faith is “controlled” as if all original and personal thoughts of godhead never existed, are killed, or are forbidden. Whatever these “born again” disciples say often assume Biblical precision, and they will recite quotes and verses word for word, as if they invented the very lines themselves. This in itself may not be wrong, but for a religion that begins with God instructing man that he (man) has “free will,” it appears as if only a hand-me-down belief buttressed by financial aid, will survive from all this conversion and circuit riding.

[Editor’s Note: Published in Stabroek News in August and in Caribbean Indian Times in September 2003. In a follow up letter to this, published in Stabroek News, a representative of the Latter-day Saints from Bel Air in G/town admitted that permission has been granted to them to use a certain government school on the East Bank for religious business. This is a clear obstruction of the separation of church and state law of the Guyana Constitution (just as the Public School prayer being the Lord's Prayer breaks the church/state rule). More than one letters have been done asking for a comment from the Ministry of Education, but while Mr. Ed Caesar has said he’ll respond, he never has thus far.]

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August 6, 2003
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