Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bobby Jindal's conversion story

[:: Update. I have placed the full-text of the America article online.::]

America magazine has placed an excerpt from an article Mr. Jindal wrote in 1993, on his conversion from Hinduism to Christianity. Perspectives of an Indian convert. It's simple, straightforward, and powerful. [Hat tip to Amy.]

And, as a convert from Hinduism myself, there is much I can identify with.
My investigation of Christianity might have remained at this theoretical level had it not been for a short black-and-white film. Though its depiction of the crucifixion was harsher than that of many similar movies, something about this film hit me very hard. For the first time, I actually imagined what it meant for the Son of God to be humiliated and even killed for my sake. Although the movie did not convince me that anything was true, it did force me to wonder if Christians were right. I realized that if the Gospel stories were true, if Christ really was the Son of God, it was arrogant of me to reject Him and question the gift of salvation. (Emphasis added)
As some of y'all know, my first encounter with the Lord was an encounter with Christ crucified, and this overwhelming sense that "this man died for me," on Good Friday in 1991.

My family's response was very different from his, much more supportive, though they're as bewildered as ever. I'm truly grateful for this, since so many of my Indian friends have remarked just, well, how remarkable this is.

The title of Governor-elect Jindal's essay gets to the heart of a very important question: "Does Ecumenism make evangelism irrelevant?" There are so many places and voices in the church, in the US, in India (and elsewhere too), which would effectively say that dialogue has replaced proclamation. Mission consists in the witness of a holy life, of social development, work for human liberation and justice and so on. However there would be great discomfort in actually proclaiming Christ and inviting people to become His disciples and join His body, the Church. And while we recognize and respect "all that is good and true" in the world's religions, and respect the freedom of conscience of all, and, through dialogue, learn about different ways of understanding the divine, I don't think any of this means that we ignore the command we have from the Lord Himself, the Great Commission, to make disciples of all nations.

The sense of urgency for the missions has definitely been dulled. How to resurrect it, without going back to an atmosphere of spiritual pride, and condemning everyone else to hell, well that's another question. Governor-elect Jindal again.
The motivation behind my conversion, however, was my belief in one, objectively true faith. If Christianity is merely one of many equally valid religions, then the sacrifices I made, including the loss of my family's peace, were senseless. I was comfortable in my Hindu faith and enjoyed an active prayer life; I only gradually felt a void and stubbornly resisted God's call from within the church. It was Truth and Love that finally forced me to accept Christ as Lord. "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way and the truth and the life: No one comes to the Father except through me'" (In. 14:6). Christ's redemptive sacrifice proved that God loved me and was lifting me up to Him.


Mac said...

Yes, well.

I am glad that you do his story from the perspective of his Christian journey and forbear to do an "only in America" thing!

I presume you occasionally consult http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/ where that was indeed the initial take. As both a gora and a non-American I refrain from barging in there but I could not let that pass. Give them credit, they did take my point, albeit with qualifications:

"[O]nly in America"? Come on! Deepa Mehta is in the midst of making a film of the appalling Komagata Maru incident which took place in British Columbia in 1914 -- also the home of legislated discrimination against Chinese and, as on the west coast of the USA during World War II, forcible resumption of Japanese-Canadian property and internment in camps in the interior. And BC has now had three ethnically Indian attorneys-general and one premier, not to speak of numerous superior court judges. And vast numbers of ethically South Asian members of parliament from both BC and Ontario, from all three major parties. (When the Reform Party was in federal opposition before returning to its origins in the Conservative Party and now forming government, its spokesman for French-Canadian affairs was, of all things, a Muslim Gujarati MP from Edmonton, which may indicate that Conservatives have a sense of humour.)

"And then there all those ethnically South Asian members of the both houses of the British parliament and the British superior courts. Granted, there are per capita far more South Asians in the UK and Canada than in the USA but that may reinforce the point. America is entitled to its national myths just like every other country; like all such myths they contain a certain amount of truth and a certain amount of malarkey: let's not confuse ourselves by treating them as gospel. It sounds like Larry King's perennial "That's what America is all about" every time there is good news: no it isn't. "Only in America"? Hardly. "Finally, at last, also in America," more like.
The response:

(1) Hence the champagne!! :D



Non-serious answer: America, Canada, what's the difference? Being from Michigan, I was like 12 before I realized Canada was actually a separate country. So British Columbia counts when I said "only in America." Complete non-sequitur: Dave Foley once said "I'm a Canadian. It's like an American, but without a gun." I fell off the couch laughing at that one.

Half-serious answer: I suppose a more accurate statement would have "Only in Western federal democracies with a history of broad-based immigration," but it doesn't quite have the same ring to it, you know? Mea culpa.

Serious answer: While not perfect, Canada has a much better history regarding its treatment of minorities than the United States. More specifically, I'm not an expert on BC history but I'm willing to bet BC has a better history re: treatment of minorities than does Louisiana. I mean, c'mon, 15 years ago a former Grand Wizard of the KKK forced a runoff election for the same office that Jindal just won outright. That kind of _progress_ really is possible "only in America," if only because, in race relations, America had and has so much further to go.

Gashwin said...

"Only in America?" That thought didn't even cross my mind! Initially, I thought, "Hey, there is Lord Meghnath Desai in the House of Lords, and there was that premier of BC of Indian descent, and Ujjal Dosanjih ... about time this happened here too!" [There's a few more in the House of Lords and in Canadian politics for sure, those were the ones that first came to mind. What it a BC premier? Or attorney general that I'm thinking of? And as far as Lord Desai goes, anytime I'm back in Gujarat, he crops up in the press all the time!]