“The only reason I came here tonight was because that man (Ravi Zacharias) was an Indian”. This statement was reportedly made by a new convert to Christianity after listening to a speech by Ravi Zacharias. Ravi Zacharias is an Indian born evangelical Christian minister who has his own television and radio shows. I try to catch his television shows whenever it appears because I get to listen to fundamentalist and evangelical Christian rhetoric with an Indian twist.
Growing up mostly in Tamil Nadu and Kerala I have met a few Christian converts who have become so radical to the point that they actually hate all things Indian. They do not have a lot of positive things to say about India or its history or people although they are part of the Indian fabric. Whenever I listen to Ravi Zacharias I am always reminded of these new converts. He is very critical of Hinduism and Buddhism in his speeches and tries to paint Indian leaders like Mahatma Gandhi negatively.
He like the European colonizers before him consider India and its religions and beliefs to be inferior compared to Christianity and also believe it is their duty to spread the word of god. He has a four step process to convert Hindus and others to Christianity. Listening to him you will get the impression that Indians are naive people waiting to be fooled by these missionaries. However what does it say about the people who are befriending Indians for the sole purpose of converting them?
According the Ravi Zacharias about 1200 individuals came to listen to his speech that day in an auditorium in India (which was witnessed by one of his colleagues). At the end of the speech “about 153 made their first time commitments to Christ. Most of them where highly placed executives”. Ravi Zacharias does not name who his colleague (witness) was or when and where this speech supposedly took place. Also note the emphasis he places on the highly placed executives who converted that night. Does Jesus Christ care about the job title of his followers? But we know what he is trying to communicate. It is an old missionary trick.
Ravi Zacharias has indicated that he was born in Chennai. According to him his family descended from Nambudiri Brahmins. He claims that he himself was an atheist until the age of 17 (this was in the early sixties). He became a Christian after a failed suicide attempt in Delhi (According to his book “Cries of the Heart” someone in the hospital informed his mother to read the Gospel of John which convinced him to become a Christian).
Ravi Zacharias story about his forefathers converting from Brahmins is not unique. Many high caste Christians in Malabar have made similar claims although there is very little historical evidence to support the claim. Caste system plays a strong role among Christians in India. Christians who claim they are from Brahmins have a higher role in society than Christians who converted from other castes. They do not attend each others churches or intermarry.
Christianity is a great religion and is an integral part of India. So is Atheism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism or hundreds of other beliefs and philosophies you will find in India. An Indian Christian has the same claim to India’s history and heritage as Hindu or anybody else. But the problem always comes when a certain group considers the other as inferior or when one group thinks that it has the inside track on the truth, morality, meaning of life and so on.
In Christianity individuals like Ravi Zacharias fall into the group known as apologetics. Apologists defend a position using systematic reason (at least that is the theory). The followers of apologists are mostly the educated middle and upper middle class. People who fall into this category are very skeptical of the rituals and traditions that are part of all organized religions. They know that there is no easy answer or solutions in life.
Followers of apologists instead prefer listening to intellectual debates on truth, morality, origin of life, meaning of evil rather than listening to a pastor about how the universe was created in seven days or how the pastor can make a persons drug addiction go away just by touching his forehead. They are too smart and educated to fall for the sermons of the local neighborhood preacher.
In my opinion Ravi Zacharias is an atheist except when it comes to Christianity. He is able to clearly understand and articulate the deficiencies and the short comings of all other beliefs, religious or otherwise. But like all believers he has a blind spot when it comes to his own beliefs (maybe he does not but acts that way). How can Christianity be the only path when almost all of its doctrines, beliefs and gods are borrowed from other more ancient religions?
Ravi Zacharias has an answer for this. According to him the most important questions in life are about the origin of life, meaning of life, morality and our destiny. According to Ravi “only Jesus Christ provides a coherent answer to these questions. Jesus Christ’s life of purity, virgin birth, the offer that he made on the cross, bringing love and forgiveness, explaining evil and then ultimately rising back from the dead is what makes him a unique individual”. How do you take the leap from a unique individual to the only true god?
Ravi Zacharias like many other preachers is betting on the fact that his followers will not read the Bible themselves. Because if you read the Bible you will notice that it is full of contradictions including different stories about the sequence in which the universe was created (in the book of Genesis) and different versions of the Ten Commandments. There is nothing coherent about the Bible. Ravi is also assuming that the story of Jesus Christ is true and unique. This is a huge assumption considering the lack of evidence.
In fact outside of the Bible there is very little independent evidence to show that Jesus Christ existed. Stories of gods born from virgins and gods who are sacrificed and reborn are common all over the ancient world including India. Even if Jesus Christ was a real person there is nothing unique about his story. What does Jesus Christ teach that you cannot find in the teachings of Krishna, Buddha or Prophet Mohammad?
What we know today about the life of Jesus Christ comes from the Bible. But this very same Bible is wrong about how the earth and universe was created, how diseases are contracted, transmitted or cured or about basic astronomical principles. So how can we believe some parts of the Bible but not the others? All religions have similar issues. The holy scriptures are full of contradictions. Apologists like Ravi Zacharias know this very well. Do you?
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Category: Culture & Religion