An elected official in America’s state of Mississippi, Biloxi Councilwoman Dixie Newman, recently posted on Facebook about walking out on a Hindu prayer during a City Council meeting.
“Last night at the Biloxi City Council Meeting, they presented a HINDU Invocation,” she wrote in the public post. “I had to walk out. You are more than welcome to believe and worship whom you please. But as for me, I will only stand, bow, or worship, Jesus Christ.”
While her actions might sound incongruous to those Indians who believe USA is the paragon of ‘secularism’ (as Indians understand it), and might remind others of how most Muslim leaders in Bharat refuse to say ‘Vande Mataram’ (salutations to the motherland), it is actually not at all surprising to witness such attitudes towards non-Christian faiths, especially Hindu Dharma, in USA. Hindu religious practises are quite often equated to devil worship or presented as superstitious and esoteric in mainstream Christian teachings, and ridiculed as fatalistic and quaint in American popular culture.
Responses to Dixie’s post on Facebook were divided. While some commenters offered their support and jumped to her defense, others found her actions distasteful.
As reported by the Sun Herald, a Facebook commenter listed as Michael Goggans said (emphasis added):
“Dixie Newman while this may have been a good move with your core constituency, I don’t think it is a morally good move. As some have pointed out, an elected official should represent everyone in their district. You are no more being asked to covert to Hinduism via this prayer as a Christian invocation is trying to convert Hindus.
“Appreciate the diversity of your district and respect all beliefs. Your faith should never be affected by listening to a session opening prayer from another religion. Just remain respectfully quiet as they exercise their rights. You can even pray to Jesus internally while that’s going on.”
In one response to a commenter, Newman said:
“I thought I made my statement pretty clear. You all can love, pray to, believe in, worship anyone or anything you chose. I chose Jesus and I cannot stand and worship anyone other than him. I have given my life to him so I cannot. But you get to chose just like I do. This post was just to give him praise. Nothing other than that.”
So is Newman being true to her religion?And does Michael Goggans inadvertently reveal some basic truths about Christianity, although his intentions are good?
The Christian Bible clearly forbids worshipping anyone but the Christian God (father of Jesus):
Luke 4:8 – “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'”
Mathew 4:10 – “Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'”
Samuel 7:3 – “So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”
And ‘idol worship’ (how Christians interpret Hindu murti puja) is explicitly forbidden in Christianity –
Psalm 115:4-8 – “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.”
Goggans is misled (or he’s politely trying to hide the truth that is taught to all Christians) that Christian invocations are not intended to convert Hindus, because the Bible exhorts all Christians to evangelise their faith to non-believers at every possible opportunity…what Christians call the ‘Great Commission’:
Matthew 28:19-20 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Moreover, Goggans’ comment about how Newman could have silently worshipped Jesus while the Hindu prayer was going on, shows that a true, believing Christian can at best be tolerant towards other faiths, they can never accord the same degree of respect to other religions as they expect towards their own. Mutual respect for diverse religious and spiritual paths comes naturally only to Dharmics, as Rajiv Malhotra states.
Anti-Hindu bigotry in ‘secular’ USA
The famous American televangelist and American media mogul Pat Robertson has openly denounced Hindu Dharma as “demonic,” and called for the “conversion of India.” Robertson at one time even made a bid for the Republican Presidential nomination.
In July, 2007, The United States Senate conducted its morning prayer services with a Hindu prayer, a historical first – a daily Christian prayer service is performed in the US Senate by a designated Senate Chaplain, and the annual National National Prayer Breakfast (attended by the President, hosted by members of the US Congress and organized on their behalf by The Fellowship Foundation, a shadowy but powerful Christian organization with long-standing political ties to top echelons of Washington) is an important event in the American political calendar. However, the Hindu service was disrupted by protestors who claimed it as “an abomination”.
Mississippi-based American Family Association issued an alert to its members asking them to write to their Senators to oppose the Hindu prayer which “seeks the invocation of a non-monotheistic god”. The alert added, “since Hindus worship multiple gods, the prayer will be completely outside the American paradigm, flying in the face of the American motto One Nation Under God.“
The state of Mississippi in the south of USA, where the city of Biloxi is located, is part of what is called the ‘Bible Belt’, an area comprising of Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Texas where evangelical Christian is especially strong. And Dixie Newmans is part of the Republican party, which is known for its staunch conservative Christian votebase.
But this does not mean that Christian influence in USA is limited to the ‘Bible Belt’ alone or that the ‘liberal’ Democrats are true ‘seculars’. It was the celebrated Democratic President Bill Clinton who created the partisan federal body USCIRF (United States Commission for International Religious Freedom) which supposedly monitors ‘religious freedom’ (code word for freedom to proselytise Christianity) across the world and lumps Bharat in the vicinity of Islamic theocracies like Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Saudi and communist dictatorships like China as a ‘country of concern’.
Missionary work is glorified by mainstream ‘liberal’ outlets like New York Times and Washington Post. Even for liberal Americans, it would appear that Christianity is considered a ‘civilising influence’ on ‘idol-worshipping heathens.’
And what Dixie Newman did is no different from the supremacism that drives Muslim and Christian clerics and leaders in Bharat to demonise Hindus and mock their religious practises.
What is astonishing is the servility that has been drilled into Hindu minds by decades of secular conditioning, even after political independence from a Western Christian colonial power. If anything, Hindu elected officials should be taking offence at Christian and Muslim religious prayers and invocations, because both Abrahamic religions have a long history of attacking and undermining Hindu Dharma. But what we encounter instead is slavish, approval-seeking behavior by Hindu political and religious leaders who trot out the ‘all religions are equal and teach oneness of God’ line, which is never reciprocated by Abrahamics and is indeed dismissed with contempt.
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