Posted on June 13, 2016
Paul Pathickal. Christ and the Hindu Diaspora. Bloomington: WestBow Press, 2012. See here to buy the book.
In Christ and the Hindu Diaspora, Paul Pathickal discusses ways that evangelical Christians can share the Gospel with Hindus in the Diaspora. Pathickal provides background about the history and religion of Hinduism. He also talks about reasons that Hindus have migrated to the West, their experiences as immigrants, and where many of them are religiously. He bases his knowledge about where they are religiously on surveys.
Here are some of my thoughts about the book:
A. The section that provided background information about Hinduism was helpful and interesting. While I have learned about Hinduism from classes and reading, the information that Pathickal provided helped me to place what I knew in a context. This was particularly the case with Pathickal’s discussion of three Hindu deities. According to Pathickal, underneath the impersonal Brahman (ultimate reality, or universal spirit) are three deities: Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. Brahma was the creator, and afterwards he was inactive, so Pathickal states that Brahma is “the least worshiped of the three gods” (page 21 of the mobi version). Shiva is a god of destruction, but he destroys to clear the way for new creation, and Hindu ascetics are devoted to him because they want their lower selves to be destroyed. Vishnu is a beneficent god and (according to Hindu legend) has appeared in many incarnations throughout history. This description corrected misconceptions I had about Hinduism, placed things I knew in a context, and helped me to understand Hindu beliefs.
B. Pathickal states that, for a number of Hindus, many Hindu deities are not as powerful in the Diaspora as they are in India. In the Diaspora, the belief goes, Hindu deities would have to compete with other deities on those other deities’ turf. Pathickal talks as if this is a widespread belief among Hindus in the Diaspora, even though his own survey indicates that it is not the majority belief among the Hindus that were surveyed. Pathickal may be saying this to argue that a significant number of Hindus in the Diaspora are not overly attached to the Hindu religion, and thus they may be open to something else (i.e., Christianity).
C. Hinduism is often seen as a tolerant religion, one that believes that there are many paths to the divine. One of my favorite quotes in the book is a passage that Pathickal actually argues against: “The firm soul hastes, the feeble tarries. All will reach the summit snows” (page 116; Pathickal cites a work by Edmund D. Soper). I was thus surprised to learn from Pathickal’s book that many Hindus are against Hindus converting to Christianity. They are open to including Jesus in the pantheon of gods, but they are against Hindus rejecting the Hindu gods to become Christians. A factor that Pathickal mentions is the responsibility of Hindu firstborn to honor certain Hindu gods and to support the family’s ancestors. According to Pathickal, many Hindus have a problem when the Hindu firstborn become Christian and no longer practice these rites.