|Text and Context in Dialogue|
Home > Volume 1 > Number 4: November 2002
To the Editor ...
From Dr. Ramesh Khatry,
Association for Theological Education in Nepal.
I was indeed surprised to read a response (VOB 1:3, August 2002) not from a Nepali Christian but from Swami Dayanand Bharati of South India on the problems of indigenisation in the Nepali church. This guru writes on the issue of persecution of Christians in Nepal, but in his diatribe he is also pouring out his venom against the Indian evangelicals who must have irritated him. Bharati drags in Martyn Lloyd-Jones who rightly says that many converts and Christians suffer for their own mistakes. Granted. However, Bharati has to just open the New Testament to find out that just as many converts suffer because they have chosen to follow Jesus. Acts 4 recounts the story of Peter and John being dragged to jail and then the Sanhedrin after healing a lame man. Did they commit some error to deserve this? Paul relates the suffering he has been through (2Cor 11:23-29). Was he a blundering apostle? Paul himself speaks of the churches in Judea who suffered at the hands of their fellow Jews (2Thes 2:14-16). What mistakes did these churches make other than follow Jesus? I could cite plenty more examples.
Bharati states that if one is converted only to Jesus he can definitely avoid all kinds of sociological persecution from his family and community. But if he is converted to Christianity he has to face every kind of persecution. Bharati's logic must dictate that the characters in Act 4, 2 Cor 11, and 2 Thes 2 were converted to Christianity and not Jesus because they all suffered. The New Testament disagrees. The name Christian was used for the first time in Act 11:26, at least twenty years after Jesus' death. Christianity as a system must have come much later. In such a context, even the question whether one is converted to Jesus or Christianity does not apply.
Oversimplification or not, the sociological theories of Waskom Pickett and Donald McGavran regarding persecution or avoiding it fail to stand the test of the passages cited above and the rest of the New Testament. With the example of Abraham, Bharati confuses physical migration with spiritual conversion. There is a difference. In the former, family members need to travel with the bread earner. There is no such obligation in a spiritual journey.
Nowadays, many convert to Christianity to see what benefit they can get out of it. However, for Bharati to make such a blanket statement that those who convert to Jesus don't suffer is to insult his own fellow Indian Christians like Sadhu Sundar Singh, Bhakt Singh and countless others unknown to him. I need not mention Nepali Christians who have followed Jesus to jails and death, especially between 1960 and 1990, but even now. Did they convert to Christianity or Jesus?
Bharati says that evangelicals sing about persecution. So did Charles Wesley and the other hymn writers who saw God's faithfulness in rescuing them. As far as evangelicals making a programme about persecution, Bharati may be sharing his experiences from India. At least in Nepal, Christians have tried to avoid persecution if they could. With anti-Christian governments in power all the time, that was and is difficult.
Personally, I am willing to accept Bharati's statements that are affirmed by the Bible. I am thankful to him that he opened my eyes to the possibility that we Asians can be more faithful to our culture if we preach sitting. Opening the New Testament convinced me of it- Jesus did so himself (Mt 5:1; 13:1,2; 15:29; 26:55). However, I must discard his statements like if converted to Jesus no persecution and similar half-cooked generalisations.
With this the correspondance about persecution is closed. The editor would like to remind correspondants to ensure that quotes from previous articles and letters are exactly as they are in the original to prevent confusion and misinformation.
Voice of Bhakti welcomes interaction with its readers. If you have a comment please email the editor at the address below. Mark Johnson, editor