Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Indian laws put Christian missionaries on defensive |

Indian laws put Christian missionaries on defensive | "The law's title seems ironic, given its terms. Anyone wishing to switch religions must inform the district magistrate 30 days before or risk a fine. If a person converts another 'by the use of force or by inducement or by any other fraudulent means,' they may be imprisoned for up to two years, fined, or both. The law is silent, however, on the subject of 'reconversions.'"

According to Joseph Campbell, mythology serves four basic functions: inspire awe, explain the world, maintain social order (or provide a basis for change) and aid the individual through psychological crises. [here and here] The social function is a big one, and interestingly Campbell himself talks about Indian mythology's support for the caste system as a part of the natural order of things.

I believe the root of the Indian backlash against the Christian missionaries has less to do with the belief systems themselves as it does maintaining the societal status quo and keeping India's underclass in place.

India isn't the first to have such legislation and they won't be the last. A number of years ago Russia passed legislation defining what religious organizations were (and were not) and setting rights and responsibilities for those organizations. It was a blatant re-assertion of power by the Russian Orthodox church as a reaction to Christian missionaries.

It's my hope that we'll move away from religion as a tool to maintain social order. In the US, for example, we use Judeo-Christian beliefs to define marriage and what constitutes a family. Admittedly, these concepts may have served the purpose 2,000 years ago. However the world has changed and the concepts have not. Because these concepts are encapsulated in our religions (mythologies), they're immune to modernization. The resulting lack of discussion stunts the growth of US social institutions.

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