Thursday, February 06, 2003

Dear Abby

I am sorry for my lack of posts the past couple of days, however I have been quite busy at work. I have been planning a conference the past couple of months on Transparency within the international financian institutions (like the World Bank, the IMF, the Asian Development Bank, etc) and we leave tomorrow for the actual thing, so needless to say, the last couple of days have been quite chaotic. Anyway, since I won't be posting for the next couple of days b/c I will be at the conference, I have some good items to share. The first is a response to the famed advice columnist Dear Abby. Abby had given some bad advice to a Hindu from the bible belt whose Christian neighbors/friends tuck religious pamphlets into holiday boxes of baked goodies in an effort to convert her and I am posting the responses and the initial letter below. If you want to see the actual website, click here.


DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Happy Hindu in the Bible Belt," whose Christian friends tuck religious pamphlets into holiday boxes of baked goodies in an effort to convert her, was off base. You advised her to ignore the brochures and enjoy the goodies -- unless she had lost her appetite -- in which case she should donate the treats to a shelter or take them to the office.
I disagree. That lovely lady should politely tell her friends that she likes her own religion and ask them to please stop with the religious literature. If they continue, she should end the friendship. If converting her is more important than her friendship, there IS no friendship. -- BEEN THERE, TOO, IN BEND, ORE.

DEAR B.T.T.: Your answer is better than mine. Interestingly, "Happy Hindu's" problem appears to be widespread. That letter brought in a bushel of mail. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am Jewish. A friend from college kept sending me "Jesus Loves You" Christmas cards. I told her it hurt my feelings that she didn't respect my beliefs. I made it clear that I am Jewish and will always remain Jewish, as it is my religious and cultural background.

Like "Hindu," I know that some of these gestures are well-intentioned, but I would never dream of sending my friend Hanukkah cards. I send cards that say "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays." It's good to learn about other people's beliefs and be open to them -- but not when they're forced on you. -- JILL IN SACRAMENTO

DEAR JILL: I regret that I did not advise "Happy Hindu" to be as outspoken and upfront as you and "Been There."

DEAR ABBY: Your answer to "Happy Hindu" offended me as a Christian. If the circumstances were different, would you tell me to ignore my Buddhist friends, but enjoy their treats if I didn't gag first? Why is evangelical Christianity the only religion we shouldn't tolerate? -- MARY S., ELLIJAY, GA.

DEAR MARY S.: It's not. Anyone who proselytizes is treading on "sacred ground." It's regarded as offensive, even if it is heartfelt.

DEAR ABBY: Hard as it is to live with some evangelicals, they are easier to take than people who feel justified in resorting to violence against those they feel are "lost." You have to understand that with evangelicals, it is an article of faith, and it's their Christian duty to preach their version of the Gospel, especially if they care about you and are genuinely concerned about your soul. -- DOLLY IN LACEY, WASH.

DEAR DOLLY: I am aware of that. A devout and very sweet lady once told me she was "sad" because she loved me and knew she wouldn't see me in heaven. I asked her why. She said, "Because you haven't been saved!" Once I got over the shock that her heaven was segregated, I assured her that even though I might not be in hers, she would definitely be in mine, so please not to worry any further.

DEAR ABBY: Many people have stopped me on the street or come to my door with religious tracts, so I had cards printed with the following: "I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed. I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, not from our words, that our religion must be judged." (Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. H. Harrison Smith, 1816) -- KAYE IN N.Y.C.

DEAR KAYE: I agree with his timeless and profound conclusion.

Here is a link to the original letter, and I am pasting that below as well.


DEAR ABBY: I am a Hindu woman living in the Bible Belt. Many of my friends and acquaintances are Christian, and they are all wonderful -- except for one thing. Some try in small, subtle ways to convert me to their faith.
With Christmas approaching, I know what's coming -- boxes of baked goodies with little brochures and pamphlets tucked inside all about Jesus and the Christian faith. I wish you would remind people that all of us in this diverse nation should respect the faiths of others. To try to convert someone to your faith implies that you consider your religious beliefs superior, and that is just plain wrong.

I know these gestures are well meant, but I wouldn't dream of sending Hindu brochures with my holiday goodies. Abby, what is a tactful, but firm, way of dealing with this? -- HAPPY HINDU IN THE BIBLE BELT

DEAR HAPPY HINDU: Much as you would like, you are not going to change people who feel it's part of their religious commitment to "save" you. Ignore the brochures and enjoy the goodies -- unless you have lost your appetite. If that's the case, donate the treats to a homeless shelter or take them to the office.

While many of us growing up Hindu, or some other minority religion knows what this feels like (I grew up in a small town, where I was repeatedly told I was going to hell. The small problem was, I didn't believe in Hell) there is obviously a growing problem in India of the same sort. We all saw the damage that was done last year as a result of the Godhra carnage, but with the election Gujarat of Modi and the BJP, it seems like the Sangh Parivar (BJP, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, etc. ) wil have free reign again to do terrorize the non-hindu population. I think it is high time that Hindu's stop prosthelytizing and go back to the more accepting and tolerant vision of Hinduism. I have more to say on this, but it is getting late. I am pasting a link here to a nicely written essay in last weekend's NY Times magazine written by the author Pankaj Mishra (The Romantics, and Butter Chicken in Ludhiana) on the rising tide of Hindu extremism.


Post a Comment

<< Home