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Switch to Forum Live View How can I respond to Christian missionaries who claim Hinduism is bad for women?
5 years ago  ::  Dec 11, 2009 - 12:46PM #1
Heatherldavis
Posts: 2

My evangelical Christian aunt and uncle have been working in India to help orphans, widows, and the needy, which is great. But they see this work as a way to bring Indians to Jesus.


They say that they have been called to "preach the Word in a dark part of the world." I have a lot of problems with this since I don't believe a country is "dark" because it is not Christian. Their language also sounds awfully colonial.


They say that the Hindu faith treats women as the property of men, allows for the burning of women on funeral pyres, and fully supports the caste system.


I know almost nothing about Hinduism but I know that the way my relatives characterize the entire faith has got to be skewed.


Is it true that Hinduism treats women poorly or are my aunt and uncle talking about cultural practices?


How can I respond to them? Do some people think Christianity is "better" for poor women in India than Hinduism?


These are big questions but I'd really like to hear some responses from folks who know about India and the Hindu faith.


Thanks,


Heather


 


 


 


  

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 11, 2009 - 2:02PM #2
gangajal
Posts: 835

Heather,


[[[They say that the Hindu faith treats women as the property of men, allows for the burning of women on funeral pyres, and fully supports the caste system.


I know almost nothing about Hinduism but I know that the way my relatives characterize the entire faith has got to be skewed.


Is it true that Hinduism treats women poorly or are my aunt and uncle talking about cultural practices?


How can I respond to them? Do some people think Christianity is "better" for poor women in India than Hinduism?


These are big questions but I'd really like to hear some responses from folks who know about India and the Hindu faith.]]]


This is what you should say. Hinduism does not have a centralised organization which tells people what they should or should not do. It is up to the follower of any Hindu sect to behave as he should see fit. So it is quite meaningless to say that Hinduism treats women poorly. A more correct position would be to say that some Hindu men might treat women poorly or that Hindu society is still male dominated . Again this is not a complete picture. Let me remind you that India has had several women political leaders like Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Jayalalitha, Mayawati etc. US is yet to have a woman President. 


Now you may ask what Hindu scriptures say about women. Here is a sample:


Women must be honoured and adorned by their fathers, brothers, husbands,
and brothers-in-law, who desire their own welfare. ( Manu Smriti III.55)

Where women are honoured, there the gods are pleased; but where they are not
honoured, no sacred rite yields rewards. (MS III.56)

Where the female relations live in grief, the family soon wholly perishes; but
that family where they are not unhappy ever prospers. (MS III.57)

The houses on which female relations, not being duly honoured, pronounce a
curse, perish completely, as if destroyed by magic. (MS III.58)

Hence men who seek (their own) welfare, should always honour women on holidays
and festivals with (gifts of) ornaments, clothes and (dainty) food. (MS III.59)


What is the reason for the statements made by your relatives? I think there are 2 reasons for what they are saying:


1. Their evangelistic world view stops them from viewing any situation objectively;


2. They are working to convert the very poor people (earning less than $2 a day) among which the literacy rate, specially among women,  is very low.  These poor people may be following outdated cultural practices.


You have asked whether some people believe whether Christianity is better for poor women in India than Hinduism. Your question already suggests that the key word is poor, i.e., material wealth and not any faith or dharma system. Hindus believe that Christian missionary types give money to the poor to convert, i.e., they use the wealth of the west to get converts among the poor Hindus. I have seen in the news papers poor women being converted to Christianity for a sum of about $20 per month. Of course the reverse is also true. Some Christian women come back to Hinduism after the missionaries stopped paying them the money. What your post suggests is the urgent need for rapid economic development in India such that Christian missionary types can not use western wealth to convert the poor among the Hindus.


Should only Hindus be blamed for mistreating women? How should one take the adulterous behaviour  of Bill Clinton, Southern Carolina gov Mark Sanford, Tiger Woods etc? Shoud one conclude from these examples that Christianity mistreats wives? It is only in the 1920s that women got tha vote in the west after a long struggle. Hindu women have gotten the vote in 1947 when the British occupation ended. They got the vote without any struggle. Modern Hindu women  are now found in a whole host of professions including Air Force pilots.


My sister is a civil servant. My Guru, Sri Sarada Devi, is a woman. So it is very foolish to blame Hinduism. There is, however, a need for education and economic development for the improvement of poor Hindu women. The point is that it is the poverty that is the enemy and not faith.


You should also point out to your relatives the fact that Hindu women are now coming forward to help their poor sisters. Let me give you one example: Sarada Seva Sangha. You will know about them in this web site:


www.saradaseva.org.


I visited them a few years ago and liked what they are doing.


Gangajal

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 11, 2009 - 4:13PM #3
williejhonlo
Posts: 3,788

Hinduism actually places great reverence for woman more than any other religion. Hinduism teaches that when women become degraded all of society suffers. In Hinduism they worship goddesses. you have women saints and devotees. Radha is half of Krishnas form. Christian missionaries are somewhat not that intelligent, people on the bodily conception of life cannot see past their own secular religion and view others as less than themselves. Such thinging is grounded in ignorance.

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 12, 2009 - 10:37AM #4
Maya3
Posts: 928

Heather,


Thank you very much for coming here and asking us so that you know how to respond in an educated and well informed way.


I have never been to India and I'm not of Indian decent so I cannot speak for India's political and social systems.


But as a Hindu I would like to answer your question anyway.


There are a lot of misconseptions about Hinduism especially from the west and even more from conservative christian circles.


Hinduism does not treat women badly, like both Gangajal and Willie said God is often portrayed as a woman, in fact she can be looked at in many female forms.


There is nothing in the Hindu  scriptures that says that a woman is less valuable than a man, the scriptures tell us that we are ALL the same, EVERYTHING in the universe is ONE.


Again, since I have never been to India, I can only imagine that in poor areas where literary rates are low people may misinterpret scriptures and confuse old cultural practices with religion. It's often like that all over the world, not just in India or in Hindu countries, but also in the U.S among Christians.


Look at the fringe polygamist mormons in the US, look how they treat women and children, their teenage boys and gilrs, no one judges the whole of christianity because of them.


Heather, feel free to ask more questions.


Maya


 

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2009 - 1:41PM #5
gangajal
Posts: 835

Heather, Wille, Maya,


    I would like to point out to an organization, American Service to India, whose mission is to send funds to thousands of Hindu organizations (and even to one or two Christian organizations) for the upliftment of poor women and girls. You will find out about them from their web site: www.asti1.org. You can also take a look at their news bulletin at the web site:www.asti1.org/ASTInews06final.pdf.


    Thousands of Hindu organizations are in the field to help poor women. The ASTI site gives a small sample of these Hindu organizations.  So it is rather unfair to blame Hinduism for the current problem. The current extreme poverty in India is due to the massive exploitation of the 150 year British Christian colonial rule. British Christians inflicted at least 20 million deaths by starving people to death between 1870 to 1890. I would recommend


"Late Victorian holocausts:El Nino Famines and the making of the third world" by Mike Davis if you want to know how the British Christians treated Hindus in India.


The news is not all bad. Indian economy is now on a rapid growth path and will overtake the US economy by 2050 if you believe Goldman Sachs. So the problem of poor women will be solved by economic progress in the next 50 to 100 years.


Gangajal

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2009 - 4:35PM #6
Bhakta_glenn
Posts: 862

"How can I respond to Christian missionaries who claim Hinduism is bad for women?"


One could respond by asking, silently:


"If I do not accept your views upon Hinduism, with whom do those views remain?"


One may respond, thus:


Find a quiet spot and sit.


Call the missionaries to mind,


and silently say:


"Thank you for your comments,


which I have noted. But, I do not


accept your views. These, I am returning to you


as your intellectual property; for, they are rightfully yours


and they are not mine. They do not belong to me and


there is no place for them in my heart"


In this way, one may protect one's heart from the views of others, by returning their unskilful thoughts to them.


 

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2009 - 6:57PM #7
Maya3
Posts: 928

Thanks Gangajal, I've heard of them before, it's great to be reminded again.


 Bhakta Glenn, I really like your approach, I might use that for myself.


Maya

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 14, 2009 - 7:23PM #8
gangajal
Posts: 835

Maya,


      I have talked with Ms. Barbara Piner who founded ASTI. She told me that ASTI is sending 1 million dollars every year to many Hindu service organizations. She collects the money from private donations.  It seems a lot but is a drop in the bucket for the poorest 300 million people (the entire population of the US). There are other organizations doing the same. Economic growth and education is necessary to pull these people out of poverty.


 


Gangajal

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2009 - 2:44AM #9
Bhakta_glenn
Posts: 862

"I know almost nothing about Hinduism but I know that the way my relatives characterize the entire faith has got to be skewed."


www.eaisai.com/baba/


India is a land of the Dharma, it is a protected environment, protected by Divinity.


MODES OF WORSHIP


[....]


"All these upaasanas reveal that, since man initiated his age-long inquiry into his own truth, he has accumulated, especially in Bharath, a vast spiritual treasure which can save him from sorrow and bondage. The treasure is so vast and so deep that it has survived the passage of centuries as vast and as deep as ever it was, unaffected by the emergence of different modes or the influx of other forms of worship.

"Besides, the spiritual wisdom of India is today a triumphant beacon, shining in One resplendent flame in the thickening darkness, illumining all lands, encompassing all races and enchanting all mankind.

"There is no fortune more splendid than being born on this sacred land, Bharath, repository of this magnificent and beneficent culture, which can save the world. Becoming aware of this blessing is, indeed, a spring of immeasurable Ananda."


Sathya Sai Baba

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5 years ago  ::  Dec 15, 2009 - 9:36AM #10
Maya3
Posts: 928

Dec 14, 2009 -- 7:23PM, gangajal wrote:


Maya,


      I have talked with Ms. Barbara Piner who founded ASTI. She told me that ASTI is sending 1 million dollars every year to many Hindu service organizations. She collects the money from private donations.  It seems a lot but is a drop in the bucket for the poorest 300 million people (the entire population of the US). There are other organizations doing the same. Economic growth and education is necessary to pull these people out of poverty.


 


Gangajal





Excactly, education education and education will change the world for the better. It does and has already if you look at history and the world as a whole, a lot of bad things are happening and has happened, but really we have come SO far. Look what we can do, just the fact that we are talking about these things on beliefnet is astonishing.  Just a little over a hundred years ago this was not even consievable (sp?)


 


Maya


 

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