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January 15, 2000
Anti-Hinduism Booklet: Southern Baptists Declare War on 7 Congressmen
A P Kamath
The Southern Baptists, having refused to back down from the infamous booklet against Hinduism it mailed to 40,000 of its churches and affiliated institutions, are now denouncing seven members of the Congress who wrote them a strongly-worded letter against the booklet, demanding its withdrawal.
Calling the Congressmen 'inquisitors,' an article in a Southern Baptist publication, suggested that the seven are trying to deprive the Southern Baptists their religious right to preach the Gospel.
Referring to an observation in Congressman Jim McDermott's letter -- 'Hinduism has lasted for thousands of years and espouses a fundamental respect for all creeds and ways of life' -- the Southern Baptists offered a history lesson.
'Anyone aware of the intense sectarian strife that has marked India from its beginning as a nation must find Mr McDermott's statements uninformed, if not ludicrous. Recent massacres and the murder of Christian missionaries are a strange way to demonstrate "fundamental respect." '
The article was particularly hostile to McDermott, and pointed out that he had graduated from the evangelical Wheaton College, whose slogan boasts Since 1860, for Christ and His Kingdom. McDermott had also, on October 28, distributed a 'Dear Colleague' letter to all 434 of his fellow House members, charging the Southern Baptists with 'an aggressive intolerant approach' and 'an intolerant view that has inflamed Hindu communities worldwide.'
The second letter signed by McDermott, Gary Ackerman, and five others in November slammed the booklet, issued during the Diwali season, for using 'overly aggressive insensitive language.'
'We do not take issue with your right to pray for whom and whatever you choose,' the letter said.
'However, we believe that the manner in which you have chosen to do this, in regards to Hinduism, goes beyond the bounds of decorum, tact, respect and understanding.'
The White House has denounced the booklet which among other things said 'Mumbai is a city of spiritual darkness...(Hindus are) slaves bound by fear...to false gods.' The White House denunciation did not come as a surprise to many Southern Baptists some of whose leaders had demanded last year that President Bill Clinton, who is a member of the sect, be expelled from the church for his adulterous tryst with Monica Lewinsky and lying about it.
The article quoted Morris Chapman, director of the Executive Committee, Southern Baptist Convention, who wrote to McDermott: 'Your letter presents us with a real dilemma. Do we attempt to obey God, or do we take our signals from some Hindu spokesmen... or from persons such as you who counsel "a more tolerant and enlightened" approach?'
'We believe the attempt to use any governmental office to pressure Christians to change their doctrines or practices is improper.'
The article said:
'The church has heard all this before -- and heard it early. The apostles faced the same charges and bore the same burden. We should respond to these modern inquisitors just as Peter and John responded to the "religious leaders" in Jerusalem: "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard." '
THE CONGRESSMEN'S LETTER:
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