NATIONALISM AND HINDUTVA: A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE PAPERS FROM THE 10TH CMS CONSULTATIONWritten by Mark T. B. Laing (ed.) Reviewed By Elizabeth A. Clark
The consultation from which this book was constructed was hosted by Union Biblical Seminary, Pune in January 2004. It was the tenth Centre for Mission Studies consultation, a series seeking to address pertinent topics which the church must grapple with to be effective in her mission. The topic was timely in the face of rising fundamentalism worldwide and, in particular, the increasing strength of Hindu fundamentalism which raises significant questions for Indian Christians. Further, with the demographic shift southwards of Christianity, many Christians now exist as minority communities alongside dominant and/or hostile majority faiths.
In the consultation, academics from across the Indian Christian spectrum read or responded to papers. Local church leaders and key mission representatives. also present, sought to reflect on the future of mission in India.
Robert E. Frykenberg set out the consultation agenda, which forms the preface, by defining Hindutva as a form of religious nationalism, hence exclusivist, which is trying to replace the secular national identity of the constitution with a religious national identity. The right of christian communities within India, and within the constitution, to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ, inherent in which is the need to ‘be converted’ to a regenerate faith in Christ as both personal Saviour and Lord (xii) is contested by advocates of Hindutva.
The papers are divided into four groups: four papers come under the heading of Hindutva and Nationalism; two papers put present day issues in Historical Perspective; the remaining two groups have three papers on each of Theological Reflections and Biblical Reflections, each paper is prefaced by an abstract and a note about its writer. There is one response paper within each group. The response paper further develops the topic, enhancing broadening its scope, either by offering a different approach or by supporting the argument with further detail. Mark Laing’s introduction gives a useful summary of each paper and helps to integrate a volume that is diverse in terms of the topics covered and the approach of consultation participants
A comment about one paper in each section may indicate the flavour of that section. In the first section. Plamthodathil S. Jacob’s paper ‘Religious Climate in India Today: An Introspective Analysis’ describes the development of a heterogeneous Indian society over three thousand years. Jacob highlights the increasing reality of cultural nationalism in the face of globalisation and the task of Christian theologians and missiologists to help their fellow Christians to ‘think their faith’.
In the second section, Sebastian C.H. Kim revisits the Niyogi Report (1956), an enquiry into missionary activity among adivasis (original inhabitants), assesses the inquiry and the implications for mission.
Kirsteen Kim ‘Indian Christian Theological Responses to Political Hinduism’: Kim compares and contrasts the approaches of four theologians representing four distinct strands of Indian Christianity—Protestant ecumenical, Protestant evangelical, Catholic mystic and Catholic liberation. Dr R. Theodore Srinivasagam’s response to this section contains a range of practical suggestions for churches, Christian organisations and the Christian community.
Finally, Jacob Kavunkal reviews the biblical perspectives of conversion, ‘argues for a distinction between conversion and baptism and points out how working for conversion can enhance true nationalism’ (230).
Religious Studies students will find this volume useful for the range of topics addressed, critical to the situation in which Indian Christians increasingly find themselves. Further, Nationalism and Hindutva raises many issues that become pertinent for Christians living as a minority in a country where national loyalty is assumed to be related to religious commitment.
Elizabeth A. Clark