A Private Faith Made Dangerously Public
By Tarun J Tejpal
stories come together like the throwing of a switch. A meeting, a person,
a file, a moment, and a pool of light is cast. There are other stories
which are like the slow accumulation of candles, little pinpricks of glow
illumining nooks and crannies, bit by bit, and then one day there is an
entire landscape revealed.
it was with Shashikumar and Mayabhushan who spent more than three months
working and traveling every day to piece together a very intricate and
extraordinary story, whose tentacles spread not only across India but
around the world. Their findings are startling, and very important, because
the nineties have shown us the havoc that can be wreaked by religious
fundamentalisms—both Islamic and Hindu.
What Shashi and Bhushan
have now unearthed suggests strongly that a third fundamentalism, Christian,
may be injected into our bloodstream, creating an ever more volatile cocktail.
The fact that this strain of fundamentalism has its wellsprings in the
United States, is orchestrated with enormous guile, secrecy, corporate
skill, and is swishly funded, makes it yet more alarming. It doesn't help
that the president of the world's most powerful nation leans into fundamentalism
himself, propagating it, and building it into the state machinery.
be fair, we had our share of qualms as the story progressed. The last
thing we wanted was a stupid inflammation of the situation, and a targeting
of missionaries. We didn't want the Dara Singhs and other Bajrang Dalis
of the world to hijack the story—one fundamentalism feeding off
another, helping both grow.
Yet the story had
to be told. As journalists we had smelled something sinister, followed
it and unearthed a phenomenon. So Shashi and Bhushan proceeded with care
and wrote with caution, working hard to ensure a level tone and an objective
There was the further
tricky issue that much of the missionary activity appeared to be tied
in with inspiring social work, a lot of it among the destitute and the
wretched. Layer by layer, the reporters had to disentangle the motive
and the deed, the apparent and the real, the present and the future. Then
as they tracked it all back to its roots—in the US—it was
disturbing to see the casual bigotry and colossal evangelical ambition
that underlay so much of the altruism. At this point it became easy to
appreciate the charitable conduct while being appalled by the overweening
religious impulse and elaborate conversion machinery driving it.
were visible too the contours of a world-view that could not possibly
do any good.
Tehelka we are clear: we oppose all religious fundamentalisms. Faith is
a private matter; it cannot become a corporate or political campaign.
Shashi and Bhushan's superbly investigated story is very very important.
It shows the seed of disastrous worlds.
For decades now, the institutions of constitutional democracy and the
nation-state have done our moral thinking for us. ‘Trust in the
majority,’ they seem to say. But many voters in Gujarat seemed to
actually be rewarding Narendra Modi for his inaction during the anti-Muslim
pogroms. Despite being presented with better choices, a majority of Israelis
voted for a war criminal, Ariel Sharon.