India is presently facing great communal disharmony, especially (though not only in) Orissa. During this volatile time, Anand Mahadevan, the editor of Outlook Business, wrote with great boldness and honesty about his conversion to Christianity (Click here to read it).
Greatly edified by his story & his convictions especially given the scenario, I asked Mr. Mahadevan to share some more details with our readers:
During this time of great communal disharmony, fueled by Hindu extremists claiming forced conversions to Christianity, what made you speak out about your own conversion from Hinduism to Christianity?
First, I would chose not to use the words `Hindu Extremists.’ I would prefer to refer to them as my Hindu friends, no matter how they act. I hope they see that violence and unlawfulness finds no place in the Hindu dharma. Two things made me speak up. First, there was a wrong perception that the poor, illiterate and backward caste people were being tricked or financially induced into converting. By speaking out, I wanted to break this myth and show that the rich, educated and the upper caste also chose to follow and worship Jesus. It is a personal choice. And both rich and poor, educated and uneducated, upper caste and lower caste and all mankind has a moral, and constitutional right to chose their faith. Jesus came to take away the sin of all mankind. Second, I was moved by passages from the Bible about Nicodemus. He first came to meet with Jesus in secret; in the dark of the night. But later, he stood up and acknowledged Jesus, first amidst the pharisees and he also came with Joseph of Arimathea to claim the body of Jesus after his crucifixion. I was inspired by Nicodemus and his decision to go public with his faith.
Many of the comments on your article at Outlook are anti what you wrote. Has writing the article changed you in anyway?
One of the joys of knowing Jesus is that it becomes easier to love. I have seen the many comments that have criticized me, my faith, my conversion and my decision to speak out. I respect all the people who have criticized me. I respect their right to hold their point of view. I respect their right to criticize me. Writing the article has not changed anything. What I wrote was heart felt. I wrote it in faith. And I will stand by what I wrote in faith.
(protests against anti-Christian violence in Orissa)
I love the fact that you specifically differentiate between your national identity as an Indian and your belief in God, when you speak about retaining your name & giving your children Indian names. Would you expand on this line of thinking?
Not just Indian names. I deliberately chose to give them Hindu names to my children. Because culturally, I am still a Hindu. That will never change. I still love and cherish the many values of Hinduism — love, peace, tolerance, the desire to seek and know God, justice, charity, the pursuit of holiness etc. These are Hindu values and I share all of these values. Just because I follow Christ does not mean that I have to call myself John or Mathew. My national identity is Indian; my cultural identity is Hindu; my spiritual identity is Christian.
Your grandfather was a Tamil Brahmin Priest. Has your conversion caused any friction within your extended family?
My parents did not like my change of heart. But they respect my choice. They still love me. And I still love and honour them. That too will never change.
You talk about Jesus as “a dear friend to whom I pray and talk to every day—about my career, my dreams, successes, failures, finances and even my sexuality”. Would you share a personal testimony on how He has made an impact in any of these areas of your life?
In all of the above areas, be it finance, career or sexuality, the natural inclination of my heart is to sin. And I do struggle with daily temptations in all of these areas. And I do slip every now and then in the areas of pride, selfishness, lust etc. But I always go to Jesus with my struggles and my failures. And He always helps me. He empowers me to live a life that is worthy of the gospel. He works in my conscience leading me to repentance. And over the years, he has taught me how to overcome each of these struggles.
Since you ask specifically about sexuality, let me address that issue. Before I became a follower of Jesus, I did not have any value system in expressing and enjoying my sexuality. But now, the teachings of Jesus have helped me develop a Biblical value system within which I express and enjoy my sexuality. And honestly, in a time of free and abundant sexual opportunities, it is not easy to live within this value system. I have occasionally struggled and failed. But I am not characterized by failure. By talking to Jesus every time I have failed, I have learned to overcome these temptations. I am still tempted. I still struggle. But I also overcome, because Jesus enables me to. I can say that I have submitted even my sexuality to the Lordship of Christ. Ultimately, it all comes down to just one decision. Do I love Jesus Christ enough to give up all the pleasures that He does not approve of. The answer is YES.