Pat Robertson attacks Hindus as 'demonic'
Hinduism Today July 1995
Evangelist Opposes Freedom of Religion, Says It's Time To Convert India and Wants to Keep Hinduism Out of US
By Valli J. Rajan, Pennsylvania
It's not that unusual for Pat Robertson's daily Christian TV show, the "700 Club," to portray other religions in less than a complimentary light. Jews, Muslims and occasionally Hindus are singled out for a scathing recounting of their spiritual errors. Still, I was shocked to see Robertson on his March 23th show label Hinduism as "demonic" and advocate keeping Hindus out of America. My concerns intensified when President Clinton later implicated hateful talk in the fatal Oklahoma City bombing.
Robertson was already a well-known figure in the conservative Christian community when his 1988 bid for the US presidency shot him into national attention and effectively anointed him leader of the Christian right wing. Talented and industrious, he is head or founder of numerous organizations, including a 1,400 student university. His political action group, the 1.4-million-member Christian Coalition, has decided influence in a new Republican-controlled Congress.
Christian evangelists regularly slander Hinduism with little impact beyond their own flock [see Hinduism Today, February, 1989]. But when a national figure like Robertson does it on a widely-watched TV program, that's different.
The March 23rd episode details Robertson's conversion of some Hindu people of Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, India, to the Christian religion. In the course of the show, Robertson makes shameful, unChristian accusations against the Hindu faith, the world's oldest religion. When contacted, Mr. Robertson's office told us he was "unavailable for comment."
To begin, Robertson's experiences in Rajahmundry are described by a
narrator. The scene is of a poverty-stricken people, bathing in the river
at the head of which rests a statue of Lord Siva. Water is pouring out of
Siva's head and a snake is wrapped around his head as well.
Robertson goes on to characterize Hinduism as having evil tendencies toward
random spiritual worship and polytheism. Mr. Robertson's son and fellow
evangelist, Gordon, stated disparagingly, "Whenever [Hindus] feel any sort
of inspiration, whether it's by a river or under a tree, on top of a hill,
they figure that some God or spirit is responsible for that.
But if the argument of poverty as the curse of India is not enough for the
American audience of "The 700 Club," they next hear Hinduism boldly labeled
"demonic." Robertson says, "Siva [is] the God of Destruction, and his
consort, the Goddess of death [Kali] -- that black, ugly statue there with
all those fierce eyes."
"Although Hinduism admits that different beings and entities can perform what we might consider evil acts," corrects Dr. Arvind Sharma, Birks Professor of Comparative Religion at McGill University, Toronto, "there does not seem to be a single entity such as the Christian devil in Hinduism." And since there is no practice of evil or concept of the devil in Hinduism, "To call Hinduism demonic," concludes Dr. Sharma, "is really demonic."
By accusing Hinduism of being demonic, Robertson is merely reinforcing the
age-old stereotype that has been placed on the Indian culture by the West.
"That's been standard operating procedure missionaries have used ever since
they invaded India in the 19th century," explains Dr. Gordon Melton,
Director of the Institute for the Study of American Religions.
Dr. Kusumita Pedersen, Director for the Project on Human Rights and Religion, similarly observes that Robertson has employed "almost every negative image and cliché that has been used about Hinduism since the 18th century."
As the show unfolds, we finally we arrive at the real intention of
Robertson's missionary trip to India: to convert Hindus to the Christian
faith. A narrator describes the scene of the conversion in which thousands
of Hindus were "set free from a lifetime of fear and demonic oppression.
The scene was overwhelming."
It is also apparent he was frustrated with the Hindu ability to just absorb one more God. "I preached to them the second commandment about idolatry. You know, `They shall hold no other Gods before me,' and number two, `You shall not fall down or make any idols of anything.' Many people accept Christ, but they still go with those processions down to those riverbanks. We followed along with the crowd and I said, `You've got to give that up.'"
The program used common stereotypes of Hinduism (as well of as other prominent non-Christian religions in America) to create fear among the American people of non-Christian religions. What is the purpose behind those tactics?
Judging from Michael Little's, President of the Christian Broadcasting Network comments on the show -- "There are so many opportunities for us to take programs which will reach the people of India," and "Help us carry the light to a nation in darkness" -- it is obvious that one strategy of "The 700 Club" is to gain support and money. "Give us a hand on this [India]," pleads Robertson at one point, "because it's a big one." But that is just part of the plan.
Robertson's true thinking is revealed in his 1991 book The New World Order.
That novel discloses a secret plan being followed by the present political
leaders of the world. Robertson labels that plan the "New World Order,"
which he sees as the formation of a one world government, one police force,
one judicial system, and one economic market.
But Robertson has a vision of another future, one is which "God sweeps away the pretense of the satanic and man-made counterfeits and announces His New World Order, and His anointed leader, Jesus the Messiah."
Robertson stated in The New World Order: "The media challenged me. `You're not going to bring atheists into the government? How dare you maintain that those who believe the Judeo-Christian values are better qualified to govern America than Hindus and Muslims?' My simple answer is, `Yes, they are.'"
Mr. David Cantor, Senior Research Analyst of the Anti-Defamation League, points out that such "religious tests for office are unconstitutional. It's not just a purely a religious statement. It's a political statement."
The Human Rights Issue
"In the discussion of human rights, there are different positions on the
right to free speech or freedom of expression. The extreme position, that
is sometimes called the `American position,' is total freedom of speech,"
explains Dr. Pedersen.
Dr. Pedersen feels that such anti-Hindu statements may refer back to the
1920s, at a time when the Ku Klux Klan (a Christian white-supremacist group
advocating violence against Black Americans) was on the rise, and the
national belief was that all Americans must be Christians.
However, in the 1990s, some feel that the multicultural immigration has caused a backlash in American society in the form of racial discrimination between various cultural groups. In the wake of such discontent, Peter Brimelow has recently written a book called Alien Nation which attacks multiculturalism and its negative effects on American society. Something must be done, Brimelow advocates, to prevent white people from becoming a minority in America.
"What Robertson is really saying is that Hindus shouldn't be allowed to come to the United States," evaluates Dr. Pedersen. "All of the Hindu engineers, doctors and computer experts who are living here should go home. This is a very big statement that he has made."
Even Christians are concerned with Robertson's manner of preaching
Christianity. Sister Mary Elizabeth Moore, a Professor at Claremount's
School of Theology, feels that Robertson may be overstepping his boundaries
as a Christian.
Hinduism is not the only religion under Robertson's extremist attack; The
New World Order is filled with anti-Semitism. However, Ms. Nancy Israel of
the American Jewish Committee, notes that Robertson is slowly transforming.
Sri Anutama Das, Director of Communications at ISKCON feels that
Robertson's actions should send a message to devotees of Hinduism. "It's
unfortunate that such an influential religious and Christian leader as Pat
Robertson demonstrates disdain for the world's oldest religious culture.
What Should We Do?
It is true that if our Hindu faith is challenged, perhaps we will become
more aware of its teachings, as suggested by Anutama. If that is so, we can
view the "700 Club" attack on Hinduism as a blessing in disguise. "I would
say that anytime we see the extreme of a religious community, we see
warning signals that need to be taken seriously," agrees Sister Moore.
We should use this opportunity to profess and understand our Hindu faith more fully. We as Hindus need to respond to and erase Western stereotypes and hate speeches against our religion. There are many ways to accomplish that.
We can articulate our complaints through letters, phone calls and petitions to the government offices, such as the Justice Department Hate Crimes Division. The Indian government could express its concern, as it did for Hindus in South Africa for years. And we can bring such statements into the light of public discussion by filing complaints with the Anti-Defamation League.
The Anti-Defamation League was established in 1913 by B'nai B'rith, a
Jewish service organization. The League and its parent organization defend
human rights, promote intercultural relations, provide for the religious
and cultural needs of Jewish college students, sponsor Jewish education
among adults and youth groups and carry on a broad program of community
service and welfare.
Dr. Pedersen feels that perhaps we can form our own protection league: "I
recommend the formation of a Hindu anti-defamation program which will
monitor these kinds of statements in the press and the media, and will
gather accurate information and will speak out when something should be
Dr. Jayaraman, executive director of Bharat Vidya Bhavan in New York, feels
that the way to dispel Hindu stereotypes is to teach the common American
man about our religion. "Indian philosophy should be taught methodically,
either in the school system or by speakers prepared to go around the
country to talk just like these missionaries," suggests Dr. Jayaraman.
But the main way to break down anti-Hindu sentiments is by educating our children and ourselves more about Hinduism. Such understanding will place us in a better position to combat ignorant statements.
"Because Hindus take a generous view of other religions, they think that others will take a generous view of theirs," observes Dr. Sharma. "And even when others attack them, because of their basic nature, they don't take it to heart."
According to Dr. Pedersen, comments such as Robertson's, should be taken
seriously. During the annual dinner given by Human Rights Watch, an
international panel monitored by Peter Jennings discussed whether hate
speech should be restricted or banned.
Keeping that in mind, perhaps we should turn our thoughts to the bombing of
the Oklahoma City federal building. After the bombing, President Clinton
spoke out against hate speeches, making a clear connection between hate
speeches, propaganda and the bombing.
Complaints may be made directly to the U.S. Department of Justice, Hate Crimes Division, Tenth and Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20530. Fax: 202-514-4371.
Letters can also be directed to Mr. Pat Robertson, CBN, 977 Centerville Turnpike, Virginia Beach, Virginia, 23463-0001.
Of Indian ancestry, correspondent Valli Guruswamy Julie Rajan is a prolific freelance writer living in Pennsylvania with her husband. She is writing a non-fiction book on gender-based double standards in Hindu society and is interested in the betterment of women and minorities. Sidebar What He Said About Hindus
Excerpts from the March 23rd broadcast of the 700 Club:
Robertson: "India is not what you normally think of anymore. In the last
five years, it's burst into the 20th century with modern technology,
capitalism and, especially, television. They're breaking free from the old,
and they're moving into the Western culture.
Cohost: "You know, Pat, we've seen in other countries where there's a certain period of vulnerability, or spiritual vulnerability. Now's the time to use the media to talk to them about what their future could really be like."
Robertson: "They have thousands and thousands of earth stations picking up satellites. It's a window of opportunity [for Christian TV programs]. Of all of India's problems, one stands out from the rest. That problem is idol worship. It is said there are hundreds of millions of Hindu deities. All this has put a nation in bondage to spiritual forces that have deceived many for thousands of years."
Gordon Robertson (his son): "Wherever you find this type of idolatry, you'll find a grinding poverty. The land has been cursed. The Bible talks in terms of the land being cursed on behalf of what the inhabitants have done to it. You erect all these idols under every green tree, on top of every hill, you're going to curse your land. And the oppression, we see it in evidence."
CBN Reporter: "[At the religious services Robertson conducted in India] they came, by the hundreds, even thousands, to a makeshift altar to confess their faith in Christ and receive a touch from heaven, and be set free from a lifetime of fear and demonic oppression.
Robertson: "I [told] them to renounce idolatry, but many people accept Christ and still go with those processions [of Hindu deities]."
Cohost: "You said there's a connection between the New Age, as it is in America, and Hinduism."
Robertson: "It's the same thing. You see, the whole concept of Hindus is
based on karma; that people have a karma attached to them when they are
born, and they go through a cycle of life and they come back in the next
world as something else. So the whole thought of reincarnation is karma --
you come back as a cow, a pig, a goat, a dog, a snake or an untouchable.
We're importing Hinduism into America.
Sidebar: The Robertson Empire
The promotional literature provided Hinduism Today by the Robertson
ministries details the extensive empire Pat Robertson has developed over 25
years of ministry. It is really an admirable accomplishment, tarnished only
by the kind of religious bigotry demonstrated in the March 23rd program
[see sidebar left].
Robertson ventured out of the strictly religious field in 1987 when he
resigned his ordination as a Southern Baptist minister to run for president
of the United States. As part of this effort, the Christian Coalition was
formed, a "national grassroots citizen action organization" to work for
"pro-family legislation and family-friendly public policy on national,
state and local levels."
Copyright 1995, Himalayan Academy, All Rights Reserved. The information
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