Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What It's Like Being Hindu in an Overtly Christian Area

Lynchburg, Virginia, Interfaith, marriage, intercultural, cross cultural, American married to an Indian
Liberty University "LU" floral motif

I live in the Lynchburg, VA area. Those of you from the U.S. may instantly associate that with Jerry Falwell and the largest Christian university in the WORLD.....Liberty University. While Lynchburg is more than just that, the university is a major facet to the life and culture of this area.

As I'm sure you can imagine, the culture is overtly Christian. Its not uncommon to hear discussions about Jesus, the church and the bible, even inside of your work place. There are churches on just about every corner and "do you go to church" or "where do you go to church" are phrases used just as commonly as hello.

interfaith, cross cultural, marriage, relationships, church, Hindu
Unity Candles on a communion table

I grew up in the Holiness Christian church (the very strict side of the split) but things have changed drastically for me as I grew up. While the foundation is still there and I still find myself pulled toward the social rules of that denomination, I no longer call myself a Christian and I have little faith or respect left for the church. That's completely separate from God and Jesus, this is not a religious debate post. I just do not think the Christian church is a godly place to be any longer and every time I go to one I'm reminded of many reason's why I feel that way.

I've officially been Hindu for just over 4 years now. Since then and for the preceding 9 or 10 years I have seen things going on in churches that made my skin crawl. I've met far too many Christians who shove their judgments down your throat, belittle, berate and degrade you all in the name of Jesus. I've been outright attacked in the church and I've been forgotten about by congregations I devoted years of my life to. This is not what the bible teaches nor is it what the Christian church stands for but it's been my experience in 4 different states in the Southern U.S. and at countless churches over that time frame.

Rohit and I go to church here from time to time. He chooses to go for the social interaction aspects and because one very dear friend of ours - who happens to be the only true Christian I've ever met and he's Indian - takes him to the church and my husband finds a good deal of peace in this man's presence. This man is one of his closest friends here and he has a great deal of respect for him. (Arthur, if you're reading this, I mean you.)

interfaith, intercultural, cross cultural, marriage, relationships, Hindu, Christian, American
Depiction of gods at a Hindu temple in Rishikesh
I don't announce being Hindu IRL often. That is more because of being raised to believe that religion is very personal and not something you showcase like your new car. Many people here just instinctively assume I'm Christian and then get shocked when I tell them I'm Hindu. I'm not surprised. There are a significant number of correlations between social customs in both religions.

For Rohit, the Christians he know all try to convert him. He's been told how depraved Hinduism is and how dirty Hindu's/Indians are. He's been told that his religious customs are ridiculous. I'm there many times and though those comments are not directed at me they sting just as much. It shows the ignorance of the speaker to say the least but worse than that, it reminds us both why we want no part in the Christian church.

Hearing these comments make us both a bit leery on openly discussing our religion. While we would never be out there trying to convert people or put other religions down, we know if we are open about being Hindu, we will both become targets. It's quite sad the way we're looked upon. It's worse when this kind of behavior comes from Indians.....the people we least expect it from.

One Indian Christian man my husband has had the misfortune of bringing into our lives constantly tells us how Indians smell bad, their breath stinks, and puts my husband down for every little thing that is out of order. He's distressed Rohit to the point that my husband now carries mints and/or chewing gum everywhere he goes. He won't leave the house without gargling mouthwash first. My husband has never smelled bad nor do I ever remember him having bad breath!

This is hatred and evil at it's worst and it's coming directly from the Christian church here. My husband is now experiencing the same kind of evil inside of the church that caused me to leave.

Of course some of this has had a reverse effect on us both. Rohit now proudly wears Om and Hanuman shirts outside of the house. I painted an Om symbol on my feet with mehendi not too long ago. We've put up Radha Krishna pictures in our home and as you all saw in my yoga room post, we also have Om and Ganesh up as well.

Things are a bit touchy and you have to be careful who you tell you're Hindu around here. The need to convert you may just be too overwhelming if you tell the wrong person. You have to be well armed and prepared for religious debates, you must be able to quote scripture and be willing to deal with the headache that comes with someone's strong need to save your soul - without ever thinking to ask you anything about your actual beliefs.

Have you experienced any negativity when others find out you're Hindu?
How has your experience been with Christian friends who know you're Hindu?


  1. I think all religions are like that ..
    the best religion is Humanity .. be a good human thats what each religion teaches us but sadly that is what we are not..

    if everyone is a good human being there would be no hatred or anything


    1. You're right. A lot of religions are like that and it is very sad. We have lost most of our humanity just to try and gain control. That's what many religions are, control mechanisms to tame the masses.We do need to be more accepting and caring towards others. That's the only way the world will truly become a better place.

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