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  • Writer's pictureKrista Bontrager

A Different Perspective on "Colonialism"

We were honored to be joined by Christian philosopher and social reformer, Vishal Mangalwadi. We discussed the role the Bible played in shaping India––and America. We explored the influence of missionaries, India's caste system, power, the impact of the British empire on slavery, widow burning and infanticide, the revolutionary nature of the distribution of the Bible, and more. This was a fascinating discussion with a pioneering Christian brother.



 

Conversation with Vishal


Vishal is a Christian philosopher from India. He has written 25 books (!) and has several more in the works. His current project is the Third Education Revolution, which seeks to change the future of education.


Christianity is often seen as a corrosive destroyer of culture.

For instance, the story we often hear is that India's culture was destroyed by British Colonialism. BUT, Vishal has a different perspective! He believes that Christian ideas and the Bible coming into India had a POSITIVE impact!


Vishal gave us some historical background:

**Most of India, particularly Dehli, was ruled by Muslims for 700 years before the British took over governing. Britain came in with the East India Trading Company to make money, which was their main concern. It was actually the Christian missionaries who came in and changed the culture, based on IDEAS. It was the Truth from the Bible that began to break down the mythology and false ideologies that India had been built upon.

**The old culture of tribalism, caste structure, and political division was destroyed and ideas of UNITY came from the Bible.


Vishal gave several examples of how Indian culture was changed by outside influence (primarily Christian missionaries, rather than the British colonists), BUT he sees the changes as POSITIVE!

He explains...this was the commission Jeremiah was given: to destroy, uproot, plant, and build...it is the GOSPEL that is a disturbing force! The same was true for Paul...when he preached the Gospel, it turned the world upside down (Acts 19)! When the Gospel goes out, it is going to have a level of a disruptive and transformational effect because it's confronting sinful practices wherever it goes.


What about the area of medicine? What does this have to do with Christianity?

Education, Medicine, Law, and Languages were some of the major areas that were changed as a result of the Bible coming to India.

For example, prior to the Gospel coming in to India, there were no hospitals. Care of the sick was not practiced because the sick were seen as being punished for some wrong committed in a previous life (karma). With the Gospel, came the practice of caring for the sick because there was an understanding that these people were made in God's image. Jesus touched the lepers and he healed the deaf and the dumb! Furthermore, a new understanding developed that disease and sickness was the result of sin in a fallen world, NOT from karma based on a previous life. This was revolutionary!


The introduction of Christianity into India impacted large, structural changes in government and policies, but many today would say to keep faith/religion out of politics. How do you answer this?

Changing policies was part of the understanding of the Gospel to disciple nations. For example, the concepts of Biblical individualism vs Western/American individualism:

Biblical individualism says, "Not my will, but Thine be done." I surrender myself to God so that He might take my body for the salvation of the world; I will sacrifice myself, others are more important.

After 1840, American individualism changed to "I am the center of the universe"; if this baby is not convenient, I will abort my baby; if this marriage is not convenient, I will get rid of my spouse...this has also infiltrated American Christianity, believing that the church exists for me, Jesus came for me, heaven is for me...I don't make any sacrifices for Jesus or for the world.

BUT, the Gospel is meant to transform cultures and nations, NOT just individual souls!


Vishal and his colleagues' current project is called the Third Education Revolution, which is a movement to take back education from the state.

Vishal explains, "For one thousand years the Church has sent students to the university...The Third Education Revolution will enable universities and schools to send students to local churches. Digital curriculum, prepared by the world’s best experts and videographers, will also go to the Church online. Students will be mentored by Academic Pastors who will re-integrate character formation, problem solving aptitude, critical thinking and leadership skills with academic education. The community will help develop vocational skills through internship programs. The partnership of Church, university and technology will make high quality education affordable to virtually everyone."


Takeaways:

**Ideas have consequences! When we align our ideas with the Word of God, they have long lasting impact!

**Even though we have an understanding of people's inherent dignity, value, and worth, Christians (around the world!) still struggle with cultural tribalism.


Resources mentioned:



Third Education Revolution (written by Vishal and 30 colleagues):


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Check out Vishal's website and follow his work:


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