Christians lack discipline and shy away from it, according to Rahil Patel, a senior Hindu priest who converted to Christianity ten years ago.
In the latest episode of Eternity‘s Undeceptions podcast, Patel tells host John Dickson that Hinduism criticises Christianity because of its lack of discipline, as well as its “cheap” grace and lack of devotion.
“I did say to my guru once in a small village … ‘these Christians have got some good things,” says Patel, who experienced extremely tough training at a monastery in India, including deprivations such as fasting and extreme heat.
“He said, ‘Yeah, they may be good at administration and management and all those kinds of things, but there’s nothing else in their character.’”
During a lengthy, revealing conversation about Patel’s previous religion and why he ultimately chose Christianity, Dickson asks him to cast his mind back to when he was “at the height of his Hindu priestly powers and authority.” As Patel reflects back to that time, he responds to a question about what appeared to him to be lacking in Christianity. “I would have had a skewed view [of Christianity] because of colonialism. And how Christians, certain Christian missionaries, viewed the Indians … as lower than normal beings.”
“Discipline, I think in a lot of Western cultures, is misconstrued as punishment.” – Rahil Patel
“If I was still in that time of disciplined daily spiritual practices … I’d say something [about Christianity] along the lines of ‘cheap’ grace … having now sorted [salvation], live my life how I want,” Patel describes how he previously believed Christians viewed their life.
“But, mainly, I would say the main thing is the lacking disciplines … and somehow I still feel that today. And discipline, I think in a lot of Western cultures, is misconstrued as punishment.”
As a Hindu priest, Patel also thought “the devotion” of Christians was “very shallow or lacking.” He cites the example of a friend, an Oxford-based convert to Hinduism from Catholicism, who said the Bible verse that impacted his life the most was “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength.”
“He wanted that desperately and yet he couldn’t find Christians who were doing that,” says Patel.
Ordained as a Hindu priest in India, Patel was sent to evangelise Europe and Russia, especially other “heretical” Hindus. But this Hindu evangelist developed a fascination with Jesus and through meeting and investing in one family, then becoming deeply involved in a congregation, he converted to Christianity.
“I still feel sometimes it’s quite clinical, the way Christians do community.” – Rahil Patel
One thing Patel does miss things about the culture of his former life is its sense of community.
“You know, it wasn’t something you did on a Tuesday or a Sunday lunchtime. It was a way of life,” he explains.
“I was visiting my mum and grandmother in India two years ago. I was sitting watching TV and you know, the neighbour walks in, uninvited, sits down, starts eating a few of the snacks, starts chatting with them. Leaves.
“Two hours later another neighbour walks in, starts eating a few snacks, does chatting, leaving. I find it so amusing, so refreshing.
“I get boundaries. I get the whole thing. But I still feel sometimes it’s quite clinical, the way Christians do community. The Eastern way gets intrusive at times. It’s tiring. And yet … there’s a beauty in that mess somehow that I can’t articulate.”
“You’re just free of all your shortcomings. You’re not burdened by karma.” – Rahil Patel
Speaking with Dickson for Undeceptions, Patel goes on to talk about the attractive things in Christianity for the Hindu believer – the sense of belonging in Christ; the deep joy, peace and love, along with freedom from your shortcomings.
“The presence of God satisfies every part of your being,” shares Patel. “And that’s available every single day throughout the day.
“You just posture your heart, your intention to him, your affection to him, and he comes. And whether you’re in a difficult storm of life or whether you’re in a bit of anxiety here or there, there is something available that comes in and not just intellectually gives you perspective, but changes your whole being in that instant.”
“You just have this incredible peace that you know that’s come from somewhere else.
“You know you haven’t worked so hard to get the peace, or work to get that joy.
“What I would say is just irrelevant of circumstances, [there is] this incredible, deep joy, peace, love. And most importantly attractive, when I fall short, when I make a mistake, when I think something wrong – that engagement with his presence cleanses the consciousness.
“You’re just free of all your shortcomings. You’re not burdened by karma. That’s impossible elsewhere.”