Book Reviews

A book that’s deeply disturbing – The Missionary Position


I bought the book “The Missionary Position – Mother Teresa in theory and practice” by Christopher Hitchens almost two months back but kept putting off reading it. I knew that it would disturb me and well, it did. By the time Mother Teresa was made into a saint, my adulation had run its course and I wasn’t in agreement with her sainthood. That her work had nothing to do with saving orphaned children nor providing them with basic facilities and a safe life in her orphanages was something I didn’t want to accept as a fact.

Christopher Hitchens has pushed the curtain back and allowed us to see the harsh reality of Mother Teresa’s work – religious conversion. She was the church’s star because she propagated Christianity and every orphan that she took off the street was converted to Christianity. The destitute adults were secretly converted on their deathbed if they refused to convert while being in their senses. I don’t have any issues with people following any religion or following none … but I strongly dislike conversion. Converting is violent and many times economically induced. That it has political overtones and has over the decades impacted India adversely just makes me even more opposed to it. The North-Eastern states becoming almost wholly Christian is because of this aggressive conversion. They were animists, shamans and Hindus till 1860 and then the aggressive evangelism converted nearly 90% of the population to Christianity within 100 years. It has huge ramifications politically and also on the social fabric of India.

I also discovered completely by accident that the Catholic Church owns huge non-agricultural land – infact they seem to be the largest land owners after Govt. of India, railways and the armed forces. How can that be? The temples traditionally owned lots of land …. and in TamilNadu the conversion game is on in full swing. The recent  Tirupati Devasthanam board controversy is bizarre. Can a Hindu or a Muslim or a Jew ever be the head of a Catholic religious organization ?? But in India, we have Christians in leadership roles in the most important Hindu temple -Tirupati.

Anyway, getting back to the book – I took almost a week to read the tiny 105 page book because I was cross checking every single incident mentioned, and much to my dismay, everything checked out. Then came the shocker in the news, that nuns of Missionaries of Charity were selling babies – Mother Teresa’s legacy seems murkier by the minute. What a sad and disastrous legacy. I was deeply disturbed also because at one time Siru, my closest friend and I had taken a decision to join Missionaries of Charity if things didn’t work out after college for us. I am not even visiting the place after reading this book !! Krishnan and I did have the chance to visit the Missionaries of Charity’s orphanage “Nirmal Hriday” in 1992 when we were in Calcutta for the MILT convention. We somehow didn’t go with the group then and I don’t remember why. Mother Teresa was alive then and those who went got a chance to meet her.

Some excerpts from the book –

Mother Teresa praising the Duvaliers who almost looted Haiti blind…

“The footage, which was shown on the CBS documentary program Sixty Minutes, has Mother Teresa smiling into the camera and saying, of Michèle Duvalier, that while she had met kings and presidents aplenty in her time, she had “never seen the poor people being so familiar with their head of state as they were with her. It was a beautiful lesson for me.”

Mother Teresa with John Roger –

“Also before me as I write is a photograph of Mother Teresa standing, eyes modestly downcast, in friendly propinquity with a man known as “John-Roger.”………

…….As leader of the cult known sometimes as “Insight” but more accurately as MSIA (the “Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness,” pronounced “Messiah”), he is a fraud of Chaucerian proportions. Probably best known to the public for his lucrative connection to Arianna Stassinopoulos-Huffington—whose husband, Michael Huffington, spent $42 million of his own inherited money on an unsuccessful bid for a Senate seat in California—John-Roger has repeatedly claimed to be, and to have, a “spiritual consciousness” that is superior to that of Jesus Christ……..

……MSIA, it should be noted, has repeatedly been exposed in print as corrupt and fanatical, and the Cult Awareness Network lists the organization as “highly dangerous.””

Mother Teresa using donations to decorate the Church and not for the children and the dying –

“Of course if the purpose of Mother Teresa’s work is that of strict religious proselytization and the founding of an order toward that end, there can be no conceivable objection to her employing charitable donations in order to decorate an altarpiece with the things of this world. But those who make the donations are, it seems, not always aware that this is the essential point.”

Mother Teresa’s views on population control and not to use contraceptives or abortion as a means of preventing births –

“MOTHER TERESA: I do not agree because God always provides. He provides for the flowers and the birds, for everything in the world that he has created. And those little children are his life. There can never be enough.”…..

“….Mrs. Indira Gandhi—a political patron of Mother Teresa’s, incidentally—once embarked upon a criminal campaign of forced sterilization in India. Clearly there are many ways of getting the population question wrong. On the other hand, there is no rational way of saying that the question does not arise. And if it were true that God “always provides,” then, obviously, there would be no need for the Missionaries of Charity in the first place.”

Mother Teresa received enough donations … but they weren’t used to serve the poor –

“Bear in mind that Mother Teresa’s global income is more than enough to outfit several first-class clinics in Bengal. The decision not to do so, and indeed to run instead a haphazard and cranky institution which would expose itself to litigation and protest were it run by any branch of the medical profession, is a deliberate one. The point is not the honest relief of suffering but the promulgation of a cult based on death and suffering and subjection. Mother Teresa (who herself, it should be noted, has checked into some of the finest and costliest clinics and hospitals in the West during her bouts with heart trouble and old age) once gave this game away in a filmed interview.”

Why the rich Western world may not want to look deep into Mother Teresa’s work –

“The rich world likes and wishes to believe that someone, somewhere, is doing something for the Third World. For this reason, it does not inquire too closely into the motives or practices of anyone who fulfills, however vicariously, this mandate. The great white hope meets the great black hole; the mission to the heathen blends with the comforting myth of Florence Nightingale.”

On supporting unscrupulous corrupt conmen –

“In 1992, after a series of political and financial crises and the most expensive bailout operation in the history of the American taxpayer, Keating was finally brought to trial. He appeared before the Superior Court in Los Angeles (his “Lincoln Savings and Loan” had been a largely Californian operation) where he was heard by the later-notorious Judge Lance Ito.

……..During the course of the trial, Mother Teresa wrote to the court seeking clemency for Mr. Keating. She gave no explanation of her original involvement with the defendant and offered no direct testimony mitigating his looting of the thrift industry.”

Mother Teresa continuing to support dictators and despots –

“General Mengistu Haile Mariam had deliberately used the weapon of starvation not just against Eritrea but also against domestic and regional dissent in other regions of the country. This had not prevented Mother Teresa from dancing attendance upon him and thereby shocking the human-rights community, which had sought to isolate his regime. That very isolation, however, had provided opportunities for “missionary work” to those few prepared to compromise.”

The last paragraph says it all-

“As Edward Gibbon observed about the modes of worship prevalent in the Roman world, they were “considered by the people as equally true, by the philosopher as equally false and by the magistrate as equally useful.” Mother Teresa descends from each element in this grisly triptych. She has herself purposely blurred the supposed distinction between the sacred and the profane, to say nothing of the line that separates the sublime from the ridiculous. It is past time that she was subjected to the rational critique that she has evaded so arrogantly and for so long.”

Will the Church take note and change their stance? This is no saint !! Atleast in India can we stop getting angry when this truth is spoken in the media?? How long will we remain blind and trusting and believe everything that Western powers tell us?

Important questions to ponder over. #deeplydisturbed

 

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6 replies »

  1. Bindu,
    Wow. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that I’m currently researching and writing a blog about the destructiveness of monotheism. The Catholic Church is notorious throughout the world for its brutal methods of conversion, as in South America among the Incas. (“Open Veins of Latin America,” author Eduardo Galleano). In North America, the French missionaries made more of an effort than others to understand the native cultures, but their motive was to convert them. They saw the animistic religions as akin to devil worship.

    I don’t know much about Mother Theresa, except what I’ve been told, but this review helps me understand why she was so famous. A manufactured image extraordinaire.

    • Katharine, its just sad that Mother Teresa ended up being just “A manufactured image extraordinaire” as you put it. She could have done so much more !! I just cannot understand monotheism but more importantly, I am struggling to understand the need for evangelism by the two biggest religions – Christianity and Islam. God/religion is a private affair…

      • Bindu,
        I don’t understand it well, but I like the Oriental concept of “qi,” which may be similar to “prana” in India. Life force, which is impersonal.

        I guess leaders and followers need each other, and someone who claims a direct link to a god or gods, if he also has charisma, can convince a lot of people to follow him.

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