Perspectives of an Indian Convert

From July 31, 1993



Editors' note: On October 20 36-year-old Republican Bobby Jindal was elected governor of Louisiana. In the early 1990s, Mr. Jindal wrote two articles for Americarecounting his conversion from the Hindu faith of his parents to Catholicism. The following excerpt is taken from "Has Ecumenism Made Evangelism Irrelevant?" which was published on July 31, 1993:

I was born in the United States immediately after my parents arrived here from India. I was raised in a strong Hindu culture, attended weekly pujas, or ceremonial rites, and read the Vedic scriptures. Though my prayers were a child's constant stream of requests and broken promises, Hinduism provided me with moral guidance and spiritual comfort. It never occurred to me that I should consider any other religion; to be a Hindu was an aspect of my Indian identity. A childhood friend, a Southern Baptist intent on converting the world, first introduced me to Christianity by telling me "you and your parents are going to hell." I was hardly convinced.

My friend's exhortations did, however, prompt me to investigate my Hindu faith and motivated me to read the Bhagavad-Gita. Although I found the stories fascinating and the writing magnificent, I was uncomfortable when Krishna convinced a reluctant Arjuna to secure his rightful inheritance by making war against his cousins. Though I did not like seeing a deity advocate violence, this feeling was not enough to reject an entire faith. I wanted to examine Hinduism on its own merits and doctrines.

The main tenets of the Hindu faith involve two basic beliefs. The first is that all souls earn their way into nirvana, a state of blessedness, through good deeds. Since this takes many lifetimes, souls are reincarnated until they succeed. One's material circumstances are based on the past life's choices; the very worst souls are incorporated into animal bodies...

The second tenet is that all religions are equally valid paths to the same God. This strips one of the right to criticize any set of religious beliefs, including those of cults and other extreme groups. Thus, God is not concerned with having His followers believe in truth. It is sincerity, and not content, that matters. Yet I had had for years a sincere prayer life and still felt a void in my religious faith. Though I was searching for an objectively true faith that would lead me to God, I was beginning to doubt this existed and was ready to accept the "philosophies," if not the religious beliefs, associated with Hinduism.

My journey from Hinduism to Christianity was a gradual and painful one. I was touched by the love and simplicity of a Christian girl who dreamt of becoming a Supreme Court justice so she could stop her country from "killing unborn babies." I was also angered by the arrogance of my Southern Baptist friend who claimed his faith was the one true path to God. He seemed to deny the experiences of billions of people who have never seen a copy of the Bible.


I began reading the Bible to disprove the Christian faith I was learning both to admire and despise. I cannot begin to describe my feelings when I first read the New Testament texts. I saw myself in many of the parables and felt as if the Bible had been written especially for me. After reading every book I could find on the historical accuracy of the Bible and Christianity, I was convinced that the Bible had remained unaltered throughout the centuries and that circumstances surrounding Christ's death led to the conversions of thousands. However, my perspective remained intellectual and not spiritual.

My investigation of Christianity might have remained at this theoretical level had it not been for a short black-and-white film. Though its depiction of the crucifixion was harsher than that of many similar movies, something about this film hit me very hard. For the first time, I actually imagined what it meant for the Son of God to be humiliated and even killed for my sake. Although the movie did not convince me that anything was true, it did force me to wonder if Christians were right. I realized that if the Gospel stories were true, if Christ really was the Son of God, it was arrogant of me to reject Him and question the gift of salvation.

It would require many hours of discussion with a pastor before I was ready to take that leap of faith and accept Christ into my life. It would take another two years for me to be baptized into the Catholic Church. My parents were infuriated by my conversion and have yet fully to forgive me. I tried to prepare myself for the worst; though I was ready when they ended their financial support, I was not as prepared for the emotional battles. My parents went through different phases of anger and disappointment. They blamed themselves for being bad parents, blamed me for being a bad son and blamed evangelists for spreading dissension. There were heated discussions, many of them invoking family loyalty and national identity. My parents have never truly accepted my conversion and still see my faith as a negative that overshadows my accomplishments. They were hurt and felt I was rejecting them by accepting Christianity. I long for the day when my parents understand, respect and possibly accept my faith. For now, I am satisfied that they accept me...

The motivation behind my conversion, however, was my belief in one, objectively true faith. If Christianity is merely one of many equally valid religions, then the sacrifices I made, including the loss of my family's peace, were senseless. I was comfortable in my Hindu faith and enjoyed an active prayer life; I only gradually felt a void and stubbornly resisted God's call from within the church. It was Truth and Love that finally forced me to accept Christ as Lord. "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way and the truth and the life: No one comes to the Father except through me'" (In. 14:6). Christ's redemptive sacrifice proved that God loved me and was lifting me up to Him.