Christian And Jewish Responses To ISKCON

Dialogue Or Diatribe?

John A. Saliba, S.J.

Although this paper was first published in 1986, it still speaks to us today about Christian and Jewish responses to ISKCON.� In it, Dr. Saliba discusses possibilities of dialogue between ISKCON and other faith communities, and raises the concerns the Churches may have, thus addressing some issues devotees may need to discuss when meeting people from these faith communities. The spectre of the Hare Krishna devotees recruiting young people from Christianity and Judaism has been painted in many minds. But is it a true image? Where does ISKCON draw the line between education and conversion? These and other questions are raised by this interesting appraisal of the relationship between ISKCON, Judaism and� Christianity.

Over the last ten years, many religious leaders in the West have expressed mounting concern about the new religious movements, in which they see not merely an unexpected challenge to Judeo-Christian tradition but an unprecedented threat to Western civilisation (Clements, 1975:16; Rudin and Rudin, 1980:14). Christian commentators on the new movements worry about the magnitude of their impact on, and the challenge they pose to, the Christian faith. Commenting on the large number of people involved in the cults, Walter Martin (1980:17), one of the leading spokesmen for evangelical Christianity, remarks, 'When we compare this to the vast number of unchurched or mainline churched Americans, we can see that a distinct minority, the cults, is significantly affecting the majority.' Bob Larson, president of an organisation for Christian ministries in Denver, is much more judgmental in his evaluation of the new movements and more worried about their implications for the churches, believing (1982:22) that 'the appalling number of cult devotees who have left evangelical ranks poses the crucial question, "How well is the Church training its members to understand the foundation of their beliefs?"'

The Eastern religions are particularly singled out as dangerous by some commentators because they offer a novel philosophy of life with alternative solutions to some of the problems which the Church must face in the twentieth century. [1] The presence of Eastern religions in the West is taken as an affront to Christian theology and life. Their comparative success has deep philosophical roots in our own culture. Clements (1975:46), for example, argues that it is not surprising to 'find a new interest in mysticism in our culture, for there is a close epistemological link between existentialism and Eastern thought. If Christians are to find a positive reply to these Eastern sects, they must become involved in the contemporary debate on the problem of knowledge.' 'The popularity of the Eastern sects,' he further maintains (pp. 55-6), 'provides a needed imperative to Christians to work toward a deeper theology and a deeper devotional life.' The impact of cult membership on family life and the psychological effects upon the individual are among the many other subjects raised in discussions on the cultic phenomenon (Enroth, 1977:12).

Similar concerns are brought to the fore by Jewish rabbis and community leaders who contend that the danger to their tradition is greater because Jews form a minority in a culture where many Christian missionary groups have already been making attempts to convert them. Marcia Rudin (1978:252) portrays the relevant Jewish position when she states:

The survival of the Jewish people is not at stake - if we have survived the Crusades and the Holocaust surely we can survive these cults - but the existence of these groups and their popularity does present a problem to the Jews. The loss of even a single Jew siphons off a precious natural resource.

Headlines in Jewish community bulletins and newspapers further highlight Jewish vulnerability to the cults, [2] which are allegedly recruiting Jews in disproportionate numbers. [3] Jewish continuity and survival, already endangered by intermarriage and assimilation, are now facing the missionary activities of the new religious movements (Isser and Schwartz, 1980:63; Kollin, 1980:32). Pointing out that in Judaism the home has been the centre of worship and religious festivals, Isser and Schwartz conclude (p. 64):

Thus, threats to the family structure and its welfare - that is, conversion, proselytisation, intermarriage - strike at the heart of Jewish life, its beliefs, its social structure, its very survival. Proselytisation, in short, has been perceived and is still perceived as a continuing and durable enemy.

The cults, particularly 'Jews for Jesus', are seen as 'a warning that the process of assimilation has passed beyond the danger point.' (Kollin, p. 323). Some Jews have interpreted proselytisation by the new cults as a sign of anti-Semitism (Bush, 1980:48) and fear, somewhat paranoiacally, that 'what the Spanish Inquisition and Hitler failed to do, the cults might.' (Isser and Schwartz, p. 72). Many fear that some of the contemporary cultic groups potentially may erupt into violent and suicidal behaviour, as did the People's Temple (Zeitlin, 1984:5; Rudin and Rudin, 1980:28-9). Jewish leaders are further worried by the increased evangelisation activities of Christian missionaries whose explicit aim is to convert Jews. Rabbi Balfour Brickner (1978:11) observes that a new spirit of confrontation is replacing the co-operation of recent years. He writes:

The eruption of the previously quiescent missionary enterprise has further exacerbated the mood of confrontation and endangered inter-religious relations in this country. If at one time Jews ignored these marginal missions to the Jews, feeling that to challenge their puny efforts was beneath Jewish dignity, that is no longer the case. The proliferation of pockets of Messianic Jews, Jewish-Christians, and Hebrew-Christians in all of their guises has angered the Jewish community, particularly on the two coasts, where there are heavy concentrations of Jews and many of these groups have set up 'National Headquarters' .... The Jewish community is using every means at its disposal to fight back.

It must be conceded that the cults have raised many questions about traditional Western values, and that the preoccupations of both Jews and Christians are not without foundation. The fears and concerns about cultic influence are, however, part of the problem, since inevitably they are bound to affect the mutual relationship between cult devotees and members of mainline religious groups. Examination of the various Christian and Jewish reactions to the cults will help us understand the new religions' place in, and impact on, Western culture and religion and might suggest - positively or negatively - ways to begin to formulate an appropriate response.

This essay will concentrate on two possible religious responses to the new movements, [4] namely, those of confrontation and dialogue. It will begin by describing the more typical Christian and Jewish reactions firstly to the cults in general and secondly to ISKCON in particular. [5] It will finally suggest that within the Christian and Jewish communities there are hints of a better, more enlightened approach to the cultic phenomenon, an approach which is buttressed by contemporary developments in the theology of religions.

The cultic image

In an attempt to respond more effectively to the perceived threat of cultic resurgence, Christians and Jews have laboured to draw up a definition of a 'cult' and to outline its features. Christian observers have largely opted for a theological definition: cults are first and foremost religious systems which deny basic, orthodox dogmas like the Trinity and which contradict Biblically revealed truths like the divinity of Christ. Walter Martin, who heads the Christian Research Institute in California, states (1980:16) that a cult is 'a group, religious in nature, which surrounds a leader or a group of teachings which either denies or misinterprets essential Christian doctrine.' In a resource packet on the cults, the US Lutheran Council states that 'a cult is a non-Christian sect (e.g. Hare Krishna) or a non-Christian religious phenomenon or group (e.g. Unification Church).' William Whalen (1981:4), a popular Catholic writer on sects and cults, prefers the broader definition given by Charles Braden (1951:xii): 'A cult is any religious group which differs significantly in some one or more aspects as to belief or practices from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture' (cf. Beck, 1977:29; Schipper, 1982a:20; Larson, 1982:31-40; McDowell and Stewart, 1982:22 ff.; Lesvis, 1974:3 ff.). One example of a more detailed theological evaluation of a cult is provided by the National Council of Churches (no date), which turned down the Unification Church's request for membership because it failed the test of Christian orthodoxy.

Attached to some of these explicitly theological statements about belief systems are several negative connotations. Cults are sometimes judged to be counterfeit spiritualities and spurious religious systems (Enroth et. al., 1983:13). They are often explained as being manifestations of satanic forces, and thus represent, metaphorically, the cosmic struggle between good and evil which augurs the apocalyptic end of time. Ronald Enroth (1977:202), an evangelical Christian who teaches sociology, propounds this theology most vividly when he writes:

From the Christian perspective, the so-called new-age cults represent the most recent manifestation of an age-old struggle - the battle between good and evil, between God and God's adversary, Satan. The phenomena described in this book are neither random nor accidental: they are profoundly patterned. As simplistic as it may sound to some, they indicate a demonic conspiracy to subvert the true gospel of Jesus Christ through human agents whose minds have been blinded by the evil one. (cf. Williams, no date: 2-3; Newport, 1978:10; Saliba, 1981:460-1).

Not content with making merely religious evaluations of the new cults, many commentators on the cultic scene invoke psychological and sociological explanations to reinforce their theological statements. From a psychological perspective a cult is said to be an exploitative and deceptive system of brainwashing and mind control achieved by heavy behavioural conditioning and hypnotic techniques. [6] Its effects are devastating: members have their thoughts manipulated and their ego destroyed, forfeit their capacity for logical thinking and lose contact with reality. They degenerate into 'spiritual zombies' (Whalen, 1981:7). Cults are very demanding, exacting heavy sacrifices which might include the neglect or refusal of medical aid, thus adding numerous physical problems to the psychological damage already caused by the narrow and restrictive environment in which their members live (Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, n.d.:2-3).

The cults are also viewed as having a number of negative features from a sociological point of view. One of their main characteristics is the presence of an authoritarian leader who, by claiming divine revelation or knowledge, exacts loyalty and submission from his disciples (McManus and Cooper, 1984:114; McDowell and Stewart, 1982:27; Gundermann et. al., 1977:2; Kyle, 1981:94). Cults are therefore closely-knit social groups or systems which are held together by extreme discipline and regimentation. Their life is tightly structured and controlled by their leaders (Rambo, 1981:11; Martin, 1980:17 ff.). Group solidarity is enhanced by legalistic codes and esoteric beliefs (Larson, 1982:19-21) and by the inculcation of a narrow mentality that separates and isolates members from the outside world, which is depicted by the cult as a hostile environment (Larson, p. 18; Pritchett, 1976:1; Kyle, 1981:94; Beck, 1977:9).

While the Christian description of a cult focuses mainly on the issue of orthodoxy and heresy, the Jewish definition focuses mainly on the purportedly negative psychological and sociological aspects of cult involvement. Margaret Singer's theory (Singer, 1979:72; West and Singer, 1980:32-46) that a cult is a manipulative group which brainwashes its members by techniques of indoctrination, thought control, and hypnosis, figures prominently in Jewish definitions (cf. Davis, 1983:12; Schwartz, 1978:24; Schwartz and Isser, 1981:1, 8; B'nai B'rith International, n.d.). James Rudin, Assistant Director for Inter-religious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, adopts the sociological definition that 'cults are deviant groups which exist in a state of tension with society' (Rudin and Rudin, 1980:14) and then goes on to list several frightening features of cultism, including total allegiance to an all-powerful leader, a de-emphasis on rational thought, deceptive recruitment techniques and complete control of the followers' lives (p.20 ff.).

Jewish writers as a rule do not compare in detail the Jewish faith with the main tenets of the new religious movements, but they do criticise them for believing that the end of the world is at hand and for promoting a secretive and mysterious atmosphere (Rudin and Rudin, 1980:25). The cultic philosophy is that the end justifies the means (ibid.; Neff, 1979:23). In Jewish writings on cults, the psychological features ascribed to cults and the social dynamics which are believed to operate in them are almost identical to those alluded to in Christian writings (Silver and Pash, 1977:33; Appel, 1983:3 ff.; Isser and Schwartz, 1980:68, 70; Rudin and Rudin, 1980:23-4).

Anthropologist Willa Appel, while admitting that cults have a long history and may be an evolutionary phase in the development of religions or political movements, still voices a largely disapproving opinion of the whole cultic phenomenon. She writes (p. 4):

By their very nature, cults alienate ordinary citizens, for they defy the existing social order Seeing themselves as separate from the rest of the world, with a separate ideology and a different life-style, cult members stand in opposition to society, denying, in a greater or lesser degree, its legitimacy. Believing themselves to be different from and superior to the rest of the world, cult members tend to ignore the rules that govern less exalted citizens. At odds with society in the first place, this antagonism can easily lead to confrontation.

Why cults?

Given this extremely pejorative picture of cults, one wonders why they would arise in the first place and why so many young adults would even consider joining them. There are two broad reasons proposed by Jews and Christians alike to explain the resurgence of new religious movements and to account for their popularity. The first reason concerns the general cultural and social conditions of Western civilisation, and the second concerns the religious situation.

Most writers agree that the high esteem placed on material values is at the very root of the problem (Boa, 1979:6; Newport, 1978:10; Martin, 1980:23; Silver and Pash, 1977:31-2; Medroff, 1982:52). Many contemporary young adults have apparently lost faith in a society where a mood of relativity predominates (Beck 1977:12) and where scientific progress may have created more problems than it has solved (Petersen, 1973:1218; Silver and Pash, 1977:31-2). Our society no longer offers a base for building a community where love, fellowship and acceptance are the norm (Beck 1977:13; Enroth, 1981:15; Short, 1977:31). Jewish writers in particular are preoccupied with family life which they see eroding through lack of discipline and authority (Appell, 1978:20; Fine, 1982:59; Isser and Schwartz, 1980:67, 72; Adahan, 1981:36; Brickner, 1978:13; cf. Petersen, 1973:12).

These societal conditions psychologically affect many people especially the young, who are experiencing the normal identity problems of late adolescence (Gitelson and Reed, 1981:318; Rudin and Rudin, 1980:102-3; Schwartz, 1978:23). Alienation and loneliness are the major problems which people have to deal with (Bush, 1980:46; Isser and Schwartz, 1980:72; Davis, 1983:12; Schwartz, 1978:23; Boa, 1979:4). Many dissatisfied people are searching for spiritual fulfilment (Lochhaas, 1977b:10; Isser and Schwartz, 1980:67; Schwartz, 1978:23). Some Christian writers have observed that the present mood in Western culture has contributed to the success of Eastern religions, since these have preserved values which the scientifically oriented West has neglected (Boa, 1979:5, Newport, 1978:10) and since the West has encouraged relativistic ideas, especially in religious matters (Martin, 1980:30-1).

The presence of the cults also indicates that all is not well with Christianity and Judaism, both of which appear, in part at least, to have failed. The result is that many people do not have their religious aspirations fulfilled (Enroth, 1981:15; cf. Cox, 1977a, esp. pp. 95 ff.), while others have a shallow understanding and knowledge of their own religion (Beck, 1977:16-7; McDowell and Stewart, 1982:20; Editorial, La Civilta Cattolica, 1984:221). Gordon Lewis (1977, pp. 9-10) writes that some of the older Christian cults can also be applied to the contemporary cultic scene:

Christians must confess that often they have been impassive to the economically and socially needy, the suffering, the sorrowing, the unsaved. The enthusiasm and sacrifice of the cults shame us. Their educational vision and their extensive use of modern methods of propagandising the masses have left many of us far behind. More diligent in caring and giving, they reveal elements of truth and life we have neglected.

LaVonne Neff, an assistant editor at InterVarsity Press, argues that, despite the fact that the negative features of cults are often underscored, one must not forget that their very presence and success point to some flaws and lapses within the Christian community. She observes (in Enroth et. al., 1983:197) that:

Even in their excesses, many cults have features that Christians should sit up and notice. Eckists hunger for contact with spiritual reality. Baha'i's long for world peace. Mormons work to build strong families. Jehovah's Witnesses are eager to tell others about their faith. Devotees of Transcendental Meditation practise spiritual discipline.

There is also agreement among Jews that Judaism has been too strongly influenced by Americanisation, modernisation and secularism (Silver and Pash, 1977:31-2; Isser and Schwartz, 1980:72; Kollin, 1980:31; Jacobs, 1977:10), with the deplorable result that Jewish life has been trivialised (Neff, 1979:24). One hears the constant lament that Jewish education is both inadequate and insufficient (Isser and Schwartz, 1980:67, 69; Gittelsohn, 1977:44; Brickner, 1978:13; Rudin and Rudin, 1980:148-9; Rudin, 1978:357-8). Many Jews are Jewish in name only (Kollin, 1980:27-8), while the spiritual life of Judaism is judged by some to be at a low ebb (Dworkin, 1975: 14). Rudin and Rudin (1980) forcefully assert that a better education in one's faith is required in order to counteract the cults. They write (p.148) that 'the historians' grades will be quite low when they evaluate the little real spiritual substance found within our institutions,' and (p. 149) that 'ultimately the core of the long-term response to the cults must be increasing and deepening religious education on all levels.'

Views of the Hare Krishna Movement

Public suspicion of cults in general has dominated most of what Christian and Jewish writers have had to say about the Hare Krishna movement. ISKCON is at times taken as an example of either a pagan, un-Christian cult or of a deceptive, pseudo-religious group in which brainwashing and other thought reform techniques keep members under the strict control of a despotic ruler.

Most Christian literature on ISKCON reveals a somewhat fundamentalist theology of Eastern religions. [7] This position starts with the assumption that Christianity is the only true religion and that all others are at best a distortion of Christian doctrine and devotion. Revelation is restricted to the Christian Bible and salvation is equated with membership in, or formal allegiance to, the Christian faith. Many of the missionary movements to the East have been, and still are, inspired by the sincere conviction that non-baptised people are mired in sin and ignorance and in need of redemption. More specifically, Hinduism is presented as an idolatrous religious system to be shunned, if not abhorred. Larson, in his Book of Cults (1982), gives a short description of Hinduism in which he outlines briefly the historical background of ancient Indian religion and its various stages of religious development. 'Hinduism,' he informs us, 'might be viewed as religious anarchy in action.' (p. 71). Many of its beliefs are humanly degrading. Thus we are assured (p. 74) that:

The Hindu has inoculated himself against empathy to his fellow man. All the universe is lila, God's cosmic game. And pain and pleasure are not absolutes but an illusion. The suffering one sees is not real, it is maya and therefore unworthy of any efforts to alleviate. Furthermore, to extend kindness to those who are less fortunate would be to disobey the law of karma.

Devotion to Shakti 'encourages orgies, temple prostitution and animal sacrifices' (p. 75), and in honour of the goddess Kali a hundred 'human sacrifice murders' are committed every year (p. 76). The errors of Hinduism are clear (pp. 81-2):

The polytheistic and idolatrous practices of Hinduism are pagan forms of worship and constitute collusion with demonic forces. Karma's system of salvation-by-conduct is contrary to the biblical doctrine of salvation by the sole grace of God. The Hindu cannot acknowledge his need of a saviour without repudiating his entire belief system.

Relying heavily on Stillson Judah's (1974) study on ISKCON, most of the current commentators on the movement start by placing it within the framework of the Hindu religion, more specifically within the Hindu fundamentalist tradition (Lochhaas, n.d.:4; McBeth, 1977:21 ff.; cf. Marchand, 1978:39).

The first and strongest attack on the Hare Krishna movement is directed against its basic teachings. ISKCON is a religion of incredible myths and fantastic doctrines which are irrational and primitive (Jesus People USA, 1979; Larson, 1982:3; Editorial, La Civilta Cattolica, 1984:220-1). Its beliefs are inconsistent (Martin, 1980:99; Sparks, 1979:111-2) and its philosophy unrealistic, unintelligible and absurd (Oxley, 1976b:12; Petersen, 1973:172; Streiker, 1978:95; McBeth, 1977:3132). It is nothing but a 'religion of despair' (McBeth:44). Moreover, the movement is seen as a challenge to Christianity because of its claim that it has no desire to change people's religion (Clements, 1975:27), while still maintaining its universal missionary goal and proposing Krishna consciousness as the fulfilment of Christianity (McBeth, 1977:36). Its assertion that it is compatible with the Bible and Christianity is categorically denied (Martin, 1980:18, 32; McDowell and Stewart, 1982:54). On the contrary, most, if not all, of the beliefs of the Bible cannot be reconciled with the teachings and practices of ISKCON. [8] Commentators disagree whether or not the devotees of Krishna consciousness practise idolatry. [9]

Another common attack against the Hare Krishna movement focuses on their mantra chanting which, besides being unbiblical (Means, 1976:156-7), is the method by which the devotees are brainwashed and kept in a state of trance and mind-control (McBeth, 1977:34, 37; Newport, 1978:32; Means, 1976:148-50; Verghese, 1977:62; Streett, 1984:5; Hughes, 1983:318). ISKCON's monastic life has also been severely criticised. Their sexual restrictions are deemed frustrating and degrading (Sparks, 1979:114), their vegetarian cuisine is malnutritious (Marchand, 1978:38), their structured daily schedule leaves them practically no personal responsibility (Wood, 1975:8) and temple living is a life of bondage (Sparks, 1979:105). Some argue that the rigid discipline is just a way of maintaining the state of mind-control (ibid.104; Newport, 1978:35-7; Streiker, 1978:87). Such a system, which dominates the intellectual and emotional life of devotees, requires an absolute leader, who is perceived by several writers as an unscrupulous person who assumes divine power, if not divine nature (Means, 1976:153; Editorial, La Civilta Cattolica, 1984:221). Swami Prabhupada, like so many other gurus and religious leaders, has been accused of being inaccessible to his own devotees and of living a life of leisure and luxury (Boa, 1979:180). His followers, presumably following his instructions or example, are deceptive in their fund-raising efforts (Enroth, 1977:26; Martin, 1980:91; Lochhaas, 1977a:11-2). Yamamoto (1983), however, gives a much more objective and dispassionate account of ISKCON and its founder, whose movement, he thinks, is certainly not a 'rip-off'. McBeth (1977:43) concurs.� In addition, it is felt by some critics that by maintaining such a monastic and communal lifestyle, Hare Krishna devotees 'have dropped out of the world' (Petersen, 1973:140) and have lost all interest in works of charity and in social issues (Whalen, 1981:90; Leazer, 1981:56). ISKCON has been sharply criticised for undermining the traditional family system (McBeth, 1977:39) and for creating and encouraging tensions between devotees and their parents (Verghese, 1977:53; Streiker, 1978:87; Lochhaas, n.d.:3).

Mixed opinions are voiced about the way the children are educated. Some think that children of devotees are deprived of their parents' love and care (Sparks, 1979:107), while others assert that schoolchildren see their parents on a daily basis (Sandlin, n.d.:l42).

This rejection of society has the effect of making the devotees rather hostile (Marchand, 1978:39). For Aagaard (1983:20-1), who from his base in Denmark has been fighting the cults the world over, the Hare Krishna movement is essentially a violent one. The stockpiling of weapons, especially in their West Virginia temple, is taken for granted (McManus and Cooper, 1984:132).

The Jewish response to the Hare Krishna has been less thorough. ISKCON is regularly presented as a typical example of a destructive cult, and little time or effort is spent in refuting its religious doctrines or demeaning its rituals. Hence one will not find in Jewish literature in-depth comparisons between ISKCON and Judaism. What religious criticisms one does find indicate that ISKCON's philosophy and practices are incompatible with Judaism (Isser and Schwartz, 1980:69). The charge that Hare Krishna devotees actually worship false gods or idols is stressed particularly by religious Jews. Fisch (1984:155), describing ISKCON religious services, states that they 'consist of the worship of statues which represent the tens of gods venerated by Hindus. There is a god of rain, a god of lightning, a god of the ocean and a god of morning. There are gods for everything under the sun.' In an account of the deprogramming of a Jew who had been a member of ISKCON for five years, one of the deprogrammers confronts him with a clear denunciation of the type of worship he thinks takes place in the movement's temples (Hecht, 1985:80-1):

Abraham became the first patriarch of the Jewish people after he had broken the clay statues that his father worshipped as idols. I am sure those people also had philosophies. Nevertheless, they worshipped idols. You can spout out all the philosophy you want. The bottom line is, you are an idol worshiper. You make a statue, call it god, and worship it.

This idol worship is said to extend to include their now deceased leader (Yanoff, 1981:1 19).

Krishna devotees are further criticised for behaving like social outcasts. They avoid the ordinary pastimes of American culture like sports and watching television and, above all, they are forcibly cut off from their families (Rudin and Rudin, 1980:51). To many Jews ISKCON is a hostile, dangerous group, its West Virginia temple being a weapons cache (cf. ibid:54; Fisch, 1984:145). Some (e.g., Yanoff, 1981:208-10) find the devotees deceptive in their soliciting, while others (e.g. Silver and Pash, 1977:32-3) disagree and point out that their 'religion is not corrupt or exploitative'.

The most serious charge brought by Jewish writers against ISKCON is probably that of brainwashing. Rudin and Rudin (pp.17-8) express this common viewpoint when they adopt Conway and Siegelman's theory of conversion to cultism In agreement with their Christian counterparts, Jewish commentators on ISKCON think that the devotees are first brainwashed and then maintained in a state of indoctrination by the continuous repetition of the Hare Krishna mantra, aided by a regimented life which lacks nutrition and medical care (ibid. 46, 51). Though Rudin and Rudin admit that many of the Hare Krishna devotees 'appear to be happy' (p .48), they still conclude that there are many 'vegetables' and 'basket cases' in their temples (p. 52).

The above is a rather grim and foreboding picture of Hinduism and of ISKCON, and one wonders why it is so prominent in Christian fundamentalist and Jewish literature, especially since scholarly works present an altogether different picture of the religious traditions of the East and of ISKCON. One can suggest several reasons why the presence of the Hare Krishna movement has aroused such a diatribe (here I will focus my comments on the Christian response).

First of all, it must be borne in mind that the presence of an evangelising branch of Hinduism in the West has brought about a clash of ideologies. ISKCON is seen as competing for unchurched Christians and as attracting and influencing regular church members. The apologetic reply, which defends one's own position and attacks the opponent's theological system, is a predictable reaction under the circumstances. Secondly, authoritative knowledge of Eastern religious traditions has, in the main, been restricted to scholars in colleges and universities. Evangelical Christians reacting to ISKCON have been labouring with little in-depth knowledge of Hinduism and lack the intellectual and academic tools to distinguish the spiritual essentials of Hinduism from its cultural accretions. Thus, Larson (1982:79) reports on the costly care which some temples in India give to 'sacred rats' or to the worship of deadly cobras, but fails to make any attempt to determine what these practices, if actual, mean to the average believer or to find out what place such customs have in the religion as a whole. A religion should not be judged by what may be the idiosyncratic or esoteric beliefs and practices of a minority of its members. Thirdly, those responding to what they perceive to be a serious threat from ISKCON have yet to realise the critical importance of developing a systematic theology of religions, and hence they find themselves without the theological concepts necessary to interpret ISKCON's religious beliefs and practices.

Who joins ISKCON and why?

Reading the negative accounts about the Hare Krishna movement, one is left wondering why anybody would decide to commit oneself to such an ostensibly harmful organisation. To many, the strict lifestyle of a devotee is repulsive rather than attractive. In an age which embraces scientific explanations of the world and of human life, it seems incongruous that ISKCON would achieve any success in the West. In a society where the pursuit of pleasure has become the overriding goal, one may find it hard to understand how anyone could be attracted to a group where the denial of personal comfort and pleasure is an integral part of life.

Probably the most frequently heard explanation for why young adults are attracted to the movement is that it provides an alternative to a materialistic culture. [10] Western society has become dominated by scientific technology and consumerism, which stress material comforts and ignore spiritual needs and aspirations. This has led to anxiety and disillusionment and to the desire to escape to a less worldly environment. ISKCON offers an anti-materialistic life-style in which attachment to material goods is overcome and the competition for material success abates.

A second reason advanced for the spread of the Hare Krishna movement is the earlier existence of the counterculture. Judah (1974:61) points out that the Krishna pre-converts had joined the counterculture of the 1960s and, finding it unsatisfying, continued searching for an alternative lifestyle. Joining the Hare Krishna movement meant that one was not only abandoning a lifestyle of drug abuse and sexual indulgence but also expressing symbolically a rejection of American values and family heritage (cf. Petersen, 1973:171, Boa, 1979:180; Cox, 1983:45).A third reason for joining ISKCON is that young adults have become disillusioned and frustrated with their churches or synagogues (Editorial, La Civilta Catrolica, 1984:221; Fisch, 1984:165). Lochhaas (1979:29-30) thinks that all converts to Eastern religious groups were either religiously uncommitted or minimal believers. Cox (1977b) suggests that 'perhaps Christianity and Judaism have allowed themselves to be identified with the values of accumulation, profit, performance, success and material gain.' With little or no attachment to the tradition of their upbringing, it is not surprising that many young adults are looking for alternative ways of achieving self-realisation and spiritual liberation (Boa, 1979:180; Schipper, 1982b:49). The desire for a more intimate experience of God is also one of the factors which leads people to look outside the traditional churches. ISKCON appears, therefore, to have provided some young people with spiritual values which they had abandoned or never really possessed.

Several sociological and psychological reasons are also adduced to explain the success of the Hare Krishna movement. In an age and culture where both family life and authority are disintegrating, those who join the movement find warmth and friendship in a supportive community where the lines of authority are clear and firm, and where people can express and share religious goals (Lochhaas, n.d.:8; Whalens 1981:90; Shinn, 1983:91 ff.; Enroth, 1977:120).

Becoming a member of ISKCON may appear to be sociologically advantageous, but for some Christian writers, it is not so from a psychological point of view. The typical profile of a young adult who enters the Hare Krishna movement is that of a distraught and disturbed person who has lost his / her relationship to tradition. Alienated from society and religion, such a person is unable to cope with life. With little strength and imagination and with no ambition (Streiker, 1978:72), he / she tends to be lonely and isolated (Boa, 1979:181). The success of ISKCON, therefore, depends on maladjusted and discontented people who are vulnerable to the strong and overbearing advances of enthusiastic devotees. Membership in the group does nothing but hide or aggravate this condition.

The negative caricature of the Hare Krishna movement is marred by ignorance, misunderstanding and misinterpretation both of its practical goals and its theoretical background. The Spiritual Counterfeits Project's leaflet on the movement, for instance, states that 'in the literature of the Hare Krishna movement one may search in vain for a systematic philosophy.' Commentators highlight the distinctly non-Western practices of the movement, giving the impression that the group is bizarre and that its members are in need of psychiatric care. Ethnocentric bias is at times a little too obvious (cf. Lenneb, 1974). In an otherwise moderate article, one writer remarks that he 'found the food, well, hard to recognise' (Sandlin, n.d.: 141), while another admits that 'we find them strange - or even to speak with prejudice - stupid.' (Oxley, 1976:4). Unfortunately, attempts to understand the behaviour of members of new religious movements, to correct misrepresentations and to provide a more balanced view are frequently met with the accusation that one is an apologist for the cults (Quebedeaux, 1981:18).

Balanced views of ISKCON

In spite of the prevailing tendency to see the new religious movements (ISKCON included) in a negative light, there are several Christian and Jewish writers who are aware that sweeping statements on the cults, condemning them one and all, are unrealistic. McManus and Cooper (1984:45-6), for example, admit that even though members have been conditioned, voluntary defection from the cults is common. This conditioning, they state, is not so complete as to render them mindless robots. Brainwashing may not express what actually happens in a cult where the processes of recruitment and commitment involve no physical coercion (Kyle, 1981:98; Rambo, 1981:11; Cox, 1983:50 ff.). It is possible that those who talk of brainwashing may have little understanding of spiritual life and of religious conversion (Touchet, 1980:339-40).

Earl Schipper (1982a:10,11) admits that it would be unfair to associate many of the new religious groups with the popular notion of a cult as a system of brainwashing and deception controlled by a leader who abuses power. Observing that to many people the word 'cult' brings to mind the ill-fated People's Temple of Jim Jones, he admits that 'while certain religious groups may, in fact, exhibit bizarre, unacceptable behaviour, it would be unfair to associate some of the religious groups we will study with these outrageous practices.'Several authors (Garvey, 1977:24; McManus and Cooper, 1984:55ff; Newport, 1978:38; Short, 1977:31; Gruen, 1984) question whether deprogramming is the best way, legally or religiously, to deal with cults. The US Lutheran Council (1977) has expressed serious reservations about deprogramming. A statement on the subject warns that one 'should be aware that there are deprogramming efforts which can be as destructive as the cult experience and which can also be illegal acts.' Philip Lochhaas (1977c:39), the Executive Secretary of the Commission of Organisations of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, warns parents of cult members to 'beware of professional deprogrammers who charge large amounts of money to get your child out of the cults'. Though Lochhaas does at times seem to endorse deprogramming as a final resort, in an undated 'Open Letter to Families of Those Caught in Religious Delusion' (n.d.:2-3) he clearly states:

There are a number of reasons why professional and forcible 'deprogramming' of cult adherents is not recommended. In the first place, there are legal and moral implications that must be considered seriously by a Christian parent. Secondly, attempts at forcible deprogramming often confirm in the young person's mind what has been taught him in the cult about parents being under the control of Satan. Parents should not be misled by statistics that show a high success ratio. Statistics also show that young people may eventually return to the cult with more determination and conviction than before. The danger is always present that forcible deprogramming may seriously damage the mind of the youth.

Some Christians have begun to wonder whether cultivating a bellicose attitude toward the new religions truly reflects their own genuine commitment to Christian values. Yamamoto (1983:99) has expressed this concern more forcefully than most writers. 'It is a sad commentary on Christians,' he writes, 'when we followers of Christ look upon Krishna devotees with ridicule and derision, remarking how weird and strange they are. This is tragic in the context of Christ's admonition that we are to be light to a dark world, salt to a starved people and love to crying hearts.' (cf. Lochhaas, n.d.:3; Saliba, 1979:113 ff.).

On the more positive side, several authors have stressed the need to learn from the cults (Wilson, 1978:135ff.; Saliba, 1982:483; Rambo, 1981:24; Newport, 1978:40). Cults express the human concern for authentic religious values and have a right to their belief systems (Starkes, 1972:9).

It has also been conceded that there is some revelation in the Hare Krishna movement. In a short article in a leading Italian Catholic journal, Fonseca (1982), writing on the importance of the Bhagavad-gita and its place in the spiritual life of India and of the Hare Krishna movement, states (p. 46) that 'one must read the Gita with a spirit of profound sympathy and with a serious endeavour to hear God's voice which responds to the desires of the human heart wherever these desires and feelings are found.' (my translation). A universal message of love (although in practice somewhat condescending at times) is proposed as the correct Christian response (cf. Yamamoto, 1983:102).

The Jewish reaction to the new movements also contains some balanced reflections and attitudes. Israel (1980:34), for example, observes that the Jewish community loses more young adults to suicide than to the Hare Krishna movement. While the cults are a problem, they are not the most serious one which Jews face in today's world (cf. MalIer, 1981:31011; cf. Zakim, 1979). Although most cult leaders are often accused of living a life of luxury, Srila Prabhupada is sometimes excluded (Spiro, 1980:31). Not all hold that the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra causes and maintains brainwashing or induces hypnotism (Yanoff, 1981:122; cf. Fine, 1982:62-3). Deprogramming has been deplored as being non-Jewish in ideology. Haramgall (1977:17), writing in the American Zionist, is quite uncompromising in his negative assessment of deprogramming techniques.�� He writes:

It is shocking that parents, and especially Jewish parents, support such actions and make use of these 'services'. Upon close examination, deprogramming is seen to abuse the soul and body of its victims, break their spirit, and deprive them of self-determination. It also serves to lower the morals of victims and recruit new victims to the deprogramming ranks, a highly questionable choice of profession. Several testimonies reveal that the terrorist deprogrammers encouraged the patronisation of prostitutes, free sex, drinking and generally 'living it up' as proof of 'normal' conduct.

Theology of religions and ISKCON

The above reflections by both Jews and Christians suggest that there is something amiss with the public perception of, and reaction to, the new religious movements. Many Christians and Jews have in fact declared a kind of holy war against the cults, a war to be waged either in counter-evangelism and / or in the courtrooms. Drastic measures taken to combat the cults and to return their members to the religious beliefs and practices of their parents often have not been successful, nor have they effectively dealt with, much less solved, the major issues acknowledged by both Christian and Jewish writers which the presence of the new religious movements have brought to the fore. Perhaps it is time another strategy be tested.

Several authors have viewed the new movements in the context of an increasingly pluralistic society in the West (Melton and Moore, 1982:93 ff.; cf. Hanson, 1977:15). Both Christians and Jews must now interact with the adherents of Eastern religions on a scale never before encountered in history. The rather exclusivistic tendency which has pervaded both communities is now being questioned (Coward, 1985:1-45). Christians and Jews are taking a broader ecumenical approach to other religions and fostering a relationship of dialogue. In Christian theological circles, now, one often builds a theology of religions on the assumption that all religions share the same essential religious quest, recognising that this quest has been expressed in diverse ways and that it may have become somewhat blurred and distorted in the course of history. [11] While granting that there are serious differences which divide communities of faith, many theologians now admit that revelation and truth can be found to some degree in all religions. Mutual sharing and collaboration on various fronts become the primary goals in the relationship between the different religions. This ecumenical spirit calls the Christian to give witness to his / her own faith, but not in the manner of the heavy-handed evangelisation or proselytisation that insists on the conversion of everyone. Dialogue between religions becomes a fruitful source of mutual understanding leading to self-enrichment and self-purification.

A similar ecumenical spirit is found also among Jewish thinkers. Since the Emancipation, Jews have been in frequent contact with people of different faiths and, therefore, have felt the need to develop new ways of responding to the plurality of which they are a part. Mendelssohn (1969:66, 107), for example, argues that since religious truth is imminent in human reason, it is available to all religions. Jews do not possess the exclusive revelation leading to salvation. He explains that the Mosaic law was meant to bind the Jews to God and to unite them as a people. Both reason and the need to safeguard freedom of conscience favour the existence of a pluralistic world in which no one asserts his position over another. Fackenheim (1973:173 ff.) points out that the insular mentality of the ancient Jews vis-a-vis other religions was based on the fear of idolatry. Today, however, no modern religion need be regarded as idolatrous (in the sense of image-worship, where the one transcendent God is not the intended object of worship). Since neither Hinduism nor ISKCON, then, must necessarily be considered idolatrous, the doors for dialogue and for better relationships are open.

Other Jewish scholars (Heschel, 1951:182; Bresslauer, 1978:17-19; Agus, 1971:429) see religious diversity in a positive light, emphasising the need for religions to maintain their unique identity, to renew themselves and thus to contribute to the collective spiritual resources of humanity. The world's religions are a concrete witness of the many ways human beings can respond to God. Because religions share at least some common beliefs, goals and practices, they should act as partners and join forces in a spiritual battle against secularity (Bresslauer, p. 17).

Dialogue with ISKCON

There seems to be no reason why the Hare Krishna movement cannot be included in this ecumenical framework (Mojzes, 1981; Eck, 1983). Despite attacks against the new religious movements and ISKCON, both Christian and Jewish literature contain evidence that a better understanding of, and relationship with, the Hare Krishna movement is both possible and desirable.

Several Christian writers have pointed out that there are similarities between Christianity and ISKCON. Charismatic and conservative Christians insist on a literal interpretation of scripture, adopt a rather anti-intellectual stance and stress the need of a direct religious experience qualities found also in the Hare Krishna movement (Newport, 1978:39; cf. Pritchett, 1976:6). This common ground (cf. Newport, p.163; Cox, 1983:27 ff.) can serve as a starting point for understanding and co-operation. One of the more important points of contact is monastic life (Wood, 1979:8; McCorkell, 1975:21; Cox, 1983:49-50). Much of the ascetic life of the Hare Krishna devotees can be better understood if compared either to the Christian monastic or puritanical tradition.

Yamamoto (1978:21-2), in a widely circulated pamphlet on ISKCON, argues as follows:

Before we discuss with Hare Krishna devotees the difference between the two faiths, it is helpful, if not mandatory, to realise what common ground Christians have with them. To know the similarities will be of benefit in two ways. First, a smoother line of communication will be set up, person to person, between Christian and devotee. Second, deeper insight into the differences between Krishna and Christ will be seen. Often by not taking the time and energy to find points of agreement with others, we miss the true difference in our position.

Yamamoto mentions several points of contact between the Christian and the Hare Krishna devotee: both are absorbed in a belief system; both believe that only a Supreme Being can fulfil ultimate human needs; both stress the need for a personal relationship with, and devotion to, a saving God; both value a sincere commitment to a cause and staunch dedication to holy scriptures. All these similarities could form the basis for shared relations. One could fault Yamamoto for seeking compatible elements between Christianity and ISKCON for the purpose of more effective witness and evangelisation. Whatever his intentions are, his suggestions are certainly a step forward from the harangue and diatribe which have been typical of the popular Christian evangelical reaction to the new religions and to ISKCON in particular (cf. Yamamoto, 1978:22-3; Newport, 1978:167-8).

The suggestion for dialogue has not usually been received with great enthusiasm by evangelical Christians. Some doubt that any dialogue is possible (e.g. Scragg, 1979:10). Given the theological opinion that the new religious movements are a manifestation of satanic influence, one can easily understand the reluctance of some Christians to dialogue with members of ISKCON. Several Christian writers, however, are becoming aware that ridicule is counterproductive behaviour (e.g. Lochhaas, 1979:29; Saliba, 1979), intolerance is hardly a Christian virtue (Pritchett, 1976:4) and diatribe is not easily reconcilable with the Christian imperative of love. The judgement that diabolic influences are so widely and successfully at work is theologically weak because it brings into question both the wisdom and love of a saving God.

These are but incipient and hesitant steps toward a better relationship with a new religious group. The attempt to develop a theology of the new religious movements, a project still in its infancy, faces several real problems hich must be overcome if a more just evaluation of ISKCON is to be achieved. The most serious obstacle to dialogue is the mutual perception of sectarian proselytisation of both Christians and Hare Krishna devotees. The very attempts at conversion are always bound to be seen as a challenge, an affront which demands rebuttal. Most of the major Christian denominations have ceased, without abandoning their theoretical positions, to proselytise one another. The Christian-ISKCON dialogue could perhaps be patterned on the model developed by the World Council of Churches (cf. Samartha, 1979). The dialogue between Christian evangelicals and members of the Unification Church (Quebedeaux, 1979) and the co-operation between various churches and the Unification Church in the trial of Rev. Moon (Richardson, 1985), might serve as other models which could change the current diatribe into a more positive and fruitful relationship.

Jewish writers have compared the Hare Krishna devotees with the Hasidic Jews, especially in their views regarding authority, their stress on community and their observance of strict rules (cf. Appell, 1978:23). Silver and Pash (1977:15-6) see a point of contact in the Jewish pinyele yid, the spark which exists in every Jewish soul, and the Hare Krishna teaching that after one makes contact with a spiritual master, a spiritual seed is planted in one's heart.

Brickner (1978), praising the Roman Catholic efforts to dialogue with the Jews, approves the Church's clear and unequivocal repudiation of proselytisation and states (p. 19) that 'Roman Catholicism has had the courage to "mine" scripture and formulate a theology of accommodation with Judaism that, while it fails to solve all problems, does allow Catholicism to relate without equivocation to living Judaism'. Many official and semi-official documents encouraging a healthy relationship between Christianity and Judaism have been put forth by religious bodies [12] and these could conceivably help form the basis for the development of a dialogue between Judaism and the new religious movements.

There are hopeful signs from within ISKCON itself that dialogue might be a realistic possibility. Some of the movement's intellectual leaders have already begun to make a contribution toward constructing a foundation for dialogue with the mainline religious traditions in the West (cf. Gelberg in this issue of ISKCON Review; Bhaktipada, 1985; Schweig, 1985. Cf. also Rose, also in the present issue of ISKCON Review).


The challenge of the Hare Krishna movement, from the perspective of dialogue, is not one of competition for converts. The presence of ISKCON in the West need not be seen as a fearful omen of the downfall of Judeo-Christian tradition necessitating a call to Christians and Jews to take up arms. History itself should assure us that this fear is unwarranted. Judaism and Christianity, as well as Hinduism, have survived for millennia in spite of the many problems they had to overcome and the persecutions they had to endure.

One would better start by looking at ISKCON as a spiritual venture, with all the risks this view involves. There are reasons to believe that most Hare Krishna devotees should be judged not as apostates from the religion of their upbringing but rather as young adults who are embarking on a religious journey for the first time. Krishna devotees, on the other hand, should judge Christianity not by the behaviour of those Christians who perhaps have not lived up to their outwardly acknowledged commitment but rather by the saintly lives and high aspirations which have been characteristic of many Christians throughout the ages.The challenge of other religions in general, and Hare Krishna in particular, can be seen positively as an opportunity for self-growth and self-understanding which would lead one to rediscover and build upon the richness of one's own tradition (Cox, 1983:60; Saliba, 1983:17 ff.). The depths of our own faith can only be grasped and the seriousness of our own commitment can only be fully apprehended when we come face-to-face with other people who have sincerely accepted a different theological framework and honestly made a different kind of personal religious commitment.

The presence of the new religious movements confronts us with the greatest challenge of all: Can we come to terms with religious pluralism without either compromising our religious identity or lapsing into religious bigotry and persecution? Can we learn to appreciate other religious beliefs and practices without necessarily doubting our own faith? Do we have the magnanimity to embrace the whole of humankind in our compassion and generosity, or will we allow our religious ethno-centricity to isolate us from the fellowship of sincere adherents of alternate paths? The genuineness of our own religious faith and commitment can only be evaluated in the light of the answers we give to these searching questions.References

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[1] See Clements, 1975:44 ff.; Lochhaas, 1977a:11. Cox (1977b:91ff.) and Wilson (1978:135 ff.) both deal at length with this issue since they point out that there is much that Christianity can learn from Eastern religions. Ross (1980) in her sympathetic presentation of the Buddhist faith dwells on its beneficial attitudes toward the environment and human work, attitudes which appear to be missing or deficient in Christianity.

[2] Headlines like 'Jews' Vulnerability to the Lure of the Cults', in the Long Island Jewish World (Dec. 6, 1981); 'The Hare Krishna Alerts Israel to Missionary Danger', in the Jewish Press, Brooklyn, N.Y. (April 5, 1979); and 'Cults: A Growing Threat to Jewish Continuity and Survival in America', in Hakol, Allentown, PA (May, 1977), are but a random sample of the disquietude which has been spreading throughout the Jewish community.

[3] In general, Jewish sources believe that between 15-25% of all cult members are Jewish and that 15% of Hare Krishna members were brought up as Jews (cf. Adahan, 1981:37; Appell, 1978:20). Neff (1979:23) states that up to 45% of any given cult could be of Jewish background. Gittelson and Reed (1981:212) disagree and hold that Jews are not proportionately represented in the cults. The estimates vary, and there are no completely reliable statistics. At times Jews appear more concerned with the number of Jewish converts to Messianic Judaism (cf. Rudin, 1978:353-5).

4] The reaction to the cults has been studied under the rubric of the 'anti-cult movement' by Shupe and Bromley (1980), and pertinent historical and current literature has been surveyed by Bromley, Shupe and Oliver (1984). Briefly, these authors distinguish between a secular and a religious response to the cults and show how two metaphors, namely those of possession (or brainwashing) and deception are utilised to explain the rise of the cults and to develop an 'appropriate' reaction. In this paper our aim is to focus on the religious reactions (especially to ISKCON) and to examine the response to the cults of those who seek a theological explanation for their presence and success. Not all religious reactions to the new movements are 'anti-cultic'.


[5] We will consider responses specifically from within the Christian and Jewish faiths. Thus we omit in this paper the anti-cult work of the American Family Foundation and the Citizens' Freedom Foundation and other secular organisations. Likewise, solely for the purposes of this paper, scholarly works by social scientists and religionists are not considered part of the Christian or Jewish response unless the authors make it clear that they are writing from a religious perspective. The major Protestant Churches and the Catholic Church have done very little officially to address the issue of the cults (Eck, 1983:14; Melton and Moore, 1982:104). The majority of writers from the above-mentioned traditions have, with some noteworthy exceptions, adopted a position on the cults similar to that of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity.

[6] These psychological effects are usually cited with little reference to justifying sources. None of the writers seem to have had more than casual contact with cult members (cf. Beck, 1977:7-10; McManus and Cooper, 1982:113-5; Larson, 1982:28; Meether, 1977:12; Uehling, 1976:12; Kyle, 1981:94; Enroth, 1983:17-8). The view which stresses the negative psychological aspects of a cult has received some official recognition (see statement issued by the Pennsylvania Conference on Interchurch Co-operation, 1979).

[7] For a brief description and critique of this position see Knitter, 1985:75 ff.

[8] This is a touchy issue, especially among fundamentalist Christians who restrict revelation to the Judeo-Christian scriptures. See, for example, Martin (1980:9699), McBeth (1977:45), Boa (1979:186), Means (1976:154-6), Yamamoto (1983:101), and Wood (1975:6-7). To what degree the Biblical argument is valid and effective can be debated (cf. Eck, 1983:13, who states that such arguments have no place in the dialogue between religions).

[9] Larson (1982:289-290), for instance, states that the pagan worship in the Hare Krishna temples is plain idolatry. Verghese (1977:57) and McDowell and Stewart (1982:51) are of the same opinion. On the other hand, Yamamoto (1983:99) and Newport (1978:32) hold that the Hare Krishna devotees worship a personal God. Others, such as McBeth (1977:33), Martin (1980:96), Means (1976:151-2), and Sparkes (1979:95 ff.), see these beliefs as hovering between pantheism and theism. Lewis (1974:3) thinks that the ISKCON view of God is contradictory, containing theistic, polytheistic and pantheistic elements.

[10] Almost every Christian writer on ISKCON mentions this reason. Confer, for example, Petersen (1973:171), Whalen (1981:90), Schipper (1982b:49), Senesi (1982:92), Boa (1979:180), McBeth (1977:29), Oxley (1976a:4), and Yamamoto (1983:91-2).

[11] The literature on the Christian theology of religions is voluminous. See, for example, the works of Dawe and Carman (1978), Race (1982), Camps (1983), Clasper (1980) and Knitter (1985). Arinze (1985) gives an excellent summary of the Roman Catholic position and of the work carried out by the Vatican Secretariat for Non-Christians since Vatican II.

[12] The most thorough collections are probably those compiled by Croner (1977 and 1985). These documents represent statements from diverse Christian churches all over the world. For some Jewish perspectives one can consult Croner and Klenicki (1979).

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