Should Christians Pray for Hindus' Souls?

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Tolerance and dogma don’t always easily share a church pew. Having similarly insulted Jews and Muslims in previous years, the Southern Baptist Convention has now added Hindus to the list of those for whom its flock is urged to pray. The SBC plans on Monday to release 30,000 copies of a booklet titled "Diwali, Festival of Light Prayer for Hindus," which describes adherents of that faith as lost and urges Baptists to "pray that the darkness and the power of Satan will be broken." It also argues that Hindus have no concept of sin or personal responsibility. Not surprisingly, Hindu leaders in the U.S. are incensed. "It is deeply saddening that learned people of other faiths haven’t learned the first basic principle of respecting other faiths," Uma Mysorerkar, the head of a Hindu temple in New York, told the BBC. And the attack on Hinduism in an official publication of the largest church in the U.S. will be grist to the mill for those Hindu nationalists in India who are whipping up anti-Christian fervor over the issue of religious conversion.

The issue of tolerance poses a complex challenge to the religious idea of a single truth. "Although the majority of Evangelical Christians are probably tolerant people in an everyday sense, some of them actually question the validity of tolerance in a theological sense," says TIME religion correspondent David Van Biema. "Religious tolerance involves at least polite acceptance that different people accept different truths, but that can be difficult for people who believe theirs is the only version of the truth." Or maybe not; the book’s editor, Louis Moore, defended the publication by saying "We’re not asking them to do anything; we’re asking for our own people to pray." To a God, hopefully, more tolerant than some of His followers.