“White Savior Complex” refers to a common trope, prevalent throughout much of US popular culture, which validates white superiority by depicting individuals who heroically rescue “less developed” cultures through dissemination of “western” values and wisdom:
Judge Philpot writes about his mystical spiritual experiences in India in his autobiographical novel “Judge Z” and makes clear the importance of his proselytizing mission in the acknowledgementssection of the book.
It is clear that even in the 21st century fundamentalists can pervert great religions and sow discord in increasingly interconnected societies. The judiciary should be free of religious zeal that goes beyond passion for justice in interpreting the law.
In the autobiography, Judge Z writes that he previously visited India only once on a “judicial exchange” rather than on proselytizing missionary trips, as was the case with the real Timothy Philpot – who even got a photo-opportunity with Mother Theresa on one visit. Given the difference in legal systems, it is doubtful that any such judicial exchanges existed and it may seem puzzling why that seemingly edifying detail, in an otherwise evangelically minded book, was altered, while many other Indian identifiers such as the name of Judge Z’s friend (Philpot’s right-hand man in India) “Ghuna” or place names such as Oomachikulam or Madurai were not? Even minor details such as that of connecting Delta airline flights from Lexington to India are accurate. Timothy Philpot may have reasons to be shy about discussing his continued leadership of an established, well-funded organization whose purpose and goals may conflict with that of his government job.
On the surface, the judge’s passion for Christian evangelical movements in India may seem irrelevant and bringing it up might even be construed as a “cheap-shot,” or distraction at best. In the United States, missionary activity is regarded as a benign form of community service that reflects favorably on the charitable volunteer.
In India however, despite the presence of an ancient and well-established local Christian church, foreign evangelism is a multi-billion dollar business and evangelists are often viewed with hostility and suspicion. Fairly or unfairly, a parallel is drawn with the cultural “assimilation” and conquest imposed on indigenous people across the world.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of missionary work, the fact remains, that the accompanying proselytizing is a cause of visceral bitterness in many “third world” countries because of the historical link with colonial racism and sectarian strife. There are valid concerns that vulnerable societies may be further destabilized by money channeled from abroad.
Even so, almost 2% of India’s population identifies with Christianity and over the last decade, about 170,000 per year have been converted to Christianity by proselytizing foreign organizations that collect and spend about $1,650 from abroad to fund each conversion:
Even if the start-up is costly to these charities, homegrown converts can then be hailed as success stories to outside donors and sent out as cost effective foot soldiers to recruit others into the newer levels of the pyramid. Many of these groups work very differently to the modest church organizations we may be accustomed to, and follow a well-oiled business plan based on incentives and targets.
Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are basic rights enjoyed in most civilized countries and quite rightly so. Furthermore, selfless individuals who travel to perform good works outside their own country should be especially lauded. However, the motives of some evangelical organizations are not as altruistic as claimed.
Many US proselytizing evangelical groups that target developing countries appear to be at least loosely confederated under a few umbrella organizations such as the Joshua project, US Center for World Mission/Frontier Ventures, or the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. These groups share logistical and marketing resources and even a cursory review of their materials available on their websites reveals a shared “playbook” of catchphrases and sound bites that are (ironically) repeated like Mantras. The common terms used in relation to Hindus and India are “darkness”, “lost”, ‘hopeless”, “emptiness” and “idol-worship”.
Conversion campaigns are conducted with the planning and precision normally associated with military offensives. The term “10 40 Window” is used to describe the latitudes of the earth (from 40 degrees North to 10 degrees South) targeted for the most intensive proselytizing efforts.
The rhetoric aimed against “non-believers” from other cultures betrays a patronizing arrogance that blends into frank racism and intolerance indistinguishable from the Jihadist extremism that we all know to be inconsistent with American values.
Just a selection of media articles from a relatively “mainstream” group such as the Southern Baptist Convention displays a degree of intolerance that if it were less patronizing, we would immediately associate with a hate group:
A search for “Hinduism at http://www.bpnews.net/search?q=hinduism displays 387 publications, of which the selection below is representative:
Beyond Hinduism & masses in poverty, India full of diversity
Christianity growing in N India amid Hindu Hostility
Growing tension against Christians cited in India
Hindu festivals – A time for intercession
Hindu idol worship stirs Christian witness
How to share Christ with your Hindu friends
New International Mission Board prayer guide targets Hinduism’s spiritual darkness
While these earnest pieces may not seem overtly offensive to some people in our locality today, they will in the fullness of time, make future enlightened generations squirm in the same manner that characterizations of minorities from fifty or even thirty years ago embarrass us today.
To distinguish them from genuine charity performing good works, the proselytizing groups associated with Judge Philpot are better described as cults because they prey on the most vulnerable members of society; first offering material or social inducements and then by promising eternal happiness in the afterlife to unwavering followers. The cult members attempt to usurp the role of traditional societal and family relationships by isolating inductees from their former friends and family who, they are warned, will be manipulated by Satan to try to change their minds.
International Cultic Studies Association http://www.icsahome.com/
Unsurprisingly, foreign evangelical cults often experience the same rejection they do in their home country. The reactions experienced by spurned evangelicals are likely to include bewilderment and disappointment followed by anger against their ungrateful hosts. To have one’s preconceptions of a supposedly unenlightened society jolted by the majority in that society not heeding your clarion call is likely to be an uncomfortable experience, and it should not be assumed that “What happens in India stays in India”
In recent years some Evangelicals groups in the US, such the Southern Baptist Convention have viewed the presence of religious minorities within the United States as a new battlefront in their crusades.
The groups have produced “prayer guides” to correspond with various festivals of other religions designed to promote conversions. One Southern Baptist booklet distributed during the Hindu festival of Diwali, asks prayer for the conversion of Hindus, whom it described as ”lost in the hopeless darkness” of their faith. These statements essentially echo the expression used by the narrator in Timothy Philpot’s memoir.
Timothy Philpot inherited his televangelist father’s successful business empire (The Ford R Philpot Evangelistic Association), concentrated its focus on activities targeting India and leveraged his position by establishing partnerships with many kindred organizations in the fields of politics, business and religion.
While he has had to dissociate with some of these organizations after becoming a judge, the separation seems ostensible rather than real. The Ford R Philpot Evangelistic Association has changed its name to Fishhook International (http://www.fishhook.org), now concentrates on converting Hindu Indians and shares its offices, officers and funds with several religiously themed charities and groups. Coincidently, the financial institutions that host these organizations and assist in collecting and disbursing their funds have buildings on the land sold by The Ford Philpot Evangelistic Association in multimillion dollar transactions. The same offices also host publicity events for Judge Philpot’s book. Fishhook International focuses its activities exclusively on India according to its website, publications and submissions to the IRS.
To the vast majority of Indians who do not eat fish or meat, and who are the targets of this group, even the name “Fishhook international” is immediately offensive and insensitive. In spite of the cheery Biblical reference to “Fishers of Men,” the name bluntly signals a mission to hunt, lure, skewer on barbs and ultimately devour as many as they can ensnare from the teeming shoals of humanity in India.
Past board members of Fishhook International include Dr. Ernest Fletcher, former Governor of Kentucky who appointed Mr. Philpot to his position as circuit court judge.
In its annual reports submitted to the Kentucky Secretary of State, Fishhook International lists Timothy Philpot as its director up until to 2011, after which his name no longer appears in the official filings. However, he is listed as chairman on at least the latest three Form 990 tax returns submitted by the charity to the IRS. His presence remains on the website and at least one 2012 magazine article states that he is chairman of the 15 member board.
This proselytizing cult led by Judge Philpot justifies its activities on the premise that:
“Helping People is not a mindset of the general population” of India where “Jesus wants to rescue people from hopelessness and darkness.”
– Kim Turkington, Executive Director of Fishhook International
Another board member is Dr. W. David Hager who in addition to being pilloried by women’s right activists, has been the subject of credible and unrefuted allegations by his former wives of persistent and violent abuse spanning many years of marriage.
While he cannot be blamed for Dr. Hager’s personal conduct, Judge Philpot by retaining Dr. Hager as a leader in his family run religious charity draws sharp attention to a serious problem with the central thesis of the book. Divorce still carries a religious stigma, so by seeking to introduce a “speed bump” in the path of divorce seekers there is a very real danger of forcing vulnerable people to remain in abusive relationships for fear of societal disapproval, often at great cost to their health.
A common theme in this shared ideology and one vociferously espoused by Dr. Hager and Judge Philpot (prior to being muted by appointment to the bench) is the claim that there is a “War on Christianity” being waged in the US and that Christians are being relentlessly persecuted by outsiders at the behest of Satan:
Count the Cost. If You Aren’t Being Persecuted, You Aren’t in the Arena
by W. David Hager, MD Today’s Christian Doctor – Fall 2003
Far from being confined to the fringe, this worry about an “end of days” conflict is being widely propagated in Kentucky.
Evangelicals feel alienated, anxious amid declining clout. BENTON, KY. (AP) http://bigstory.ap.org/705be97dd9924d3c90f51532c2a99515
So extreme is the fear generated by this sense of external onslaught that even ideologically suspect pastimes such as the practice of Yoga exercises are viewed as dangerous by respected leaders such as Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Amongst the rank-and-file, fear of Armageddon has boiled over into a paranoia that equates laying out a Yoga mat with providing succor to the enemy:
“The Dangers of Yoga (and what about Tai Chi?) It seems the enemy has a counterfeit for almost everything the Lord offers”
These same practitioners who claim that going to Yoga classes is identical to a meth addiction have renamed the stretching and breathing exercises associated with Yoga so that they can be safely performed by Christians without risking demonic possession.
The hysteria over such innocuous activities meant to help children stay fit and healthy has resulted in wasteful lawsuits against schools.
The Yoga controversy is belabored here as a demonstration to those whose life experience may not include living in a community as an outsider or member of a minority. Research commissioned by the National Center for State Courts confirms that it is no longer expedient for most people to voice overtly prejudicial opinions however strongly held those opinions may be. Therefore in order to discern discriminatory bias, it is usually necessary to analyze indirect, less obvious cues related to the individual’s expressed beliefs and how these beliefs align with common patterns of beliefs shared by others whose actions or statements are overtly biased.
In the above example, if a group shares the belief that their religion is under attack from outsiders and that attending Yoga classes is akin to devil-worship because of Yoga’s association with Hinduism, then it can be reasonably inferred that they will regard actual adherents of Hinduism as a hard-core sub-group of congenital devil worshippers. If they should encounter such individuals in their midst they may be inclined to consider them as “lost” or “hopeless” idolaters rather than demonic assassins, to forestall the need for an awkward pre-emptive attack, but they are unlikely to give these outsiders fair treatment or consider them as equally worthy humans.
Membership of white supremacist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan is today considered sufficient evidence of holding racist views even though members routinely argue technicalities to deny that they are racist when such a label is disadvantageous. There are however many dozens of hate groups similar to the Ku Klux Klan whose racism is not immediately recognizable because they are less well known.
It has been argued that any discrimination exercised by proselytizing groups is not racist because it is based only on a difference of religious viewpoint and any such animus would be immediately dissipated by a convergence of theological opinion. The differences of opinion however do not hinge on how many angels will fit on the head of a pin, but who is a worthy human being and who is “lost in hopeless darkness.”
While it is certainly easier to change one’s religious or political opinions than to change one’s race, Hindu identity is inextricable linked to daily customs, rituals and complex relationships with family and society that cannot be broken simply by mouthing a phrase and being dunked underwater. It is not akin to leaving an Episcopalian church for a Unitarian one, for example- not that anyone should be coerced into even that move. Therefore, Judge Philpot’s long standing and intimate association with intolerant fundamentalist groups targeting Hindus in India is a manifestation of racism that makes him unfit to fairly adjudicate cases involving Hindus anywhere.
A repeated message broadcast by Fishhook International in its appeal for funds is that India has hundreds of groups of “unreached people” numbering in hundreds of millions, who being poor, young and uneducated, would flock to Jesus if only someone would pay for a messenger:
This perspective, while useful for fund raising, flies in the face of the historical reality that Christianity has existed in India (brought to Kerala by St Thomas in 54 AD according to legend) since before it reached Western Europe and was the state sponsored religion for over a century during the colonial era. Overseas based proselytizing cult groups seem to be at odds even with the long established traditional Christian communities in India, classifying them as “nominal Christians” rather than “Followers of Christ”: https://joshuaproject.net/assets/media/handouts/why-india.pdf
A cursory review of the publically available tax records and finances of evangelical organizations connected to Timothy Philpot with branches abroad, reveals a surprising number of inter organization donations and transfers, as well as a large number of individuals who serve as officers of multiple “trading” organizations. The mutual back-scratching, churning of funds and direct transfers to untraceable foreign groups gives the impression of a racket at the expense of donors and tax-payers.
While there may be sound planning reasons for these tactics and overlaps, it should strike most people as odd that trustees of charitable organizations should be shifting money back and forth to each other, especially when the majority of those funds seem to be government grants meant to relieve suffering overseas.
Timothy Philpot has been a leading member of at least a dozen such interdigitating tax-exempt religious organizations in the past but currently the Kentucky Secretary of State lists him as an officer of only two active organizations:
Search result for “Tim Philpot” at KY Secretary of State website performed on May 2016
CBMC International, CBMC India, CBMC of the Bluegrass, The Barnabas Foundation Inc. , The River Foundation, The Story Inc. ,The Family Trust Foundation, Christ Community Ministries, Bluegrass Christian Adoption, Gospel Friends
Partial list of some other tax exempt organizations with which Timothy Philpot has had financial dealings
According to Fishhook International, Judge Philpot in addition to chairing its own board, also serves on the board of a group known as Friends of the Good Samaritans (FOTGS):
This charity receives several hundred thousand dollars in grants, which it funnels to India. FOTGS wired out about $417,000 to charities registered in India (also controlled by Tim Philpot’s partners who are given a nod in the book) according to its 2014 IRS form 990). Tim Philpot’s name does not appear, however on the list of officers in the IRS form.
Tax records submitted by Fishhook International for 2014 (Form 990 available from the IRS or at Guidestar.org) shows a total revenue of $676,644 of which $673,295 was from government grants. The remaining $3,349 came from investments.
From Form 990 2015 for Fishhook International – Statement of Revenue
Total public support from government grants to Fishhook International over the last five tax years has been increasing and totals $ 1,395,705:
From Form 990 2015 for Fishhook International – Public Support
The majority of Fishhook International’s income appears to be spent as operating expenses and travel, or wired abroad for “mission expenses.” While some of this money may undoubtedly be put to charitable use, it is difficult to establish from the available records how it is actually spent other than to fund trips abroad for Judge Philpot and his partners. It is difficult to understand why the US taxpayers should be giving a circuit court judge and his cronies several hundred thousand dollars every year to spend in India. This money may promote goodwill abroad towards the US, but Disney, KFC and many others already do that at a profit, without fire and brimstone.
Other than recruitment of converts, the operational goals of groups such as Fishhook International are vaguely worded. Several schools and orphanages are mentioned as well as the need to provide love to the poor and marginalized – those who are perhaps the most vulnerable to coercive indoctrination.
Fishhook International stakes its turf in India by making false claims on its website such as:
“There is no free education given to the public by the government of India,”
or ,as the judge bemoans in the book:
“With no government programs in India, helping the poor was everyone’s job.” (P 100)
While no one should minimize the problem of worldwide poverty, the above justifications are simply not true. India is the world’s largest democracy and its constitution declares it a “Socialist Secular Republic.” Consequently, the government of India runs several huge wealth redistribution programs. It has even implemented an initiative to issue over 1 billion biometric ID cards and link them to subsidized bank accounts so that over a 100 million people can receive government benefits electronically. This “Addhaar” card program already saves the equivalent of over a billion dollars every year by reducing fraud and corruption in India’s gigantic poverty alleviation projects.
From 1948 to now, the Indian government has launched a series of social health insurance schemes to ensure healthcare access to the middle and upper classes as well as the poor and other special populations. The following table is a summary of the plans:
14 From the national program for the health care of the elderly operational guidelines
India has the highest circulation of English language newspapers in the world and the largest number of universities in any country, as well as an explosive growth in internet, TV and mobile communications. Therefore, for Tim Philpot’s cheerleaders to describe it as “unreached” is patronizing, self-serving nonsense.
Source of funding can have an influence on the stands taken by even the most conscientious public officials. While a state senator, Judge Philpot regarded most HIV infection as wantonly self-inflicted violence:
“I don’t think hate-motivated crime should be punished at a greater level than greed-motivated crime,” he said, homosexuals are “the primary form” of anti-gay violence, via the spread of AIDS. “All I’m trying to say to the gay community is, `Your conduct is killing you; therefore, don’t do it,’ ” Philpot said.
Quoted in Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) March 21, 1998
Section: Main News Edition: Final Page: A 10
by Chad Carlton, HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER
In India however where the memoir only mentions women and children as victims, he considers it worthy of amelioration when such largess can be co-administered with a funded dose of religious indoctrination .
Fortunately, Indian pharmaceutical manufacturers have stepped up production of affordable anti-retroviral drugs that now allow HIV positive patients to lead near-normal lives. In fact, India supplies over 80% of the global market for these lifesaving medicines:
Of course, progress made is no reason for complacency and poverty remains a scourge throughout the world. However, India does not need Timothy Philpot to courier hard-earned US tax dollars and donations. In fact, everyone would be better served if he saved jet fuel and concentrated on the poverty under his nose at home.
More links relating to background of proselytizing activities in India:
While Judge Philpot complains about his meager government pay in his memoirs, one perquisite is the relatively flexible schedule that gives him leisure to pursue his outside activities and travel.
Not only is Judge Philpot’s salary paid from the public purse, but the numerous civic and charitable organizations whose operations he controls and influences have collectively received several million dollars in public funds through government grants during his tenure on the bench.
The judge’s private activities and prejudices expressed in his autobiography are of special concern to those US citizens and groups against whom he displays a hostile animus. All the evidence pertaining to Judge Philpot’s motivation reveals a religious zeal, and particularly a passion for proselytizing abroad (more specifically in India) that is central to his identity and ingrained in him from his upbringing. This zeal targets many he perceives to have gone astray but is most acutely focused on the subjects of the crusade whose commission he inherited from his father; that is the unconverted natives of India. In this regard, it is obvious to any neutral observer that he must regard unconverted Hindus in the same light that a deer hunter would view a herd of whitetail, or in his own case, a field of un-putted golf balls or a lake full of un-impaled trout.
Fishhook International shares the strategies and tactics espoused in the playbooks and resource guides of the other proselytizing groups mentioned here because these groups and umbrella organizations have perfected the sound bites, images and slogans that are most effective in winning government grants meant for overseas aid. If this aid can be packaged with a religious message that increases evangelical clout, then political support is guaranteed and grants are renewed regularly.
There are almost a billion Hindus in India making up about 80% of the population and practicing a religion that has existed for several thousand years. Over these millennia, waves of newcomers have settled in the fertile plains bringing numerous cultures and religions, most of which even if they arrived as invaders, have eventually been peacefully assimilated by a society that values tolerant co-existence.
Fishhooks mission to “harvest souls” in India is as futile a waste of taxpayers’ money as a foray to Israel to convert from Judaism (someone better qualified has already tried) or to expel infidels from the Holy land.
Although 9% of adult Indian Americans live in poverty, their median income according to the 2010 US census was $100,547 reportedly making them the richest ethnic community in the U.S.
Asian Indian population from US Census
This combined with their rapidly growing numbers makes them an important source of the US tax revenues that support the Timothy Philpot’s neo-imperialist proselytizing, as well as his salary.
Not only are such taxpayers being shortchanged monetarily, but Judge Philpot’s leadership of covertly racist head-hunting groups makes it even more egregious should these individuals ever be unlucky enough to have him as their judge.
The 3 million or so Indian-American taxpayers who help fund Judge Philpot’s adventures are exquisitely aware, being members of a minority, of the subtle manifestations of racism and discrimination in modern society. It is more difficult now than in the past for bigots to openly voice hatred and abuse without some professional or business repercussions. Today’s society is attuned to code words and phrases used to convey prejudicial sentiment. Most disadvantaged groups or minorities will clearly see through the cloak of piety and “traditional values” worn by Timothy Philpot and the cult like groups he leads. To be blunt, if unconverted Hindu Indian Americans were to be canvassed, he is likely to inspire a similar confidence as a Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard presiding over a case involving African-Americans.
If there were no inter-cultural marriages, some might argue that Judge Philpot’s biases in family court would be evenly applied to opposing parties and cancel out. Quite apart from the fact that inter-cultural and inter-racial marriages are becoming commonplace, the examples from Judge Philpot’s own memoir demonstrate that these biases are likely to damage both parties, increase conflict and harm involved children.
Many other taxpayers also have grounds for trepidation. However it is couched, Timothy Philpot’s homophobia is as poorly concealed as his racial and religious bigotry:
Philpot said he feels called to fight what he called “the gay lifestyle.”
“I think it is a destructive lifestyle, one that leads to destruction,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you hate homosexuals. It’s just that I believe that I should stop them. It’s a behavior, it’s not genetic.”
Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) March 30, 1998
Section: Main News Edition: Final Page: A1, by Angie Muhs, Frankfort Bureau
In his autobiography, Judge Philpot laments the legalization of same sex unions and questions their validity. It is likely that Judge Philpot will encounter legally married same-sex couples in his family court and the book’s tiptoeing around the subject indicates that Tim Philpot is unlikely to have changed his opinion that homosexuality is due to misbehavior rather than an innate biological characteristic.
Speaking not just as the protagonist but as a neutral narrator, Judge Philpot makes no bones about his deep-seated antipathy for what he understands to represent Hinduism:
Paperback Pages 143-144
He had been to India once before on a judicial exchange, and he could still remember the smells, the poverty, the sadness of spirit, the overwhelming despair of a religion that said there was no hope on this earth to escape a caste system that held everyone prisoner to the past-don’t even try, because you did something bad in the last life to deserve your poverty.
The British were gone. But India was still poor and sad. Hinduism was not working.
Paperback Page 145
The Indian smells and sounds and busyness rekindled his love affair with India-a mixed bag of love and despair.
Presumably, he is using the term “love” in the same sense as he did in his published remarks directed at gays and other minorities:
“My God preaches love, which is different than tolerance,”
Timothy Philpot quoted in Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) March 30, 1998 Section: Main News Edition: Final Page: A1
Returning fully to his real persona in the Acknowledgements section, Judge Philpot declares on Paperback page 256
I am living now on the borders of heaven because God showed me love on a hot day in India.
Sweaty love notwithstanding, having to choose between getting over the wall into heaven by shouldering The White Man’s Burden or performing secular duties impartially is likely to present a conflict of interest to any member of the judiciary.
It is difficult to imagine therefore, an experience more galling to Judge Philpot than to encounter in his own courtroom non-Christians who have not responded to the redeeming light that Judge Philpot has spent his life carrying to the benighted natives of foreign lands.
Judge Philpot’s continuing participation in taxpayer funded proselytizing activities abroad not only represents a misuse of public funds but also reinforces his own biases and prejudices as a family court judge. It represents at least an appearance of impropriety and is likely to undermine confidence in the fairness of his rulings within a diverse community.