At the age of nine, Ronit Goswami started going to church by himself. Surrounded by around 200 other people, he became both interested and skeptical of the traditional church service he was attending.
Goswami attended church by himself because his parents were Hindus from Bangladesh, where he lived for about four years before his family moved to the United States.
After being introduced to a Baptist church in Goshen, Indiana by a friend, Goswami decided to begin attending, going on Sundays and Wednesdays. His neighbors drove him, even picking him up from school so he could attend youth group.
Growing up, he experienced the Hindu culture at home, where the religion is most visible in idolatry. In his parents’ room, there was a shrine with different gods and goddesses, each of whom represent a different aspect of life.
“Every day we’re called to wake up in the morning and praise those gods for waking us up and giving us life, and then before we would go to bed we would always praise them for the day that they have given us,” said Goswami.
He found himself enjoying the community found at the Baptist church. At first, Goswami’s parents were skeptical of his Christianity.
“They really didn’t want me to fully emerge and forget about where I come from, my culture, but the thing about Hinduism is that [in] the culture of Bangladesh, where I was born, religion plays such a big part of the culture,” said Goswami.
His parents were afraid that he might forget his Bangladeshi culture, but over time Goswami has proven he continues to hold the cultural values. Now, his parents are more understanding.
“I was able to prove to them that that wasn’t the case and that I’ll still stay true to the understanding of who they are and the understanding of where I come from and still hold the values that I grew up with,” said Goswami.
Now, Goswami is a first-year student at Goshen College, majoring in exercise science and minoring in sport management. He’s stopped worshipping the gods and goddesses as part of a daily routine, but whenever there are Hindu holidays, he’ll go home and celebrate with his parents because they want him to.
“Despite the fact of me becoming a Christian rather than staying Hindu doesn’t mean that I’ll forget the learnings that I’ve had growing up Hindu,” Goswami said.
After interacting with different faiths, Goswami can name a few core values he considers important.
“I’ve always been really attracted to the value of service,” said Goswami.
In the Hindu faith, there is an emphasis on helping others, and this has been echoed both in the Baptist church and at Goshen College.
Peace is another core value for Goswami. In this regard, there is some overlap between the Mennonite church and Hinduism because both faiths are pacifist. However, the Baptist church Goswami attended growing up was more supportive of the military.
“Despite the fact I have a lot of influence of people that are not pacifist in the Baptist church, I still feel as though being a peaceful person and solving situations in a more passive way is always the way to go,” said Goswami.
Goswami started struggling with his faith identity when he started attending a Christian church, and continued to struggle through middle school.
“I wanted everyone to perceive me as a good person, and didn’t really want them to make judgments of me because of what my faith was, and so I would jump around between ‘oh, I’m Hindu back home’ and ‘oh, I’m Christian’ when I’m not home.”
When Goswami got to high school, he grew from traveling to other countries where he was able to explore “hands-on” what God was calling him to do. He was also able to learn about conservative and liberal Christianity.
“Growing up, I went to a conservative Baptist church, and I felt like that gave me a lot of experience just seeing one side of the left-right spectrum, the right side more than the left,” said Goswami.
He attended Bethany Christian School in Goshen from sixth grade through 12th grade and gained a more liberal view of Christianity from his classes.
Goswami’s younger sister is starting to explore Christianity as well. Goswami thinks his parents are accepting of their children’s faith exploration because they want them to integrate into American culture. Despite the worry Goswami and his sister will lose their culture, their parents want them to adapt to America.
His faith is still a work in progress.
“It’s been a journey,” Goswami said, “and I’m slowly becoming more comfortable talking about [my faith].”
He doesn’t identify as a specific denomination, but said, “I feel like I am a person who is rooted in Christ, but I do appreciate and value my upbringing with my rich Hindu culture as well as an influence of conservative Baptist background.”
Since coming to college, Goswami’s routines have started to change. Instead of going to church on Wednesdays and Sundays like he did growing up, he’s begun to shift toward fellowship.
“My focus has shifted to more fellowship with people and getting to know where people come from and seeing their growth and maybe growing myself as I see that growth,” said Goswami.