Of Church, Politics, Satan and God

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Patricia Mukhim

Much muck has been raked against the BJP by Church leaders across denominations. Funnily there was not a single write-up published in this newspaper and others about the evil that would befall all of us Christian, non-Christian or atheist if the voters sell their votes at a price. And that has happened on a large scale. Let’s not start comparing the evils we speak of and paint about. Is corruption a lesser evil than the purported beef ban which actually is a bogeyman used against the BJP? And about the BJP being anti-Christian and the fear that this might become the norm in the “Christian states” (with the highest corruption indices) and that priests and nuns or pastors and preachers might be attacked, I have only one thing to say. Practitioners of Christianity here have had it very easy thus far! Let some persecution come our way to toughen our moral sinews, made weak and supine by the good life!
And now we have a preacher putting the fear, not of God, but of the devil into poor, beguiled, ignorant Christian villagers! So Aadhar is evil; EPIC is evil but the passport is not! This is sacrilegious to say the least! I can understand why church leaders are fuming at the BJP. Foreign dole is being scrutinized and our church leaders with a penchant for travelling abroad and painting a picture of poverty of their poor flock to get more dole must now be a bit dry in their pockets! Hence the relentless propaganda!
An elderly priest who has since passed away once told me that the present lot that join the priesthood are more interested in everything that the “secular” world offers including a free expression of sexuality except that it is well concealed in a religious garb. Many live unhealthy lifestyles and pass away too early. Hence not all church leaders are saints with halos. Most of them are addicted to power and position. I stand the risk of being excommunicated for saying this but it has to be said. Someone ought to stop pulling the wool over our eyes.  And I will repeat what I had said in these very columns once, that Christ’s teachings are simple albeit difficult to follow and we do not actually need middle-men to sell us the message of salvation. Don’t Christians know that if they steal what rightfully belongs to another then they are doing wrong? Then why do we still have large scale stealing by Christians in positions of responsibility/authority? And what does the church do? It condones such theft because those thieves are also the supporting pillars of the church. Our state is a great example! Go look around the mansions in Shillong city! Who do they belong to? Where have these opulent mansion owners got their money from? And yet we will continue to point our crooked fingers at some “illegal immigrants” and non-tribals and demand the Inner Line Permit! Why don’t those pressure groups that demand this frivolous mechanism first demand an ILP around the public treasury? Why is it so easy to steal from this treasury and thereby leave our people in poverty?
It is my considered opinion that the role of the church is to empower its adherents to make informed choices here on earth for that is the only way to salvation. But churches have lost their vision, mission and their moral force by being hyper-active only before the elections. Some of those who have had their articles published in these columns have almost nudged the voters not to vote BJP or NPP since the two parties are in alliance with the devil incarnate. So which party is left then? Some things are implied. And here the implication is, “Vote the secular Congress.” This is where I have a problem. Isaac Kramnick and R Moore in an article titled, “Is God a Republican?: Why Politics is Dangerous for Religion, said, Jefferson as a politician and candidate for President in 1800 never talked about his religious views. In a private letter he answered his clerical enemies who falsely accused him of atheism with his famous phrase, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” Jefferson understood even then the power of religion to manipulate minds. Some religious are doing the same today.
Alexis de Tocqueville, French diplomat, political scientist, and historian, best known for his works, ‘Democracy in America,’ says religion can contribute to public life but cautions against the harm that is done when it tries to do something else. In a critical statement in ‘Democracy in America,’ Tocqueville insisted that while religion must encourage virtue, it must never allow the claims of virtue to become infected with partisan politics.
Tocqueville’s warning found resonance with the founders of the American Constitution that separated church and state. Their contention is that if religion were to become despised by one group of people because it let itself be closely allied to their entrenched political opponents, the moral capital that religion represented in American society would be squandered. Tocqueville also observed that whenever politically ambitious men tried to transfer God’s work from churches and church groups to their self-interested political conventions, they injured the reputation of religion.
If I have read the Bible correctly then Jesus commanded his followers to love others, welcome strangers, forgive enemies and pray for those who persecute us. I wonder if prayers have been held in churches across Meghalaya and Nagaland to pray for the BJP & the Sangh Parivar (seen as the persecutors here) or whether the narrative has just dragged on and on about not voting the BJP for fear of persecution. I wonder now whether we Christians even have the spine to go through a regime of persecution. Most of us have developed such a soft underbelly that we will crumble at the first sign of persecution. Our own moral integrity is so questionable that people can point out at us and say, “Hey let’s see where your Christianity is being demonstrated on a daily basis! Is doling out cash to buy votes a Christian act? And for goodness sakes, if candidates want to win the election to “serve the people” as they famously say, then why the hell do they pay people to vote them? Is it not a desire for power and pelf at any cost that pushes people to spend crores of rupees to buy public loyalty (as if there is anything by that name)?
I am appalled by an RTI enquiry into how MLAs spend their local area development funds. One MLA claims to have spent 4r crore rupees on a scheme for buying cow-dung in a part of the constituency where there isn’t even a square inch of farmland. And yes he is a Christian! I have many more examples of Church going MLAs who have siphoned off their MLA scheme and turned it to cash! And in doing that they collude with non-Christian suppliers! How different are these candidates in their conduct from the MLAs in Bihar or Uttar Pradesh which are non-Christian states? So what version of Christianity are we talking about? And does the Church not know all this? Have the churches across denomination taken up this blatant theft of public money as a mission and thereby empowered their adherents to question such theft of public resources? Has any church or church-led NGO done an RTI on behalf of the people and questioned the corruption in the system? I have not heard of any. I have only heard this banal defence – those who do RTI are also church members so the church does not have to do these things directly. Then why do churches and their leaders directly involve themselves in partisan politics, almost to the point of dictating to people which party to vote and which not to vote?
And about the much talked about South African preacher who was to attend to 150th anniversary celebration of the Baptist Church in Garo Hills, reports say that his visa to Andhra Pradesh and other Indian states too was refused because he applied for a ‘tourist visa’ but is here as a missionary. The Indian Visa regime has a separate Visa Type for missionaries. So why did the Reverend apply for a “tourist visa?” Can those who were highly offended and then mobilised their politics on this issue please explain?
By now I am sure that I am branded a BJP ideologue in cahoots with the RSS. No I am not!  But I am just so exhausted with the double-standard of church leaders who are nearly always in cahoots with politicians. So much for Christian hypocrisy! Christ must be deeply pained by all these shenanigans!
If Christians believe that the BJP and its cohorts are forcing Hindutva down their throats and are striving to make them conform to a way of life alien to their long held faiths, they can only counter that with a morally superior force. Do we have such a force today?
(Courtesy: The Shillong Times)