When she smiled, I could sense the pain, which gives rises to these sorts of smiles. We were attending a marriage ceremony. Like the moon perfecting its orbit she she to me with those questions. People think that a priest is someone to whom they can ask questions, they just do not know that he has more questions. A believer needs only to believe an atheist only to disbelieve. But a priest, he oscillates between belief and disbelief. His heart is like a pendulum.
She shared with me her disappoints with Christian religion and how it did not help her to overcome her suffering. She asked me whether there is any problem in following Hindu precepts. I told she can and Hinduism is our common heritage. We can very well find strength from it. She left me to think about the ‘impotency of ‘ my religion.
What is the failure of Christianity? It is the most loved and hated religion. Loved because of the great personalities it has produced and hated, because it is the religion of the oppressing west. There is also a psychological dislike for the number one.
One thing is sure the west is no more Christian or it had never been. There is a scene in the movie ‘Godfather’ the protagonist is coming to see an archbishop. As they are speaking the archbishop shows him a pond. He takes a pebble from it and break it open and tells “see, this pebble has been in this pond for years yet the water has not penetrated in to it. The same is the case with Europe, it has been surrounded by Christianity for centuries. Yet it has not penetrated in to it.”
Why? Is it because of the hard heartedness of the west or the inability of the religion?
As I am living in Europe I can very well see it. The inhuman secularism, which swept over Europe, has almost killed Christianity. Churches are empty and monasteries are being sold out. In its place Islam is taking root. I wonder at the way Islam taking root everywhere. If one can believe statics, within 25 years Islam will become the major religion of Europe, Africa and of course of the world. It is not as organized as Christianity and it does not have sacraments like Christianity yet there is something that makes this religion ticking.
Islam is a religion, which can be easily politicized. What we see nowadays is a political Islam that is made used by Ahamadinejad and rest of the people. Another thing, it is a simple religion. It is not confused by hard-core dogmas. It can also blend in to different cultures. That’s why Malcolm X said ‘Islam suites more to Africa’. History also shows that this religion has tremendous surviving capacity.
But I feel Buddhism is a religion that can really challenge Christianity. In India Buddhism was failed to Sankara’s Adhvaitha because it lacked intellectual possibility. But modern Buddhism is gaining strength. It has wonderful elements in contemplation; Zen Buddhism will never loose its charm. Buddhism also gaining potential converts all over the world likes Hollywood film stars and intellectuals. Apple‘s c CEO Steve job and poet Leonard Cohen are its big proponents. I was enchanted by Leonard Cohen’s rendering of the Tibetan ‘Book Of THe Dead’, he has a captivating voice. What inspires me is its atheism, the way Buddhism is silent about God. That saves it from tragedies of god interpretations. There are fallacies which only atheism can purify. What Christianity needs is a sort of atheism. Because it is too godly and god is picked up from every corner and he is compelled to speak about and for everything. Why can’t we leave him alone?
Sure, Hinduism is not a religion rather it is a culture. Hinduism has the universal elements. Its inspirations are profound. Siva is a figure with great theological magnitude. In Siva all contradictions are solved, he is life and death, dance and stillness, kindness and ferocity, protection and annihilation, he is also the perfect husband and perfect paramour, nothing is two in Siva and only Siva can be so.
My disappointment with Hinduism is that it has not produced great personalities after Vivekananda. Mata Amruthananda Mai is good. I doubt Sri Sri Ravisankar. He is marketing the religion in a corporate manner. He only inspires rich .I was surprised it see ht e he was muted in debate with Dr. Zakir Naik who is a clever ignorant. For instance he said that it is Islamic philosophy that first spoke about big bang, which is a clear mistake Greek philosopher Parmenides spoke about it 2000 years before Jesus.
As I doubt Sri Sri I also doubt Benny Punnathara of shalom TV. He is also cleverly marketing the religion in a corporate manner. Even priests are echoing his biblical interpretations, which have nothing to do with truth. What he loves is his religion more than truth and Coleridge spoke of these people “one who loves his religion more than truth will end up loving himself more than the religion”. He is trying to be a modern Paul of an alchemist Jesus who turns copper in to gold.
We discussed some major religions. Now what is the difference Christianity has compared to these religions? Is it scripture? But for that matter Christianity is not book religion as Islam is. Before reading Koran one has to wash hands and Muhammad Nabi is a servant of the Koran and Koran thus cannot be interpreted. Raymond Panicker very well said Christianity can survive even without scripture. Jesus is bigger than bible. One call sell bible to feed a hungry man.
Then is it sacraments? Islam performs well without sacraments.
Then is it traditions, dogmas and interpreters. Spinoza will argue against interpreters “the cleverest interpreter of the religion is its greatest enemy.
About dogmas Wittgenstein has something to say, “ Christianity is not a dogmatic religion. Dogmas say what happened and what will happen but it cannot say what happens.”
Christianity has only difference compared to other religions, Jesus Christ. He makes the actual difference because he is the god who always remains man and will be a man.
So who is this man called Jesus? Nothing is controversial as the nature of Jesus. There are thousands who are burnt to death because of this name. I am not going to make any theological speculations but I would like to share my perspectives, of course I am indebted to many. Every time I think of Jesus, Kafka comes to my mind. He was a Jew and it is not sure whether he ever confessed his faith in god. But he said something about Jesus that is very illuminating to me “ Jesus is a chasm filled with light all those who walk with their eyes opened will fall in to it”. There is no perfect talking about Jesus no ultimate definition. No scripture, Church and Dogma can contain him fully; he is much bigger than them. Bonheoffer said, “Teaching about Jesus begins in silence”.
To me Bonheoffer always sounded bold and right. He warns us against considering church as the institutional container of incarnation; it is rather, that sphere of human life and fellowship that is besieged by, permanently under attack from the Word made Flesh. One of the most striking features of Bonheoffer’s Christology is his insistence that Jesus Christ is a question posed to church, that church is relentlessly interrogated by the fact that at the heart of its life is the presence of the incarnate one, who cannot be assimilated into or clothed by `a form of religious life’. The consequence of this for theological procedure is immense. It means that not only for our spirituality but for theology too “there are only two ways of possible way of encountering Jesus: one must die or one must give out Jesus to death”. Before get in to this point, one question is pending. Who was the God of Jesus? The Horizon to which he was drawn? The Old Testament God is not only white but also dark as if he is slowly emerging from a primordial chaos. He was so because the men who expressed him were so. It is in Jesus God finds the perfect expression. Jesus called him ‘father ‘ which was hitherto unheard. Ever since he remained a father. Before Jesus there was no God in the world, there might have been some elements of god but not god, because god cannot be in the world without someone bearing, someone becoming him. That is what Jesus did. And there is nothing difficult than to be a God. Jesus life shows us he had a big price pay.
God always forsakes himself. Universe is his abandoning. So in his abandoning we will never find him other his absence, to find Him one has to abandon oneself. We meet him when we are not, we see him we do not see us. The god forsook himself to become Jesus will also forsake Jesus because he relentlessly becomes the other
Jesus experienced it on the cross. He came to know someone whom he became, carried, lived for has disowned him, this scatters him he is now naked not in the body but also in the soul. His soul is stripped that bareness is giving way to this cry ” My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”
After this hear rendering cry, he still lingers to God saying, “ Father I commend my soul in to your hands.” He abandons himself completely to the God, nothing his left to himself. Now God cannot anymore abandon him, as he is not left back and nothing of him remains. He is not there but in God. To whom, to which can He abandon him. He receives him in himself, in to his own essence. They are no more two. Jesus is in God and God in Jesus, a perfect merging. It is the resurrection
After this merging he cannot be in the world. He has to leave. And he left us giving us the Holy Spirit. The spirit is the binding force of Christian community, and spirit is what makes us our ascending possible. Jesus told to Mary “go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to their and my father”. We are this ascending people. We are all gathered in this ascending of Jesus. Till we reach him we do not have him. We experience this abandoning which in turn drive us to protect each other. Bonheoffer meant it when he said, “ live as if god doesn’t exist “ and “ the God who is not with us is the God who helps us”.
I had to face a deep criticism when I wrote about Eucharist. I just explained its word meaning ‘ memoria.’ memory does not show the presence of somebody but absence. You do not have the memory of somebody when he is with you. Jesus said to his disciples in his departing meal “do it in memory of me”.
There is no denial of real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist as the memory can be powerful as to make the absence a real presence. But what he is their belongs to the order of a death and power, to the strong force of the world, where you solve the problems by raising money for an army but the God provokes and questions to what is there. He is an absence which disturbs the presence with a difference and allows the lowliest to rise in divine splendour. And he is a spectral spirit who haunts the world as it a bad conscience or who breaths lightly and prompts its most inspired moments. God with close from the words order of on stage and presence. God is there in the nobody of the world.
Forgetting this absence made us to stop wait for him. This is not easy to endure this absence and waiting, so we invented an imaginary Jesus. We could do anything with this imaginary, muted Jesus. The priests of this religion could misuse children, kill enemies. Conduct inquisitions. Christian countries could amass wealth by exploiting poor countries. Which will make the great mystic and scientist, Pascal to say ‘
“ Church is the revenge of God the father against his son,” for making him known for revealing him. Because he always wanted to be in oblivion, non-reachable, Jesus breached it and made him known. So he took revenge by inventing the church that continues to persecute him. Is their any truth in Pascal’s accusation?
When pope Benedict reminded the priests that they are fed the by Catholic Church many felt offended. I believe that I am fed by the Catholic Church. I dream of the time when the church will conquer the frontiers of the earth with her love. Without any triumphalism but with waiting and ascending.
But will anxious words of Jesus prove right? “When I come back will I find any faith on earth”.
Let us conclude with the wisdom of Cardinal Newman “saints are failing on this earth. Jesus is only but coming”. He is only coming. And we are waiting with fear and trembling, “ lord, come soon”