An Imagination That Went Wrong (A criticism against ‘Shalom’)

Boundaries are being blurred. Yet things are narrowing down. Our time is full of light and we see nothing. This is the tragedy and crisis of the time: everything is mixed up with everything. All the definitions are deleted and replaced by coercion. Our exaggerations end up proving banality.And there was Kafka who summed up this contumacity of our century: “We live in misunderstandings where questions are rendered worthless by our replies.”

It is this misunderstanding that inspired Mr. Benny Punnathara to write in his ‘Shalom’ magazine that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a servant of God! Benny Punnathara misunderstands both the servant of God and Narendra Modi.

A linguistic cannon says that “It is not we who speak the language but language speaks us”. If it is so, the language of Mr. Benny speaks a grave lot about him. Benny Punnathara is just worshipping the golden calf of capitalism which Narendra Modi is spreading in India. Already he has signalled the end of Indian socialism. Of course, capitalism will bring prosperity, a prosperity which has the stains of greed. Because capitalism can work only on greed. This is the ‘vulnerability’ we have inherited from our ardent desire for progress. The same ‘vulnerability’ as great Polish Catholic poet called it, “of the twentieth century mind to seduction by socio political doctrines and its readiness to accept totalitarian terror for the sake of a hypothetical future”.

Benny punnathara, by praising Modi has become spoke person of the power worship that prevail in church. Church persecutes that son of a carpenter in its alliance with power. That is the greatest crime Shalom magazine is doing, bringing back those inhuman power symbols, power symbols of feudalism and omnipotent clergy and its paraphernalia. Many good Christians paid a high price to eradicate church of this power. Some were burnt at the stake, some were excommunicated, some were hushed to silence. Shalom doesn’t seem to know this history. So, their magazine is full of Hossana for a high priesthood which Jesus detested. Jesus was opposed to all sorts of power because he knew that power is evil.

He rebelled against their God of accusation and condemnation. His sole aim was tantamount to destroy that evil which wore the solemnity of a god. When Jesus died on that empty cross abandoned by all we witnessed the death of that evil. Jesus killed it. However, we are trying to resurrect that all powerful God of accusation and condemnation in place of a weak, powerless God called Jesus. True christian finds his strength in his weak God.

There came a time when the church was steeped in solemnity. The church did not know the beauty of ordinary gestures. Seeing this Volatair said. “Solemnity is a disease”. This sickness still grapples the church.

Shalom has  only sentiments, not theology. It exploits the romanticism of Christianity. Nevertheless, this romanticism is surviving because of a theology that is strong. I was surprised by the way Mr. Benny is quoting the Bible to show that Mr. Modi is a servant of God! How Bible has become such an easy book in these people’s hands? These interpreting without proper study can only prove what Nietzsche, the prophet of Nihilism, said, “There is no truth but only interpretations”. Sometimes when you take up Gospel interpretation, your God image is just a big projection of your self – centred wish – fulfilment fantasies. Harold Bloom, greatest scholar and critic of our time, in his study on the Bible wrote. “Bible is a book still to reckon with”. He wrote it because he knows the depth and height of the Bible. Mr. Benny quotes it at his will since he does not know exactly what this book means. One is expected to approach this book with ‘Fear and Trembling”. If not, book keeps its secret away from him. Will he makes an excuse by pointing a spirit as the source of the inspiration? Thomas Mann who wrote a massive book “Joseph And His Brothers”, exploring the philosophical and psychological implications of Old Testament can remaind us a fact: spirit without effort is crude.

I ask how a Christian magazine sings praise of a politician who has stains of the blood of a massacre? Nobody could prove what happened in Gujarat. Still it has his blessing and his people did it when he was in power. Christians do not need Shalom, but they should read secular magazines like ‘Mathrubhumi’. In the last issue of ‘Mathrubhumi’ there is an article by Poet Sachidanadan where he says why we should become the voice of 69% of Indians who didn’t vote for Mr. Modi. It is the joke of democracy that it allows a party which got just 31% vote to rule.Our democracy equals despotism in one thing: both secretly hate people. Why is democracy hating people? Because it is no more of people. It becomes a perfect vehicle for nationalism. Nationalists abhor differences, it believes in exclusion. Did Mr. Punnathara listened to independence speech of Mr. Modi? It is purely RSS agenda that veiled out. It again proved that he can never escape from the power shadow of RSS. They will ultimately dictate terms for him. By blinding people with development and nationalism, he will install the terms of RSS and will empty the nation of all its significances of multiculturalism, socialism and secularism. We will have skeleton of everything that the nation has been proud of.

Shalom has made the capitalist and RSS Modi a saint. The successor of a poor fisherman is going to canonise a communist, socialist and liberation theologian Bishop Romero. Bishop Romero stood against powerful regime that exploited and killed poor people with the aid of America. Now the question is: before whom shall we bow?

I would like to inform Mr. Punnathara that truth can never be exclusive. A religion, media, institution and nation which is exclusive is against truth. Shalom is dangerously exclusive. One should not manipulate truth to suite his religion. He who loves his religion more than the truth will end up loving himself more than his religion. I wonder, why Shalom magazine has the pictures of European kids and never features our local black kids! Shalom seems to have a wrong idea of Christ. He is not colourful man. He is just a black and white. Colourful pictures will fade away. Black and white will withstand the fading that time brings. Shalom’s whole multicolour enterprise cannot equal a single short of Passolini’s (communist, atheist sinner) film, ‘The Gospel According to St. Mathew’. This is the irony that the more you say about Jesus the more you risk getting it wrong.

Famous multibillionaire Ted Turner made a statement some years ago. He said he disliked Christianity, as he felt that it was “a religion of losers”. Some entrepreneurs have taken up Christianity, to make it a successful religion. In oder to make it successful they are marketing it in a corporate manner. They advertise it as the most cosy and romantic religion, cleverly hiding its tragicness and otherness. They just can’t stand its embarrassment. Agnostic Bernard Shaw said: The successful man adapts himself to the world. The loser persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.

That’s what Jesus did by becoming a failure, he made man a success.The story of Jesus tells that we should not afraid to fail.  I wish to end with a fable of Kafka which perhaps may tell us how all these political and democratic circus will finish us. Its English title is “A Little Fable”:

“Alas,” said the mouse, “the world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when at last I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into.” “You only need to change your direction,” said the cat, and ate it up”.

We christians should be careful about Shalom. It doesn’t  empower us to engage with the secular world we live in,  it derails our imagination feeding us with lullabies of a shallow spirituality, it makes us heartless with its overflowing sentimentality,  it is going to dictate terms for us with institutional power, it is protecting a powerful clergy regime. I believe that christianity of shalom is not my christianity. I attack shalom to protect the christianity I believe in.

 

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