I am also a priest. But there is a hell lot of difference between our priesthood. From your appearance, I presume that you are someone who is destined to be a priest. It is your birthright. You somehow inherited those high, solemn clerical gestures. I am just someone who bechanced to be a priest. If you are invited, I might be called. I always wonder how could I came to be a priest! I have a nagging sense of guilt whenever I do my priestly duties. I suppose that you are quite comfortable in your wardrobes. I always disliked this “destiny.” I wish to wash away everything of ‘destiny’ which is instilled in me by nature. Destiny is inhuman. I am a fan of ‘spirit,’ The spirit that does not destine anything to anyone, instead, engage itself in a playful game of chance and haphazardness and make things happen.
In the beginning of ‘Ulysses,’ the question is asked: “What is God?” To which Stephen replies: “A cry in the street.” I think you don’t like this definition of God. Your God cannot be a crying God. Your God is the triumphant God of judgements and accusations. Perhaps your God may be just like you, full of assertions. Now there is an excessive demand for priests like you, the preachers of the word of God. Still, I wonder how your word of God preaching fail to announce Christ! Christ is not merely Bible. He is far greater than Bible. There are situations when one can really confuse Christ with the bible. Do you belong to a new crop of priests who does not read anything other than Bible? They seem to have made Bible a book of sufficiency and betrayed its call to the imagination. There are many people who missed God by reading bible alone. Their interpretation of whole life in a godlike manner contained within itself revolt against God. They could not practice an atheism which has a redeeming power to purify faith. Their ever-readiness for salvation pulled them to damnation. Their faith was so solid that eating up that same solidness came up the worms of mistrust and evil.
Last time when I heard, you were erupting like a volcano, because you were dealing with a hot subject: sex. You told the congregation how horrified you become when you see girls in miniskirts and jeans. You chastised the girls who wear churidar without the shawl. Your background energy was some extra pious people who confessed to you that they can’t pray when those girls are in the church. In the name of God you condemned and judged milestones around the neck of all those who made men stumble. You were furious against the human body which fails to be a body of the religion.
Why your God is so sexually obsessed? Why can’t he be less impertinent and less hypocritical with regard to sex? How masquerading we become in our hate against human body!The problem is not in the miniskirts. We should be horrified by the way people are exploited and left as garbages than by the sight of a female breast. It’s not nudity but dress which is the indication of the shame we have inherited.Levi Strauss, the famous anthropologist discovered an aboriginal community which had no relation with outside world. They were roughly four thousand people. He found them naked but handsome and happy. By the time he went to study them again the Christian missionaries had already reached there. Now he found them all dressed but ugly and unhappy. We destroyed them making Christians which is not of the Gospel nor of the Christ. You have by-hearted the Bible without grasping its spirit. Bible is God’s endless and despairing struggle with organised religion which cannot survive without witch hunting. In new Testament Jesus clearly counted priests as the enemy of people.
In his phenomenology of the spirit, Hegel wrote that evil resides in the very gaze that perceives evil around itself. This is what Slavoj Zizek calls as reflexivity:the standpoint from which we perceive a state of things can be itself part of the state of things. Jesus did not fell into this trap of reflexivity. He was not censorious like us. To the woman caught in adultery, he said: “Neither do I judge you.” Jesus was accepting the fact that as a human being he did not have the right to judge another human being.
Jesus was a man on the road, settling on nothing. But his church is stagnant because of the immovable and bureaucratic clergy. They take themselves too seriously and imagine themselves to be the custodians of truth. All our intimidations from the pulpit have managed to destroy the reality of messianicity. Thus in the hands of priests, Christianity became a yoke of the vicious circle. Preachings in shalom T.V amount the vicious circle we are entangled in. Recently I watched an Irish movie, ‘Calvary,’ which tries to show a good priest. In the movie, we see the confession of a young man who suffered unspeakable sexual crimes from an evil priest. Now the young man wants to kill this good priest because he feels that his revenge can be equal only if he kills a good priest of the church. He finds no use in killing a bad priest. The good priest revolts against this injustice placed upon him. And his life is toppled over. He hires a gun for his self-protection. At the end of the movie we see him in a beach unarmed accepting his fate. The young man comes to take his revenge and he points his gun at the head of the priest and asks whether he has any regret in life. To which the priest replies “Yes I have, I could not read Moby Dick.”
At the end of the day, these may be the only regrets haunt us, that we did not converse with the great art forms of the world. Reading is an excellent way to practice ‘transcendental homelessness.’I like the writings of a Jesuit priest Boris Gunjević. There is rare charm in his writings and there is the flipping of the coins in his writing to decide what is good and bad. He wrote placing his trust in books as a way to be part of humanity, “Someday when we get around to writing a genealogy of our failures, inadequacies, and disappointments, an important place in such a study will be the books we never read, for whatever reason.” Every book we have not read reduces our horizon and shows how pitiful we are. Boris Gunjević has this revelation, “The books we never read will be one of the indicators of our anachronisms and our flawed humanity. When our imagined defence systems crumble and we are betrayed by our own mechanisms of denial, only then will reading preserve the dignity of the loser.” Isn’t it something scary?
God did not create the world with any functional end in view but simply for the love and sheer beauty of it. God is such a beauty crazy that he rebukes anyone who passes without noticing the subtle pink colour of His recent flower. Anyone who believes in such a God will not touch a flower without its permission and will not rebuke however naked it. At least art can save us from the worst situation of being megalomaniacs.
Being a priest is a dangerous thing. If you don’t guard against yourself, you may fall into most abominable crimes. There are some who go to any extreme to destroy the reputation of his brother priest to perpetuate to their own power. The whole effort of Jesus was to eliminate the elements of power, the power of God and man. So that he may reinvent himself as Christ.
Literary critic James Wood narrates the contradiction that a priest may get into:
“Growing up in a religious household, I got used to the sight of priests, but always found them fascinating and slightly repellent. The funeral uniform, supposed to obliterate the self in a shroud of colourlessness, also draws enormous attention to the self; humility seems to be made out of the same cloth as pride. Since the ego is irrepressible—since the ego is secular—it tends to bulge in peculiar shapes when religiously depressed. The priests I knew practiced self-abnegation but perfected a quiet dance of ego. They were modest but pompous, gentle but tyrannical—one of them got angry if he was disturbed on a Monday—and pious but knowing. Most were good men, certainly less venal than the average; but the peculiar constrictions of their calling produced peculiar opportunities for unloosing.”
You know how to be a priest. But you don’t know how not to be a priest. That is the heart of the matter. I know a priest who knows how not to be a priest. He does it so artistically. His name is Jijo Kurian. He has no time to measure the length of Mini Skirts instead he engages with various social issues defying all establishments. God is ready to appear before him as a cloud or tree with all His magic so that he may photograph Him. More than being a priest or bishop let’s be human beings accepting our predicament and frailty. Jesus detested self-righteous and loved sinners. Jesus message is that God is on the side of sinners despite their viciousness and he calls his Father who is neither judge nor an accuser. We, human can never achieve self-righteousness but only self-delightedness. Let us engage in a project of self-transformation which is never possible without the unfathomable source of love and art.