(Note: Our friend and regular face on CCV Sri Varghese, Pamplani, now in US, tomorrow may be in UK is a world trotting with a wide variety of thoughtful and thought provoking thoughts. He is not a poisonous snake but one with biting, penetrating ideas, sure to prompt anyone who reads him think twice and transform him/her for the better or worse. For instance just read what he writes below and see what a creative thinker he is. Jk, editor ccv.)
The senile “poisonous snake” as JM has aptly nick named me, is on the prowl again testing the surroundings while taking reasonable care not to bite any one.
By the way, to my knowledge, the serpent symbolises rebirth, renewal, transformation, immortality, fertility and creative force as well as healing. It is true snake venom kills, but it has therapeutic value too. The snake is also deemed as a creature of wisdom. No snake, for that matter, no creature, other than the Homo Sapiens, will hurt or harm unless provoked grossly or threatened. The snake, in some ways is benign as it destroys pests like rats and other vermin.
I have been watching the attempts of well meaning and concerned persons’ concerted attempts to reform the, excuse me, the incorrigible Roman Catholic Church, particularly the Syro (Zero) Malabar outfit. If one beats an obstinate camel with a bunch of straw, it may turn its head and snatch and devour it. It is possible that the animal may also bite off the holder’s hands. A strong and mighty whack at its rump may have some effect, but be beware of its painful kicks with the hind legs.
When a given society is in disequilibrium, trouble and chaos, prophets and philosophers emerge with a view to correcting the prevailing asymmetries. But any set of ideas make sense only with reference to the time and place. Each society develops its own ethos, moral values and culture. What is relevant in a given place, situation, environment or time frame can not be made uniform and universally applicable.
The efflux of time, churning of ideas, interaction among the members of a community, intellectual and social development, bring about changes. Organised religions like Christianity like to tether the world with the postulates of the early centuries the Common Era in the name of tradition. It endeavours to view the world through a narrow prism based on the questionable premise that it’s theology and precepts are God given. It tries to impose its obsolete and fossilised views on the whole world by resorting to false propaganda, double speak, inducements and coercion. It identifies for conversion of ignorant, undeveloped and deprived population such as tribals and adivasies in India. Conversion generally results in disequilibrium and renting of the social fabric of the affected region. It is an avoidable tragedy.
Ideas & power peddlers
Ideas and views are in constant flux and ever changing. But religions claiming to be divinely established and infallible ends up in an inescapable cul-de-sac from which extrication may be rather impossible. Ideas per se may be good and would have been mooted with good intentions. Ideas when crystallised into organisations and institutions may assume different form which may not be in consonance with the original aims. A mutually supporting community based on empathy and cooperation envisaged by Jesus and his early followers was turned on its head by a monolithic Church of regimentation, oppression and control detrimental to the interests and wellbeing of its general members.
Organisations are driven by their own dynamics and aims. The people who run these entities would try to prolong their hegemony by all means to protect their positions of control and privileges at any cost, even by resorting to questionable means. Self interest is a great motivator. Ethics and morality are generally in short supply in the corridors of power.
The disadvantaged, oppressed and marginalised proletariat who constitute the majority in the society embrace new ideas eagerly with the hope of bettering their conditions. The entrenched and powerful interests oppose them vehemently as the new prescriptions are perceived as threats to their privileges and self interests. When an idea or a movement gains wide acceptance and the proletariat is viewed as having dominance, a clever outsider would take control and vitiate the original proposition to his advantage. It happened in the case of Jesus, Karl Marx. It is the same scenario with regard to Narayana Guru.
Paul hijacked Jesus movement?
When ideas become institutions, they metamorphose into a new creature assuming characteristics often having little resemblance to the original ideas and view points. In the case of Christianity, Paul seems to have hijacked and transformed the Jesus movement headed by James, the brother of Jesus, to a mystery religion. Paul’s new dispensation, unlike other mystery religions of the day offering salvation only for a chosen few, promised universal salvation. The marginalised and the depossessed generally would seize any flotsam and jetsam swirling around with the hope of escaping from the their miserable, abject and deprived existence. The early followers of this religion seem to belong to this category. Once they got ensnared in the trap of the this religion with a pyramid structure, escape from its tentacles was and is well-neigh impossible. The Church ensures that it’s hold is perpetuated by the practice of infant baptism.
Age of reason & secularism
Some accuse, Paul a Roman citizen, as a covert agent of the then Roman regime deputed to destroy the Jesus movement of James and others comprising the original followers of Jesus. With the take over of the Pauline Christianity by Emperor Constantine, it became a State sponsored religion which attracted the elite of the Roman society who flocked to it for privileges and other material advantages. Emperor Theodosius, the murdering Spaniard, made it a State religion. The general population were compelled to join it by threat of death or banishment. The Popes ruled the immensely rich church by the largesse of the Emperor as absolute monarchs in totalitarian manner aided by Cardinals who are called the Princes of the Church and assisted by collectors of revenue designated as bishops appointed by the Pope.
Christianity and its offshoot Protestant dispensations have had a free run facilitated by the rulers of Europe, colonisation and aggressive conversions in Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia. Paradigm shift occurred with the onset of Age of Reason, Age of Enlightenment, Secularism and Scientific Temper, Individual Autonomy and Freedom to think differently. But the predatory Leviathan that is the Catholic Church does not allow new thoughts to flourish by devouring with ferocity all that are seen as threats to its existence.
Scratching its thick hide will be of little avail and may be quixotic. The alternative is its demise and disappearance which may happen due to senility, implosion within or by some quirks of history. Signs of its end days may be in the horizon owing to the power struggle and jockeying for position and power between the old guard and the progressives now in play. The other hope is its extinction owing to old age infirmities and internal contradictions.
What we are witnessing as ills of the Church are only the surface symptoms of a pestering and persisting deep rooted malady in its body and soul. Mere salves will not work. As history has shown, reforming it by being remaining part of it is as futile as scratching the hard rock with one’s bare fingers. The result is self hurt. Tinkering with the visible aberrations will be of little consequence. Parting the ways, in order to retain one’s sanity, may be a better option. But for the majority of its followers, it may be unthinkable step, for old mind set and habits die hard.
The clerics know for sure that most of the trouble makers and disgruntled elements will bent grotesquely backward and kneel and lick their dirty feet for baptisms, church weddings and above all church burials which the faithful cannot go without. The church run educational institutions seem to have priced themselves out of market and beyond the reach of ordinary folk.
Clericalism or Pandara’s box
The alternative for the non-meritorious is parallel colleges of doubtful quality and repute. For the avarice of the clerics, sky is the limit. Of late, the lid of the Pandora’s box of the peccadilloes of the clergy are slowly opening. Falling of more skeletons from the cupboard may force open the eyes of at least some as happened in the Catholic Ireland. But the so called “anointed” who claim to have been specially chosen to represent God on Earth, when cornered, may resort to the age old and spacious plea of “human” frailties being the children of the fallen Eves. It may, however put some sense into the heads of at least a few of the “opium eaters”. But the majority will continue refusing to read the danger signals whatever happens; let the Heaven fall or the Earth rent asunder.
If the grey matter, which is called brain is, atrophied and become functionless, no hope. Only a few see through the charades of the comic opera called the rituals of the Church, the hollowness of the Catholic theology, the unbelievable miracles such as the virgin birth, the bodily resurrection, physical ascendency to the risen Christ to the Heaven. Ute Ranke Heinmann, the first women theologist, who was allowed to teach Catholic theology in the Catholic University of Essen, Germany, till she was ousted from the position on her questioning the biological Virgin Birth attributed to Mary, mother of Jesus has lampooned and dismissed the various miracles strewn across the Bible as “Fairy Tales”.
Possible Plan of action
The following plan of action could be of some effect: (a) the first step would be to get rid of irrational and absurd beliefs such as Original Sin, all pervading Sense of Guilt, punishment by God for the misdeeds committed on earth, After Life, Divine Judgement, Hell, Purgatory and Heaven. This frame of mind would liberate many from the horror of all pervading guilt and free them from the compulsive urge to undertake demeaning auricular confessions.
(b) keep a safe distance from the clerics as if they are grossly infected lepers. Don’t show them more deference and respect than the consideration given to any ordinary person one meets on the street. He should not invited to do blessings and the like.
(c) persons interested in contemplation and prayers may do them in some quite place far away from the madding crowd. Those who are gregarious may form groups of like minded and engage in spiritual activities with understanding and empathy away from the prying eyes of the predatory clerics.
(d) most of all, please refrain from addressing any cleric “father”. Calling a total stranger “father” tantamount to casting slur on the character on one’s biological mother. Before the intrusion of the Portuguese into the affairs of the indigenous Suriani Church, the clerics were called “Katthanars”. The term of deference “achan” e.g. Varki-ACHAN, was crudely translated to “father” and misappropriated by the egoistic clerics. The God in Heaven alone can be called “Father”. The good characters among the otherwise obnoxious lot, at best be treated as “brothers”.
(e) please don’t allow the spoil sport cassock wearer to barge into ones home uninvited and put up with his unsolicited sermons. This applies to the nuns also. Don’t allow local vicar to pry into one’s private affairs and dissuade him from establishing hegemony over any one in the family. Be bold enough to give marching orders if he crosses the limits. One should be master/mistress in own house,
(f) if one wishes the good of one’s children, don’t expose them to the brain washing by the clerics/ nuns. If the children escape from being physically molested by these child abusers, their minds will be twisted and poisoned beyond recognition if they put under the spell of these characters. Research has shown that children brought up in secular homes show more empathy and altruism than those who hail from highly religious oriented families.
(g) don’t waste the scarce and valuable time available to a child to develop its faculties by compelling it to attend the rites including the Qurbana and Sunday catechism classes. Participating in Sunday mass has been made non-mandatory since the Vatican II. The clergy of the Zero Church is taking the faithful in Kerala for a ride in the matter relaxations after the above Council.
(h) if feasible, educate the children in secular schools of repute. Investing in quality education is beneficial and worthwhile. Church run educations have no superior moral ethos. The attitudes and activities of the Catholic priests and nuns and their insular views may turn the younger generation into rebels and no- gooders.
(i) shun charismatic circus and other church jamborees. In one context, one bishop told me that sticking to the traditional prayers and observations are adequate for a religious life and that attending charismatic retreats and the like are unnecessary.
(j) most important, DON’T PART WITH YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY BY WAY OF OFFERINGS, DONATIONS, TITHS AND OTHER UMPTEEN DEMANDS OF THE GREEDY CLERGY. They are worse than the Shylock in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice in demanding their “pound of flesh” from the parishioners.
The fad of the day is pulling downexisting church buildings and constructing ugly, hideous and monstrous churches after wasting huge sums of money. There is no accountability of the money collected, most of which is splurged, wasted or mis-spent at the whims and fancies of the vicars and other clergy.