In Deccan Chronicle – Valson Thampu
This is a very insightful article and a must-read for those wish to be rationally enlightened and convinced about what is true about religion, temple worship, ritualism, priesthood, multiplicity of churches, Jesus the revolutionary, Narayana Guru duplicating Jesus and many related issues much talked about today after the Ayodhya & Sabarimala verdicts and the world wide debate about clerical sex and priestly hypocrisy for power, pelf, posh living and domination.
This reflection comes also in the wake of the 30th year celebration by European bishops of the Fall of the Berlin wall on the one hand and frantic effort of the Mighty president of US, Trump building walls, especially between the US and Mexico.
Who Quit Priesthood!
Our esteemed friend and columnist, Valson was a priest of the Church of South India who gave it up for the freedom of the children of God. So was this scribe a priest of the Catholic church who gave it up, some 45 years ago, to become an ideal human being like the “Son of Man” without any class, caste, creed, but belonging only to the CATTLE CLASS of Jesus born in Cattle shed and lived homeless with the last, least and lost sections of the down trodden.
C. F. Andrews, an Anglican priest and close to Gandhi, renounced his priesthood to be part of India’s freedom struggle; “Entrapped in priest-driven religiosity, gods function like the erstwhile Berlin Wall, fragmenting the people and alienating them from each other;" Recall Tagore’s prayer: “Into that heaven of freedom (without narrow domestic walls and divisions) let my country awake”.
Recall the thousands of denominational churches still multiplying, all claiming to follow Jesus! Is Christ divided? “Christians are kept isolated not only from non-Christians but also from each other. They stay shut up in tight-security denominational prisons. Congregations are infected with divisive priestly politics and people suffer.” That is why we called, Catholic church an OXIMORON!
Liberate God first!
First liberate God or redefine our anthropomorphic understanding of God. Followers of a caged God can never become free birds. The God of Christians is imprisoned or locked up in Cathedrals, Churches, chapels and tabernacles. Jesus said Sabbath (religion) is for man, not man for Sabbath. Jesus could never survive with the priestly class of his times, nor will he tolerate or survive with the priestly class of today.
Recall what Jesus told the woman at the well. Worship God, not on that mountain or this, not in that temple or this, but in spirit and truth in the cave of one’s heart. Every individual human being is the true temple of God. Recall the telling song of Fr. Abel: Iswarane Thedi (In search of God). After searching in vain, crossing seas and deserts, finally he turned into oneself, into one’s own heart: There dwells God, Flame of LOVE is his name!
Temple of world Religions!
Years ago when the Ayodhya issue was hotly discussed, I had proposed to construct, not a Ram-temple or Mosque, but a temple of all top religions of the world where all believers and non-believers can mingle in a brotherly spirit, meditate and learn from our brothers and sisters. But who cares, instead of calling it an utopia?
Jesus did not think so, nor did Narayana Guru or Tagore!. Now indeed are the times to dream such dreams and strive after, to make such dreams come true imitating, Jesus, Narayana Guru and Tagore. james kottoor, editor CCV.
Please read below Valson’s Ayodhya to Sri Narayana Guru!
To Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Ayodhya verdict signals ‘a new dawn’ for India. One has to be habitually cynical to disagree with him. All the same, it would be overly naive to endorse this optimism magically. Nothing will dawn just because there is a momentous court verdict.
‘Dawn’ is an invitation to get up and work, which could make a difference. The new India in the offing necessarily entails a changed vision for the task at hand. If this visionary endeavour is to progress, hindrances endemic in its path need to be mapped and dealt with.
Dawn is preceded by night. What is the darkness that has held our country to ransom? Assuredly, not a dispute about the Janmasthan of Lord Ram. It could seem otherwise in the euphoric ambience of the present denouement; much like Article 370 being projected as the sole cause of the backwardness of Jammu and Kashmir. It is infantile to assume that all communal problems will disappear and a new era of pan-Indian harmony will dawn somehow, just because a title dispute has been settled.
It needs to be emphasized that the source of the Ayodhya tangle is not a disputed parcel of land, lest we mistake symptoms for maladies. The malady in this case is temple-centred religiosity. That epidemic remains. Consider this: religion is meant to make us nobler, but it makes us meaner, narrow-minded and selfish. The more religiously zealous we are, said Voltaire, the more intolerant and inhuman. We have just enough religion, wrote the Irish satirist Jonathan Swift, to make us hate each other; but not enough religion to make us love each other. Post-Ayodhya, this anomaly stays. And, as long as it does, there is cause for concern; Sree Narayana Guru, the religious reformer par excellence of Kerala, is especially relevant to this context. He launched a temple movement as part of his mission to liberate and empower the downtrodden in Kerala. In the process, he underwent a profound change himself.
In the first phase the guru built and consecrated temples in the orthodox way for the outcastes of Kerala, who were denied entry into temples. Over a period of time he realized that the traditional idea of temple worship was the problem rather than the solution.
So, in the second phase, he installed, in lieu of traditional idols, objects like a mirror, an inscribed metal plate etc. as deities in the temples he consecrated, signaling a shift from rituals to spiritual philosophy. In the third phase, he went even further.
Disillusioned with what temples had come to be, he said: “We should build, not temples of worship,but temples of learning.” Historically, every liberator of humanity –including Gandhiji- became progressively disenchanted with priest-centred places of worship.
C. F. Andrews, an Anglican priest and a close friend of Gandhi, renounced his priesthood to be part of India’s freedom struggle associate, realizing the incompatibility between religion and freedom. Temples, churches and mosques are inhospitable to godliness, individual liberation and social harmony.
The common man is made to believe that temple or church is the exclusive dwelling place of his God! This laughable superstition is a characteristic invention of priests. I too was a priest. My hand on my heart, I testify vis-à-vis my faith community: God is to the priest no more than ‘Open Sesame’ to power, profit and authority. The ‘mystery’ of God is invoked not because the priest believes in it, but because it helps to befuddle believers and thwart their understanding with supernatural fear. Priesthood secretes hypocrisy. Religious establishments are run on money and political clout, not on godly values.
Being used as markers of division and catalysts for murderous hate is the infernal indignity that gods suffer at the hands of priests. But for the divisive gods puppeteered by priests, we would have lived in harmony with each other, and not degenerated into impenetrable parochialism. Entrapped in priest-driven religiosity, gods function like the erstwhile Berlin Wall, fragmenting the people and alienating them from each other. We shall make no progress in creating a sane and rational society so long as this Wall stands. Building a temple or mosque more in Ayodhya, or thousands more all over India, will not take us any closer to our destination, so long as we remain divided, as Tagore said, by ‘narrow domestic walls’.
Standing in the temple of Jerusalem, Jesus denounced all places of worship as ‘a den of thieves’. But it did not make Christians any wiser. They still mistake them for havens of salvation. Kerala Christians are today going through a painful spiritual trauma because of the priestly crimes and aberrations coming to light day after day. Many are surprised; I am not. To me it is routine; for a religious establishment is necessarily hypocritical. God is showcased to curtain this hideous reality. Priests thrive by dividing the people and by parading partisan gods whose dispositions they claim to monopolize and manipulate to advantage those who procure their goodwill.
I flag this reality because the unity, social harmony and democratic citizenship we need to promote, will not dawn so long as this communal darkness prevails. The need of the hour is not a temple or a mosque. It is, instead, a sane practice of religion; religion serving as a liberating, ennobling and cohesive influence. But, for human beings to be liberated, God needs to be liberated from temples, mosques and churches. The liberated God will, then, liberate humankind from the yoke of mind-deadening priest-craft and the superstition, irrationality and obscurantism that go with it. A temple-centred, church-manipulated God is a debilitating infection that we can no longer harbour.
Jesus was a spiritual revolutionary. “Religion is made for man,” he declared,“not man for religion”. The same fire of reform glows in Narayana Guru. His dictum, –“never mind which religion; so long as your religion helps you to be better human beings”- kindles in me the same excitement. I dream of a time when people of all religions – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Parsis – throw open their spiritual homes to each other and, in the process, discover that there is only one God through whom we are an extended spiritual family. All communal conflicts are family feuds. Communal murders are fratricides.
Christians are kept isolated not only from non-Christians but also from each other. They stay shut up in tight-security denominational prisons. Congregations are infected with divisive priestly politics. People suffer. The human stock is poisoned and the nobility native to us suppressed in the name of God. As for me, I don’t care if I go to heaven or hell; it’ll do for me if I can live on this wondrously beautiful earth for the brief sojourn I am granted, safe from communal malice and hatred. Religions should be distinguishable from industrial factories that poison our world with toxic waste.