GOD’S EMISSARIES – AT SABARIMALA AND ELSEWHERE – WHY DOESN’T GOD SPEAK TO US DIRECTLY?
Note: Has our columnist Joseph Mani opened a Pandora’s box with this article titled GOD’S EMISSARIES? It appears the article unleashes more questions than answers. Why? Because some would argue that he is starting from a wrong premise that there is a God, creator, protector, sustainer, giver of all good things, embodiment of all goodness, Sachidananda (sat+chit+ananda) etc. which is yet to be proved for many.
We can’t jump on a horse and gallop in all directions but only in one direction. That said we can bite off only a mouthful, not more which we can’t chew or digest. What is therefore urgently needed is a new definition of God, satan, emissaries, heaven, hell and a whole lot of things, assumed to be true but not, for those who consider man strictly as a RATIONAL being first. Only when reason reaches its tether’s end he migrates to faith and a world of belief systems called religious day-dreams at best.
Man free & bound
Humans do this because he/she is free with a whole lot of limitations mentally, spiritually and physically. Therefore the greatest wonder of creation is that no two humans are alike and so there can be no universal law which fits perfectly to every one. But everyone has something which others don’t have which makes every one a complimentary and a conflicting part at once. Complimenting leads to peace and harmony and conflicting to war and blood shed.
So success in life and society consists in promoting what is complimentary and controlling or holding in check what is conflicting. Hence the advise of St.Augustine: “Unity in necessary things, difference in unnecessary things and charity is all things.”
When it comes freedom and discussion, the ultimate is that of Voltaire: “I will go to death to defend your right to think, say or write what you are convinced of, even when I may not agree one bit of your views,” which we hold fast in the field of publishing. The principle is, we all have to be like busy bees, visiting every flower and taking from them only honey, nothing bitter.
Live & let-live is Life
That is life, living and letting others live without conflict or violence, but agreeing and disagreeing, when needed, in an agreeable way. That alone can promote independence and interdependence, the more important being “interdependence” because we have to hang together to live and grow, instead of hanging alone to die.
That brings us to organized, .religion or spirituality. Today people are staring away from organized religions, which produced and still produces war and blood shed between die-hard believers. Even Jesus never founded a religion or any of the present cultic, ritualistic practices to enslave people to the whims and fancies of self appointed high priestly class whom Jesus detested. His followers, he wanted to be just brothers and sisters only. More than that every thing is just for profit, power, privileges, positions and authority to rule over and dominate.
Moratorium to temples & organized religions
Jesus also told the woman at the well: Time has come to worship God in the cave of your heart (temple) where the living god dwells, not in this temple or that, this mountain or that. So declare moratorium to church or temple construction and herding people to Sabarimala or man-made holy places or shrines. Cultivate the art of “Sathyagraphs and Snehagraha” deep rooted in everyone of us and share your God-given(if there is a God) light called Reason without imposing you light on anyone.
In our humble view, be ready to be enlightened by better light anyone else may have. That alone will help us to live as children of light instead of groping in the darkness of religious colonization and domination. james kottoor, editor ccv.
Please read below coloumist Joseph Mani’s article
I once read a story about Abraham Lincoln. In the middle of the Civil War a group of Catholic Bishops met him and said “Mr. President, as you know we are Bishops of the Church. We are God’s messengers and He speaks through us. God has asked us to convey to you His approval of your attempt to abolish slavery. Slavery is against God’s will and He blesses your effort.” Later a group of Protestant Bishops also met Lincoln and told him “Mr. President, as you know we are Bishops of the Church and emissaries of God. He has asked us to convey to you His disapproval of your attempt to free slaves. If God wanted black people to be equal to us He would have created them with white skins. God created the blacks to serve the whites. The Bible is clear on this.” (They knew they could quote Eph 6: 5, Col 3: 22, Titus 2: 9 and 1 Peter 2: 18 to support their argument, if necessary).
Lincoln replied “Your Lordships, as you know I am the President of America. I have a job to do and I am doing it according to my lights. If God wants to communicate something to me, He can easily convey it to me directly. He doesn’t need intermediaries to talk to me. So till I hear from God otherwise, let me do my job as I see fit.”
The Beth El Synagogue in Kolkata
The Jews believed that men could approach God only through their priests and in the Temple. In his book The Church, the noted Catholic theologian Hans Kung maintained that Christ abolished the priesthood altogether and the Temple became irrelevant and that Christ was the only mediator between God and man (He was sacked from his teaching job). But we are still told that we need all kinds of intermediaries from saints to god-men to priests to approach God and that God will communicate with us only through third parties.
Sabarimala Shrine, Kerala
Something similar is happening in the case of the Sabarimala Shrine. We are told by the thanthris, the Devaswom Board, members of the Royal Family, politicians of different stripes and many others that Lord Ayyappa does not like to have menstruating women near him. It is more than that; the Lord cannot stand not only menstruating women, but all women in the menstruating age group even if there is no flow at the time of the darshan. Has anyone asked the Lord himself whether this is his wish? We are told by others what the Lord wants. If Lord Ayyappa wants to make known his aversion to menstruation-prone women, he has all the resources at his command to do it. He could appear to women in visions; he could directly send messages to the minds of women planning to go to Sabarimala telling them not to go; if these do not work, he can have a bear appearing to frighten them off or strike a few offending women with a mild lightening knocking them out temporarily as a sign of his intention. He has so many ways to convincingly persuade the “unclean” women not to go near him. The Lord does not use any of the means at his disposal, but lets his spokespersons do the talking!
These same spokespersons tell the women, again reading the mind of God, that they can go to other temples where the same Lord has no problem with women of any age. Sabarimala is not the only shrine where God’s emissaries have decided who can worship which God. For example, non-Hindus are barred from a few temples like the Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri and the Guruvayur Temple in Kerala. These are exceptions. In most temples people of all faiths are allowed, again by God’s ambassadors. Ironically, these same representatives of God tell us that God is Incomprehensible, Unknowable and Inscrutable, yet they claim to know with certainty what and whom God wants and does not want.
The imams and other clerics, speaking on behalf of Allah, claimed that Triple Talaq was a practice of the Muslims, sanctioned by the Quran and based on centuries-old tradition. The BJP asserted that a practice which denied women equal rights, however ancient, had no place in a modern democratic country; they hailed the passage of the anti-Triple Talaq Bill as a historic moment in the fight for the rights of women. The same BJP, speaking on behalf of Lord Ayyappa, is in the forefront of the protest against the SC verdict which struck a blow for women’s rights, claiming the Courts have no business to interfere with a centuries-old religious tradition. Your irrational tradition is bad and Parliament can outlaw it, my irrational tradition is good and nobody can interfere with it!
I was told about a Catholic Cardinal. When he was asked why his stance on a particular subject was contrary to what Pope Francis said, he reportedly replied “I don’t care what the Pope says. Here I am the boss and you better obey me.” I would have appreciated if the members of the Devaswom Board had said “Women of a certain age are not allowed inside our shrine. This is our decision, it has nothing to do with what Lord Ayyappa wants or doesn’t want. You better obey our rule.” (I heard only one neta say “This is our god and we decide who can come near him.” A “liberal” activist said on TV “My grandfather was a thnthri at the shrine for fifty years and he did not want menstruating women to come to the shrine.” – my grandfather said it, so it is right!)
I accept that such a stance – that this is our rule and has nothing to do with Lord Ayyappa – while honest, will not guarantee compliance. Dragging God’s name to impose a rule on people is a ploy used by powerful people throughout history. If Moses had told the Israelis that they should follow the Ten Commandments because it is good for the community, they may not have obeyed wholeheartedly; but once he was able to convince them that he received the stone tablets directly from God, his job became easier. Hammurabi of Babylon of the second century BCE told his people that his first Code of Law was given to him by the god Marduk; he realized that he would get better compliance this way than if he had just told them “It is good for you.” The Catholic Church could not have got the complete obedience of its members if it had not come up with the doctrine of “infallible divine guidance.” Doctors advice people not to eat pork because it increases cholesterol level; people will still eat pork because pork tastes good; but tell people that God has forbidden them to eat pork and they will promptly fall in line.
This article is not only about the Sabarimala tangle. I am citing it as one of the examples where god’s self-appointed emissaries claim to speak for god. If someone wants my gratuitous advice about Sabarimala, it would be that women should just stop going to Sabarimala. If a suitor rejects you, there is no point in approaching the Supreme Court and asking the Judges to order him to accept you. There are many other men who will happily marry you. If a particular god does not want you and one of this god’s devotees even wants you to be ripped in two, why impose yourself on such a god? There are many other gods who will welcome you with open arms. As Mr. R. Jagannathan, the Editorial Director of Swarajya, points out “Hinduism does not restrict your choices of god to a grand total of one.” And if men really want gender equality, they too should stop going to Sabarimala until the emissaries of god change their man-made rules. Men also have other gods to go to who do not exclude their mothers and sisters.
This idea that god-speaks-to-us-through-his emissaries is prevalent in all religions. Among the Jews if God wanted to tell a man something, He will not speak to him directly; He will tell a Prophet to go and tell him. A man afflicted with leprosy prayed to God for a cure. God asked a prophet go and tell the man to go and dip himself seven times in a particular river. God could have easily told the man the same thing, but no, He deputes a prophet to do the job. If a Catholic loses a gold chain, she is not supposed to pray to God directly to get her chain back; she has to go to an emissary of God who in this case is St. Anthony. Catholic preachers often end their long prayer with “O God our Lord, hear our prayer which we send to you though Jesus Christ our Redeemer whom we beseech through our Blessed Mother, the Ever Virgin Mary” and sometimes add for good measure “and through the apostles, martyrs and all the saints upon whose constant intercession we rely for help.” We need to go through multiple layers of emissaries to reach God. We have to go through the apostles, martyrs and myriads of saints to reach the Mother to reach the Son and through him reach the Father. This is understandable because God cannot take care of everything by Himself, so He delegates powers to his emissaries – so say the emissaries.
The problem with this emissary business is that the emissaries do not agree on anything, in fact they contradict one another. When Napoleon became emperor of France, he found there were a plethora of laws enacted by different government agencies, one law often contradicting another and confusing the hell out of the common citizens. Napoleon set up a committee to clear up this mess. We do not know what came of it; the emperor probably went off on his ill-fated expedition to Russia before the committee could give its recommendations. Communist Russia had the same problem. The midnight knock was sometimes for violating a law by obeying another law. The Russians did not want to learn a lesson from Napoleon’s experience. Why should they, did not the Russian winter defeat Napoleon? Christians find themselves in the same predicament today. We are often told by Christians that God has spoken to humans and sent us messages, signs and miracles through His Prophets and emissaries and He continues to use emissaries today also and we just have to listen to these emissaries. But look at the situation on the ground: At the last count, rounded off to the nearest thousand, there were 38,000 Christian denominations and a new one pops up every now and then, each sect started by a person who claimed he was specially sent by God to show us the “true way to salvation.” Each tells us a different “message” from God. Some of them insist on infant baptism so that if the baby dies it will not go to hell, others expressly forbid infant baptism. Some say Mary is the Mother of God, others say she is not. Some say man has free will, others deny it. Some say reciting the Rosary is a sure-fire way to obtain grace, others have no use for the Rosary. Some ask us to venerate saints, others say veneration of saints is tantamount to idolatry which is totally against God’s commandment. If you obey one emissary you disobey another, if you follow the precept of one you violate another’s precept, leaving the hapless Christian in a quandary. So most Christians have taken the practical approach: stick to one emissary and the sect he founded which is usually the one you were born into or came to through marriage and say all the others are emissaries of Satan. They are at peace having chosen one among the host of emissaries.
Other religions are no better, emissary-wise. As we have seen, Judaism is an emissary-driven religion. Islam has the Sunnis, Shias, Ahmedis, Wahabis and Allah only knows how many others, each started by an emissary of Allah, members of each sect at another’s throat. Hinduism, fortunately, has never been a one-emissary religion. Hindus welcomed emissaries of all hues though of late some of them want emissaries of non-Hindu gods to leave Bharat and go to Pakistan.
We have had an army of God’s messengers telling us what is right and wrong. These messengers are so at odds with each other that there is not a single religious belief or practice which is accepted by the majority of people in the world, let alone by all the people in the world.
If I were to pray today, my prayer will be “Our Father, if you are in heaven, please speak to me directly, lead me not to your spokespersons and deliver me from your emissaries.”