The oppressiveness of organised religion draws its legitimacy from man-made rules and customs, which are dishonestly attributed to God for stamping them with legitimacy. File photo of the five nuns staging a protest against the delay in the arrest of Jalandhar bishop Franco Mulakkal in Kochi | Melton Antony
Note: Dr. Valson’s use of the phrase sacrament of protest is thought provoking! It harks back to the times when this scribe wrote about the end of time when the separation between the sacred and secular, spiritual and profane was wiped out with the tearing ascender of the curtain between the sagtuary and public at the death of Jesus on the cross!
There was never to be any more such distinctions between sacred persons, places, things or times. Everything created, if God created them are all SACRED! A tree is known by its fruits, “you are all brothers only” (Mt.23, 8…) not Rabais, Fathers, Leaders or teachers, Reverents or Irreverents, Most holy or less holy, all are equally holy, so also all things, places and times.
To provoke ‘Sooth-sayers’ one wise crack has said, any day when the sun shines is most ospitious for any good work. So forget about searching for good times for starting any good work; all times are bad only for doing anything BAD, ugly or harmful to a neighbor!
What Valson speaks below is about organized man-made religions,
No god known has made any religion, not even Jesus believed to be the Son of God. His goal was to create a Humane humanity modeled on the SON OF MAN himself.
Forget Organized religions
So forget about organized religions, by speaking about them, we give them undue importance.If you believe in any God pray to him in silence, in spirit and truth as Jesus did and taught, not through lip service. Your mind and heart and soul alone is the temple of God.james kottoor, ccv editor
Read below Valson’s article ‘Awake Kerala Christians’
By Valson Thampu, in New Indian Express, Dec. 8th 2019
The most spiritually significant happening in my lifetime is the heroic, historic mission of the Kuravilangad nuns, who created a sacrament of protest in Ernakulum against the church hierarchy that chose to be in silent solidarity with an alleged rapist bishop, denying justice to the nun victim. Sister Lucy of the Franciscan Clarist order dared to express solidarity with the agitating nuns, incurring extreme risks. Nothing comparable in significance has happened in Christendom for centuries.
This unprecedented, spiritually crucial, development highlights a sinister reality: religion has become a domain of deception and unfreedom. The acuteness of it varies from one section of a religious community to another. The oppressiveness of it is keenest on those who are closest to it. So, lay people are comparatively free: nuns live in utter unfreedom. God, rules, customs etc., are invoked to sanctify this sinister reality. Religion of this kind is a serious hindrance to freedom of religion.
The plight of nuns: how different is it from slavery? Consider the charges levelled against Sister Lucy. She is accused of: (a) writing and publishing poems (b) learning driving and owning a car (c) wanting to wear cotton, rather than polyester habit (d) participating in TV discussions. The list goes on. Amazingly, an overwhelming majority of Christians fail to see that the disciplinary action against the nun is in blatant violation of all that Jesus stood for. Jesus refused to abide by the customs, rules and regulations of Judaism. He did so in order to enlarge the scope of freedom. Jesus insisted that the purpose of religion is to liberate human beings from all forms of oppression, including the yoke of religious orthodoxy. Ironically, a ponderously oppressive religious establishment has been erected in his name!
Religions suppress individual freedom under the deadweight of customs overlaid with man-made rules and restrictions. Surely, there is no biblical warrant for wearing only polyester clothes! No interdiction against driving or owning a car! Or, poetizing! Then how come that these have become extreme offences in a nun?
The oppressiveness of organised religion draws its legitimacy from man-made rules and customs, which are dishonestly attributed to God for stamping them with legitimacy. They are designed to bridle individual freedom. The sanctity of this mendacious system is improvised and sustained through the ‘sacrifices’ imposed on individuals. The greater the sacrifice a nun is made to undergo for the sake of the system, the more sacrosanct it seems. This was the logic of human sacrifice in religions in ancient days. In due course, literal human sacrifice has given way to its metaphoric alternatives. The core of ‘sacrifice’ is the exaction of extreme cost from individuals. Hence the idea, say, of ‘sacrificial service’, which is invoked often to deny the legitimate rights and rewards of employees. Sacrificial service never applied to the hierarchy, which only required it of others for their benefit; which is one of the familiar markers of the immorality of religious morality.
While nuns are forced to live in self-sacrifice, bishops wade in luxury and power. Rules rob nuns of basic rights and freedoms in order to advantage the establishment. This makes establishments inherently suspicious of individual liberty and infects conventional piety with phobia about ‘disobedience’. Jesus denounced the hypocrisy of the religious establishment: something never mentioned in churches anywhere! Church-ianity flaunts a sanitised version of Jesus Christ, who wields the whip not against the aberrations of the hierarchy, but against the aspirations of the laity!
Jesus’ agenda was human freedom. The ‘minimum common programme’ of the Christian oligarchy is to re-establish the fetters Jesus broke. The fraud in religion lies in substituting one form of slavery with another. The nuns who are struggling against injustice and oppression are highlighting this stark reality. Their mission is more spiritual than the sum total of the priests, bishops and cardinals of Christendom put together.
Consider this offence alleged against Sr. Lucy: that she cooperated with non-Catholics and interacted with the media. She is not alleged to have propagated falsehoods in the process. Her offence is that she emerged from behind iron curtains of officially imposed invisibility. Now ask: who benefits from secrecy? Oppressors or their victims? What is the reality, that the church oligarchs fear, will come to light if nuns are seen, and their cries heard, in public? The truth, isn’t it, that they live in slavery and exploitation? Ironically, the more they are suppressed, the more it is proved that they live abused and enslaved. Christians need to feel embarrassed that slavery and exploitation are institutionalised and perpetuated in the name of Jesus Christ. I become, willy-nilly, a party to it for being a member of the community. A nun is forced to renounce the last vestige of individuality for the sake of the church. This is anything but Christianity. It belongs not to the genre of sacrifice, but of murder.
All through history, individuals who sought to rise above senseless customs and sought to live according to their conscience have been dealt with brutally, Jesus included. He made the cross the symbol of the price that men and women of conscience have to pay to be human and free in the sphere of religion. Priests and prelates misappropriated the cross and turned it into the escutcheon of mindless conformity to religious orthodoxy.
These realities have remained hidden for long. The crowning service the nuns have done is to lift the veil of secrecy and catalyze awareness regarding them. This brings ordinary Christians under a duty. They need to take a public stand against voting as directed by priests and bishops. The political clout which encourages them to be corrupt and unjust rests on the myth that Christians vote
as dictated by church authorities, which, if true, points to yet another facet of their slavery. Spirituality is a domain of freedom. Those who compromise it have nothing to do with God or even with what is true and beautiful in their own being. Christians have a bottom-line duty: to become Christian. It is the trail to this goal that the oppressed nuns are blazing today. I can almost hear them saying: ‘Christians of Kerala, awake! You have nothing to lose, except your superstitions and suffocations’.
I hear, too, echoing far behind these words, the exclamation of Nietzsche: “In truth, there was only one Christian and he died on the Cross!”
Valson Thampu, the writrt is Former principal of St Stephen’s College, New Delhi