By Patricia Mukhim
This will be the last article of the year and since we have all just enjoyed the fervor of Christmas it would be worth reflecting on the Christianity that we practice here. Many have the propensity to call Meghalaya a Christian State because the majority of tribals here are Christians. Whether this claim is politically correct in a secular country is a debatable point and many readers have expressed their unease about the adjective “Christian” before the noun Meghalaya.
So why am I dragging the word Christ to Government? There is a reason. In the Bible, Isaiah 9:6 says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the Government will be upon his shoulders. And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” A government is a group of people elected to govern a country or state. A government makes and administers public policy taking into account the ground realities obtaining in a state or country. A government also exercises executive, political and sovereign power through customs, institutions and laws within a state. In Meghalaya, nearly all the elected representatives are “Christian” by faith. Within the government, the political executives are nearly all Christians. A few in the top rung of the bureaucracy are also Christians. So in effect the Government should reflect Christian values and like Christ reach out to the most needy who are precariously hanging on the last rung of the economic ladder. But is that what the government is doing?
Going by the track record of successive governments in Meghalaya, they have been ignoring the weak, the illiterate and the impoverished and serving the interests of the powerful business lobby that stalk the secretariat day in and day out. Christ spent his life on earth reaching out to the lost and the sinners, who, in today’s context would mean the school drops outs, the alcoholics and drugs users, the commercial sex workers who are judged because of their profession. In fact, Jesus defended the woman caught in adultery and allowed another so-called sinful woman who was scorned by the Pharisees to wash his feet with the best perfume and to wipe them with her long tresses. Christ never preached to a select audience inside a beautiful church costing crores of rupees. Do we have people with the compassionate traits of Jesus in the government? Do we have them in our churches? We would have to be looking for them like needles in a haystack. That is why Christianity today is like a garb worn on Sundays and special days like Christmas and Easter. The rest of the days the apparel is taken off and Christians don’t think they need to be like Christ in their thoughts, words or actions.
Since the majority of elected representatives in Meghalaya are Christians and the ministers in the Government are also nearly all Christians why are we not able to see Christ reflected in their attitudes, their works and their policies? Would Christ have travelled around with an entourage of menials to guard his life? But Christ’s followers will not spare a thought about flaunting their VIP statuses. As a result of travelling in such a protected ecosystem they get to meet only those that their camp followers think they should meet. Our ministers would not want to shake hands with dirty drug addicts and alcoholics. They would choose to cavort with sex workers in the quiet of the night but during the day they are holier than thou.
One of the key teachings of Christ is to be the salt and light in the world. But the point is that salt can lose its flavour and the light can go out if there is a strong gale. Might it not be true that most Christians are today like the salt that has lost its saltiness? Or the light that has died? In the middle and lower rung of the state government nearly all employees are practicing Christians but they think nothing about stealing time. Time is money. So essentially there are employees who have been stealing from the public exchequer for decades without even feeling a twinge of guilt. Where is Christ in that employee? Why is the person not carrying the teachings of Christ like an armour? Why are we all adopting double standards? So much so that non-Christians who watch us wonder at our loud proclamation of faith which do not match our actions! And then there are Christians who take off from work because they go to preach. Isn’t service to the public also service to God?
And coming to corruption and nepotism and the backdoor appointments to people who are relatives of the powerful or who have paid money under the table, would Christ endorse such actions? No, Christ would call sin by its name but we have become adept at using euphemisms to camouflage such sinful acts. So if we are not following the teachings of Christ then are we still Christians? Does going to church on Sundays absolve us of all sins? And for the Catholics, does mere confession of sins cleanse us of all wrongdoing which is repeated again and again?
The reason one writes an article based on Christianity is because religion has become a hot topic these days. There are people out there who will stand to defend their faith but whose actions belie their faith in Christ. So what are they actually defending? A false ideology or Christ’s teachings? Those teachings are more action oriented. They show Christ having mercy on the sinner and the weak. Christ’s teachings therefore are not just some general statements but an entire lifestyle. He preached love as only he understood it. To love one’s friends is no big deal he says but to love and forgive one’s enemy is the challenge. How many of us can do so wholeheartedly? So why is it that Christians have this superiority complex about being the only ones who will be saved from eternal damnation because they believe in Christ? Is belief alone without the action to back up that belief system enough?
And I also wonder how Christ feels about the denominational superiority that his followers today demonstrate. Denomination prevents Christian unity because denominations are constantly vying with one another to pep up their numbers. The bottom-line is that the more followers a denomination has the more money it also collects. That money is necessary to maintain the church and its pastors. Recently one person asked me why all religions need middlemen? Can’t people pray directly to God? Did Christ suggest that his teachings be differently understood in one denomination than in another?
Clearly there is a lot of soul searching to be done. As we approach the elections, there will be people campaigning in the name of Christianity and creating in voters the fear psychosis that if they vote certain parties then Christianity stands threatened. Well, people have voted one national party for several decades, so are their lives any better? Their religious worship may not have been threatened but their poverty has grown. I have been repeatedly hammering the point that poverty in Meghalaya has led to a situation where 76% of its rural populace is landless. Neither the churches nor the government have responded to this horrific statistics. The churches are busy preaching about the after-life while those in the Government are busy acquiring land from penury stricken citizen without an ounce of mercy. And those at the helm of power in the Government are Christians. Hence at the best of times I am baffled by Christianity but I understand full well what Christ taught. I find a huge dissonance between the teachings of Christ and Christianity as it is practiced today. I may be forgiven for my faltering faith although I believe my faith in Christ is intact. It’s a different matter that one oftentimes fails to live that faith.
May I wish all readers a very Happy New year!