By Dr George Jacob
Kochi: I am ashamed and angry. No, not because I am a surgeon. I am ashamed because I belong to a faith called ‘Christianity’. Why?
I feel cheated by the faith I was reared on and subsequently came to believe. However, Christianity these days represents all that it is not supposed to be as a faith.
It is the faith that exhorts the faithful to ‘love your enemies and pray for your persecutors’(Mathew 5:44), ‘that one of you who is faultless shall throw the first stone’(John 21:7), and ‘the man who has two shirts must share with him who has none, and anyone who has food must do the same’(Luke 3:11), ‘if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer him your left’(Mathew 5:39) and many such lofty ideals.
As a teenager I went to church, because of my maternal grandparents, under whose tutelage I was groomed. They had me attend church on Sundays, rain or shine! I had to attend Sunday school after tucking into my grandmother’s extremely tasty special Sunday lunch.
Later, I frequented church for other reasons. I loved music, and loved to sing. Church hymns beckoned me. They propped me when I thought I’d fall. Later, something about the Man who prayed for people who murdered Him most heinously on a cross ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34) appealed to me. Something told me that Christianity and the Church would lead me toward a wholesome life — a life useful and helpful to others, than to me.
In other words, Christianity appealed to me as a ‘way of life,’ with the Bible showing me the way to a simple and a sensible life. But, as I stepped into adulthood, I lost much of my respect for Christianity and the Church. I witnessed and still continue to witness Christianity as a faith and the Church it represents fall by the wayside most appallingly. They lost their way so badly that, Christ Himself wouldn’t think twice to denounce them.
Sadly, the Church, which the Christians believe to be the body of Christ, has recently found itself in a quagmire of choicest scum — splintering into various denominations, avaricious love for the moolah and love of the flesh evidenced by a vortex of allegations of sexual escapades and promiscuity of Babylonian proportions involving its very custodians – the priests and nuns, and even the bishops!
Sodom and Gomorrah pale into insignificance before the carnal sins allegedly indulged in by priests and nuns of these times. The very people supposed to have consecrated their lives entirely to the service of Christ and His Church continue to nail Him to the cross by indulging in sins and misdeeds of the most disgusting kind, which He had denounced in no uncertain terms.
Christianity and the Church are built and rest on the teachings of Christ, which formed a new testament between the Father God and His people. The old, passed on through Moses and which God wanted His chosen people-Israel to observe in letter and spirit, had failed.
Extreme ritualism and orthodoxy with which about 613 Mosaic laws laid down in the Torah (the Holy book of the Jews) were observed killed their spirit. These were replaced by new teachings which emphasized mercy, love and forgiveness which formed the bedrock of Christ’s teachings. The eye-for-an-eye tenet of the Old Testament gave way to one exhorting ‘turn the other cheek’ of the new.
Christianity was ideally meant to represent a central principle of faithfulness to God as simply as can be, without being too ritualistic and blindly procedural. Christ stood against the orthodoxy of Jewish ‘religious’ hierarchy, exposing their bluff. In doing so, he paid the price ultimately –most heinously.
Christianity and the New Testament made relationship to God less cumbersome, more meaningful and basic to common folk. Christianity, after going through tumultuous formative years initially boiled down to the church, which could be considered in a physical form of a building and also a gathering of likeminded followers of Christ, called the congregation.
However, the Church has unfortunately and painfully splintered into various denominations.
Among these numerous factional ‘heads’, Christ is conspicuous by His absence! Nobody bothers about Him these days. In fact, He and His teachings have become a ‘nuisance’, a stumbling block, and ‘inconvenience’ to selfish agenda and priorities of today’s ‘Church’. The splintering of the Church into various denominations prove that their followers care two hoots for Christ, who is supposed to be the Church’s corner stone, and a unifying influence.
He is banished to some remote corner of concrete architectural behemoths that modern churches have embellished themselves to these days, and crucifying Him to the cross that hangs in every altar each time the Church indulges in inter-denomination skirmishes. Each time various denominations take to the streets or go to the courts of law, Christ is betrayed, disowned and deserted like Judas, Peter and other disciples did in the hours of His bitter and lonely agony.
The Church unfortunately is passing through trying times. Its sanctity is being sullied by sexual promiscuity among its custodians- the priests and nuns, through incidents of inappropriate sexual behavior, drowning the Church in shameful disrepute and loss of credibility.
With allegations of adultery, fornication and pedophilia against the priests and nuns mounting by the day, suggestions to permit them to marry are increasingly been aired these days. But marriage as the panacea for rising sexual promiscuity among priests does not hold water. The Malankara Orthodox Church. where five priests allegedly blackmailed and raped a married woman, allows priests to marry.
This proves that gross inability of the priests and nuns to resist carnal desire and the love of the flesh is the culprit. Christ’s bidding ‘if your eye is your undoing, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell (Mark:9;47) that addresses adultery and fornication from a basic plane has thus been relegated to the deep freezer.
Sexual promiscuity among priests, nuns and even bishops is only the tip of a massive iceberg that has wrecked the Church, robbing it of its sanctity, divinity and even credibility.
Numerous are the dark factors that constitute the iceberg that has ripped the Church apart.
Today’s Churches, irrespective of denominations, are after minting money in a big way. Donations and ‘monthly subscriptions’ are arm-twisted out of the congregation. Mega money spinners like observance of feasts to honor saints and spiritual persons of old and ‘Harvest festivals’ turn churchyards into markets. Millions are made through earsplitting auctions and sales.
Commercialization reigns supreme even in the Holy Land, which has been reduced into a crassly commercialized business enterprise by interested persons. If there is one recorded instant of Christ losing his composure and have anger get the better of Him, it is when He drove out traders and money changers from the precincts of the Temple in Jerusalem. ‘Scripture says, my house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a robbers’ cave’ (Mathew 20:13), he admonished as He overturned the tables to drive away the traders.
Persisting with these ‘feasts’ has only achieved two things (1) Church has been reduced to a market place, and (2) in the process of making huge money. This has led to Christ, the corner stone of the Church, being conveniently forgotten. What matters is money not Christ and what He represents.
By tearing the church apart into various denominations, principally over money and not for Christ and His ways only moves the Church away from being Christ-centric.
If there is one group who requires to be converted, it is Christians themselves. They need to convert themselves into better Christians, who have been told by Christ, ‘First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s’(Mathew 7:5).
It all leads to one pertinent question. Are the so-called ‘Churches’ really necessary to worship God? Historically these concrete structures have only served to push away Christ from being their corner stone to a ‘nuisance’ standing against their worldly ways.
One could pray from anywhere, free of ceremonies, procedures and rituals, and far removed from the corruption that modern Churches represent. And this does not make me ashamed or angry.