Monday, July 30, 2007

How Many Roads to God ?

In a country where the talk of Christians attempting to proselyte and then convert never dies out and each day , it seems one more state enacts a Freedom of Religion Act(Uttarakhand is the latest!) Mark Tully arguably one of India’s most loved journalists and a confessed Indophile has spoken openly about his spiritual and inner journey. In the semi auto biographical book, India’s unending Journey, he talks of studying to be a priest in the Anglican Church where he was taught that the only way to understand God and know Him was through Jesus Christ and his position today as a pluralist. In fact at the book release , he mentions that the reason he wrote this book is that when he was young, he was taught that Christianity was the only way to God. But living in India has taught him that there are other ways to God as well and that it has changed him radically.

To me this piece of news says at least two things. Firstly Christianity is not all or only about conversion. Compare Mark Tully’s “luck as he calls it in his interview to Sekar Gupta and the “fate” of Salan Rushdie. Sir Mark walks out of the Anglican Church and in fact the Christian fold altogether and the Queen, the Head of the Church of England awards him a knighthood. The officially secular government of India(the UK is not officially secular) offers him a Padma Bhushan. Mark Tully’s luck is enviable , compared to the situation of Salman Rushdie loathed in several countries for writing a few stray verses in a book that few of the angry men in beards would have read. Imagine his fate if Rushdie had found and written about the virtues of pluralism as plainly as Mark Tully and remarked candidly in a chat that perhaps Islam was one of many faiths that had germinated in the other wise barren middle eastern soil.

The other thing this piece of news this tells me is that it is possible today for a Christian , and some one studying to be a priest no less, to declare that it is his conviction that there are other ways to God and walk out and still get accolades and honor. This is increasingly becoming difficult for say Hindus. With the Freedom of religion Acts in force, in an increasing number of states , it is no longer possible to write a book , announce a Press Conference and say that he or she is not a Hindu without going through a host of formalities and affidavits. But it would seem that for all its zeal and emphasis on conversion as bandied about in general , it would seem as if the church in general dos not care too much as to who comes and goes and who goes and why they have lost the beliefs they were born with. 4

So a question for the church. Does it really believe any more that Jesus and Christianity are the only way to God and Tully is mistaken that God can be found in many ways and places ….in the cathedrals and basilicas as well as the ghats of Benares ? if so, should not the church look around and field a person of the stature of Mark Tully, not to confront him, but to engage him in a dialogue and discourse to find out how Mark’s view evolved the way they did ? Or is as Hindutva votaries claim that is that the money and energy of the church is all directed to the vulnerable segments of our society as their souls are more easily harvested, their serene baptismal faces more photogenic than ever ? Is it as they say, the church has lost the intellectual moorings to talk to opinion makers and thinkers like Mark Tully? But some times, I fear the worst. That no one in the church is clear as such as to what they believe. If so, the Christian faith should just take a bold step and rid itself of the bogey of conversion by reinventing itself --- as an Art of Living Club. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar teaches Sudarshan Kriya. The church can teach cross Kriya. No more. No less.


cethirien said...

Verily there is only one lasting judgement provided by Jesus in the Gospels -- that of the Judgment of Nations in Matthew 25:31-45. It speaks nothing about believing only in Jesus, but addresses all the nations who must treat their weakest members like the Lord himself.

The social gospel thus is the most important innovation of Jesus. In a world full of injustice and cruelty, it is for everyone not just Christians.

Raja said...

Comments and criticism against the disciples of Jesus is nothing new. With the increased media coverage more people are becoming aware of it. Conversions from Christianity to any other religion will be hailed as a march toward enlightenment and liberation. But if any found Christ and his teaching appealing, surely they were drawn by ulterior motives! When 101 laws exist to check any fraud another bill "freedom of religion act" (what an irony) is introduced to check conversions. These self appointed custodians of Hinduism will never stop finding more ways of intimidating christians.