Sunday, August 19, 2007

Mark Tully's Pilgrimage

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 Indophiles has spoken openly about his spiritual and inner journey. In the semi autobiographical 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 mentioned 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 Shekhar Gupta and the “fate” of Salman 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 otherwise barren middle eastern soil.

The other thing this piece of news tells me is that it is possible today for a Christian, and someone 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 honour. 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 does not care too much as to who comes and who goes and why they have lost the belief that they were born with.

So a question for the church. Does it really believe anymore 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 views evolved the way they did? Or is as Hindutva votaries claim 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 sometimes, 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.

1 comment:

If-I-Were-Queen said...

That Tully guy makes me puke. He has been as good as a bigamist with a wife in London and a girlfriend in India. GROSS man. How dare he talk to the rest of us about spirituality? He is so unctious and totally hypocritical and I don't know why the BBC continues to employ him. I bet all the good people who listen to him on Sunday nights would be put off if they could witness his way of life.