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I am always surprised about how religious fanatics are extremely concerned about the morality of women. The menfolk’s morality or immorality is not their concern and neither do you find it preached about in our churches’ pulpits.

Every culture has its own customs and traditions to protect and guard the womb. The dress restrictions for young girls and old women in India, is not as much as it is for young and middle-aged women. More than age, I feel the criteria here is fertility and the womb.

Have you noticed that purdhas or traditional dresses like sarees and salwars are imposed only on fertile women rather than infertile (pre and post-menopause) women? Even the imposition of dress codes in colleges can be related to this. College managements in India have traditionally disapproved of dating, love marriages (problems with police or the registrar office), and fashionable clothes; because in India educationists also act as moralists and don’t want the womenfolk in their college to be attracting attention from the menfolk. To ensure this we have the dress codes in a few of the ultra-strict city colleges in Chennai.

Young girls in India can happily play with boys on the streets wearing only their undergarments or nothing more. But the minute they reach puberty, they will be cautioned by their mothers not to “speak to boys.” In India, people also have the disgusting habit of holding a grand function in which all friends & relatives attend, when the girl attains puberty. I don’t see anyone celebrating a boy’s attainment of puberty in India.

In this protectionist environment that Indian girls grow up in, sex education becomes a bad word. One of my classmates, who attained puberty in standard VII, didn’t know anything about her body’s changes and thought she had got blood cancer. The only sex education, she got was from us – her classmates, who were also an ignorant lot. We reassured her that she didn’t have blood cancer, it was just her “chums.”

No one teaches our girls the need for hygiene during one’s periods. I know of many Indian families, who for cost-cutting measures still make girls wear cloth pads for their periods. Cloth sanitary pads are Ugh! Spotting, wet, dirty, clumsy, leaking; in short torturous for a 11 or 14-year-old. When parents can buy beautiful, sequined clothes and gold jewellery for the child’s birthday, why can’t they buy whisper or tampons?

When I was in my standard VIII, in the “sex education” class, we were taught by our teachers, if you get “too close to boys, you get pregnant.” Lucky for me, my mother told me all about the birds and bees. She didn’t want me to know about sex from my ill-informed peers, dirty magazines or from the net. My friends were very surprised that my knowledge of sex came from my mother and they were soon besieging her with all their questions. Some of my Christian friends, even wanted to know if it was okay to touch the Bible during your periods from my mother.

In India, a girl who loses her virginity before marriage is immediately labelled a “slut” and a “prostitute”. But if a boy does so, his parents and relatives will gloss over the event, his friends will dismiss it as “boys will be boys” and he will become a hero among his peers. If its bad for a girl to lose her virginity before marriage, why is not bad for a boy also?

In many countries, girls have become out castes if there is no blood found on the nuptial bed, in proof of her virginity, even if her hymen had been broken due to sports activities or her hymen was absent or elastic. I remember recently, reading an article in the newspaper that girls were going in for hymen reconstruction surgery, as they felt it (virginity) would become a major problem with the boy, their parents had fixed for them.

Also, it’s the woman who gets pregnant in a pre-martial or extramarital affair; No one knows the father, but everyone knows the mother and can ostracize her. So to protect property, money and the family, a woman’s sexual activities have been greatly controlled.

That is why, even though economics state that women also go to work in India, women are supposed to return home at a particular time, not have any men friends, not go for social activities unless accompanied by the husband or some other member of the family and never ever flirt with any man other than the husband (even her fiance).

That is why traditional households prefer a girl, who’ll stay at home. Women are encouraged to be teachers, because the job ensures that they are chaste, the children looked after (timings) and the housework doesn’t suffer.

Earlier, all the Mills & Boon heroines would be virgins, while the men would have had “casual affairs” with other women, but never experienced love + carnal lust in one woman before this.

Now, with liberalisation Mills & Boon heroines are girls, who have had sex with one guy, with whom it was boring & uninteresting (they are never, ever promiscuous). Then comes the hero with whom they have the perfect, passionate love affair (and even here they are passive, never aggressive or making the first move in the bed).

So, ultimately everything in the marriage market comes down to fertility and the woman’s womb doesn’t it?

Rachel Chitra

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Being an atheist from a Christian background, people automatically assume I’m angry with God and dead against the church. For me, I’m indifferent to the whole “God exists or not” debate. While I don’t think Christ was God, I do like him for being a radical in his times. I like him because

a)he didn’t act holier-than-thou & goody-goody like the Pharesees & Sadducees

Remember, the prostitute (or in these politically correct times, I must call them commercial sex workers (CSW))? Jesus didn’t judge her. He didn’t want her stoned to death like the patriarchs of those days & today (name change: In the Middle-East countries & Pakistan they now call it “honour killings”). Of course, whether she was a CSW or an adulteress is debatable, because different versions of the Bible seem to give different accounts. Anyway, when she was brought up before him, Jesus said, “Let he, who is without sin cast the first stone.” A direct reference to men and their own state of sinfulness and also a veiled reference to the fact that all of those present had lusted after her and might have also slept with her. That means, he held the men responsible for adultery also, not just the women, who in most cases are only victims of the system.

b)He wanted women to participate in theological debates & not be mired down by the traditional responsibilities of women like housework.

Jesus says, “Mary has chosen the better part and it shall not be taken away from her.” Mary’s sister Martha is busy cooking dishes in the kitchen for all the men present, while Mary sits with Jesus and talks about spiritual things. When Martha overburdened with the housework wants Mary to help, Jesus gives this reply.

I don’t know if any of my readers have attended Christian religious meetings. But the prayer meetings always used to end with the serving of tea and refreshments. So my grandmother and myself (our house used to be the centre for such church-oriented activities) always had to miss out on what the pastor said and start heating the tea and laying out the refreshments like homemade sandwiches & vada. And the womenfolk also had a lot of cleaning up to do afterwords. If only a few menfolk in my family had pitched in, the women needn’t miss out on the meeting. But then the men had more important things to do like debate about theology. Even in church functions it was the same story.

I feel a lot of blame for this state of affairs, should be laid at Apostle Paul’s feet, who said, “Women should be silent in church, they should not cover their head, etc, etc…”

c) He was a radical. Though by birth a Jew, he made friends with Roman tax collectors, fishermen, Samaritans, prostitutes & lepers

Samaritans in those days were discriminated against and did not occupy the upper elechons of power. In his parable, “The Good Samaritan” Jesus tried to criticise the inhumaneness of the religion some religious heads practise and set a Samaritan’s actions in good light. Roman tax collectors like the tax collectors of today did not win any awards for popularity. But Jesus befriends Romans too. And not being class-conscious, he befriends fisher-folk & lepers.

I remember my English lecturer in MCC, who was a Gandhian, drew a diagram in class to explain Christ’s exemplary behaviour in embracing all communities & people from all religious backgrounds. He asked what was the centre of power in those days. We replied “Ceasar and his Roman empire.” What comes next? “The Roman Senate & powerful noblemen.” Next in the circle? “Roman citizens, tradesmen.” Next? “Jews (the occupied race)” And finally at the bottom of the social structure, you have all of Jesus’s friends: “Fishermen, Samaritans, prostitutes & lepers.”

d) He didn’t like churches minting money in God’s name

How about if someone came to your church, broke all the stalls selling CDs, self-improvement Godly books, drove out all the salesmen manning the stalls and declared that “pastors must not turn God’s house into a money-making enterprise.” Would you not be angry with him? Yet, this is what Jesus did 2,000 years ago, when he saw that the Jews had converted the synagogue into a market. He overturned all the pigeons cages, drove out all the vendors and sellers and declared “Don’t turn my father’s house into a den of thieves.”

e) “Forgive them father for they know not what they do.”

People are nailing him to the cross, after stripping him naked, mocking at him and whipping him mercilessly. And he instead of railing at them angrily, asks for their forgiveness. Truly, a great man! That’s why I guess, people started worshipping him as God. He is the one person, who truly followed his teaching of “Turning the other cheek.”

As Friedrich Nietzsche said and quoted often by Karl Marx, the last Christian died on the cross”

Rachel Chitra

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*Comments have been re-opened but will be moderated

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Have you guys heard of The Pentecostal Mission (TPM)? I’m sure you must have heard some half-baked guys singing loudly, off-tune and with reverberations of “Hallelluiah” and “Praise the Lord” every five minutes late into the night in your neighbourhood. Well these guys are part of the “Halleluiah goshti” or Pentecostals.

The strong, fanatical and only true followers of Christ are the TPM members.

The TPM members feel that they are unlike the lilies of the valley, which neither spin nor toil and let their heavenly father take care of them. Either these guys live in morbid fear of hell or an intense longing for heaven: Otherwise I find it hard to interpret their fanatical devotion to misinterpreting the Bible.Some of the things that are likely to get the goat of non-believers (in their language this word includes the poor, deluded Christians who are not part of their denomination as well):

*The women do not preach in church or elsewhere. You see Paul said women were to be silent in church, so the decree: No woman pastors needed. For was not Eve, the first sinner who enticed Adam to sin, a woman? Anyway these worthy disciples of Apostle Paul (who did not get married) and Apostle Peter (who found the ministry more interesting than the cares of domestic life) do not let women preach or talk in church. A woman’s duty is to listen to the men in the church, for are not men the heads of the family like Christ is the head of the church? I wonder how they always manage to come up with verses that suit their convenience. When I quote the Bible that “men and women are equal in the eyes of God,” I’m the “devil quoting the scriptures.”

*The brothers and sisters in the church lead a life more austere and Augustine than the Trappisian monks. Yup! No coloured uniforms. Plain white robes and even plainer food is the order of the day for the full-time workers of this church. I wonder how they can forgive God for creating the bright-yellow of the daffodils, the azure of the violets or the dark reds of the geraniums? Or do they feel he was wasting his time by creating dye-producing plants like the Indigo? Even the lay people in the church come every Sunday to church dressed in white. If they associate white with purity is black the colour of the devil and the BMWs, which some of their chief pastors own, the machinations of the devil? >:)

*No medicines. Medicines are taboo, according to them for is not Christ the supreme healer? This is quite a horrific misinterpretation of the Bible. My first clash with ultra-Christianity came at the age of 8, when I was vacationing in Rameswaram. A worker at the Mission hospital told us a story of how their neighbour’s child died of typhoid, because the child Christian parents wanted divine healing. The little girl, had been extremely sick, but the parents refused to take the girl to a doctor. The worker told us how all the neighbours were planning to forcibly take the child to the hospital, when the child died. He told me, the worst blow, the parents had was when the pastor, told them that the child had died because they had doubted that God would heal the child. Later, on I heard more stories of how people had to have their legs amputated, their skins peppered with diseases, because they believed God would someday heal them. Even, when I was a god-fearing Christian, I viewed all this extreme distaste. Now that I’m out of the Christian fold, I can find similarities between this fanaticism and the fanaticism that leads people from other faiths to kill their own children as sacrifices at the altar of another God.*This church doesn’t believe in letting its members see the TV, hear ungodly music on the radio or read anything ungodly. Anything apart from the Bible and their monthly text of piety called The Pentecost is termed ungodly by these people, who are the self-proclaimed true-Christians.

*Another ridiculous thing is that they don’t believe in letting women wear jewels. Apparently men wearing Rolex watches and flaunting their Fords will not in anyway increase their vanity. But women, the avaricious creatures that they are, will go haywire at the sight of gold. I think all this idiocy stems from Paul’s saying that it is better that a woman adorns herself with good works, than with jewellery or braiding their hair. Well Paul said: Its better you do this than that, but The TPM interpretation: Women must not wear jewels. So if you see most Pentecostal woman in India have to forgo gold – a security and investment, as it increases their vanity. In foreign countries I’m sure this Pentecostal teaching is no hardship, but in India, with every other housewife being decked like a jewellery showroom, it must be a pretty hard cross for these women to b(w)ear. After years of staying in the TPM church, my grandma moved away. Now, she sees the pastors’ wives in more liberal Pentecostal churches wearing jewels and badly wants to wear jewels again, but doesn’t do so because she feels it will look ridiculous to resume wearing jewels at her age. Why all this deprivation? Why all the fuss? Wear jewels if you feel like it, since its normal in Indian society for women to wear jewels. Anyway if they are going to misread Paul’s statement like that, they must also wear their hair loose and never use hair clips, hair pins, barrettes, ribbons or braid their hair. For did not Paul say it is better for a woman to adorn herself with good works than wear JEWELS or BRAID her HAIR?

Rachel Chitra

Error Regreted, Clarification: I had earlier made some references to the TPM’s history, it now appears that:

“Chief Pastor Alwin de Alwis was excommunicated by Pastor M. Daniel in France faith home on charges of sexual misbehavior.  Pastor Alwin was subsequently forced out of CPM by Freddy Paul and other senior ministers.  This took place in 1962/63.

Pastor Philip Chandapillai, Associate Chief Pastor, was assaulted by TPM believers at the Kottarakara, Kerala center faith home for changing the name from CPM to TPM.  This took place in 1983/84.”

Author’s note: This post was written more than a year ago. There are some things in the post like “half-baked guys” & “Halleluiah goshti” that I wish I had not written now. Those words sound hasty & immature. I want to apologise if I have hurt the sentiments of TPM members. But I still stand by my doctrinal criticism of the church. I have also posted another article – in which I have recounted the history of the TPM as told to me by a current TPM member.

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