Posts Tagged ‘church’

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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I have managed to go to the zoo, visit the homes of three friends, assemble 11 gift packages, cook eight meals, battle my way through a mob, attend a birthday party and dance to Nigerian music – all within the space of 48 hours and am dead tired.

I had a lovely time at the zoo. I had gone to the zoo with family friends. I & the friends’ kid persuaded the 4 other reluctant adults to go on the lion safari, only to find out it barely lasted 10 minutes and the driver backed out of the safari as soon as we had spotted our first group of lions. It wasn’t a lion safari as much as a lion sighting; we only got a glimpse of the magnificent beasts snoring away to glory.

Kids these days are quite frail; and not made of hardy stuff, we had barely gone half-a-kilometer before the kid wanted to stop as her legs were aching. For me the 5-km walk in the Aringnar Anna Zoological Park was no deterrent, I was more than game to tour the place a second and a third time. Since my mother was working at the zoo for four years after I was born, my earliest memories are of touring the zoo again, again and again. I used to be fascinated with animals, my mother says, and never complained about the 5-km plus walk in the zoo. But the minute, I was out of the zoo, I would be crying loudly and bitterly for my mother to carry me. Since, my mother would be carrying too many things, including her office work and my stuff, she would refuse to carry me. My loud cries that my feet hurt often drew the attention of by-standers, who would advise my mom “to carry the poor child.”

Also since, I worked at the zoo as a volunteer, my friends feel it is hazardous venturing to the zoo in my company, as I can bore the hind leg off a donkey talking about animals.

But this time around, I got to see only a quarter of the animals in the zoo, as a majority of the adults & kid were not up to walking the entire stretch of the zoo and opted for the zoo train.

The other most significant thing was being harassed by religious fanatics throughout the weekend. I went to a friend’s child’s birthday party. I really enjoyed the first-half of the party as there was lots of good Nigerian music & dancing, good food and cool drinks going around and playing with my friend’s adorable and most beautiful kid (The kid talks Tamil fluently and it’s a pleasure to hear her talk. But ironically she doesn’t know a word in the Nigerian language). But then my friend had invited a pastor, who felt strongly that I should be going to church, the minute he heard I wasn’t attending church.

Many of my Hindu friends also get preached at for hours at an end by Christian pastors. I don’t know why Christian pastors make such a nuisance of themselves preaching the gospel to people, who are too polite to tell them they are bored and to get lost. Even when I was a Christian, I found pastors a nuisance, because either they were preaching to you to become a born-again Christian or because they want you to change denominations and attend their church.

Most Christian pastors go on this “conversion” or “re-conversion drive,” because they believe people will go to hell otherwise. So whether you like it or not, pastors keep expounding their doctrine for hours at length. But I hate it. I don’t see why pastors, who don’t care enough to take time to become my friend should care about my soul’s welfare.

My usual modus operandi with such conversion-oriented pastors is to just hang the phone or end the conversation. I have a few pastors, who are my friends despite my atheist beliefs, because they first took the time and effort to befriend me.

Since it was my friend’s birthday party and I didn’t want to make a scene, I had to listen to a monotonous monologue from their fiery pastor for more than three-quarters of an hour before I could make my escape.

Then I went home on the sub-urban train. I finally reached my neighbourhood only to get trapped by another set of religious guys. Due to the atrocities against Christians in Orissa, churches had decided to hold day-long meetings; as a result of which traffic was blocked for hours at an end and everybody got stone-deaf from the loud rantings from the loudspeakers on how evil Hindus are. I had to fight my way through a Christian mob, which had decided to obstruct the Choolaimedu main road to go home. And while I was trying to wedge my way around the crowd, I was getting dirty looks from those “holier-than-thou” Christians.

I have no problem with religious meetings; even less with meetings, being held to address social injustices. So while I felt the need for a meeting protesting the atrocities to Christians in Orissa, I saw no need for church members to block an arterial road in Chennai and make commuters also unwillingly join their protest. I also wonder why, the city police, which restricts all kinds of demonstrations or protests to god-forsaken, less-inhabited places like the Memorial Hall, gives permission for all religious guys to hold their meetings at whatever time, at whatever place and at whomsoever’s inconvenience.

Anyway because the police don’t mind religious guys screwing up traffic lines, I found another large Hindu gathering right outside my house. My street is a cul-de-sac and these guys had completely blocked off the road near the temple so that they could conduct a fire-walking session. I tried to battle my way through this solid mass of humanity. The crowd was rough, unruly and many of the men were drunk. I tried to get to the women’s only section of this crowd, only to get a lot more scoldings from them. Everyone thought I was trying to get ahead of the crowd, so that I could have a better view of the fire-walking and they fiercely resisted my attempts to get ahead. There was a lot of rough pushing and pulling, and I was being manhandled for the first time in my life. I met with better treatment than my neighbour, because I was a girl. My neighbour, who wanted to go home on his motorcycle was almost beaten up. I was shocked and somehow in the crowd frenzy (the loud music was stirring up greater passion) I was pushed right to the forefront of the fire-walking. If I had been pushed a little harder, I might have fallen right in the centre of the glowing coals. As it was I fell down and gingerly made my way home in a state of shock.

And it didn’t stop there. The whole week, these religious guys had been playing loud music the whole day. My neighbours, who are devout Hindus, were also highly annoyed as their sons’ quarterly examination was going on and their aging parents couldn’t go to sleep with the loud music. A young couple was nearly in tears the whole week, as their baby would cry the whole day because of the music and would not go to sleep. The music used to start at 4.30 am and ends only at 1.30 am; Giving three hour respite to those wanting to go to sleep.

Today morning I woke up again at the ungodly hour of 5.00 am to the tunes of “Udhaya Suriyan….Engal Udhaya Suriyan” as the local DMK cadres were celebrating Anna’s birthday. But political songs are a relief in a way, as neighbours can go and ask the organizers to turn down the volume. If it was religious songs, sentiments are high and people would be accused of offending God if they requested people to turn down the volume. Our house is hardly two-minutes from the Choolaimedu police station and the least the police guys could have done was to regulate the traffic. But no, they were too busy watching the show to do that.

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My favourite memories of church were the Community lunches and the potluck dinner.
The community lunches were prepared by the church members on the church grounds. The men made the biriyani (rice) in a huge vessel and the women used to cook the accompanying dishes on makeshift stoves. The men had to do the heavy work like stirring the huge amount of rice, keeping the fires burning, the women cooked the chicken….And the older matrons of the church used to order everybody about…
Me and the other kids would play nearby and then try to sample some of the delicacies. And everybody had a job – serving the food, laying out the drinking water cups, clearing the huge stack of valzha ela (huge banana leafs used as plates).
Its a pity that there are no more community lunches in my church. People want to attend service and then go home…
And then the potluck dinner on Christmas eve has just disappeared. Now the chuch hires caterers and buys the food. What a waste of money…

The potluck dinners were such nice occasions and an innocent exhibition of culinary skills. People would have the dinner after seeing the Nativity play.
It was a matter of pride for women to cook their best dishes and bring it for the Christmas pot luck. There was also gentle rivalry as to who could cook the best dish. I remember my mother would cook the spices and marinate the chicken the previous night.
There was one funny incident. One of our pastors during his sermon on the Sunday before Christmas had spoken about all the Christmases he had so far seen. As a kid for him, Christmas was about lamb chops and biriyani, which were his favourite dishes, he said….and went onto talk about how only later he had realised the true meaning of Christmas
That year for potluck dinner, we had about 30 different varities of lamb chops and biriyani….all the women had apparently felt it would be a nice gesture on their part to treat the pastor to his favourite meal….How all of us laughed.
I wish people kept up traditions…they are such nice things.

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