I am Dr. George Jacob, and I am ashamed and angry. Ashamed and angry not at being a surgeon, but to be a so-called ‘Christian’. Ashamed to belong to a faith called ‘Christianity’. Why? I feel cheated by a faith I was reared on and subsequently came to believe in, and also because Christianity these days represents all that it is not supposed to as a faith. A faith which 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 my maternal grandparents, under whose tutelage I was groomed, had me attend Church on Sundays, rain or shine! There was no question of getting past them on that ‘Sunday routine’. Sunday school used to be held in the ‘not-so-comfortable’ ambience of a government-run Primary School on extremely hot Sunday afternoons. I had to attend Sunday school too after church. Come what may. On a full stomach, after tucking into my grandmother’s extremely tasty special Sunday lunch.
But 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. To put it simply, Christianity appealed to me as a ‘way of life’, with the bible showing me that way. A way to a simple and a sensible life that is. But, as I stepped into adulthood, I lost much of my respect for Christianity and the Church. They paled before me as a ‘way of life’ they once seemed to be. Moving on, 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 the faith.
Sadly, the Church, which the Christians believe to be the body of Christ, have recently found itself in a quagmire of choicest scum viz; 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 in this part of the world. 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.
Apart from being a physical building within which Christians congregate to worship the triune God on Sundays, and other occasions like Christmas and Easter, and where auspicious occasions like baptisms and weddings are conducted, the church also represents a group of people who congregate to worship a superior power, referred by mankind to as ‘God’. This God, the same embodiment of goodness and omnipotence is called by different names by different faiths. Christians believe in the triune God- the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To cut matters short, 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 He wanted His chosen people-Israel to observe in letter and spirit had failed. People wallowing in those laws rigidly resulted in the ‘laws’ lose their spirit. Religious hypocrisy and rigid observance of extremely demanding ‘laws’ only resulted in the ‘chosen people’ being estranged from Jehovah God. Christians believe God sent His own Son, Christ to redeem a people entangled in a web of religious rituals and laws, which only succeeded in taking them away from the spirit of a true one-to-one relationship with Jehovah God. Thus, through Christ, Christianity was born, to which Christ Himself had referred to as being ‘good to bear and the load light’ (Mathew11:30).
Extreme ritualism and orthodoxy with which about 613 Mosaic laws laid down in the Torah (the Holy book of the Jews) was 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. This did not go well with the so-called doctors of Law and chief Priests of Christ’s times, who functioned religiously and blindly along the tenets laid down in the Old Testament, and flourished therein like fattened cows. 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.
The congregation and the proceedings within the Church are shepherded by priests and nuns, assisted by a group of individuals and ‘subunits’ viz; the altar boys, the choir, the Church committee, and various bodies such as women’s, youth and elders’ fellowship. Every Church for administrative purposes comes under the jurisdiction of a diocese, and ultimately to the ‘heads’ of various denominations that the Church has unfortunately and painfully splintered into. Catholics have the Pope, headquartered in Rome; the Church of South India has the Archbishop of Canterbury, headquartered in London, the Malankara church, violently split down its middle into the Orthodox and Jacobite factions have their supremos calling the shots from Devalokam in Kottayam in Kerala and Bab Tuma in Damascus in distant Syria respectively. The Marthomites are shepherded by the centenarian Philipose Mar Chrisostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan functioning from thiruvalla in Kerala.
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 bears testimony to the fact that Christ, who is supposed to be the Church’s corner stone, and a unifying influence is cared two hoots for. 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 and approach the courts of law, Christ is betrayed, disowned and deserted like Judas, Peter and other disciples respectively did years ago 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 bordering on adultery and fornication, drowning the Church in shameful disrepute and loss of credibility. Recently, the Malankara Orthodox Church in Kerala suspended five ‘priests’ over allegations of sexually abusing and blackmailing a married woman. Her husband claimed that a confession made by his wife to one of the priests was used to blackmail her! ‘The victim was sexually abused by blackmailing her with her confessional secrets’, according to a news agency. The victim’s husband added that during his daughter’s baptism, his wife confessed her plight to another priest, who in turn exploited her. The second priest allegedly passed on the information to three fellow priests, who in turn exploited her. The man demanded that all the three ‘priests’ be defrocked. Three of the priests belonged to the Niranam Diocese in Thiruvalla, and two others from Pandalam, also in Kerala, and Delhi. The incident is now being probed by law. Three ‘priests’, at the time of writing have managed to obtain anticipatory bail. This is not the first instance of sexual promiscuity among ‘priests’. In early February of 2018, a 16-year old girl delivered a child after being sexually abused multiple times by a ‘priest’ of a Church in Kottiyoor, also in Kerala. The minor girl’s family attempted to hush up the incident, especially the paternity of the girl’s child. The girl’s father attempted to own up responsibility. However, some smart investigation by the police basketed the real culprit!
Most recently, the Kerala police have filed a case against the ‘Bishop’ of the missionaries of Jesus, which falls under the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, this time in Punjab(for a change), on charges of raping a nun and having unnatural sex with her. He is on the verge of being arrested. The crime allegedly was committed near Kuravilangad police limits in Kottayam district, also in Kerala between 2014 and 2016. The police have already confirmed from the visitors register, the bishop’s presence in the convent on the days the nun has alleged to have been abused by him! Other nuns in the same convent have admitted to be aware of the ‘goings-on’ between the victim and the ‘bishop’. In the meantime, an audio conversation between a priest and a nun has emerged where the former offers the latter 10 acres of land and a convent if the nuns withdrew the pliant against the Jalandhar Bishop! This scourge is not a copyright of India alone. An Australian court had found the ‘Archbishop’ of Adelaide guilty of concealing child sex abuse by a fellow priest in 1970s.
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 to which the priests alleged to have sexually abused the married woman belong allows priests to marry. This proves that gross inability of the priests and nuns to resist carnal desire and 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 wreaked the Church, robbing it of its sanctity, divinity and even credibility. Numerous are the dark factors indeed that constitute the iceberg that has ripped the Church apart:
- The relevance of confession among Christians is already being debated, especially after the sexual abuse by priests belonging to the Malankara Orthodox Church surfaced. Confession constitutes one among seven sacraments of the Catholic Church. It does not figure in the two sacraments followed by protestant Churches. The faithful confesses his/her sins committed to the priest privately, who then intercedes for the sinner. The sacrament of confession today looks absolutely risky and a ‘forbidden fruit’ on two grounds (1) the priests to whom sins are confessed simply cannot be trusted, human as they are. There are suggestions that women confess to nuns. But, can the latter be trusted? These are times when mothers force their own daughters into flesh trade for money! (2) There is absolutely no biblical justification for confession. Is there really a need for an intercessor between the sinful man and God? No! The role of Holy Spirit as the intercessor has been clearly elucidated in the Bible: ‘in the same way, the Holy Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. We do not know how we ought to pray. But through our inarticulate groans the Spirit Himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because He pleads for God’s people in God’s own way(Romans 8:26). The practice of confession, which is redundant, must be done away with before more confession boxes are converted into brothels by priests, who are but men with frailties and weaknesses.
- 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 on numerous counts. Mega money spinners like observance of feasts to honor saints and spiritual persons of old and ‘Harvest festivals’ make markets out of churchyards. Lakhs and crores 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, the corner stone of the Church, Christ has been conveniently forgotten, and priority of the Church corrupted. Money is preferred over Christ and what He represented. Churches which make money through these feasts and have landed property and huge assets are vied for ‘ownership’ by other denominations. The typical example for this is the Malankara church in Kerala that has been divided into two warring factions- the Jacobites, and the Orthodox, which has witnessed years of deep-rooted enmity, legal tussles and bad blood bordering on street fights and distasteful tiffs. The Malankara Church has scores of Churches closed down, unable to conduct worship. In some, worship is conducted with the police keeping watch instead of angels!
- Money in churches’ fattened bank accounts is undoubtedly the chief cause for the Church to splinter into denominations and micro denominations of various sizes and shapes. Influence of money pumped in from affluent nations in financing these ‘micro churches’ for mutual economic benefit cannot be overlooked. 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.
- Priests and nuns are often pushed into life of renunciation. Cassocks are thrust down on the unwilling forcefully by families who pledge one among them to the ‘calling’. This is harmful, and must go. Priesthood and nunhood ought to be voluntarily taken on.
- There cannot be fire without two stones. Women among the congregation must rein in their advances, and modify their permissiveness towards priests who are human too. Discretion must be adhered to.
- The most abysmal practice of conversion is probably the last and the most important straw on the camel’s back in Indian contest. A pluralistic nation like India cannot have one faith terming other faiths paganic and ‘contorted way to the Supreme’. If there is one group who requires to be converted, it is Christians themselves. They need to convert themselves into better Christians! ‘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) is what Christ Himself proclaimed.
Are 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, reminding me of a song by one of my favorite singers, Jim Reeves:
‘My cathedral has a ceiling of blue
My cathedral neath the sky
Where I may lift up my eyes unto the hills
And hear music from a stream rippling by.
My cathedral has an altar of flowers
Their fragrant incense fills the air
In my cathedral I am closer to him
Than I could be anywhere.
For here I pray
In a place so grand
The carpet I kneel on
Was made by his own hand.
My cathedral has candles lighted by the stars
And mighty pillars of trees
No other cathedral is so beautiful
For God made my cathedral for me…’