Bishops and the lay leadership of the Church are "bending backwards" to please BJP and Sangh Parivar

By Prasad Chacko*
Last week the leadership (lay as well as clergy) of the Kerala Churches, and their political agents across parties, were seen crawling to be in the good books of the government at the Centre during the visit of Amit Shah. According to Church circles they met the National President of the BJP because he had expressed his wish to meet them. After the meeting they said that there was no political agenda to the meeting, and that they did not discuss any political issues.
The shameless overtures of almost all bishops since this government came to power are there for all to see. Except perhaps for the Church of South India and some fledgling churches or evangelical groups most of them would not desist from actively soliciting the Sangh and the BJP leadership. A group of Bishops from Kerala met Narendra Modi after the 2014 elections. It was despicable enough; but he was the PM, so any argument would be met with the common refrains like “He is the PM of the country”, and “He has not been convicted of any offence”.
You saw the vulgar scene of the Marthoma Syrian Church inviting Advani to the celebration of both the 90th Birthday and centenary celebration of its widely respected Metropolitan Philipose Mar Chrysostum. This despite the fact that the whole nation knows about the damage Advani has done to the polity of our nation by ushering in hate politics through the Ram Temple mobilization towards the destruction of the Babri Masjid resulting in hundreds of lives being lost in the violence that ensued. 
Most of these churches are controlled by the dominant Brahminical communities (yes, Brahminical, because they shamelessly believe that St. Thomas converted Brahmins in the first century A.D. and claim to be their descendants); and have nothing to do with the Nazarene (Jesus) who was born in a manger and walked the earth with the despised and ‘unclean’ and fishers and 'prostitutes' and lepers. 
It is visible in the way in which the Church as an institution operates; in the way the Church communicates to those in power; in the way in which the Church speaks to power. The Bishops act as representatives of those dominant communities and vested interest groups and institutions that comprise the Church; and also those who mediate the faith, the dogma and orthodoxy that makes it possible for them to control the minds of millions of the 'faithful'. 
The Syrian Christian community’s claims to Brahmin lineage and the fact that much of their rituals and practices are close to those of their caste Hindu counterparts makes it easier for the Sangh to co-opt them. A former Sar Sanchalak of the Sangh is known to have appreciated the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church for being a fully indigenous Church with no allegiance to any foreign Churches. 
With the Sangh-BJP now in power in the Centre and marching ahead to capture the entire country, the Church considers it safer to be on the right side of the ruling dispensation. In every way this reeks of a pathetic compromise with the guiding values and principles that the Church leadership is expected to adhere to.
If one goes by the principles of Christianity the Christians are expected to stand up against all oppression and injustice to humanity. On that count the Bishops should grieve and wail for the blood of those massacred and raped in the attacks, genocides and destruction that our political outfits wreaked, be it 1984, 1992, 2000 (Nellie), 2002, Kandhamal, Kashmir or Muzzaffarnagar; the encounter killings that this diabolic politician called Amit Shah allegedly anchored and got away with after the BJP came to power; the scores of people who were killed and maimed in the name of beef; Dalits who have been humiliated and killed; the list is unending. 
If they followed Jesus, these Bishops and the Church leadership would have been expected to grieve for the lives lost, dignity trampled upon, the blood spilt – of not just Christians, but all human beings. It would have been more Christian to openly express that grief, pray for justice, making it know to Modi, Amit Shah and the Sangh where they stand on all these issues and exhort him, Modi, the Sangh and the BJP to abandon the diabolic politics of hatred that they are spearheading in this nation. 
The Bishops and the Church leadership should have publicly appealed to him to stop destroying this wonderful nation…They just needed to do that; but they need to do that in public. 
The Bishops are expected to live in poverty, counter hatred with love, following a great spiritual tradition that Jesus Christ had brought into this world. The Bishops do not need to speak like managers of institutions; or managers of votes; they do not have to speak in a language of hatred or anger; they need to just speak the plain truth in a voice of humility and love to these proponents of hate politics. 
But instead of that we have always seen the Bishops and the lay leadership of the Church bending backwards to please those in power, or to influence governments to benefit and protect the dominant groups in the community and institutions of the Church. You would see them going to any extent for complete freedom to run their educational institutions in the way they want without any governmental controls over the self-financed courses and the fees levied. Or in justifying the encroachments by dominant groups within the Church in the ecologicaly sensitive Munnar of the High Ranges (Sahyadri).
The crux of the Sangh-BJP political strategy would be to forge an anti-Muslim alliance between the caste Hindus and Syrian Christians. The potential opposition from Dalits and Adivasis have already been cracked by wooing the elements from these communities which have been sidelined over the years by both the alliances – UDF and LDF. Now it depends on how the LDF plays its cards. 
The Congress is likely to be neutralized by its Syrian Christian core as well as by the ambivalence its cadre is likely to display when the Sangh unleashes its subtle islamophobic agenda in the context of national security and terrorism. This is a sad and horrendous scenario. The last fortress of secularism and democracy in the country would fall, and these regressive Christian Churches and their leadership would be instrumental in this tragedy.
But the Catholic Church Bishops (and also the other Bishops) would do well to listen to the current Pope Francis and many such voices of the oppressed that ring out from various parts of the world. To be a ‘Poor Church’ and ‘Church of the Poor’…. This would definitely bring in a radical transformation within the Churches; it would have played a prophetic role in society. But that is not to be; it is sold out to the powerful and the dominant; it exists to preserve its riches and its institutions...
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*Senior Ahmedabad-based activist

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