In western developed countries the very idea of Christianity standing up for secularism would be laughed off as part of some stand-up comedy act. But in India this is in fact the macabre reality. Here the Church claims to be standing up for secular ideas against the threat of Hinduism. This should really come as no surprise when one considers the institution’s ideological history as the Church has always been opportunist in looking for ways in order to maximise its consumer base, known as ‘converts’. This explains the opposition of right-wing extremist demagogues such as Pat Robertson to universal free health care in America.
There is no budging them on this issue just as there was no room for rational debate with Robertson’s own hardcore racial segregationist father on civil rights for African-Americans.When Hindus stand up against church activity they are often branded as extremists just like the Vikings were described as demonic forces not because of their raid for enslavement and plunder. The Dark Ages was a time of exploitation and chaos. Equality was not even a radical theory back then. The animus of contemporary chroniclers against the Norsemen was not that they were violent, but that they were violent against the Church itself.
What does secularism mean in India? What it should mean is that religion has no place in the public square, or at least its influence is minimal. Under communism religion was replaced and even banned by the cult of the ruling party. Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism and Maoism in varying degrees and manifestations provided the religious surrogacy to fill the spiritual vacuum. Britain has an established church but declining membership and attendance of that church. While the smaller evangelical churches are vibrant and growing, much of this is because they are often founded by African immigrants who devote large parts of their income as ‘offerings’.
The Chinese community also is disproportionately represented and this is not such a surprise when one considers that much of Chinese culture based on the interplay between Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, was crushed out of existence by Mao. So effective was his Cultural Revolution that its legacy is not just found in a yawning gap between the seething masses who struggle to survive and the elite who represent the modern, fashionable and capitalist China which the ruling communists like to portray to the world.
The Chinese Communist Party has itself found that Christianity is a useful mechanism to help the elite business culture and keep the masses apolitical. Hence, even if we take it by percentage rather than actual numbers, China has more practising Christians than Britain. That has always been the case with America. The USA never had an established church and yet has always been more devout, godly and fervent in its Christian belief.
This cannot be extracted from the deep laissez-faire ethos. God serves capitalism, and like any good business the churches compete for business. The success is explained by another overlooked fact. America is the only advanced country not to have an effective system of public health care. If you cannot afford the exorbitant health insurance premiums, lose your job, are poor, homeless, or find your ailment excluded by well drafted legally binding contracts, you had better help that some cosmic force called god helps you because nobody else will.
Fundamentalist churches show social relevance by provided free health care and food banks in areas which would otherwise be supported by the state. While this may look like social consciousness it is in fact a double-edged sword, an underhand campaign to keep the disempowered destitute masses in their place while their well-funded media outlets such as CBN and links to extreme tax-cutting policies that support a parasitic ‘overclass’ do absolutely nothing to address the underlying issues of poverty.
In fact they exacerbate it. This explains the crucial difference between ‘Christian’ America and ‘secular’ Europe. If we look at France we see secularism taken to an extreme form. All forms of religion are purged from the public sphere in the form of ‘laicism’. Now laicism is said to be the result of the long struggle between republican secular ideals of the 1789 Revolution and the one established powerful Catholic Church which was strongly linked to the monarchy. But there is something deeper.
As the state took responsibility for social welfare, notably health care and poverty alleviation through government support, the need for religion itself diminished. It was just no longer relevant. This explains the massive decline of church attendance in France and why laicism has itself become a secular god which demands such fervent devotion.
In India secularism was launched as a means of differentiating the newly independent state from Pakistan, which in 1947 as in fact created on the basis of religion. Secularism was also a means of trying to be inclusive of minorities. Now if we look at how India and Pakistan have developed since 1947 the merits of this course are no doubt there. Pakistan has become a theocratic hotbed of terrorism, violence and intolerance. Democracy has constantly been unstable and military have taken an active role in toppling governments. Minorities live under constant threat of annihilation.
Coming to India the state has been much more successful. Yet why is it that the threat to secularism is said to come from what is variously called Hindu fascism, Hindu nationalism, Hindutva or the Hindu ‘Right’? Yet at the same time the stalwarts of secularism defend not just Maoist terrorists (the ‘freedom-fighters’ so beloved of Arundatti Roy) but also mujahedin in Kashmir and Mumbai, and aggressive Christian missionary tactics which spills over into actual violence and forcible conversion in India’s north-eastern states?
In 1998 the All India Christian Council was formed. From its own website it states its aims as:
“The All India Christian Council (aicc) is a coalition leading the fight for religious freedom for all and the emancipation of Dalits. We exist to protect and serve the interests of the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. Together with leading Dalit-Bahujan groups and other faith communities, we stand for secularism in India.”
Well if they stand to protect the ‘Christian’ community how are exactly does this square with defending ‘secularism’, especially as they work with other ‘faith’ communities? This gets more murly and shadowy when we examine their aims here:
The commitment to the unique person of the Lord Jesus Christ and His compassion to a needy humanity. The commitment to secular, pluralistic and democratic India.”
Well just how exactly are these two mutually exclusive commitments in harmony? Is it not an ideological absurdity to be committed to both a SECULAR India and also the ‘unique person of the Lord Jesus Christ’? How exactly is that remotely secular? A comment like that is so laughable as to be insulting to human intelligence. Let us return again to the French example. By any stretch of the imagination can any party across the French political spectrum even accept such a warped view of secularism? One can only imagine that replacing the words ‘Jesus Christ’ with Rama, Krishna or Shiva would land the organisation in very hot water indeed. It would be decried as part of the Hindu ‘right-wing’. In this denunciation the AICC would be in the vanguard even while it retains its very own fundamentalist leanings to an aggressive male deity who brooks no rivals.
The AICC claims to work with many organisations in the field of human rights. In fact its sister organisations can be found here:
A closer look at these will reveal some more disturbing facts. Christian Solidarity Worldwide is a right-wing fundamentalist outfit which preaches hatred of Hinduism openly from the platform . In fact in 2006 CSW invited the AICC’s head Dr. Joseph D’Souza for this very purpose. Release International has been less powerful and vocal but is cut from the same intolerant cloth, that parades a smily welcoming face in a benign expression which carefully hides the intolerant and authoritarian nature of these shadowy outfits. This coalesces into apparent support for Dalits. That is why Dalit Freedom Network is mentioned in the lost. In America DFN is very open about its links to right-wing extremist Christian organisations.
Once again caste is used as the mechanism to attack Hinduism and plead for money to help the needy which are enslaved to ‘high-caste’ Hindu landlords and employers through bonded labour and serfdom, and more importantly spiritually enslaved to their false heathen gods for which they will burn in hellfire for eternity. Actually tackling the issues of caste discrimination through efforts at poverty alleviation and development are an anathema because that would mean that Dalits are no longer reliant on the right-wing Christian groups like the AICC which claim to help them.
Like America there is no effective social welfare net. Hence the rush to be included in Scheduled and Backward Caste quota in order to be part of that ever present state machine which guarantees a job for life.
The alternative is an unending cycle of poverty from which drugs, alcohol addiction, prostitution, crime and politics (the last two being far from mutually exclusive) are the only escape. Here the right-wing Christian extremist find easy pickings. They show social relevance while gaining new converts for their faith and it must not be forgotten, their political cause which is the ultimate aim.
If the AICC was so keen about Christianity and Christian rights why is it silent on the very real genocide of its fellow Christians which is happening right now in the Middle east in the wake of the failed revolutions of the Arab Spring? It is not human rights which motivates it but the unquenchable desire to wipe out what it deems as disgusting and offensive pagan beliefs. For secularism to succeed Hinduism must be wiped out and the Church must be triumphant, as D’Souza so eloquently put it (actually he was much more crude in his language) from the platform of CSW in 2006.
It does not take an expert on political science and sociology to assess that this is the diametric opposite of what qualifies as secularism. But then secularism in India means the antithesis of what it means in France. In India religion can be very public, just as long as it does not express Hinduism in any way. Once again the indigenous ancient beliefs are being expunged from their social relevance and at best seen as exhibits in the museum. I say once again because this is exactly what happened in Europe during late antiquity and the Middle Ages. Christianity violently uprooted the native beliefs of a whole continent.
This explains why Viking raids were so violent and targeted explicitly religious places such as the monastery at Lindisfarne off the coast of Scotland. It was not just plunder for gold and slaves. It was an epic battle between religious pluralism and the jealous male god of Christianity. The Vikings get such a bad press not because they were violent.
Violence was normal for the time. Charlemagne converted the heathen tribes such as the Saxons at the point of the sword. His military campaigns reached right up to the territory of the Danes. Indeed the Viking Age began as a result of these actions by Charlemagne In AD772, he chopped down Irminsûl, the holy column or tree of the Saxons. He had liquidated 5.000 Saxon noblemen, in cowardly ambushes.
At this juncture the northern brethren of the Saxons finally ceased all hostilities against each other in order to combat the threat of a Christianity intent on violent holy war and conversion. Amazingly until that year the kings of Norway were actually allied to Charlemagne in a war against the Danes. But they broke this pact when he cut down Irminsûl and assassinated the Saxon lords, and instead they too went to war against the Christian Franks.
The alternative was to wait for cultural, spiritual and to an extent even physical genocide by the holy warriors of Charlemagne. However Viking history has been based largely upon the written accounts left by monks and Christian clergy. Yet the supposedly secular and democratic west, takes this propaganda as objective historical fact, just as well-funded and networked Christian missionary nexus now poisons the media against Hindus. When it comes to the idol worshiping pagans, nothing has changed. Even as the Church heads towards oblivion it is determined to take the last vestiges of paganism with it.
What happened in Europe was replayed at a much greater level in the Americas, Africa and Oceania. Yet in India this god met with resistance and was unsuccessful. So deep was the spiritual sophistication of Hinduism that it survived while its sister pagan beliefs were trampled underfoot to survive as quaint folk beliefs. Only with modern archaeology did the cultures once crushed by this male demiurge rediscover their ancient past.
The decline of the Church in western developed nations has made its ‘historic mission’ that much more urgent. If people believe in nothing then they will believe in anything. This allows the church to subsume its underlying intolerance by providing an anchor and focus in a sea of dystopian turmoil as families and communities break down into a nightmare world dubbed ‘Shameless’ after popular British comedy television series describing the descent into a cycle of despair. That is why Christian groups administer food banks and aspects of social welfare in Britain where the state has cut its funding and responsibility in these areas But what alarms them is the rise of the alternative.
With Islam they see a rival yet a brother faith, one that has also crushed the false pagan gods. Even with godless Marxism they have made their peace, taking aspects of it into Liberation Theology and finding that they can be useful partners as the Chinese Communist Party finds any desperate excuse it can find in order to retain power in the official state-sanctioned headlong rush into capitalism. However in Estonia the population at large has not just rejected Christianity but is rediscovering tis vibrant pagan past. This is a logistical and ideological nightmare for the church.
Estonia demonstrates that far from just apathy, people are rejecting the once powerful and omnipotent church precisely because their spiritual hunger cannot be satisfied. This is not evidence of apathy, it is a clear demonstration of the individual’s quest to enlightenment.
Hinduism however survived and provides that much feared alternative which the church sees Estonians taking in their first tentative steps. Unlike in Estonia, the Hindu tradition has survived intact. Ironically it is being wiped out in the name of the very ‘secularism’ which the Church has always tried to crush. India is not a pluralistic and democratic country because of secularism or the constitution of the modern republic. It is democratic and diverse precisely because Hinduism has survived. It is in fact democratic and forward looking despite the efforts of ‘secular’ groups such as the AICC.
Powered by Facebook Comments