Why Christianity poses a threat to India – Rakesh Krishnan Simha

Nasrani or Syrian Christians of Kerala

Rakesh Krishnan Simha“Under the cloak of democracy, Christian missionaries can sneak in and conduct their unholy work among the poor and helpless. Christian churches have cropped up like a rash across the east coast after the tsunami hit southern India. Nagaland, which was entirely animist, despite two centuries of British rule, became 100 per cent Christian under 50 years of democratic—or rather Nehru-Gandhi dynasty—rule.” — Rakesh Krishnan Simha

India Crossed-OutChristianity poses a clear threat to India

If you could sum up the history of Christianity in India in one word, that word would be ingratitude. Among the earliest refugees to arrive in India were the Syrian Christians, who were facing persecution in their native lands in the Persian Empire in the fourth century CE.

Persecution would be the wrong word to use here because the Syrian Christians of the Persian Empire were found to be collaborating with Christianised Rome. Aghast at the betrayal by his Christian subjects—in the midst of Persia’s war with the Romans—the Zoroastrian king Shapur II lamented: “We are in a state of war; they are in a state of joy and pleasure. They live in our land but are of like mind with the emperor, our enemy.”

Shahpur II deported some Christians from his Eastern Syrian province and imposed a double tax on those that remained. The Christian subjects were then ordered to revert to their native Zoroastrian religion.

Down on their luck, the Syrian Christians sought refuge in India. Kerala’s Malabar coast attracted them because they had heard of an ancient community of Jews who had been living there since the first century CE, having also fled the turmoil of the Middle East.

How were these Syrian Christians—or Nasranis as they are still called by the locals—treated? “The Indian king received them with great kindness,” George David Malech writes in History of the Syrian Nation and the Old Evangelical-Apostolic Church of the East.

“At the Kotem school in Malabar there are still some copper tablets in existence on which there are written messages from the king to the Christian leader, permitting him and his followers to settle in some places and recommending them to neighbouring chiefs.”

In fact, around the time (1498 CE) when the Portuguese marauders led by Vasco Da Gama arrived in Malabar, the Syrian Christian community was thriving, with at least 30,000 members. Now, here’s how they repaid India’s generosity. When Da Gama returned for the second time in 1502, he was met by a delegation of Syrian Christians: “They identified themselves, surrendered their ancient honours and documents, and invited him to make war on their Hindu king,” writes Ishwar Sharan in The Myth of Saint Thomas and the Mylapore Shiva Temple.

According to George Menachery, a Catholic apologist and former adviser to the Kerala State Department of Archaeology, the Syrian Christians presented Da Gama “a ‘Rod of Justice’ and swore allegiance to the Portuguese king and implored Portuguese protection.”

K. M. Panikkar elaborates in Malabar and the Portuguese: “More than this they suggested to [Vasco da Gama] that with their help he should conquer the Hindu kingdoms and invited him to build a fortress for this purpose in Cranganore [Kodungallur]. This was the recompense which the Hindu rajas received for treating with liberality and kindness the Christians in their midst.

Author and researcher Sanjay Subrahmanyam, no friend of Hindus, writes in the extensively annotated The Career and Legend of Vasco Da GamaThe perspective of the Syrian Christians on early Portuguese activities in Kerala is an interesting one; they clearly support their co-religionists, rather than the local rulers….

In a letter of late 1524, the Syrian Christian bishop Mar Jacob writes after recounting all his actions in favour of the Portuguese Crown: “This, Sire, is the service that I have done in these parts, with the intention of moving you to the help me in the expansion of these people [Syrian Christians] through this India in the faith of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer.”

Subrahmanyam continues: “In the same context, he hence offered the aid of the Syrian Christians as an auxiliary military force, to aid the Portuguese, claiming that they represent ‘over 25,000 warriors.‘” The bishop requests Vasco Da Gama to intercede—that is use military force—on behalf of the Syrian Christian community. Mar Jacob also proposed the construction of a Portuguese fortress at Cranganore, a proposal that was put into effect a decade later, in 1536, paving the way for the Portuguese colonisation.

However, once they had cynically used the help of the traitorous community, the fanatic Portuguese persecuted the Syrian Christians with a vengeance, and forced them—on pain of death—to abandon their ancient Orthodox church and swear allegiance to Roman Catholicism.

Vasco da Gama & Zamorin of Calicut

Flash forward to the 20th century

The history of Kerala Christians—who today comprise around 20 per cent of the State’s population—hasn’t exactly been exemplary in modern times. In the early 1970s when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was publicly denouncing the threat of CIA subversion of India, the US ambassador in New Delhi, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ordered an investigation into the matter.

The US embassy uncovered two occasions during Indira’s father Jawaharlal Nehru’s premiership when the CIA had secretly provided funds to help the communists’ opponents in state elections. The first occasion was in the 1950s, in Kerala, where cash was supplied to the Syrian Christian Church to destabilise the democratically elected Communist Party of India. According to Moynihan, “Both times the money was given to the Congress Party which had asked for it. Once it was given to Mrs Gandhi herself, who was then a party official.”

Just like the Syrian Christians backed their western co-religionists over the local Hindu and Muslim communities, with whom they had co-existed—and from whose help they had thrived, prospered, and gentrified—modern Indian Christians look up to the West, especially the United States. In their view, America, being the most Christian nation, should help them in keeping India—and thereby Hindus—in line.

Role of Christians in India’s Partition

In a paper titled The Role of Christians in the Freedom Movement of Pakistan published in the Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences, Munir-ul-Anjum and Shahnaz Tariq write: “The support of Christians for the cause of Pakistan was based on their belief that the Muslim society in its nature was more secular than the caste ridden Hindu society hence more permissive for the rights and safe guards of the religious minorities.”

“Christians strongly supported Quaid-e-Azam and Muslim League at that critical time when there was lot of opposition to the formation a new Muslim state. The All India Christian Association assured unconditional full cooperation to the founder of Pakistan. This crucial role of Christian population of the region was recognised by the founder of Pakistan and the All India Muslim League at all levels. These Christians played a very strong role in the creation of Pakistan…. The Christian vote before the Boundary Commission was the only decisive vote for the true foundation of Pakistan. Christian leaders voted for Pakistan because they believed that Quaid-e-Azam would be the real protector of their rights and interests.”

“When the proceedings of the Boundary Commission took place, Christian leaders Dewan Bahadur S. P. Singha, C. E. Gibbon and Fazal Elahi, in their recorded statement, demanded that for the demarcation of the boundaries, the Christian population be included and termed as Muslim population.”

“In the last days of united India Jinnah visited Lahore as a part of his campaign to fetch the support of the minority community for Pakistan. He met the Christian leader Chandu Lal and Sikh leader Giani Kartar Singh. The Sikh leader turned down his offer while Chandu Lal declared unconditional support of the Christians for Pakistan. When the resolution to join Pakistan or India was moved and voted upon in the Punjab Legislative Assembly, the three Christian members voted in favour of Pakistan and saved the situation. Eighty-eight and 91 votes were cast in favour of India and Pakistan respectively. In this way the three Christian votes decided the fate of the province.” 

However, not content with the creation of Pakistan, the Christians “denounced and condemned the unfair distribution of Punjab province more forcefully even than the Muslims and tried their best to get the districts of Pathankot and Gurdaspur included in western Punjab”.

Bishop of Tuticorin Roman Catholic Diocese Rt. Rev. Yvon Ambroise

Are Christians a fifth column?

Christian fundamentalists thrive on suffering and disaster. In February 2001, T. John, the Karnataka civil aviation minister and a member of the Orthodox church, described the Gujarat earthquake, which resulted in death of over 20,000 people, as “the punishment of God to the people for ill-treating Christians and minorities in the state.”

John also saw a divine connection between attacks on Christians in Orissa and the cyclone that hit the region in December 1999, killing 10,000 people. This is nothing but vicarious pleasure at the expense of non-Christian Indians.

He wasn’t the only one expressing such sentiments. The tsunami in India—in which 10,136 people were killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless—was indeed a windfall for many American Churches which poured in billions of dollars to convert large numbers of poor fisher folk in the Kudankulam area.

Ten years later, these converts were unleashed against the crucial Kudankulam atomic power plant. In 2014, the Intelligence Bureau (IB)—India’s premier internal security agency—submitted a report to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, identifying several foreign-funded NGOs that are “negatively impacting economic development”.

The IB report neatly ties in with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s claims that NGOs funded by the Americans were leading the protests against the Russian-built nuclear reactors in Kudankulam. That the maddeningly taciturn Singh would speak out—despite owing his prime ministership to his party boss, the pro-Christian and Catholic Sonia Gandhi—is an indication of the danger posed to India’s national security by forces being remote-controlled by the West.

The NGOs that were at the centre of the mass protests were associated with Bishop Yvon Ambroise, the Tuticorin Church leader, who had been active in the vicious campaign against the power plant.

In fact, there is evidence that the earliest Christian converts from Hinduism betrayed Indian interests. It also illustrates how Christians are easily coerced by their western masters.

Animalising—the process by which cotton is dyed—was a secret that remained a mystery to Europeans. Stephen Yafa explains in his book Cotton: The Biography of a Revolutionary Fiber how this trade secret was stolen: “Ironically it was a man of the cloth, Jesuit Father Coeurdoux, who betrayed these fiercely guarded secrets. In 1742 the French cleric took advantage of his missionary posting on the Coromandel coast to gain the trust of Indian master dyers who he had converted to Catholicism.

These Indian Christians confided their secret process to him with an understanding that he would never reveal it. And what the father do? “Coerdoux immediately gave a detailed description in a step-by-step letter published in France. In a blink, 3000 years of clandestine artisan practice became public knowledge.”

The point is not the betrayal by newly converted Indian Christians. To be sure, they had—albeit naively—asked the European priest to keep the secret to himself. The point is that this is exactly how Indian Christians can be used by their western masters. For instance, pressure can be applied on the family of a seemingly loyal Indian Christian who is, say, a rocket scientist at the Indian Space Research Organisation.

Pressure can come in a variety of ways but the most likely approach a western intelligence agency would take is to first approach the Christian scientist’s parish priest via the local bishop, who may be approached through someone in the Vatican.

Parish pressure is no joke. Hindus, who do not formally congregate under a priest, cannot understand how closely integrated the Church is with the families of local Christians in a particular area or parish. When this writer was studying in St Thomas College, Thrissur, Kerala, he was witness to priests, some of who were lecturers, demanding to know why a particular student had skipped Sunday mass.

The family can be threatened with pariah status. For instance, many Kerala Christians who joined the Communist Party of India were denied burial services by the Church upon their deaths. This can be traumatic for the surviving members because the rest of the community members tend to treat them as outcastes. (Imagine the state of children who are not able to bury their dead father.)

Under such circumstances, transferring national secrets into a pen drive and handing them to an agent of a western intelligence agency might seem like a small inconvenience. To be sure, individual Christians in high-level positions may not be predisposed to betrayal. But because the entire Christian ecosystem is geared towards complete control of its flock, it’s unlikely many of them can stand the immense pressure brought to bear on them and their families. As Subrahmanyam writes, the Portuguese looked at Syrian Christians as a means to get “political and economic mileage”. Similarly, today’s Indian Christians are a means for the West to penetrate the higher echelons of power in New Delhi.

Onesimus & Paul

Why Christianity has no place in India

Some argue the caste system in Hinduism is unfair to the lower castes and hence Christianity can lift them by treating them as equals. That’s probably the lamest argument in favour of the Abrahamic faith. For, if Christianity has not made, say, Europeans or Americans, better human beings, what makes them think it will make Indians any better?

First up, racism is at all-time high levels in the West. American Christian Churches quoted the Bible to give approval to the slave trade. Today, black Christians are again being lynched by white Christians in America. What can they teach India about equality?

Also, despite the horrendous bloodshed of two world wars, these Christian nations are still at each other’s throats and still bombing innocent civilians around the world. And if events in Ukraine are any indication, European Christians haven’t learnt anything at all and are creating a situation that could lead to World War III.

At any rate, caste schisms among Indian Christians mirror the caste divisions in Hinduism. “Conversion to Christianity does not seem to eradicate caste prejudice in India any more than it eliminates racial discrimination in the US. Despite Jesus’ call for brotherly love, isn’t Sunday the most segregated day in America?” writes C. Alex Alexander, a naturalised US citizen and former Chief of Staff, US Department of Veterans Affairs in a detailed expose of the Christian threat to India.

Caste segregated Christian graveyard in Tamil Nadu

There are others some who argue that converted Hindus will remain Indians, and therefore where’s the problem with conversion? Well, there is a major problem and Swami Vivekananda set it in the founding document of the Ramakrishna Mission in 1897. If India embraces a foreign religion, he wrote, “Indian civilisation will be destroyed. For whomever goes out of the Hindu religion is not only lost to us but also we have in him one more enemy.”

Because the West has usurped the soul of Christianity, Christianisation—like Islamisation—equals denationalisation. Western missionaries who were rampaging through China in the 1940s were fond of the line, “One more Christian, one less Chinese.”

Religious conversion is therefore a flick of a switch that transforms an Indian—or for that matter any follower of a native religion—into an extension of western culture and influence.

In his book The Armies Of God: A Study In Militant Christianity, Iain Buchanan, a British-born, Malaysia-based academic, has explained how Christianity imported from the West can cause havoc in developing countries. In an interview with DNA newspaper, he says“There is no doubt at all that US strategy makes deliberate (and somewhat cynical) use of Christian agencies in pursuit of foreign policy – and that the distinction between the religious and the secular is deliberately blurred in the process…. Most of the major evangelical corporations (like World Vision, Campus Crusade, Youth with a Mission, and Samaritan’s Purse) operate in partnership with the US government in its pursuit of foreign policy—World Vision, which is effectively an arm of the State Department, is perhaps the most notable example of this.”

What does this mean, in practice, for a targeted country?

“Above all, it means that it is often very difficult to distinguish the agencies of evangelization. Active Christian proselytization is often just a small part of the process; in addition, there must be infiltration of every sector of influence in a society, from religious groups to government departments to local charities to private business, in ways which blur the line between Christian indoctrination and secular change.”

Alex Alexander agrees: “Self-professedly Christian pressure groups have both a highly influential membership and a powerful grip on policy. The network of evangelical influence goes far beyond this: there are scores of such groups at work in Congress, the military, and departments of state. All act to connect politics, business, the media, and the military with one another in pursuit of a common vision of a Christian American dominion over the world.”

It is well-known that Indian Christians in cahoots with fundamentalist American politicians, Church groups and Indian Marxists played a leading role in getting Prime Minister Narendra Modi banned from entering the US for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat religious riots.

However, Christians have been working against Indian interests even prior to that. In September 2000 when Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in the US on an official visit, Christian fundamentalist John Dayal appeared before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) in Washington DC.

According to Alexander, the virulently anti-Hindu “Dayal should have thought of the possibility that the timing of that invitation extended to him by USCIRF was not an accident. It is quite likely it was part of the US State Department’s plan to place the visiting Prime Minister on his defensive and thereby weaken India’s efforts to convey to the American public the destructive consequences of cross-border terrorism aided and abetted by Pakistan.”

Alexander offers an example of the West-Christianity nexus: “A page from the recent history of East Timor may be appropriate for Indians to review in order to understand the negative potential of offshore proselytisation. The indigenous tribes in that island were first converted to Christianity by Dutch and Portuguese missionaries. Then they were helped by the western nations to secede from Indonesia. India may run similar risks if it continues to allow foreign missionaries to have unfettered access to its tribal populations.”

Indeed, the activities of Christian missionaries can cause turmoil as it did on a massive scale in 1857. Historian R. C. Majumdar wrote: “The sensitiveness of the sepoys to their religious beliefs and practices and the dread of conversion to Christianity worked as a nightmare upon their minds…. A vague dread that the government was determined, by hook or by crook, to convert the Indians to Christianity pervaded all ranks of society, and the sepoys, fully shared these apprehensions with the rest…. The aggressive attitude of the Christian missionaries … in matters of proselytisation had been frequent subjects of complaint.

Among such aggressive activities, Majumdar noted the practice of missionaries of “open unchecked denunciation of their cherished social usages and customs in most violent language, and filthy abuses of their gods and goddesses by bands of Christian missionaries.
John Paull II & Hindu Swami (1999)

Myth of passive Christians

Outwardly, Christianity might appear to be a benign religion. Indeed, when compared with the aggressive face of Islam, it definitely appears to the tamer Abrahamic sister. In “Why Christianity Failed in India,” Tony Joseph writes in Outlook magazine that after 2000 years of trying to convert India, Christians form just around 2 per cent of the population. However, he misses the point entirely.

Christianity did not grow much during the centuries preceding the period of European colonialism because the early Christians were refugees and not keen on converting native Indians. Again, during the colonial period, when hordes of missionary Europeans waded into India, the pace of conversion failed to pick up because Indians knew who the enemy was—Christian Europeans, who came to destroy Indian civilisation just as they destroyed Native American and Australian Aboriginal cultures.

Today, the Europeans are gone but their agenda remains. Where earlier you could spot a Christian or evangelist by the colour of their skin, now they are in our midst. They have names like Mahesh Bhupathi, whose mother once said, “My burden is for India, since in this country we fight with about 33 million other gods.” Had she not uttered those tasteless remarks, nobody would have been the wiser to her and her son’s proselytization activities.

Under the cloak of democracy, Christian missionaries can sneak in and conduct their unholy work among the poor and helpless. Christian churches have cropped up like a rash across the east coast after the tsunami hit southern India. Nagaland, which was entirely animist, despite two centuries of British rule, became 100 per cent Christian under 50 years of democratic—or rather Nehru-Gandhi dynasty—rule.

Christianity has not—yet—failed in India. With powerful backers in the West, it is preparing for another big harvest. While visiting India in 1999, the Pope openly proclaimed his wish to “witness a great harvest of faith” there through the Christianisation of the entire country. Predictably, it led to a backlash from Hindus who felt threatened—and betrayed—by the huge crowds of Indian Christians who turned out to greet the Pope.
Jesus

Breaking India

Christian leaders and organisations in sync with western NGOs and Church backed bodies are playing a divisive game aimed at breaking India. Author Rajiv Malhotra has exposed this with abundant evidence in the book Breaking India, which he co-authored with Aravindan Neelakandan.

According to Malhotra, US and European churches, academics, think-tanks, foundations, government and human rights groups play an aggressive role in fostering separation of the identities of Dravidian and Dalit communities from the rest of India.

Koenraad Elst says, “There is a vicious attempt to delegitimise Hinduism as India’s native religion, and to mobilise the weaker sections of Hindu society against it with ‘blood and soil’ slogans.”

Seeing how the nativist movement in the Americas is partly directed against Christianity because of its historical aggression against native society (in spite of Liberation Theology’s attempts to recuperate the movement), the Indian Church tries to take over this nativist tendency and forge it into a weapon against Hinduism.

Christian involvement in the so-called Dalit (“oppressed”) and Adivasi (“aboriginal”) movements is an attempt to channel the nativist revival and perversely direct it against native society itself. It advertises its services as the guardian of the interests of the “true natives” (meaning the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) against native society, while labelling the upper castes as “Aryan invaders”, on the basis of an outdated theory postulating an immigration in 1500 BC.

Elst adds: “To declare people ‘invaders’ because of a supposed immigration of some of their ancestors 3500 years ago is an unusual feat of political hate rhetoric in itself, but the point is that it follows a pattern of earlier rounds of Christian aggression. It is Cortes all over again: Cortes, the conqueror of Mexico, could defeat the Aztecs, the ruling nation which had immigrated from Utah three centuries earlier, by enlisting the support of nations subdued by the Aztecs, with himself posing as their liberator (of course, they were to regret their ‘liberation’). The attempt to divide the people of a country on an ethnic basis—whether it is a real ethnic distinction as in the case of Cortes’ Mexico, or a wilfully invented one as in the case of India—is an obvious act of hostility, unmistakably an element of warfare.

“Therefore, ‘without any restriction’, Christians are teaching some sections of Hindu society hatred against other sections. You don’t normally try to create hostility between your friends, so the Church’s policy to pit sections of Hindu society against one another should be seen for what it is: an act of aggression, which warrants an active policy of self-defence and counter-attack. This counter-attack should take a proper form, adapted to the genius of Hinduism.”

From allying with the fanatic Portuguese to siding with the murderous Muslim League mobs of the 1940s, Indian Christians have shown an unbelievably stupid and opportunistic streak. Their Abrahamic compass is fixed due west and there’s little hope Christians will suddenly become nationalist. For, identifying with the Indian nation-state would also imply acceptance of Hinduism. That, more than anything, is incompatible with the Christian worldview. Former top cop Julio Ribeiro and Supreme Court judge Kurian Joseph—who both railed against the Indian nation-state—are living symbols of this incompatibility. In this backdrop, Ghar Wapsi-–or reverting of Christians to Hinduism—is not such a bad idea after all. – IndiaFacts, 18 May 2015

» Rakesh Krishnan Simha is a New Zealand-based journalist and foreign affairs analyst, with a special interest in defence and military history. He is a columnist with the Rossiyskaya Gazeta group, Moscow, and Modern Diplomacy, a Europe-based foreign affairs portal.

World Vision India

How does the Jesus proto-image for pseudo-theology impact Hinduism? – Shiva Das

Brahmin“From a Hindu and Vedic view, Christianity would be viewed as adharmic teachings or asuric dharmas.  Due to the lack of any compelling evidence of the existence of Jesus, aside from a requirement of blind faith that this is true, one must wonder if there was really a Jesus and if so to what extend did he really involve himself in teaching.  In reality, modern Christianity is more akin to the teachings of Paul than Jesus; ironically, Paul did not personally know Jesus or receive the teachings directly from him.   For Christianity to expand through conversion of Hindus, it has also embraced and was an originator of the proto-image.” – Shiva Das

Jesus the YogiWith the globalization of an obscure sect that existed within Judaism, the Christian Bible has become one of the most studied and research texts in modern history.  Yet, despite numerous generations of scholars pouring over the compendium of Biblical writings, there remains numerous questions about the life of Jesus.  Most notable his life from age 12-33, but there are numerous other apparent conflicts including a remarkable similarity with elements of “Wars of the Jews”[1] as well as a marriage between a person, image or concept of Jesus with various qualities procured the world’s older religions.  As an example, it is commonly known amongst scholars that Jesus was not born on December 25; in reality this was a common day amongst ancient civilizations for celebrating the culmination of the Winter Solstice celebration.  This celebration had a primary focus on the deity of one’s choice. A careful examination of religious teachings reveals that little is really known about Jesus or his teachings, and scholars do acknowledge that Christianity borrowed some concepts from other ancient religions, as an example Easter which was a pagan holiday and is the reason rabbits are still a part of the celebration.  Additionally, ancient Christianity “borrowed qualities or attributes” from the Vedic deity Mitra which was the concept of the “Divine Friend” that permeates Christianity to this day, but in the modern age this acquisition of attributes has been expanded to include Krishna and even Prajapati.  It is most interesting that this parallel is at times propagated by a small number of Hindu teachers, and the association of the Vedic Prajapati is commonly used as an attempt to portray Christianity as sort of a creator of Hinduism and pre-date Christianity to an earlier era which is simply false. Additionally, another rational may be the purpose of creating a spiritual typology aligning Christian and Hindu theologies, which simply does not exist.  We have seen this appear with absurd suggestions that the Vedas are a Christian text and more recently in Southern India, the equally absurd suggestion that Jesus created the Surya Namaskar.

Christ Pantocrator, Sinai, 6th centuryOne of the most pressing issues facing biblical scholars is actual evidence of the life of Jesus.  One criticism is pertaining to the name of Jesus which ironically cannot be found in any significant writings of the time, which would make sense as Jesus is not a Jewish name, therefore, there would be an absence of the name; as the name for Jesus was Yeshua.  While the actual name for Jesus (Yeshua) is a common name for that age and geographic region, it has proven to be no easy task to find actual documentation of Yeshua from the period Yeshua (Jesus) was believed to live.  Strangely, there is a surprising lack of references within Greek, Roman or Jewish records referencing Jesus.  In fact, there is considerable debate as to any location being identified as Nazareth i.e. Jesus of Nazareth, with the latest theory being that Nazareth must have been a small village of 2-4 families.  In fact, references to Jesus as a physical person appear in only one ancient writing to any degree and that is still somewhat limited: The Wars of the Jews by Josephus.  Scholars throughout history have noted similarities between The Wars of the Jews and the story of Jesus to some degree, a modern debate has emerged centering upon the question if this was an effort by the Romans to control the apoplectic Jewish sicarii,[2]  who were quite violent and rebellious from a Roman perspective.  Other views have suggested that the information about Jesus was added later to create a historical record.  Likewise, there have been attempts by scholars to “fill in the gaps” that have been fiercely debated, these attempts to whitewash and change records are often attributed to bad science with a nefarious religious agenda.  As an example, several scholars historically have attempted to resolve some of these issues by changing only a few key words in texts to secretly resolve issues regarding a historical Jesus.

This has led to my theory of Jesus being a proto-image for the formation of religion with numerous agendas such as promoting a Roman[3] agenda while vilifying the followers of Judaism. Even a casual read of the teachings of Jesus will reveal an occasional pro-Roman position and an almost anti-Judaic view.  This conflict between Christianity and Judaism has been reflected historically in the relationship between the Catholic Church and Judaism.  It appears clear that the Romans developed an interest in the formation of Christianity to meet a political as well as social agenda.  My suspicion is that the Flavian era discovered that the masses can be more easily controlled through religion than through military means, this management of the masses through religion is not only more easy to do but is rather cost effective, as military campaigns require considerable financial resources.  The proto-image has been a powerful image throughout history, but a more correct definition for the modern age would be the Proto-image psychological disposition.

Dancing Jesus in The New Indian BibleThe proto-image is an image that is designed to appear psychologically to the masses.  This has appeared frequently within Christianity, commonly manifesting simplistically in various visual cues such as a white Jesus, a black Jesus, blue-eyed Jesus to various ethnic variables included in the imagery of Jesus.  I have even witnessed an image of Jesus dressed as a Hindu on the cross with Hindu women dressed in sari’s standing around. This establishes the first basic psychological requirement, namely to establish a connection by way of the visual cultural identification. The second psychological requirement is to identify an obligation to the image, for the world the proto-image creates a psychological feeling of debt, as the image that someone died for you can easily create a feeling of a psychological debt and moves one further from the proto-image psychological disposition and more towards dogma, but we will explore that shortly.

While the world is currently witnessing a mass exodus from the Church amongst western peoples, evidenced by churches closing and numerous church properties being sold globally, especially in Europe, there is also prolific loss of churches occurring in the United States, as well.  While the current exodus from the Church is quite obvious, ironically, it is due the proto-image psychological disposition that is most responsible and likely the driving force for the exodus in modern western society.

JesusThe proto-image psychological disposition group is a rejection of the other Christian groups, the formal Church or dogma of the Church.  This group ignores all contrary statements relative to their particular view, emotional need and attachment to the proto-image of Jesus, in essence allowing Jesus to be whatever they wish with disregard for any conflicting message that violates their individual proto-image concept. This group will ignore violent actions of the Church littered throughout history, and psychologically believe that the action of the institution of the Church is somehow separate from the man (Jesus), while ignoring the violent message found in the Bible and associated with Jesus.  Some examples would include:

“Violence is mine…” (Deut. 32.35)

“Think not that I come to send peace on earth; I come not to send peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10.34)

“For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” (Matthew 10.35)

“Eye for eye, tooth for tooth…” (Exodus 21:24)

“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Luke 12:51)

“I have come to bring fire on the earth…” (Luke 12.49)

Paul burning books at EphesusTo compensate for these violent messages, the proto-image psychological disposition devotee must project their own interpretation upon the Biblical teaching based upon their own proto-image view, again often based in little to no study of the language, languages of translation (such as Greek), people, era, translation or other quality used to justify a rational. To state it in blatant terms, they simply make up their own meanings to conflicting passages. These groups typically focus on such statements as love, turn the other cheek and various examples of forgiveness, while ignoring comments attributed such as, and I paraphrase, I am the only way to the father[4].  Some might argue that this is in reality a division between fundamentalist and more secular views, certainly there would be some degree of truth to this, and certainly there is nothing wrong with embracing love or turn the other cheek, it becomes more of a conflict between following dharma and the desires of the ego.  This has ultimately resulted in a hybrid or pseudo Christianity which is commonly reflected in the New Age movement.  Ironically, the New Age movement is largely based on snippets of Hinduism and to some degree Buddhism combined with the Jesus proto-image.

The proto-image psychological group is powerfully influenced by samskaras[5], often the by-product of being raised within a Christian tradition or having joined a tradition and creating numerous latent impressions within the mind.  These impressions are repeated and reinforced to such a degree that often one loses discrimination between impressions and desire for factual realization of the latent impressions. In other words, a false belief must be made believable. It is the samskaras that in essence demand reconciliation within the mind of the student of spirituality, but the latent impressions are so strong within the field of the mind that the only easy reconciliation is a proto-image that is heavily modified to ones comfort zone.

From a Hindu and Vedic view, Christianity would be viewed as adharmic teachings or asuric dharmas.  Due to the lack of any compelling evidence of the existence of Jesus, aside from a requirement of blind faith that this is true, one must wonder if there was really a Jesus and if so to what extend did he really involve himself in teaching.  In reality, modern Christianity is more akin to the teachings of Paul than Jesus; ironically, Paul did not personally know Jesus or receive the teachings directly from him. For Christianity to expand through conversion of Hindus, it has also embraced and was an originator of the proto-image.

Jesus & KrishnaWhat does this mean for Hinduism?

Of all the forces supporting the proto-image in India, it is through teachers within Hinduism that the proto-image is becoming most prolific. An example is a conversation I had with a swami residing in India. He was trained by a well-known and established sampradaya within India. He publicly stated that “the teachings of Jesus were 100% compatible with Hinduism.”  I found this strange, and questioned how he reconciled Jesus’ statement that he was the only way to the father, which is contradictory to most Hindu beliefs. After considerable debate, in private the swami confessed he had never read the Bible and knew little to nothing of the teachings of Jesus. I was shocked by such a confession, and it beckons the question “why would such a statement have been made?” if one had never read the teachings of Jesus. While I cannot speak of what was truly within the heart of the swami, one must wonder if financial motivations and the prospect of western dollars was a temptation to strong to resist. Or possibly there were some other motivations, but clearly making such a statement would clearly be adharmic and appealing to the proto-image psychological group.

The Jesus proto-image is problematic for Hinduism. As questions as to if Jesus really existed are becoming more common and evidence to support his physical presence is lacking in the current archeological and historical records. If the image of Jesus is not real, not correct and the reality is that Jesus is only a psychological proto-image, the ramifications for Hinduism are rather severe. It appears that a large number of teachers have seemed to need to align themselves with Jesus in order to come to the west and teach, some have even proclaimed to reveal “secret teachings of Jesus” or special insight into the teachings of Jesus.  In reality, this is a rather sad commentary for Hinduism, as it seems to imply that the teachings of Hinduism cannot stand upon their own without help from Christianity.  This is certainly not the case, as Hinduism is the last remaining teachings of the great Dharmic traditions!  Likewise, this action does a disservice to western students as it strengthens samskaras within their own minds, further trapping them in the world samsara[6].

M.K. Gandhi in 1929While the proto-image is a method of exodus in the western church, it has the exact opposite effect in India as it is a tool for conversion.  But for the Hindu, the proto-image is an appealing image that makes the process of conversion easier and much more simplified, as the nature of the proto-image is to appeal psychologically to people by design. Likewise, Hinduism has been accommodating to the image of Jesus, but if the image is merely a proto-image and nothing else, it would question the levels of realization of some teachers as they would have demonstrated an inability to not see through the illusionary proto-image. A compelling recognition of this proto-image was actually made by Gandhi, who said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”[7] But something more insidious is hiding in such statements, a potential assumption of Jesus that is more akin to a psychological proto-image. So the Hindu begins the journey into Christianity through the proto-image, then a further conversion takes place, one that moves past the proto-image. After indoctrination into Christianity with the proto-image, the convert is slowly manipulated away from the proto-image and more into the dogmatic teachings of church, masterfully moving the Indian convert away from proto-image psychological disposition and more toward the dogmatic position of the church.

For the Hindu, this has opened a floodgate of missionary activity and has begun a process of implanting Christian samskaras within the Hindu mind. It is the purposeful application of samskaras that is most insidious.  In the west, they have a saying, “once a Catholic, always a Catholic” which recognizes the powerful force that samskaras have within each mind. Once the samskaras are planted within the mind, these samskaras prove difficult to remove; as a number of Hindu’s that studied in Christian schools appear almost as Christian apologists. It requires tremendous iccha shakti (will power) to free oneself from these powerful samskaras, yet, certainly there are Hindu’s that are able to stand against these impressions.  Therefore, this process of implantation of the proto-image begins in the Christian-based schools in India. 

Jesus as Shiva?Conclusion

Hinduism faces a difficult path in the long-term, if it does not recognize the hidden adharmic nature of the proto-image theory and begins to deepen the honouring of its own teachings regarding samskaras. Likewise, Hinduism must tap into its own teachings to explain the appeal of the proto-image, as it is understood that we are in the Kali Yuga, in this yuga the dharmic teachings become largely ignored, and spiritual belief is given to false concepts and ideas.

As westerners that have embraced the proto-image psychological disposition leave the Church, relatively few actually identify themselves as Hindu.  Despite the fact that many are practising some form of Hinduism or at a minimum a hybrid Hinduism.  In reality, they are practising more what is known as “eclectism”, which is disorganized mixture of various religious views and beliefs. The fact is that this group is taking Hindu teachings and concepts or dharmic concepts preserved by Hinduism and are repackaging them as something separate from dharma and not part of Hinduism.  Some have even been so bold to state they are “improving them”, yet one must ask how can one “improve” dharma?  This mentality of “improving” is prolific within yoga, but is spreading to other areas of Hinduism and even to the relationship with the deities.  As I have encountered numerous westerners that profess to worship Ganesh, as an example, yet have no concept or understanding of Hinduism.  It is common to see icons in yoga studios now, but few appear to know what a murthi is.  This will ultimately result in a pseudo-theology that is based upon the whims of the ego and samskaras rather than the realization of the Rishis. But the greater threat to Hinduism is far more reaching, as the greater threat to the religion is re-importation of a westernized Hinduism or pseudo-theology back into India.  In fact, this may ultimately prove to be a greater concern to India than Christianity, but the two combined are a powerful force facing modern Hinduism.

Adhi Guru DakshinamurthyThe solution is quite simple. We need the leaders of Hinduism, the Brahmins, the Swamis, Paramahansas, the Yogis and Babas to come out and embrace the masses with knowledge and tools to understand the illusions of the proto-image. This needs to not just be taught to wealthy Hindu’s, or the growing middle class within India, it needs to be taken to villages and the poor as well.  Just as Krishna instructs Arjuna to perform his duty within the Bhagavad Gita, the dharmic leaders must begin to perform their duty on deeper levels. We have entered a time where each of us is standing in Dharmakshetre, Kurukshetre or in the field of dharma and in the field of the kurus[8].  As it is the duty of all dharmic teachers to preserve and protect dharma. It is important for each and every Hindu man, woman and child to remember—“Dharmo rakshati rakshitah” (One who protects Dharma is protected by Dharma). – The Chakra, 21 June 2015

References

  1. Atwill, Joseph, Caesar’s Messiah
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. King James Bible, John 14.6
  5. Samskaras are a Hindu teaching that each thought leaves an impression within the mind and body.  We are powerfully influenced by the sum total of these thoughts.
  6. Reincarnation.
  7. Good Reads Quotes
  8. Bhagavad Gita 1.1

» The author Shiva Das was trained in the traditional dharmic systems of India. 

Nine reasons why everything you know about Jesus is a myth – Valerie Tarico

Dr Valerie Tarico“The person of Jesus, if indeed there was such a person, is shrouded in the fog of history leaving us only with a set of hunches and traditions that far too often are treated as knowledge. The “facts” I have listed here are largely trivial; it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was tall or short, or how he cut his hair. But it does matter, tremendously, that “facts” people claim to know about how Jesus saw himself, and God and humanity are equally tenuous.” – Dr Valerie Tarico

Jesus with wife Mary Magdalene and KidsJesus has been described as the best known figure in history, and also the least known. If you mentioned the name “Jesus” and someone asked Jesus who, you might blink. Or laugh. Even people who don’t think Jesus was God mostly believe they know a fair bit about him. You might be surprised that some of your most basic assumptions about Jesus are probably wrong. 

We have no record of anything that was written about Jesus by eyewitnesses or other contemporaries during the time he would have lived, or for decades thereafter. Nonetheless, based on archeological digs and artifacts, ancient texts and art, and even forensic science, we know a good deal about the time and culture in which the New Testament is set. This evidence points to some startling conclusions about who Jesus likely was—and wasn’t.

1. Married, not single. When an ancient papyrus scrap was found in 2014 referring to the wife of Jesus, some Catholics and Evangelicals were scandalized. But unlike the Catholic Church, Jews have no tradition of celibacy among religious leaders. Jesus and his disciples would have been practising Jews, and all great rabbis we know of were married. A rabbi being celibate would have been so unusual that some modern writers have argued Jesus must have been gay. But a number of ancient texts, including the canonical New Testament, point to a special relationship between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. The Gospel of Phillip says, “[Jesus] loved her more than all the disciples, and used to kiss her often on her mouth.”

2. Cropped hair, not long. Jewish men at the time of Christ did not wear their hair long. A Roman triumphal arch of the time period depicts Jewish slaves with short hair. In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he addresses male hair length. “Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair, it is degrading to him?” (1 Corinthians 11:14 NRSV). During the 1960s, conservative Christians quoted this verse to express their disgust against the hippy movement and to label it anti-Christian.

3. Hung on a pole, not necessarily a cross. For centuries scholars have known that the Greek New Testament word “stauros,” which is translated into English as cross, can refer to a device of several shapes, commonly a single upright pole, “torture stake” or even tree. The Romans did not have a standard way of crucifying prisoners, and Josephus tells us that during the siege of Jerusalem, soldiers nailed or tied their victims in a variety of positions. Early Christians may have centered on the vertical pole with a crossbeam because it echoed the Egyptian ankh, a symbol of life, or the Sumerian symbol for Tammuz, or because it simply was more artistically and symbolically distinctive than the alternatives. Imagine millions of people wearing a golden pole on a chain around their necks.

4. Short, not tall. The typical Jewish man at the time of the Roman Empire would have been just over five feet tall, which makes this a best guess for the height of Jesus. That he is typically depicted taller derives from the mental challenge people have distinguishing physical stature from other kinds of stature. Great men are called “big men” and “larger than life.” In ancient times they often were assigned divine parentage and miraculous births, and the idea that Jesus was uniquely divine has created a strong pull over time to depict him as taller than is likely. A good illustration of this is the Shroud of Turin, which is just one of many such Jesus-shrouds that circulated during medieval times and which bears the image of a man closer to six feet in height.

5. Born in a house, not a stable. The miraculous birth story of Jesus is a late, maybe second-century addition to the Bible, and it contains many fascinating mythic elements and peculiarities. But the idea that Jesus was born in a stable was added to the Christmas story even later. In the original narrative, Joseph and Mary probably would have stayed with relatives, and the phrase “no room for them in the inn (gr: kataluma)” is better translated “no room for them in the upper room.” Later storytellers did not understand that people of the time might bring animals into their ground floor, as in Swiss housebarns, and they assumed that the presence of a manger implied a stable.

6. Named Joshua, not Jesus. The name Joshua (in Hebrew Y’hoshuʿa meaning “deliverance” or “salvation”), was common among Jews in the Ancient Near East as it is today. Joshua and Jesus are the same name, and are translated differently in our modern Bible to distinguish Jesus from the Joshua of the Old Testament, who leads the Hebrew people to the Promised Land. In actuality, the relationship between the two figures is fascinating and important. Some scholars believe that the New Testament gospels are mostly historicised and updated retellings of the more ancient Joshua story, with episodes interwoven from stories of Elisha and Elijah and Moses. A modern parallel can be found in the way Hollywood writers have reworked Shakespearean tropes and plot elements into dozens of modern movies (though for a very different purpose).

7. Number of apostles (12) from astrology, not history. Whether Jesus had 12 disciples who ranked above his other devotees is an open question, as their names vary from list to list. Since the Gospels echo the story of Joshua, the “12” apostles most immediately mirror the 12 tribes of Israel. But the number 12 was considered auspicious by many ancient people, including the Israelites, and the 189 repetitions of the number 12 in the Bible ultimately may derive from the same pre-historical roots as the 12 signs of the zodiac and 12 months of the year. Astrotheology or star worship preceded the Hebrew religion, and shaped both the Bible and world religions more broadly. One might point to the 12 Olympian gods or 12 sons of Odin, or 12 days of Christmas or 12 “legitimate” successors to the prophet Mohammed.

8. Prophecies recalled, not foretold. Even people who aren’t too sure about the divinity of Jesus sometimes think that the way he fulfilled prophecies was a bit spooky, like the writings of Nostradamus. In reality, Scooby Doo could solve this one in a single episode with three pieces of information: First, Old Testament prophecies were well-known to first-century Jews, and a messianic figure who wanted to fulfill some of these prophecies could simply do so. For example, in the book of Matthew, Jesus seeks a donkey to ride into Jerusalem “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet” (Matthew 21:4). Second, “gospels” are a genre of devotional literature rather than objective histories, which means that the authors had every reason to shape their stories around earlier predictions. Third, scholars now believe that some Bible texts once thought to be prophecies (for example in the Book of Revelation) actually relate to events that were current or past at the time of writing.

9. Some Jesus quotes not from Jesus; others uncertain. Lists of favorite Jesus sayings abound online. Some of the most popular are the Beatitudes (blessed are the meek, etc.) or the story of the woman caught in adultery (let he who is without sin cast the first stone) or the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which, we are told, sums up the Law and the Prophets).

Thomas JeffersonWhich words are actually from Jesus? This question has been debated fiercely by everyone from third-century Catholic Councils to the 20th-century Jesus Seminar. Even Thomas Jefferson weighed in, but much remains unclear. The New Testament Gospels were written long after Jesus would have died, and no technology existed with which to record his teachings in real-time, unless he wrote them down himself, which he didn’t.

We can be confident that at least some of the wise and timeless words and catchy proverbs attributed to Jesus are actually from earlier or later thinkers. For example, the Golden Rule was articulated before the time of Christ by the Rabbi Hillel the Elder, who similarly said it was the “whole Torah.” By contrast, the much-loved story of the woman caught in adultery doesn’t appear in manuscripts until the fourth century. Attributing words (or whole texts) to a famous person was common in the Ancient Near East, because it gave those words extra weight. Small wonder then that so many genuinely valuable insights ended up, in one way or another, paired with the name of Jesus.

JesusThe person of Jesus, if indeed there was such a person, is shrouded in the fog of history leaving us only with a set of hunches and traditions that far too often are treated as knowledge. The “facts” I have listed here are largely trivial; it doesn’t really matter whether Jesus was tall or short, or how he cut his hair. But it does matter, tremendously, that “facts” people claim to know about how Jesus saw himself, and God and humanity are equally tenuous.

The teachings attributed to Jesus mix enduring spiritual and moral insights with irrelevancies and Judaica and bits of Iron Age culture, some of which are truly awful. That leaves each of us, from the privileged vantage of the 21st century, with both a right and a responsibility to consider the evidence and make our own best guesses about what is real and how we should then live. A good starting place might be a little more recognition that we don’t know nearly as much as we’d like to think, and a lot of what we know for sure is probably wrong. – Salon, 14 May 2015

» Dr Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. As a writer she tackles the intersection between religious belief, psychology and politics, with a growing focus on women’s issues, and is actively engaged in dialogue that aims to find common ground between theists and freethinkers, in particular by focusing on humanity’s shared moral core. She is a founder of WisdomCommons.org, an interactive site that allows users to find and discuss information about virtues that emerge repeatedly across secular and religious wisdom traditions.

Workers lift the head of a giant idol of Jesus the King onto its body in Swiebodzin, Poland

See also

The historical roots of our ecological crisis – Lynn White

Lynn Townsend White Jr

Science Journal LogoProf White was a historian of medieval Christianity who conjectured that Christian influence in the Middle Ages was the root cause of the ecological crisis in the 20th century. He gave a lecture on December 26, 1966, called “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” at the Washington meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, that was later published in the journal Science. White’s article was based on the premise that “all forms of life modify their context,” that is, we all create change in our environment. His ideas were considered by some to be a direct attack on Christianity and set off an extended debate about the role of religion in creating and sustaining the West’s destructive attitude towards—and exploitation of—the natural world. — Editor

The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis

A conversation with Aldous Huxley not infrequently put one at the receiving end of an unforgettable monologue. About a year before his lamented death he was discoursing on a favorite topic: Man’s unnatural treatment of nature and its sad results. To illustrate his point he told how, during the previous summer, he had returned to a little valley in England where he had spent many happy months as a child. Once it had been composed of delightful grassy glades; now it was becoming overgrown with unsightly brush because the rabbits that formerly kept such growth under control had largely succumbed to a disease, myxomatosis, that was deliberately introduced by the local farmers to reduce the rabbits’ destruction of crops. Being something of a Philistine, I could be silent no longer, even in the interests of great rhetoric. I interrupted to point out that the rabbit itself had been brought as a domestic animal to England in 1176, presumably to improve the protein diet of the peasantry.

All forms of life modify their contexts. The most spectacular and benign instance is doubtless the coral polyp. By serving its own ends, it has created a vast undersea world favorable to thousands of other kinds of animals and plants. Ever since man became a numerous species he has affected his environment notably. The hypothesis that his fire-drive method of hunting created the world’s great grasslands and helped to exterminate the monster mammals of the Pleistocene from much of the globe is plausible, if not proved. For 6 millennia at least, the banks of the lower Nile have been a human artifact rather than the swampy African jungle which nature, apart from man, would have made it. The Aswan Dam, flooding 5000 square miles, is only the latest stage in a long process. In many regions terracing or irrigation, overgrazing, the cutting of forests by Romans to build ships to fight Carthaginians or by Crusaders to solve the logistics problems of their expeditions, have profoundly changed some ecologies. Observation that the French landscape falls into two basic types, the open fields of the north and the bocage of the south and west, inspired Marc Bloch to undertake his classic study of medieval agricultural methods. Quite unintentionally, changes in human ways often affect nonhuman nature. It has been noted, for example, that the advent of the automobile eliminated huge flocks of sparrows that once fed on the horse manure littering every street.

The history of ecologic change is still so rudimentary that we know little about what really happened, or what the results were. The extinction of the European aurochs as late as 1627 would seem to have been a simple case of overenthusiastic hunting. On more intricate matters it often is impossible to find solid information. For a thousand years or more the Frisians and Hollanders have been pushing back the North Sea, and the process is culminating in our own time in the reclamation of the Zuider Zee. What, if any, species of animals, birds, fish, shore life, or plants have died out in the process? In their epic combat with Neptune have the Netherlanders overlooked ecological values in such a way that the quality of human life in the Netherlands has suffered? I cannot discover that the questions have ever been asked, much less answered.

People, then, have often been a dynamic element in their own environment, but in the present state of historical scholarship we usually do not know exactly when, where, or with what effects man-induced changes came. As we enter the last third of the 20th century, however, concern for the problem of ecologic backlash is mounting feverishly. Natural science, conceived as the effort to understand the nature of things, had flourished in several eras and among several peoples. Similarly there had been an age-old accumulation of technological skills, sometimes growing rapidly, sometimes slowly. But it was not until about four generations ago that Western Europe and North America arranged a marriage between science and technology, a union of the theoretical and the empirical approaches to our natural environment. The emergence in widespread practice of the Baconian creed that scientific knowledge means technological power over nature can scarcely be dated before about 1850, save in the chemical industries, where it is anticipated in the 18th century. Its acceptance as a normal pattern of action may mark the greatest event in human history since the invention of agriculture, and perhaps in nonhuman terrestrial history as well.

Almost at once the new situation forced the crystallization of the novel concept of ecology; indeed, the word ecology first appeared in the English language in 1873. Today, less than a century later, the impact of our race upon the environment has so increased in force that it has changed in essence. When the first cannons were fired, in the early 14th century, they affected ecology by sending workers scrambling to the forests and mountains for more potash, sulphur, iron ore, and charcoal, with some resulting erosion and deforestation. Hydrogen bombs are of a different order: a war fought with them might alter the genetics of all life on this planet. By 1285 London had a smog problem arising from the burning of soft coal, but our present combustion of fossil fuels threatens to change the chemistry of the globe’s atmosphere as a whole, with consequences which we are only beginning to guess. With the population explosion, the carcinoma of planless urbanism, the now geological deposits of sewage and garbage, surely no creature other than man has ever managed to foul its nest in such short order.

There are many calls to action, but specific proposals, however worthy as individual items, seem too partial, palliative, negative: ban the bomb, tear down the billboards, give the Hindus contraceptives and tell them to eat their sacred cows. The simplest solution to any suspect change is, of course, to stop it, or better yet, to revert to a romanticized past: make those ugly gasoline stations look like Anne Hathaway’s cottage or (in the Far West) like ghost-town saloons. The “wilderness area” mentality invariably advocates deep-freezing an ecology, whether San Gimignano or the High Sierra, as it was before the first Kleenex was dropped. But neither atavism nor prettification will cope with the ecologic crisis of our time.

What shall we do? No one yet knows. Unless we think about fundamentals, our specific measures may produce new backlashes more serious than those they are designed to remedy.

As a beginning we should try to clarify our thinking by looking, in some historical depth, at the presuppositions that underlie modern technology and science. Science was traditionally aristocratic, speculative, intellectual in intent; technology was lower-class, empirical, action-oriented. The quite sudden fusion of these two, towards the middle of the 19th century, is surely related to the slightly prior and contemporary democratic revolutions which, by reducing social barriers, tended to assert a functional unity of brain and hand. Our ecologic crisis is the product of an emerging, entirely novel, democratic culture. The issue is whether a democratized world can survive its own implications. Presumably we cannot unless we rethink our axioms.

The Western Traditions of Technology and Science

One thing is so certain that it seems stupid to verbalize it: both modern technology and modern science are distinctively Occidental. Our technology has absorbed elements from all over the world, notably from China; yet everywhere today, whether in Japan or in Nigeria, successful technology is Western. Our science is the heir to all the sciences of the past, especially perhaps to the work of the great Islamic scientists of the Middle Ages, who so often outdid the ancient Greeks in skill and perspicacity: Al-Razi in medicine, for example; or Ibn-al-Haytham in optics; or Omar Khayyam in mathematics. Indeed, not a few works of such geniuses seem to have vanished in the original Arabic and to survive only in medieval Latin translations that helped to lay the foundations for later Western developments. Today, around the globe, all significant science is Western in style and method, whatever the pigmentation or language of the scientists. 

A second pair of facts is less well recognized because they result from quite recent historical scholarship. The leadership of the West, both in technology and in science, is far older than the so-called Scientific Revolution of the 17th century or the so-called Industrial Revolution of the 18th century. These terms are in fact outmoded and obscure the true nature of what they try to describe—significant stages in two long and separate developments. By A.D. 1000 at the latest—and perhaps, feebly, as much as 200 years earlier—the West began to apply water power to industrial processes other than milling grain. This was followed in the late 12th century by the harnessing of wind power. From simple beginnings, but with remarkable consistency of style, the West rapidly expanded its skills in the development of power machinery, labor-saving devices, and automation. Those who doubt should contemplate that most monumental achievement in the history of automation: the weight-driven mechanical clock, which appeared in two forms in the early 14th century. Not in craftsmanship but in basic technological capacity, the Latin West of the later Middle Ages far outstripped its elaborate, sophisticated, and esthetically magnificent sister cultures, Byzantium and Islam. In 1444 a great Greek ecclesiastic, Bessarion, who had gone to Italy, wrote a letter to a prince in Greece. He is amazed by the superiority of Western ships, arms, textiles, glass. But above all he is astonished by the spectacle of waterwheels sawing timbers and pumping the bellows of blast furnaces. Clearly, he had seen nothing of the sort in the Near East.

By the end of the 15th century the technological superiority of Europe was such that its small, mutually hostile nations could spill out over all the rest of the world, conquering, looting, and colonizing. The symbol of this technological superiority is the fact that Portugal, one of the weakest states of the Occident, was able to become, and to remain for a century, mistress of the East Indies. And we must remember that the technology of Vasco da Gama and Albuquerque was built by pure empiricism, drawing remarkably little support or inspiration from science.

In the present-day vernacular understanding, modern science is supposed to have begun in 1543, when both Copernicus and Vesalius published their great works. It is no derogation of their accomplishments, however, to point out that such structures as the Fabrica and the De revolutionibus do not appear overnight. The distinctive Western tradition of science, in fact, began in the late 11th century with a massive movement of translation of Arabic and Greek scientific works into Latin. A few notable books–Theophrastus, for example–escaped the West’s avid new appetite for science, but within less than 200 years effectively the entire corpus of Greek and Muslim science was available in Latin, and was being eagerly read and criticized in the new European universities. Out of criticism arose new observation, speculation, and increasing distrust of ancient authorities. By the late 13th century Europe had seized global scientific leadership from the faltering hands of Islam. It would be as absurd to deny the profound originality of Newton, Galileo, or Copernicus as to deny that of the 14th century scholastic scientists like Buridan or Oresme on whose work they built. Before the 11th century, science scarcely existed in the Latin West, even in Roman times. From the 11th century onward, the scientific sector of Occidental culture has increased in a steady crescendo.

Since both our technological and our scientific movements got their start, acquired their character, and achieved world dominance in the Middle Ages, it would seem that we cannot understand their nature or their present impact upon ecology without examining fundamental medieval assumptions and developments.

Medieval View of Man and Nature

Until recently, agriculture has been the chief occupation even in “advanced” societies; hence, any change in methods of tillage has much importance. Early plows, drawn by two oxen, did not normally turn the sod but merely scratched it. Thus, cross- plowing was needed and fields tended to be squarish. In the fairly light soils and semiarid climates of the Near East and Mediterranean, this worked well. But such a plow was inappropriate to the wet climate and often sticky soils of northern Europe. By the latter part of the 7th century after Christ, however, following obscure beginnings, certain northern peasants were using an entirely new kind of plow, equipped with a vertical knife to cut the line of the furrow, a horizontal share to slice under the sod, and a moldboard to turn it over. The friction of this plow with the soil was so great that it normally required not two but eight oxen. It attacked the land with such violence that cross-plowing was not needed, and fields tended to be shaped in long strips.

In the days of the scratch-plow, fields were distributed generally in units capable of supporting a single family. Subsistence farming was the presupposition. But no peasant owned eight oxen: to use the new and more efficient plow, peasants pooled their oxen to form large plow-teams, originally receiving (it would appear) plowed strips in proportion to their contribution. Thus, distribution of land was based no longer on the needs of a family but, rather, on the capacity of a power machine to till the earth. Man’s relation to the soil was profoundly changed. Formerly man had been part of nature; now he was the exploiter of nature. Nowhere else in the world did farmers develop any analogous agricultural implement. Is it coincidence that modern technology, with its ruthlessness toward nature, has so largely been produced by descendants of these peasants of northern Europe?

This same exploitive attitude appears slightly before A.D. 830 in Western illustrated calendars. In older calendars the months were shown as passive personifications. The new Frankish calendars, which set the style for the Middle Ages, are very different: they show men coercing the world around them–plowing, harvesting, chopping trees, butchering pigs. Man and nature are two things, and man is master. 

These novelties seem to be in harmony with larger intellectual patterns. What people do about their ecology depends on what they think about themselves in relation to things around them. Human ecology is deeply conditioned by beliefs about our nature and destiny—that is, by religion. To Western eyes this is very evident in, say, India or Ceylon. It is equally true of ourselves and of our medieval ancestors.

The victory of Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history of our culture. It has become fashionable today to say that, for better or worse, we live in the “post-Christian age.” Certainly the forms of our thinking and language have largely ceased to be Christian, but to my eye the substance often remains amazingly akin to that of the past. Our daily habits of action, for example, are dominated by an implicit faith in perpetual progress which was unknown either to Greco-Roman antiquity or to the Orient. It is rooted in, and is indefensible apart from, Judeo-Christian theology. The fact that Communists share it merely helps to show what can be demonstrated on many other grounds: that Marxism, like Islam, is a Judeo-Christian heresy. We continue today to live, as we have lived for about 1700 years, very largely in a context of Christian axioms.

What did Christianity tell people about their relations with the environment? While many of the world’s mythologies provide stories of creation, Greco-Roman mythology was singularly incoherent in this respect. Like Aristotle, the intellectuals of the ancient West denied that the visible world had a beginning. Indeed, the idea of a beginning was impossible in the framework of their cyclical notion of time. In sharp contrast, Christianity inherited from Judaism not only a concept of time as nonrepetitive and linear but also a striking story of creation. By gradual stages a loving and all- powerful God had created light and darkness, the heavenly bodies, the earth and all its plants, animals, birds, and fishes. Finally, God had created Adam and, as an afterthought, Eve to keep man from being lonely. Man named all the animals, thus establishing his dominance over them. God planned all of this explicitly for man’s benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any purpose save to serve man’s purposes. And, although man’s body is made of clay, he is not simply part of nature: he is made in God’s image.

Especially in its Western form, Christianity is the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen. As early as the 2nd century both Tertullian and Saint Irenaeus of Lyons were insisting that when God shaped Adam he was foreshadowing the image of the incarnate Christ, the Second Adam. Man shares, in great measure, God’s transcendence of nature. Christianity, in absolute contrast to ancient paganism and Asia’s religions (except, perhaps, Zorastrianism), not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.

At the level of the common people this worked out in an interesting way. In Antiquity every tree, every spring, every stream, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit. These spirits were accessible to men, but were very unlike men; centaurs, fauns, and mermaids show their ambivalence. Before one cut a tree, mined a mountain, or dammed a brook, it was important to placate the spirit in charge of that particular situation, and to keep it placated. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature in a mood of indifference to the feelings of natural objects. 

It is often said that for animism the Church substituted the cult of saints. True; but the cult of saints is functionally quite different from animism. The saint is not in natural objects; he may have special shrines, but his citizenship is in heaven. Moreover, a saint is entirely a man; he can be approached in human terms. In addition to saints, Christianity of course also had angels and demons inherited from Judaism and perhaps, at one remove, from Zorastrianism. But these were all as mobile as the saints themselves. The spirits in natural objects, which formerly had protected nature from man, evaporated. Man’s effective monopoly on spirit in this world was confirmed, and the old inhibitions to the exploitation of nature crumbled.

When one speaks in such sweeping terms, a note of caution is in order. Christianity is a complex faith, and its consequences differ in differing contexts. What I have said may well apply to the medieval West, where in fact technology made spectacular advances. But the Greek East, a highly civilized realm of equal Christian devotion, seems to have produced no marked technological innovation after the late 7th century, when Greek fire was invented. The key to the contrast may perhaps be found in a difference in the tonality of piety and thought which students of comparative theology find between the Greek and the Latin Churches. The Greeks believed that sin was intellectual blindness, and that salvation was found in illumination, orthodoxy—that is, clear thinking. The Latins, on the other hand, felt that sin was moral evil, and that salvation was to be found in right conduct. Eastern theology has been intellectualist. Western theology has been voluntarist. The Greek saint contemplates; the Western saint acts. The implications of Christianity for the conquest of nature would emerge more easily in the Western atmosphere.

The Christian dogma of creation, which is found in the first clause of all the Creeds, has another meaning for our comprehension of today’s ecologic crisis. By revelation, God had given man the Bible, the Book of Scripture. But since God had made nature, nature also must reveal the divine mentality. The religious study of nature for the better understanding of God was known as natural theology. In the early Church, and always in the Greek East, nature was conceived primarily as a symbolic system through which God speaks to men: the ant is a sermon to sluggards; rising flames are the symbol of the soul’s aspiration. The view of nature was essentially artistic rather than scientific. While Byzantium preserved and copied great numbers of ancient Greek scientific texts, science as we conceive it could scarcely flourish in such an ambience.

However, in the Latin West by the early 13th century natural theology was following a very different bent. It was ceasing to be the decoding of the physical symbols of God’s communication with man and was becoming the effort to understand God’s mind by discovering how his creation operates. The rainbow was no longer simply a symbol of hope first sent to Noah after the Deluge: Robert Grosseteste, Friar Roger Bacon, and Theodoric of Freiberg produced startlingly sophisticated work on the optics of the rainbow, but they did it as a venture in religious understanding. From the 13th century onward, up to and including Leitnitz and Newton, every major scientist, in effect, explained his motivations in religious terms. Indeed, if Galileo had not been so expert an amateur theologian he would have got into far less trouble: the professionals resented his intrusion. And Newton seems to have regarded himself more as a theologian than as a scientist. It was not until the late 18th century that the hypothesis of God became unnecessary to many scientists.

It is often hard for the historian to judge, when men explain why they are doing what they want to do, whether they are offering real reasons or merely culturally acceptable reasons. The consistency with which scientists during the long formative centuries of Western science said that the task and the reward of the scientist was “to think God’s thoughts after him” leads one to believe that this was their real motivation. If so, then modern Western science was cast in a matrix of Christian theology. The dynamism of religious devotion shaped by the Judeo-Christian dogma of creation, gave it impetus.

An Alternative Christian View

We would seem to be headed toward conclusions unpalatable to many Christians. Since both science and technology are blessed words in our contemporary vocabulary, some may be happy at the notions, first, that viewed historically, modern science is an extrapolation of natural theology and, second, that modern technology is at least partly to be explained as an Occidental, voluntarist realization of the Christian dogma of man’s transcendence of, and rightful master over, nature. But, as we now recognize, somewhat over a century ago science and technology–hitherto quite separate activities–joined to give mankind powers which, to judge by many of the ecologic effects, are out of control. If so, Christianity bears a huge burden of guilt.

I personally doubt that disastrous ecologic backlash can be avoided simply by applying to our problems more science and more technology. Our science and technology have grown out of Christian attitudes toward man’s relation to nature which are almost universally held not only by Christians and neo-Christians but also by those who fondly regard themselves as post-Christians. Despite Copernicus, all the cosmos rotates around our little globe. Despite Darwin, we are not, in our hearts, part of the natural process. We are superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim. The newly elected Governor of California, like myself a churchman but less troubled than I, spoke for the Christian tradition when he said (as is alleged), “when you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen them all.” To a Christian a tree can be no more than a physical fact. The whole concept of the sacred grove is alien to Christianity and to the ethos of the West. For nearly 2 millennia Christian missionaries have been chopping down sacred groves, which are idolatrous because they assume spirit in nature.

What we do about ecology depends on our ideas of the man-nature relationship. More science and more technology are not going to get us out of the present ecologic crisis until we find a new religion, or rethink our old one. The beatniks, who are the basic revolutionaries of our time, show a sound instinct in their affinity for Zen Buddhism, which conceives of the man-nature relationship as very nearly the mirror image of the Christian view. Zen, however, is as deeply conditioned by Asian history as Christianity is by the experience of the West, and I am dubious of its viability among us. 

Possibly we should ponder the greatest radical in Christian history since Christ: Saint Francis of Assisi. The prime miracle of Saint Francis is the fact that he did not end at the stake, as many of his left-wing followers did. He was so clearly heretical that a General of the Franciscan Order, Saint Bonavlentura, a great and perceptive Christian, tried to suppress the early accounts of Franciscanism. The key to an understanding of Francis is his belief in the virtue of humility—not merely for the individual but for man as a species. Francis tried to depose man from his monarchy over creation and set up a democracy of all God’s creatures. With him the ant is no longer simply a homily for the lazy, flames a sign of the thrust of the soul toward union with God; now they are Brother Ant and Sister Fire, praising the Creator in their own ways as Brother Man does in his.

Later commentators have said that Francis preached to the birds as a rebuke to men who would not listen. The records do not read so: he urged the little birds to praise God, and in spiritual ecstasy they flapped their wings and chirped rejoicing. Legends of saints, especially the Irish saints, had long told of their dealings with animals but always, I believe, to show their human dominance over creatures. With Francis it is different. The land around Gubbio in the Apennines was ravaged by a fierce wolf. Saint Francis, says the legend, talked to the wolf and persuaded him of the error of his ways. The wolf repented, died in the odor of sanctity, and was buried in consecrated ground. 

What Sir Steven Ruciman calls “the Franciscan doctrine of the animal soul” was quickly stamped out. Quite possibly it was in part inspired, consciously or unconsciously, by the belief in reincarnation held by the Cathar heretics who at that time teemed in Italy and  southern France, and who presumably had got it originally from India. It is significant that at just the same moment, about 1200, traces of metempsychosis are found also in western Judaism, in the Provencal Cabbala. But Francis held neither to transmigration of souls nor to pantheism. His view of nature and of man rested on a unique sort of panpsychism of all things animate and inanimate, designed for the glorification of their transcendent Creator, who, in the ultimate gesture of cosmic humility, assumed flesh, lay helpless in a manger, and hung dying on a scaffold.

I am not suggesting that many contemporary Americans who are concerned about our ecologic crisis will be either able or willing to counsel with wolves or exhort birds. However, the present increasing disruption of the global environment is the product of a dynamic technology and science which were originating in the Western medieval world against which Saint Francis was rebelling in so original a way. Their growth cannot be understood historically apart from distinctive attitudes toward nature which are deeply grounded in Christian dogma. The fact that most people do not think of these attitudes as Christian is irrelevant. No new set of basic values has been accepted in our society to displace those of Christianity. Hence we shall continue to have a worsening ecologic  crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence save to serve man.

The greatest spiritual revolutionary in Western history, Saint Francis, proposed what he thought was an alternative Christian view of nature and man’s relation to it; he tried to substitute the idea of the equality of all creatures, including man, for the idea of man’s limitless rule of creation. He failed. Both our present science and our present technology are so tinctured with orthodox Christian arrogance toward nature that no solution for our ecologic crisis can be expected from them alone. Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious, whether we call it that or not. We must rethink and refeel our nature and destiny. The profoundly religious, but heretical, sense of the primitive Franciscans for the spiritual autonomy of all parts of nature may point a direction. I propose Francis as a patron saint for ecologists. —  Science Magazine, 1967

» Download the essay here (pdf)

» Lynn Townsend White, Jr. (April 29, 1907 – March 30, 1987) was a professor of medieval Christian history at Princeton and Stanford universities. He was the son of a Calvinist professor of Christian Ethics and had himself earned a master’s degree at Union Theological Seminary. 

Prof Lynn Townsend White Jr

The Joe D’Cruz Case – R. Ramasubramanian & Aravindan Neelakandan

Joe D'Cruz

“You see … there is a socialist bourgeoisie here. It is a neo-Nehruvian creation. They want to picture and paint the human sufferings in the best possible colors and make a high-flying living out of it. They have to show themselves as fighters … five-star literati for the poor. They hate it when someone from the ordinary people, the real marginalized sections of the society, comes up and tells people to move on … to become prosperous, to claim their rightful and honorable place in the society. If the poor no longer remain poor, how can these high-class people make a living?” – Joe D’Cruz to Aravindan Neelakandan 

NewsR. Ramasubramanian’s report on why acclaimed author Joe D’Cruz is under attack

Joe D’Cruz, a Tamil novelist and a strong supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi—which makes him a minority among the Tamil intelligentsia—has been taken to court for his 2009 Sahitya Adademi award-winning novel Korkai.

The reason? The complainant Alagara Bharathavar, who is the leader of a fishermen’s association, alleges that D’Cruz has portrayed an objectionable picture of promiscuity among the fisherwomen of Tuticorin and the entire seashore area of the region.

But unlike the cases of Perumal Murugan and Puliyur Murugesan, both of whom were threatened and intimidated, leading Murugan to announce his “death” as a writer, there has been little support for D’Cruz from fellow-writers. His political position has isolated him.

The case against D’Cruz

The complainant has also said  that the novel had portrayed Christianity, fishermen, priests, and nuns in such a bad light that anyone who is not extremely familiar with the area will believe the contents of the novel to be true. The private criminal and civil defamation case has been filed by  Bharathavar, general secretary of the Meenavar Viduthalai Iyakkam (Fishermen Liberation Movement) in the court of Judicial Magistrate II, Tuticorin district, in Tamil Nadu.

The magistrate has admitted the petition and issued a summons to Joe D’Cruz to appear before his court on June 12. However, D’Cruz is not shying away from the confrontation. Born into a community of fishermen, he is a writer with strong convictions. Ironically, he expressed this not in the usual context of Tamil literature, but in the form of declaring his support to Modi in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections – a political position that clearly defies the thinking in literary circles in the state.

The backlash for his position

In a Facebook post, D’Cruz had praised Modi openly, saying that he was confident of the BJP leader ringing in fundamental changes and ushering great development into the country. One outcome: Navayana, the Delhi-based publisher, and V. Geetha, the translator of his Tamil novel Aazhi Sool Ulagu (Ocean-Ringed World)—which won a Tamil Nadu state government award in 2005—decided not to publish the translation. However, D’Cruz asserts that a translation of the novel will now be brought out by Oxford University Press.

As for the defamation case, D’Cruz is standing his ground firmly. “The complainant has included Aazhi Sool Ulagu along with Korkai,” he told Scroll.in over the phone.  “He has selectively cited certain paragraphs to suggest that the novels speak against fishermen community. This is completely wrong.”

The writer argues that those steeped in old customs are not able to tolerate the truth being told—having realised that their affluent lifestyles cannot be sustained forever, they have started attacking him in different ways. “I got threats from some groups even while I was going to receive the Sahitya Akademi award in New Delhi,” he said. “There were calls warning me that I would be eliminated on my way to Delhi. Now they have chosen to go to court. I will fight this legally and my legal team will devise a strategy to counter this assault.”

The writer believes that his novels have in fact drawn the attention of the world to the untold sufferings and longings of his community.  “Novels are different from articles,” he said. “A novel is a gazette of the times about we talk and live in.  Those who oppose the novels are seeing themselves reflected in the cruel characters. But even these protests are healthy, because this shall create a positive effect towards the betterment of the community.”

Scant support from writers

However, D’Cruz is disappointed, if not angry, by the response of civil society in general and of writers in particular. The support that the writers’ community in the state extended to Murugan and Murugesan when they faced intimidation and ostracisation appears to be missing. “I am not bothered,” he said. “But look at the double standards. I fought for Perumal Murugan and condemned the threats. But where are those so-called progressive writers today?”

Is D’Cruz’s avowed support for Modi the reason for the lack of protests against the defamation case filed against him? Even if that is the case, the writer is unwilling to change his political stance. An employee of a shipping company in Chennai, D’Cruz visited Gujarat 28 times when Modi was the chief minister. He says that he was impressed by Modi’s work in Gujarat, which is why he extended his support to him. “The results will not be known in just a year’s time,” he argued, weighing Modi’s performance as prime minister. “I am ready to wait.”  – Scroll.in, 8 June 2015

S. Aravindan NeelakandanAravindan Neelakandan’s interview with award-winning writer Joe D’Cruz

• AN : If I am right you have always been threatened with violence and an undeclared but effective excommunication. Right? 

• JD : When Aazhi Soozh Ulaku (my first novel) came, the first letter that came to me was from a venerable old man from a non-descript coastal village. Even as an unofficial excommunication was getting implemented silently, this venerable old man wrote: ‘May your mother be blessed for bringing out this grand literary narrative of our people’. Another letter came from Rameswaram – a coastal fisherman had requested me to come there and see their lives. Such people supported me. They invited me. They shared their problems in broken voices and soiled papers. But (those in) seats of power who were exploiting the innocence of the coastal communities went to great extent against me, from unofficial excommunication to petitioning my company higher officials. But the power of the common people and the trust and love that they gave me sustained me. So the threats never bothered me. (Getting emotional) 

So at that moment I decided to dedicate my life to the cause of our coastal people … I vowed it on my Aatha (mother/goddess). The only time I went to my village was when my father died. It was for his funeral. Till then I refrained from going there because I did not want to be the cause of a rift in the village. But when I came to the village I realized one thing. Even in the village where the vested interests thought they had stranglehold, the people loved me. The love and affection I have is not limited to the boundaries of my village but(extend) to the entire coastline of Mother India. I see all the diverse coastal communities along the entire Indian peninsula as pearls of different colours garlanded at the feet of Mother India. 

• AN : I remember youths from coastal community coming to protect you after they came to know of an attack being planned against you. Can you elaborate? 

• JD : About two years back (when the) Valampuri John award was given to me, the same elements which cry against me wanted to stop the function. At that time I started getting threatening calls. They spread the word that I would be knifed. I again decided not to come for the award function, not because I was afraid. But I know how these vested interest would use the emotions of some innocent youth of the coastal region and the boy may end up with his life shattered. So I decided not to come. But the organisers, when they came to know of this, they made all necessary arrangements that no untoward incident would happen. When a community lovingly protects you and when you are selflessly working for the people, then these threats do not affect you. 

• AN : But unlike left-wing writers you never made fame out of these threats which were far more real than any the so-called progressive writers faced. Why? 

• JD : From Kannian Poonkuntanar (Sangham Tamil poet) to Paulo Coelho, there is a consistent theme. When you follow what your inner voice tells you, when you walk the path of your highest calling, nothing can harm you and the entire universe will be at your service. This is a principle I have experienced in my own life. There are people who have to get fame through real and perceived threats. But I do not need either fame or name. I seek to live for my people. I love them. I write so that they can live happily, honourably, and with prosperity. So I do not have time to go publicity hunting with these threats. Perhaps that may be the reason. Even otherwise I choose not to get fame through the threats to my life. I love even those who make such threats. They too are my people. 

• AN : Your support to Modi brought you abuse and threats, can you elaborate on those days? 

• JD : When my novels came and when I got Sahitya Academy (award) some friends, who happen to be comrades, arranged felicitations and all. I attended them. I considered them as my readers and friends. I demanded no ideological allegiance from them. But when I opened my mind about support to Modi everything changed. They attacked me. A potential publisher who had promised to translate my novel, with whose translator I have worked for years spending my time and energy, went back on their word, after listing the translation in their catalogue. 

People would arrange some meeting and then suddenly it would be cancelled. Well … I underwent ostracization all of a sudden. But I told such ‘friends’ one thing. You being my reader or my friend does not mean I have to be a prisoner in your ideological home. If you think I cannot voice my opinion freely just because you give your appreciation to me then please remember one thing: A writer needs appreciation. But he needs freedom more than the appreciation. Between appreciation and freedom he will choose freedom. 

• AN : Do you think there is hypocrisy in the so-called freedom of expression crusaders when they remain tactfully silent when you are attacked … the recent one being only the latest in a series of attacks that you have been facing silently for the last two years? 

• JD : There is definitely a double-tumbler system here. There is no doubt about it. But it does not surprise me. You see … there is a socialist bourgeoisie here. It is a neo-Nehruvian creation. They want to picture and paint the human sufferings in the best possible colors and make a high-flying living out of it. They have to show themselves as fighters … five-star literati for the poor. They hate it when someone from the ordinary people, the real marginalized sections of the society, comes up and tells people to move on … to become prosperous, to claim their rightful and honorable place in the society. If the poor no longer remain poor, how can these high-class people make a living? 

The pornographers of poverty seek a pleasure out of the poverty of our people and make that a virtue. To me, on the other hand, literature speaks the soul of the people and catalyzes them to expand like the oceanic circle. So naturally these people will not come for my cause. Nor do I expect them to come. If RSS says it will wind up today, who do you think will be affected the most? It is these atrocity-literature mongers who make a living out of the urban myths of persecution. They even started inventing Hindutva in my novels once I supported Modi. 

• AN : What about the charge that you have offended Christian faith…

• JD : Let me make one thing very very clear. I am a practicing Catholic Christian. My voice is not against Christianity or Catholic religion. My voice is against the vested interests in the organized religion which are exploiting the common people. They say Catholic Church gave us education … yes, it is true … but where are the community leaders, and entrepreneurs and educationists who should have come from this vibrant community? They also gave us herd mentality and we need to break from that … which is not against the spirit of Jesus but in tune with what he taught. 

Another problem is my emphasis on our own spiritual traditions which are far older … like the mother goddess worship which is very much in our blood. 

I am today the voice of my people as the guardian of the coast of Mother India … as the owners and creators of this age-old civilization … from Ramayana to Mahabharatha to every Purana my people have a role in it, they are not an imported people. They have their roots in this culture and in this spiritual tradition. The fact that I am a Catholic cannot deny this heritage of our people. I hence speak their voice … the voice of our ancestors speaks through me. 

And how can that offend any religion? 

• AN : Evaluate Modi’s performance in one year.

• JD : When I voiced my support for Modi I did this for three reasons: One: I have experienced the change Modi brought to resource-scarce, earth-quake ravaged Gujarat. He made Gujarat an important maritime hub. So I know this man can do miracles because he cares for the people. Two: He comes from the lower rungs of the society. He knows what is poverty. In this I share an affinity with him. So he knows it is wrong to insult and exploit the poor as much it is wrong to glorify or romanticize poverty. So he will work for the common Indian. Thirdly: He has been the chief minister who wanted to improve his state. So he knows how the centre-state relation is an important factor in the development process. So only such a person who knows what it is to be a chief minister aspiring for the welfare of his state, when he becomes the prime minister can help the states to develop. 

… And I should say I do see a sea change in this one year. There is no corruption. There is a mindset change. 

When I hear cheap criticism of this man’s foreign tours I really feel offended. To be in constant travel is no joke and he is not doing that for pleasure but for the nation. He travels to strengthen relations where they exist. He travels to forge relations where they do not. He for the first time uses the Indian communities abroad to create networks. He is creating a network of economic cooperation and strategic partnership. This is a grand experiment he is doing. We should have done this long back and thank God for a Prime Minister who is at last sowing the seeds for a prosperous future India. And we cannot judge the fruits of what he sows now itself. Yet we can say here is a person who works hard for us—for you and me and our children—not taking even a single day holiday. 

Things may still be not fast enough as we desire them to be. But I have my hopes for the future of our nation pinned on the chaiwala. – Swarajya, 10 June 2015

Native Americans say Junípero Serra enslaved them; Pope Francis says he saved them – Jack Jenkins

Native American demonstrators protest the proposed sainthood of Junípero Serra outside Mission Dolores in San Francisco, California.

Jack Jenkins“‘It is imperative [Pope Francis] is enlightened to understand that Father Serra was responsible for the deception, exploitation, oppression, enslavement and genocide of thousands of Indigenous Californians, ultimately resulting in the largest ethnic cleansing in North America,’ a MoveOn.org petition read.” – Jack Jenkins

Pope FrancisPope Francis has been widely lauded as a champion of the oppressed, advocating for the victims of war and passionately declaring that “to discriminate in the name of God is inhuman.”

But in September, the pontiff is planning to canonize, or declare a saint, a man who some Native Americans say not only discriminated in God’s name, but also subjugated thousands of Indians along the West Coast using missionary tactics that effectively enslaved his Christian converts.

Spanish Franciscan missionary Junipero Serra (1713-1784)On [May 6th], the Vatican formally sanctioned plans to proclaim the saintliness of Junípero Serra, an 18th century Franciscan missionary who converted thousands of Native Americans to Christianity in California before his death in 1784. The Spanish priest is renowned by many Catholics for his devoutness, and Francis is scheduled to make his sainthood official in an elaborate outdoor mass during his papal visit to the United States this fall. The pontiff has expressed deep admiration for Serra, showering him with praise in a recent address to seminarians for exhibiting “generosity and courage” while “usher[ing] in a new springtime of evangelization in those immense territories, extending from Florida to California.” 

“Such zeal excites us,” Francis said.

But many argue the impact of Serra’s “zeal” is more complicated than the pope suggests. Native American activist organizations such as Mexica Movement have staged several protests outside Catholic sites across California since January, when Francis first announced his intention to canonize Serra. On Monday, demonstrators gathered outside of Mission Dolores in San Francisco, making speeches condemning Serra and unfurling banners emblazoned with slogans such as “No Sainthood for Serra” and “Native Lives Matter.”

“My ancestors were directly enslaved at Mission Dolores here, and at Mission San Jose in Fremont, and I want to make sure that the Vatican knows that we, and Native people allies, do not agree with the canonization of Junipero Serra,” said Corrina Gould, a woman who claims Karkin and Chochenyo Ohlone ancestry, according to Indybay.org.

Organizers have also launched Facebook groups and online petitions urging Francis to reconsider.

“It is imperative [Pope Francis] is enlightened to understand that Father Serra was responsible for the deception, exploitation, oppression, enslavement and genocide of thousands of Indigenous Californians, ultimately resulting in the largest ethnic cleansing in North America,” a MoveOn.org petition read.

Protest against Serra's canonizationA saint who beat Native Americans?

Credited with baptizing around 90,000 Indians during his lifetime, there is wide agreement among historians that Serra’s evangelism tactics were harsh by any modern standard. George Tinker, Professor of American Indian Cultures and Religious Traditions at Iliff School of Theology and author of Missionary Conquest: The Gospel and Native American Genocide, described to ThinkProgress what he called the “almost slave-labor conditions” that Native Americans were subjected to under Serra’s leadership. Citing accounts from Serra’s own lieutenant, Tinker said the Franciscan priest prohibited converts from leaving his Christian compounds, often called missions, and forced them to endure grueling labor on Spanish-run farms. Any attempt to flee was met with brutal reprisals.

Protest against the canonization of Junipero Serra at Mission Dolores, California“The army would round the person up, bring him back to the mission compound, and then the person is punished,” he said, “The mission compound was run kind of like a military boot camp.”

The mission compound was run kind of like a military boot camp.

Tinker, himself a Native American of the Osage Nation who practices traditional spirituality, said Indians were often unwillingly compelled to convert, and that Serra housed women and unmarried girls in tight quarters until he chose spouses for them.

“Indian people had little free choice,” he said. “Conversion [was] almost a last desperation in order to stay alive.”

Native Americans and even some Catholics have opposed the Church’s celebration of Serra for several decades. In the lead up to his beatification — a preliminary step on the road to sainthood — in 1988, advocates in California penned op-eds demanding Church officials acknowledge Serra’s role in harming indigenous populations. In response, the Diocese of Monterey issued a 90-page report rejecting the accusation that Serra mistreated Indians, with one contributor saying “there’s no evidence that Serra ever instituted physical punishment or any kind of unusual punishment.” But several Indians pointed out that the document, which was compiled by a public relations specialist, did not interview any Native Americans, and that Franciscan historians had already acknowledged that Serra “upheld the custom of whipping.”

ThinkProgress contacted the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a response to the recent wave of anti-Serra protests, but did not receive a reply by press time.

Protest against the canonization of Spanish missionary of Junípero Serra in CaliforniaAn agent of colonialism

Some Catholics and scholars have sought to re-examine Serra — who was a member of the Inquisition — as a product of his time, when missionaries all over the globe were encouraged to treat their converts like misguided offspring. Robert M. Senkewicz, history professor at Santa Clara University and co-author of Junípero Serra: California, Indians, and the Transformation of a Missionary, told ThinkProgress that Serra was actually arguably more benevolent than other missionaries, and tried to protect Native Americans from additional exploitation at the hands of the Spanish military.

“In California, [political leaders] always wanted the Indian labor force available to themselves, a sort of series of personal servants,” he said. “Most of the fights Serra had in California were over trying to restrict the military settlers’ access to Native labor.”

Catholics who support Serra’s canonization, such as controversial San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, say his relative altruism toward Indians justifies his sainthood, and that Native life under missionaries was preferable to battling European armies.

“European powers were going to discover this continent and settle here,” Cordileone told the New York Times in January. “Were the indigenous people better off with the missionaries or without the missionaries? I would say they were better off with the missionaries.”

Pope Francis expressed a similar sentiment in his homily over the weekend, claiming that Serra defended “indigenous people against abuses by the colonizers.”

Protest against canonization of Junipero Serra at Mission DeloresBut Tinker and other Native Americans say Serra couldn’t have protected Indians from colonialism, because he and other missionaries were colonial agents of deeply Catholic Spain. Tinker noted that Serra’s first task after making landfall in San Diego in the 1700s was to celebrate mass on the beach with Native American observers, all while ships offshore fired canons overhead. Tinker also said Serra had at least partial control over the military that accompanied him, and regularly used soldiers to keep Native American converts in line — presumably with whips, which historical records imply he ordered for use on his flock.

Indian people [of the time] would agree that they were better off dead than living under a Franciscan rule.

“Indian people [of the time] would agree that they were better off dead than living under a Franciscan rule,” he said. “How is that better than what the Puritans did? It’s the same results. Invariably, mission work was a component of colonization, either explicitly or implicitly, and in the case of Serra it was inordinately explicit.”

“This [was] an act of pure colonialism, of nailing down territory.”

Senkewicz also acknowledged that Serra, despite representing the “softer side of colonialism,” was undeniably a willing participant in Spanish conquest and the mistreatment it entailed.

“Violence and coercion were an integral part of the colonial system,” Senkewicz said, referring to the use of flogging in Serra’s missions. “This was justified by a frank paternalism, [the idea] that these people are children, and this is what you do with children.”

Pope Francis and Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles Pope Francis’ saint

Pope Francis has been unusually involved in Serra’s soon-to-be sainthood. Normally, a person is vetted for canonization after being approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, a Vatican group which traditionally requires that at least two miracles be attributed to someone before they can be recommended for sainthood. But the congregation actually never approved a second miracle credited to Serra, issuing their endorsement seemingly because Pope Francis had already scheduled the canonization for September. This makes Serra part of a growing list of people deemed saints primarily through the will of Pope Francis, twice without the number of miracles historically needed to do so — including the recent canonization of Pope John XXIII.

Whatever the reasoning for Serra’s sainthood, however, the controversy largely centers around one question: should the pope elevate a man who played a key role in a colonial campaign that harmed Native Americans?

“It legitimizes the conquest,” Tinker said. He predicted the looming canonization will only worsen a longstanding chasm of mistrust between the Catholic Church and Native Americans in California — a rift that largely began under Serra’s ministry.

“Part of me wants to say, ‘Oh yeah, we would like the church to come to its senses,’” he said, audibly sighing. “But as far as I can tell that’s a lost cause.” – ThinkProgress, 7 May 2015

» Jack Jenkins is the Senior Religion Reporter for ThinkProgress.

Jose Gomez

Protest statement against Junipero Serro's canonization

Anti Serra Poster

Anti-Colonialism Poster

Bishop cautions against yoga, saying it conflicts with Catholic doctrine – Michael O’Connor

Michael O'Connor“The blog also quotes from the bishop’s letter that ‘Certainly, if one wants to engage in physical exercises to strengthen one’s body, such a practice would be morally neutral, and would not, in itself, involve anything detrimental to our Catholic faith. However, the practice of yoga most often, if it does not begin that way, eventually morphs into an acceptance of points of view, and even doctrinal and moral matters, that are distant from Catholic truth, and from genuine and authentic Christian revelation.'” – Michael O’Connor

Fabian BruskewitzCatholics are used to debates over issues like birth control and divorce.

But what about yoga?

Retired Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz stirred up debate this month with a letter he wrote to Women of Grace, a Florida-based Catholic organization.

The organization wrote a blog post that says the letter advised “Catholics to steer clear of yoga because of its basis in Hinduism and to take up other methods of exercise that don’t place the faith in unnecessary danger.”

Women of Grace describes itself as Catholic apostolate “whose mission is to transform the world one woman at a time.” The organization lists Bruskewitz as a member of its board of directors.

J.D. Flynn, spokesman for the Diocese of Lincoln, said Friday that Bruskewitz was not available for comment. The diocese declined to provide a copy of the bishop’s letter.

Flynn said that the diocese has not disputed the blog or how it quoted the bishop’s letter.

Flynn said the bishop’s comments are “drawn from the Church’s teaching on Eastern religion and Eastern meditation practices.”

“Those practices are different from Christianity and come from a different philosophical perspective,” Flynn said.

Bruskewitz retired from the Diocese of Lincoln in 2012. During his 20 years leading the diocese, he developed a national reputation as a traditionalist in the church.

Prof Eileen Burke-SullivanEileen Burke-Sullivan, a theologian and vice provost for mission and ministry at Creighton University, said Bruskewitz’s comments on Catholics doing yoga reflect a “very traditionalist position not part of mainstream Catholic teaching today.”

“I know of very few Catholic bishops who would take this kind of posture,” she said.

She said yoga as practiced in the United States generally has been stripped of its religious aspects.

The blog also quotes from the letter that “Certainly, if one wants to engage in physical exercises to strengthen one’s body, such a practice would be morally neutral, and would not, in itself, involve anything detrimental to our Catholic faith. However, the practice of yoga most often, if it does not begin that way, eventually morphs into an acceptance of points of view, and even doctrinal and moral matters, that are distant from Catholic truth, and from genuine and authentic Christian revelation.”

Jagdish Nijhawan, a founding member of Omaha’s Hindu Temple, said that while yoga historically has ties to Hinduism, it has become, for most Americans who practice it, a form of exercise and a way to become peaceful and relaxed.

Elaine Ayers, a Omaha Catholic, said she started doing yoga five years ago to build muscle and relieve chronic shoulder and neck pain.

“My commitment to yoga is a physical one, not a spiritual practice,” said Ayers, who teaches at Creighton Prep. “I don’t feel at all conflicted between my life as a Catholic and somebody who practices yoga.” – Omaha.com, 29 May 2015

» Michael O’Connor writes human interest reports for the Omaha World-Herald, Omaha, Nebraska.

Omaha Hindu Temple

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