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February 23, 2001

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Rajeev Srinivasan

Children of a Lesser God

The rantings of one T John, an erstwhile minister in the Karnataka government, are now well known: he claimed that "God was punishing Gujarat and Orissa for attacks on Christians." My first thought on hearing this was that John was logically challenged. For I too can come up with plenty of interesting theories for the earthquake:

1. God is punishing India for allowing that Christian fundamentalist Sonia Gandhi to take a half-hearted dip at the sangam at Prayag during the Kumbha Mela.

2. God is punishing India for allowing the Christian Pope to come here and preach hatred recently, when other sensible Asian countries refused to allow him in.

3. God is punishing India for not controlling those Taleban-like missionaries and their vicious acolytes in the northeast, who are running around killing Hindus and Buddhists.

4. God is punishing India for allowing that missionary, M Teresa, to do immense harm to India's image and self-image, with the sole and lamentable intent of conversion.

5. God is punishing India for having welcomed with open arms the first Christians who came to India, the group of Syrians led by one Thomas of Cana in the 4th or 5th century CE, who were fleeing persecution probably at the hands of other Christians in West Asia.

6. God is punishing India for not having retaliated in kind against that madman Vasco da Gama in 1498 CE. An emissary sent by the Zamorin of Calicut to meet the Portuguese ships was sent back with his ears, nose and hands chopped off and strung around his neck.

7. God is punishing India for having tolerated that Inquisition-happy "Saint" Francis Xavier of Goa who dismembered children alive in front of their parents (whose eyelids were cut off so they had to watch), carefully cut off the extremities of people so they were still conscious when they were nothing but torso and head, chopped off and burned the genitals of men, cut off breasts, and penetrated vaginas with swords, all in the name of his religion.

Good theories, aren't they? I know these are absurd, but then I am merely following in the footsteps of Tertullian, (ca 160 CE), a major figure in early Christianity, who said, credo quia absurdum est (I believe, because it is absurd). He also said, "And the son of God died, which is immediately credible because it is absurd. And buried he rose again, which is certain because it is impossible." Thus my absurd theories must be right, true? QED.

There was also the curious case (much like the singular event of the dog in the night-time in Sherlock Holmes) of the sudden silence of the 'secular' 'progressives'. Let us consider the usual suspects. What T John said is patently communalist; but Communalism Combat's Teesta Setalvad did not fly into her customary rage. Shabana Azmi was surprisingly silent. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International did not wax eloquent. Why? It is as I have said ad nauseam before: these people are themselves extremely communalist. According to them, only semites have human rights.

Similarly, the many Christians in the Indian media were also thunderously silent. Pamela Philipose, B G Verghese, Sevanti Ninan, Amrita Abraham, Gita Abraham, et al, all well-known and highly opinionated journalists, expressed no righteous indignation, so far as I can tell. (T J S George did condemn T John, but bracketed the VHP for good measure.) Nor did Christian fundamentalist columnists like A J Philip, Gail Omvedt or rediff.com's own Dilip D'Souza, all of whom are quick to condemn Hindu foolishness. From their own texts, I ask them: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye?"

Incidentally, none of these worthies condemned the Pope's outrageous statements in Delhi nor the deplorable Dominus Iesus document either. Nor do they give any column-inches to the ongoing murders of Hindus and Buddhists by neo-convert Christians, who have become a majority in parts of the northeast. The plight of the Reang tribals, ethnically-cleansed from Mizoram by Christian thugs, does not get their attention. Why? I am forced to conclude that their silence implies agreement, sympathy, or collusion.

There is an eloquent statement in their own scripture: Bible, Mathew 23:13: "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in."

Now what about other natural calamities occurring elsewhere in the world?

1. The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco: how many Christians were being attacked there?

2. The 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles: how many Christians were being attacked there?

3. 80 black Christian churches across the US South were burned to the ground by unknown assailants in the recent past. Why wasn't there an earthquake in the South?

4. What about all the hurricanes and tornadoes that hit the US all the time? Are they the result of Christians being attacked there?

5. The great plague that practically wiped out Christian Europe in the Middle Ages: was this the result of attacks on Christians by anybody?

6. The recent landslides and floods in Latin America, a staunchly Christian place: were these the results of any attacks on Christians? Similarly volcanoes and other calamities in the Philippines.

7. Two hundred years of slavery and several hundred years of apartheid (almost all of the victims were Christians) didn't produce any retaliation for the attacks on Christians?

The obvious common-sense answer to all the above is that they have nothing whatsoever to do with Christians or anybody else. These are just periodic natural things that simply happen with no divine intervention. God, one would imagine, is too busy to be worrying about such piddling affairs as the religious affiliations of his creations.

In point of fact, Christians have been the greatest perpetrators of large-scale holocausts. The Jewish holocaust is well-known; less well-known is the genocide of the Gypsies of Europe. They also committed genocide against the native Americans of both North and South America. They practically wiped out the natives of Tasmania (English sailors simply kidnapped all their women to enjoy them sexually and then throw them overboard). They reduced native peoples in the Pacific Rim and much of Africa to absolute misery. See the the sad state of the once-proud Maoris after Christianization, in the graphic film "Once Were Warriors" (New Zealand, 1995).

There is the horrifying book Late Victorian Holocausts by Macarthur Fellow Mike Davis (Verso) that shows how Christian greed directly caused the deaths of some 50 million people in India, China and Brazil. For instance, during the great famines in North India in the late 1800s, record amounts of grain were being exported to England from India! Amitav Ghosh's Glass Palace (HarperCollins) details how Christian imperialist thievery decimated once-prosperous Burma, ravaged its forests of all old-growth teak, and reduced Burmese to penury.

And Christians moan about "attacks"? Theirs has been a civilisational attack on the rest of the world, their religion no more than a convenient facade for European imperialism.

Furthermore, what exactly are these loudly trumpeted "attacks on Christians" in Gujarat? The Sarvodaya leaders who reported on this last year were clear: it was Christian missionaries who created the problem, by getting the tribals to dishonor their gods. I understand that they even went to the extent of urinating on images of Hanuman. I remember one reader writing to me in high dudgeon about how she, as a Christian, would be attacked in Gujarat. Reader dear, you will be just fine in Gujarat if you simply keep your fly buttoned: just don't pee all over the place. The same holds good for all the other missionary types. Have some self-control.

There is also the belief some Christians have held that the year 2000 of their calendar would see the end of the world. In 1999, I publicly made an offer to wager US $ 1,000,000 with any Christian fundamentalist that the world would not end in the year 2000 CE. My rationale was that the alleged anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ had absolutely no significance in the large scheme of things.

I was right; alas, no fundamentalist chose to take me up on my offer, or else I would have been a million dollars richer. So much for the courage of their convictions. Clearly, they don't themselves believe in the Christ legends, or in the literal truth of the Bible. All that is for marketing purposes, strictly for the consumption of the gullible targets of their conversion machinery. Did I ever mention they were hypocrites?

There really is nothing unique about Christianity. Jesus was yet another preacher, of which there have been many; Christianity is just one of many religions that have come and gone; it will also disappear when its time has come. The only thing unusual about it is the remarkable amount of havoc -- cultural and environmental -- its adherents have been able to wreak all over the globe.

On further thought about T John's statement it occurred to me that I was looking at this whole thing from the wrong frame of reference. I was thinking about God as a Hindu would: God as the omnipotent One, Lord of all Creation, It that pervades the Universe and is the Universe. I have a lot of Christian Indian friends and most of them share the same definition for God. But T John's definition of God is different: he is looking at the God of the Fundamentalist Christians (GOF for short). In that frame of reference (odd though it may be), his statement is internally consistent.

For T John's GOF is only the God of Christians -- not a Universal God. The GOF is a limited god, a tribal god. A tribal god has no existence without his tribe, and is therefore a lesser god, a second-class god: one dependent on the tribute of his flock. He is afraid of losing his tribe, and is most jealous about their affections. He is a pathetic and neurotic God, whom his tribe can only fear, not love. Notice that, significantly, Christians never talk of themselves as "God-loving", only "God-fearing". This God is not worth loving, it appears, only worth fearing.

So T John's GOF, this God only of Christians, may be unhappy at anything that affects the attempts of his tribe to dominate. But then, I wonder: being a second-rate god, would this tribal GOF be able to produce earthquakes? I understand he once parted a sea, a pretty good special effect indeed, but earthquakes? Are they within his powers, this old man with a long, flowing beard?

This GOF is roughly like one of the devas, demi-gods, in Hindu mythology: like Indra, always insecure about his position, always trying to convince people to pay him obeisance. This is one of the many things that makes Christian theology unsatisfying: they have not progressed beyond this idea of a second-rate, jealous GOF. They have not figured out that beyond the many demi-gods lies a Formless, Absolute, One, that which is beyond all attributes. Their monotheism is na´ve when compared with Absolute Monism.

The GOF is merely a desert god, one invented for desert people: in the desert, you must follow a few simple rules, or else you die. Therefore he is the god of a few simple rules. He is also known as the God of the Israelites: a parochial God, who only looks after the welfare of his tribe. For instance, there is the story of the Canaanites. These people were unfairly harassed and hounded and destroyed by the Israelites, with their partisan GOF cheering from the sidelines.

This narrow-minded GOF is only the God of humans even in the broadest interpretation of Christian texts. For it is said that the Christian God made man in his image. And therefore, obviously, animals and plants are inferior creations, made for the exploitation and pleasure of humans. This concept works today, because humans are more intelligent than other flora and fauna.

But what if there is a day when we discover there is indeed extra-terrestrial intelligence, and those intelligent beings are nothing like humans? Maybe they are like spiders, or cockroaches? Since they are not in the image of the Christian God, then they must have a different God. And what if, horrors, these creatures are more intelligent than humans are, and can exploit and enslave humans like we have the other animals? Then that God, the God of the spider-creatures, would be clearly a greater god than the GOF.

So it is up to Christians to decide: are they children of some lesser, second-rate GOF, like T John is? Or are they children of the real God, the One who created everything? If they are the latter, then they must know that the One True God would not discriminate against any of Its creations: It doesn't care about their religions. It does not send calamities indiscriminately to hurt Its children, all of whom are equally dear to It because they are all part of It.

As Albert Einstein said famously, "God does not play dice with the Universe". The God he was referring to was the One, the Absolute, the True God, not the GOF. Most Christians do not believe they are children of this lesser god; but there are some like T John who, alas, believe they are. Only they make inane statements like T John's.

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Rajeev Srinivasan

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