Friday, December 27, 2013

Holy Books And The 21st Century - Exploring Cultural Bridges

Confusion reigns in many 'modern' religions as ancient scriptures and rituals try to find relevance and meaning in a post industrial world. If ancient texts do have meaning for today's world, then that meaning's discovered through interpretation. Interpretation is the art of finding the original meaning in a text and then showing how that might be relevant today. Interpretation is particularly important for religions that hold ancient 'texts' to be important. In Christianity (my religion) the interpretation of 'the scripture' focuses on the Bible. Understanding the Bible therefore is a major area of concentration in the lives of all Christians. One would hope that better interpretation would lead to better Christians, but that does depend on what we get from our interpretive effort, and on how we then apply what we got to our lives!

Unfortunately, as a religion Christianity is very far away from finding any consensus on how the Bible is to be understood.

Rather than diving right into the various attempts to interpret the Bible (which would certainly take more than a series of blog posts to cover) I am going to just try to outline how I personally understand the Bible and how that understanding affects my thinking about one currently 'hot' cultural topic, that of sexual orientation.

The Bible is an ancient text. It was last contributed to over 2000 years ago and the entire span of its writing covers over (at least) 1000 years! All the various parts of the Bible are written for and about particular happenings in particular places and communities during that millennium. The Bible is not monolithic. The Bible has been built brick by brick and stone by stone, and it has stood the test of time! The Bible's story culminates in four gospels that tell us about Jesus, and then (in the New Testament part of the Bible) goes on to follow the birth of Christianity over the next few decades. It's worth noting that for the writers of the New Testament (NT - about Jesus and the early church) their Bible actually constituted of the largely memorized Tanakh of that day's Judaism, which is mostly our present 'old' testament (OT). 

The NT writers record the introduction of belief in Christ in various parts of the Roman empire, and simultaneously, they record Jesus' life and ministry in a very interesting way. The style of their records of Jesus are fascinating both for their commonalities and for their differences, but the picture of Jesus that emerges from the reading of 'the gospels' is an incredibly powerful and gripping story of the person Jesus, who did what he did so remarkably well that lives were transformed for good. Jesus' impact is the very heart of what becomes Christianity.

We cannot reconstruct from these gospel records anything like a 'Life of Jesus' though not for want of trying! We can, however, get to know Jesus himself, and I think the main reason for this slightly odd phenomenon is that many people who personally knew Jesus went to incredible lengths to pass on what they knew as accurately and completely as they could. Naturally, they stuck to stuff that had so startled them out of their slumbers that it became clearly imprinted in their minds. As a natural consequence, their records are not given to being strung together either chronologically or subject-wise, but do provide a wonderfully clear picture of the person, Jesus.

By studying the gospel accounts in parallel, we can see that many witnesses had come forward to tell what they knew. The result is that 4 different authors draw breathtakingly similar pictures, yet one can clearly see that the roots of their stories have been gathered independently. One impressive explanation for the striking similarities and critical differences comes from B. Gerhardsson who shows that there was a definite "Rabbinic method" that teachers of that day followed to accurately orally preserve their words, and it explains so well what we find in actual fact in the gospels themselves. Incidentally, in cultures such as India it is well known that teachers (gurus) orally train their disciples, and it is precisely this sort of tradition to which we owe the preservation of the sayings of the Buddha (for e.g.).

So, at the culmination of what was essentially a one tribe story (the Old Testament - OT - of the Bible) we have Jesus bursting onto the scene and creating a cataclysm. For Jesus, the OT - his scripture - was given by God for guidance to mankind. However, Jesus introduces a striking change in how the OT is to be understood... if you want to understand the scripture, (says Jesus, in effect) you have to look for the Father - our loving Father. Don't therefore take the letter of the law as the final thing, though every bit of that is important (as your primary source material), but look instead for what the OT can teach you about the Father, and apply that knowledge of the Father to what you are about today! So, the OT actually records the give and take between the Father and His people, with the people vacillating between periods of understanding and obedience and living in love and justice, then sliding right back into doing all the things that they know will irritate their Father to the utmost.

Jesus goes on to show us in his own life what really seeing and believing the Father means in day-to-day life. He summarizes the main principles as:
1. Love God.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

He tells us that in these two principles reside everything that God wanted us to know from the entire OT.

I don't think we can easily grasp how shocking Jesus' teachings and doings (based on these two principles) actually were to his contemporaries. The religious leaders of the day at first tried to analyse his message, then when they realized the implications, they tried various methods to discredit Jesus, and failing these, they finally found a way to 'permanently' silence him - that is, they had him put to death by their Roman rulers by claiming that he was a very real terrorist!

All this happened in a cultural milieu, and fortunately, because of extensive writings preserved from that period, and the meticulous work of archaeologists, we do know a fair amount both about Jewish history, society and culture, and that  too of their rulers of the day, the Romans.

Now, what's happened in effect is that Jesus, in the life he lives, reveals to us anew who God the Father is. Everything that happens subsequently, with the founding of Christianity, is the working out of this renewing knowledge of God and the resulting renewed relationship with God the Father in and through His Son Jesus. The authenticity of the message of the gospel and of Jesus Himself comes with a terrifying bang at the end of all four gospel accounts, first with His horrifying death, and then with His most unexpected resurrection.

We can clearly see some of what God has done (in the Bible), and it presents us with a puzzling conundrum. Why has God done these things? The answer that the Bible gives, that Jesus emphasizes, is LOVE!

Unfortunately for us we are far too fascinated with the 'why' and 'how' types of questions to not enter into speculation. Speculation is the mother of doctrine - and we will see where that takes us soon enough! Suffice it to say that the gospel is so simple that no one can mistake it - at the same time we can also choose to build huge edifices upon it and eventually we will forget the simplicity of the foundation and remember only the complication of what we have constructed!

As we dig into the gospels for more on Jesus, it is hard to miss the concept of Emmanuel (God with us), by which Jesus is introduced to us (Isaiah 7-8, ‎Matthew 1:22-23). God is with us, and Jesus focuses God's presence in his teachings on what the reality of God's kingdom is all about, especially that the Father is particularly with the downtrodden, the suffering, the sick, the disenfranchised, the poor, the outcaste, the seeker, and all those others that religion and society have left in a lurch.

And that's pretty much my own basic understanding now of how I find relevance in the Bible, for it's the Bible that leads me to Jesus, and that makes me want to follow Jesus, and to know Jesus. I see Jesus most clearly in his life, his doings, and his teachings as they are found in the gospels and in turn, the gospels help me to see what the whole of the Bible is about, revealing both God the Son and God the Father to me.

Just as that great crowd of witnesses had memorized and learned from their teacher, so we too should immerse ourselves first and foremost in those very same gospels that record whatever could reliably be remembered of Jesus. I am certain that the very reason we have so many gospels independently covering so much of the same ground, is that for the new believers, the most important thing, the most critically important thing, was to be able to know and then follow Jesus. They needed to get together all that they could of him from reliable witnesses while these were still around, and they did! The same process took place wherever there was any concentration of original witnesses to be had, and voila, out of all those efforts we have now our 4 gospels!

In the rest of the NT we do not find much of Jesus being quoted, though allusions to His teachings and doings are numerous. This has long puzzled scholars, and bizarre theories have been generated by them in turn. But I suspect that once folks had memorised all the available stuff and were holding these findings in common with others who had also memorised the same stuff (about what Jesus said and did), they rarely needed to keep quoting the known bedrock to each other. Rather, one gets on with understanding and discussing how this works out practically, and you remind one another of where you are more by allusion than by quotation. In fact that's what the word 'gospel' comes to mean in the rest of the NT, and that's probably why outside of 'the gospels' themselves (that constitute that entire bedrock of critically important knowledge - "the gospel") we see so little of the quoting that we would otherwise expect. The ground on which discussions take place IS common.

The gospels would then constitute something like the basic 'catechism' (boot camp), and the new believer's first job is to memorize (remember that books were uncommon and extremely expensive back then) the gospel.

Everything that we have in our gospels is therefore The Gospel that was then taught, preached and memorized as the story of Jesus spread out. I do think this grounding process took time and there is evidence in the NT that the time was taken to establish these basics properly.

Unfortunately, our modern and post-modern church gives scant respect to the gospels and I think this is perhaps why Christians of today scarcely remind us of Jesus the Christ whom they are supposedly following and believing! Instead of a people who behave in a manner consistent with intimately knowing Jesus their Lord and Savior, we all too often see packs of doctrinalists and literalists, who in their loveless rantings more resemble the religious enemies of Jesus than Jesus Himself!

I have little doubt that 'the gospel' was precisely what Paul (who wrote many of the letters in the NT) had to learn after he suddenly realized that Jesus was The One, and his resulting 'gospel' he finally checked for consistency with other disciples of Jesus who were then congregated in Jerusalem. But all that is speculative... I have no doubt that it is this very gospel that was what Paul proclaimed as he moved through the length and breadth of the Roman empire.

For the present, I think that's a fairly good summary of my current understanding of what the gospel is and how (and why) it came to be the way it is. 

What happens next in the NT is that this gospel goes out and meets various groups of people scattered across the Roman empire, eventually creating scattered fellowships of Christ believers/followers. Jesus has been acknowledged by these believers to be the long promised messiah of the OT and is therefore God's anointed one, and in Greek, that is what the word Christ signifies, hence our word Christ-ian.

In the process of spreading out from Palestine into the larger Roman empire, practitioners of the gospel encounter cultural realities/environments that are not similar to those of Palestine at that time. In these strange new cultural environments, how is the gospel to be worked out? And so we have Paul, John, Peter, James and so on all communicating by way of brief letters (epistles) to address particular situations that arise after the proclamation of Jesus, and as their gospel walks out into unfamiliar cultural territory.

Now, here we are 2000 years further along in time. We are therefore now in a situation that was reminiscent of those querulous first few steps that the gospel took once long ago, for both cultures and societies (and religion) have changed remarkably over the interval, and yet the same gospel is there to guide us as to the nature of the Father, and the revelation of the Father is seen just as clearly now in the life, teaching, and doings of the Son Jesus. The gospel that Jesus lived out has not changed. The gospel is still addressing human beings, and in spite of our culture, our 'advanced' society, and our technology, we are still just human beings in need of and in search of our Father.

As I leap out over this chasm, I also notice that in many instances when the gospel spread into the Roman empire, there was culture shock and then cultural accommodation, and we can see this accommodation taking place in the epistles of the NT itself. Some of these cultural accommodations are sensible and sound applications of Jesus teaching and principles, while others fly in the face of the principles that Jesus taught, i.e. are contrary to the gospel of Jesus.

One excellent change for example, was that racial discrimination was tackled as it became obvious that not only people of Jewish descent were responding to Jesus and believing in Him.

A contrasting area of cultural accommodation, was the young church's inability to tackle the issue of slavery. There are a number of reasons for the church not to have taken this issue on. However, in subsequent Christian history, eventually it was realised that slavery(1) in any form is not compatible with believing in and following a just and loving God. Eventually, Jesus and his gospel won.

Since Wilberforce and his friends fought their epic battle in the 19th century,  the battle against slavery - of the official, culturally acceptable kind - has been mostly won. In consequence, colonial influence has waned and we do have a slightly more equitable world to live in.

Other areas of conflict that were left unresolved by the NT included that ubiquitous thing called war, which is an outgrowth of our tolerance for violence in so many forms, and prominently gender equality, and sexual orientations. As with slavery, the young church was unable to step back and ask whether Jesus' gospel called for changes in these areas. We can see that Paul in particular was aware of the clash as his statement in his epistle to the Galatians (3:28) and again in Colossians (3:11) actually follows the implications of Jesus teaching to their conclusions. But he himself was unable to do much other than to toe the cultural norms in his other writings.

I am privileged to live in India, which due to its decidedly Eastern culture and agrarian economy has a lot of cultural similarities with life in Palestine 2000 years ago. Still, the changes that have taken place in the world are huge^^.  In India, the gospel as understood by India's mainline churches has its own peculiar cultural blind spots. At its root, we find that we have inherited a literalistic approach to the Bible and subsequently many of the wrong cultural tendencies of peoples from biblical times are used to justify very wrong and anti-Christ-ian practices in our present day church life. The most obvious of these is the failure to tackle the evil of casteism. We have also not tackled our male dominant society, and we have chosen not to take on issues of wealth, poverty and the ownership of property! We have also chosen to avoid questioning the church's status quo on matters of sexuality and in particular the homophobia (LGBTA-phobia) that we have inherited from the Victorian colonial West.

In general, in the world of the 21st century we actually have a strange situation where many gospel implications (based on the gospel principles of justice and equality) have been wholeheartedly accepted by post-enlightenment, secular, science oriented, common sense based thinkers.

At the same time we have an even stranger phenomenon of the bulk of Christianity wrongly preferring the norms and mores of the 2000 year old culture that Jesus Himself challenged with His gospel!

The very fact that modern and post-modern thinkers have decided to support equality and justice seems to have enraged our religious conservatives, and the key question of whither the gospel will lead has been blanked out by blind reactionism. Where we see this most clearly is regarding sexuality and sexual orientation. While abuses in the 'institution' of heterosexual marriage are rampant, most especially in the propagation of male dominance, domestic violence, and in heterosexual exceptionality, we find many Christians concentrating their rage instead against persons with differing sexual orientations (the LGBTA) and particularly focused on 'gay bashing', homophobia. I am frequently told by would-be conservative 'scholars'  that this is because of their 'interpretations' of the Bible, and it involves a savagely literalistic use of some texts*. 

I have no doubt that singling out any group of people and discriminating against them because of issues of differences from the 'norm' (in this case because of their sexual orientation) is unjust, inequitable, dehumanizing, and against Jesus' gospel!

The (conservative/non-affirming) church has actually created a class of untouchables and has been the agent of evil in denigrating these persons' humanity. Rather than reaching out to the downtrodden, we (the church that claims to follow Jesus) have become the authoritarians who tread upon the lives of others - what a travesty!

Yet the conservative-doctrinaire branches of Christianity insist on discriminating against anyone who does not toe the heterosexuality-only line. The fact that 'sin' is found as commonly in heterosexual relationships seems not to count at all. In fact there is a strong tendency to disregard in any active discussion, all heterosexually sinful activity including marital rape, premarital sex, and divorce, from the purview of 'sin', though oddly enough, adultery does seem to be a sticking point for some... 

The shrillness accompanying any discussion of sexual orientation other than heterosexuality is amazing to me. Forgotten are Jesus' directions to take responsibility first for our own sins and to be nonjudgemental of others, let alone being so willing to cast the first verbal stones.

Perhaps the most startling thing for me was the discovery that conservative heterosexuals freely admit that they are not aware of when they chose to ('obeying God?') become heterosexual, yet homosexuals (really, any LGBTA) are accused of choosing to be homosexual, therefore denying God, and therefore worthy of hellfire etc.!

So, do we follow Jesus 
do we follow the very worldly religious 
literalistic-doctrinaire-conservative 'way'. 

It's for you to decide...

On the one hand as the gospel enjoins, there is love, justice, equality, respect, and a lack of judgmentalism. 

On the other hand there is condemnation, ostracism, outcasteism, denial of rights, judgementalism, lots of hell-talk, suppression of personality, vituperation, and often outright hatred - all presented supposedly as legitimate expressions of God's love.

The choice is yours!

I'd highly recommend Philip Yancey's excellent introduction to Jesus - The Jesus I Never Knew, if you want to get just a bit deeper into "Christology" or just get to know Jesus a little better. But, there's no substitute for reading (and rereading) the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) themselves in any modern translation

*The conservative-literalistic-doctrinaire dumbing-down approach to the Bible, unsurprisingly negates Jesus' stress on understanding the Father, and negates the importance of living lives of love and service, justice and equality, and living as genetically, ecologically, and ethically selflessly as possible. I've heard this method described as a grammatico-historical approach to interpretation, but neither grammar nor history demands that we exchange understanding for simple mindedness!

There's an excellent recent short interview/article  on God and gays carrying the views of both Mohler and Vine that's well worth reading.

An example of three gospel texts in parallel
healing of the leper:[9]
Mt 8:2–3Mk 1:40–42Lk 5:12–13
Καὶ ἰδοὺ,
αὐτῷ λέγων·
Κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς
δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.
ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα
ἥψατο αὐτοῦ
Θέλω, καθαρίσθητι·
καὶ εὐθέως

αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα.
Καὶ ἔρχεται πρὸς αὐτὸν
παρακαλῶν αὐτὸν
καὶ γονυπετῶν
καὶ λέγων αὐτῷ ὅτι,
Ἐὰν θέλῃς
δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.
καὶ σπλαγχνισθεὶς
ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα
αὐτοῦ ἥψατο
καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ·
Θέλω, καθαρίσθητι·
καὶ εὐθὺς
ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ᾿
αὐτοῦ ἡ λέπρα,
καὶ ἐκαθαρίσθη.
Καὶ ἰδοὺ,
ἀνὴρ πλήρης λέπρας·
ἰδὼν δὲ τὸν Ἰησοῦν
πεσὼν ἐπὶ πρόσωπον
ἐδεήθη αὐτοῦ λέγων·
Κύριε, ἐὰν θέλῃς
δύνασαί με καθαρίσαι.
ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα
ἥψατο αὐτοῦ
Θέλω, καθαρίσθητι·
καὶ εὐθέως

ἡ λέπρα ἀπῆλθεν ἀπ᾿
And behold,
a leper came

and worships

him, saying:
Lord, if you wish,
I can be cleansed.

And he stretched out his
hand and touched him,
I wish it; be cleansed.
And immediately
his leprosy

was cleansed.
And, calling out to him,
there comes to him a leper

and kneeling and

saying to him:
If you wish,
I can be cleansed.
And, moved with compassion,
he stretched out his
hand and touched him
and says to him:
I wish it; be cleansed.
And immediately
the leprosy
left him,
and he was cleansed.
And behold,
a man full of leprosy.
But, upon seeing Jesus,
he fell upon his face
and requested
him, saying:
Lord, if you wish,
I can be cleansed.

And he stretched out his
hand and touched him,
I wish it; be cleansed.
And immediately
the leprosy
left him.

*The immediate context for today's blog is India's Supreme Court reifying Section 377 (a section of the IPC - Indian Penal Code, that dates back to 1861 when the British applied their very wise legal ideas to their Indian colony). The section was thrown out by the Delhi High Court a few years ago as ultra vires India's constitution. Right after the reinstatelent of 377, which was more in the form of a timely duck by the SC, came a storm of both protest and gleeful affirmation in the media and on the Net. Not surprisingly, Conservative Hindus, Conservative Muslims and Conservative Christians joined hands in praising the SC while taking the opportunity to generally bash liberals as well as the LGBT community.

One particular discussion took place on the Facebook page of Indian Evangelical Theologians, and I promised then to share my thoughts on the issues raised there in more detail, so here it is, for what it's worth.

377, adultery, asexual, Bible, bisexual, Christian, gay, heterosexual, homosexual, Jesus, lesbian, LGBT, LGBTA, NT, OT, Paul, sexual orientation, sin, slavery, transsexual
#377 #adultery #asexual #Bible #bisexual #Christian #gay #heterosexual #homosexual #Jesus #lesbian #LGBT #LGBTA #NT #OT #Paul #SexualOrientation #sin #slavery #transsexual #interpretation #literalism #doctrine #gospel #celibacy #Gerhardson #gospels #Rome #Palestine #understanding #DumbDown # #condemn #ostracism #outcasteism #rights #hell #HellTalk #vituperation #hatred #love #justice #equality #respect #judgmentalism #culture #CultureShock #accommodation #samlcarr #

(1) See the Guardian article

The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed

and the related BBC series Britain’s Forgotten Slave Owners, the first of two episodes, presented by David Olusoga, will be broadcast on Wednesday on BBC2. Click here for the Legacies of British Slave Ownership Database

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Reading A Text in its Context

How does one read an ancient text in its context?
Well I just ran into N. T. Wright's little video on this, and how he sees the creation story in Genesis as it would have been understood in the intertestamental period (just before and right up to), the New Testament.

I'd be interested in the viewer's comments!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Suffer A Blessing

It started some years back, the pain. There was something odd about it. It would begin at sunset and then build up until Aruna's feet felt like they were on fire. At some times it would be less bad and then on other days it would be awful and she would be writhing in pain all night.

She had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes just about then, and all the doctors at first ascribed her pain to that. Bring the sugar under better control, they'd say... but nothing seemed to work. Then one doctor suggested that it might be something called fibromyalgia and another said it was probably myofascial pain, still another concluded that it was restless legs . There were no real meds for this, they said, but perhaps this one or that one had helped some people, so why not try? There were also a few 'friends' who 'felt led' to share some less charitable opinions with us about unrepentant sinners, God's judgement, and so on.

The pain went on for some years. It was chronic and it was debilitating, but Aruna managed somehow. Then, in September 2012 came the fall. one night while closing the gate, she slipped on a wet stone at our doorstep and went down hard. She had had falls before as her right leg was a bit weak from childhood polio, but nothing like this fall. When we picked her up her foot was out at right angles and the bone poking out. We called the ambulance and rushed off to the hospital where x-rays showed a complete break, and they had her in surgery the very same day.

As she came out of the anesthesia, Aruna had a hard time, nasty dreams, savage images and odd incidents from her past seemed to be repeating themselves live. Then her` recovery was slow, but the surgery had gone well and everyone was confident that she would heal up just fine. However, after 10 days, the healing was not happening and in fact there seemed to be areas of flesh that were breaking down, so another surgery took place where a big pad of tissue was placed over the non-healing zone and covered with a skin graft. The plate was replaced by a pin, and then we waited, and waited. The wound seemed to heal well, but her bones were not knitting up as expected.

Aruna slowly gave up on walking properly again. She could hobble around with a walker, but most of the time she stuck to her wheelchair. There was no further observable progress. And the pain in her feet was back, with a vengeance and was creeping up above her ankles. Now, even her hands had started to burn.

Let me tell you, there's nothing more horrible for a human to experience than chronic pain!

Now, the questions began in earnest. What had she done wrong? Why were all these bad things happening to her? Needless to say, some of the most 'helpful' friends were back with their painted smiles and zealous counsel... and inevitably, come on God! You've already taught us the pain lesson, do we really need this to top it off?

Right about then, Sumi and Kiron (Aruna's brother and our sister-in-law) and my sister Anita put their support behind a proposal to visit Vellore's famous Christian Medical College Hospital. Additional pressure was brought to bear on us by Sumi's parents, the Muthiahs, as Mrs. Muthiah had herself taken treatment there for a broken ankle, and Mr. Muthiah was one of CMC's consultants and knew that it is an excellent hospital.

It would be difficult and it would be beyond our means, but help was offered by all of these caring folks, and so we decided to give it a try. At least, one last consult wouldn't hurt, and perhaps CMC would find some way to help Aruna to walk a bit better and with less pain. A two day trip was planned, and our very good friends Paru and George Peter offered to come along. George's brother J.P. Peter is a special officer at CMC and he too offered his help, so off we went.

The consult with the orthopedist Dr. Korula Mani Jacob was right to the point, Aruna had a neuropathic joint and that would not heal. Why the neuropathy? That question was answered by Dr. Vivek Matthews, who did a thorough exam and said he suspected a much more serious cause and that we should come back for comprehensive testing that may take as much as one week as an in-patient. We booked the room and went back to Coimbatore to eventually return after a month. It was a very controversial decision with some folks saying we were wasting time and money and that nothing practical could come of it - but with some more encouragement, we decided to give it a try.

The one week stretched to two, she went to the operation theater twice and had consults with a host of different specialists. The ortho and physical medicine teams simultaneously worked out a solution for her walking. They came up with a footwear design, specially molded and designed for her that allowed pain free walking. In the meantime the neuro team concluded that it was clearly a case of CIDP, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (and asymmetric to boot).

This was frightening to hear - an incurable autoimmune disorder! But there was a ray of hope. It had been caught early and before Aruna's muscles had lost their strength AND if treatment was started we could probably arrest its course and keep the CIDP from damaging any more nerves. And the biggest surprise of all was that the leg pain was not diabetic neuropathy and it was not fibromyalgia-myofascial pain, it was definitely the CIDP that was the culprit and eventually her leg pain too would abate as the immune system was readjusted by the treatment.

Wow! All of a sudden here was hope.

To put our 'struggles' into a little perspective, that was when we heard from our dear friends Gary and Susan Frede that Susan had decided to go into hospice care and to stop fighting the very terminal stage of ovarian cancer that she was in. What a witness they have been to God's love right through such suffering! I was specially privileged and amazed to hear her cheerful "Hi Sam!" one last time...

In hindsight we now know that with her CIDP there was no chance at all of her ankle healing, for without healthy nerves, bones won't heal! On further thought we realize that had it not been for that awful broken leg , the two operations and then the subsequent failure to heal, we would just have got on with things as we had been and largely ignoring the leg pain as 'just one of those things'. In hindsight we know that we had been unresponsive to her pain signals, so it took something extreme to get us moving in the right direction. The added suffering, far from being a curse, was actually a blessing. Finally, if we had ended up going to any hospital other than CMC Vellore for diagnosis and treatment, it would have been disastrous!

Now, because God had blessed us with that kick in the pants of some additional pain and suffering, we've been led to a new understanding, and if not a cure, at the very least we have some answers. The future has become one of hope, not one of despair.

The thought that we might just have gone blithely on, and Aruna's muscles would have slowly deteriorated and then wasted away and soon there would have been no hope, only a terribly bleak future... that thought shows us that suffering is the first step to wisdom, so suffer the blessing!

Our greatest blessing: Aruna and her famous smile!

People to especially thank, not only for what they did but even more for how happily and lovingly they support us:

Close friends and family: George Peter, Paru Peter, Sumi James, Kiron James, Anita Jeyaveeran, J.P. Peter, Usha and Leslie Bonney, Mr. and Mrs. Muthiah (Sumi's parents), Gary and Susan Frede, Sudhir and Sowdha James, John and Sheila Selwyn, and our own wonderful family doctor and close friend Dr. Ravi Thiagarajan.

Our home gang: Furkhan and Fareed (our house guests), and all our wonderful young people (Rom and Saran's friends - our adopted kids) Manu, Vasanth, Ijaz, and Farah, and with our good friends Sundari and Xavier and  Christy and Christopher Karunakaran, their lovely daughters Lydia and Sarah, who are both part of the previous gen of adoptees that also includes Karthik Babu and Senthil, all of whom spread their love all around us like a lovely warm blanket!

At CMC Vellore: Dr. Mathew Alexander,  Dr. Vivek Mathew, Dr. Korula Mani Jacob, Dr. Anil Kumar B. Patel, Dr. Ajith Sivadasan, Dr. Suresh Babu, Dr. Ajoy Oomen John, Mr. Sam Kirubakaran (PT), Dr. Sudha Jasmine, Mr. Joseph (Annexe), the nursing team, attenders, and cleaning staff at the A Ward. There are many more who need to be thanked who were never introduced to us, but we thank you all for being a part of our blessing.

Those who came all the way to visit us and to pray with us at CMC included Professor Sundaram, Prakash Percey, Jayaraj Alexander, Rajkumar Richard and then that cloud of faithful witnesses who supported us in prayer and love from a distance...

Monday, October 07, 2013



Are you enraged yet? It's the truth, the painful truth. Millions have died and are dying just so Big Pharma and 'organized medicine' can continue to make the big bucks. It is not necessary! But it is the truth...

Opening October 11, 2013. Go, see it, tell your friends, no, take your friends!

Monday, September 16, 2013

No Words... Foreigner, I Want to Know What LOVE is!

There are no words to describe this song, and the video is simple and lovely!

In case that link is not working here's another one

Foreigner  - I Want To Know What Love Is by manon42

Thanks to Lenin Paul for sharing this one on FB!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Unequal America, a 'viral video' You Should Watch

Wealth Distribution in America

This short and factual video gives a very accurate picture of the reality of the American Dream. If the accumulation of wealth has anything to do with your American Dream, then you'd have to be luckier than a lottery winner to really make it in the United States of America.

The real reality is that Americans dream small and so are satisfied with what they believe to be a good status quo. Watch and decide for yourself... UPDATE Jan 2015 - And remember, the real status quo is changing, ever pushing wealth to the right. The video has 2009 USA data while now in 2015 the top 1% of the world officially own more than the entire other 99% put together!

Saturday, June 15, 2013



Peoples of the Rest-of-the-World 

- Wake Up! 

There's absolutely no need to continue using 1st world 'free' technology and pay the price of free prying into all of our business. If the citizens of America & Europe are willing victims, that's their problem. Why should we continue to be dupes?

After all, Most (if not all) of the software that's used to spy on us by the 1st world 'tech giants', their firewalls, and even their operating systems, were built by 'our' engineers, were created by and are maintained by Pakistani, Indian, Filipino, Sri Lankan and myriad other 3rd world software engineers.

We do have to thank the NSA and their political bosses for having finally kicked us in the butt! There's no lack of entrepreneurship on our side, it's just been lulled to sleep. So, time to wake up, build up our own infra, set up our own enterprises, offer our own jobs, earn our own money, pay our own taxes, and... We can do a better job. We can build really FREE social nets, provide real value, and even build-in security that will make the FBI, CIA, MI5, NSA (...and whatever other security agencies are prone to pry, & their contractors), sweat blood.

It's truly ironic that I am putting up my own 'call to (data) independence' on the blogger that's owned by google, who in turn has been quietly handing MY private data to all takers including apparently the Brits, and never had the courtesy to ask my permission to do so. Of course, it's probably buried deep in the fine print of something I 'agreed to' when accepting their terms of service, so it's my own stupid fault!

I will also publicise this blogpost on facebook, twitter, and whatever other captive/compromised social media I can find, for this is the only option at present.

BUT if the rest-of-our-world's entrepreneurs would wake up, there's 5 Billion people in this world that are not citizens of the first world and who would be happy to have alternatives, yes - better alternatives, rather than to continue to sell off our secrets, our business plans, our family doings, and everything else, for free, and just because we were too lazy and too complacent to do anything about it.

In the meantime, there's plenty for first-worlders to consider about the real costs of their erstwhile war on terror, costs that every single one of their citizens is having to pay, and costs that are at bedrock only paid because of pure political hype!

In fact there's little doubt that it is these very costs that are indirectly, but surely, destroying these 'advanced' economies from within. Take for one example this WaPo article and try to digest what the author says.

And we, the peoples of the Rest-of-the-World, will not be so foolish. We will exact the political cost for any politico that tries the same dupe on us. We're not THAT dumb!

But, that's an aside.

Peoples of the free world, UNITE!

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Complaints About Christianity:

I know I am treading on dangerous ground here, and as usual I will be the fool that goes where angels fear to tread.
Two recent happenings set off this blogpost. A good friend (Pastor Rajkumar) asked me to put together my major complaints about Christianity...

I couldn't do it right then, but it got me thinking. Then, a young friend questioned me about a facebook post I'd done that was critical of some modern atheists including Dawkins and Hitchens, and asked me to clarify where I stood on science and Christianity...

Well here I stand! I am a firm believer in Jesus. I think I know Jesus and I'm even more confident that Jesus knows me. But, I do not like much of the religion of Christianity. So, here are some rather randomly put together thoughts on some of the things that I don't like about Christianity:

  1. Youth are not encouraged to question their faith. When they meet serious questions they are unable to answer and get shaken. In fact to take this a bit further, the teaching of "no doubt" is ridiculous. We do live with and in doubt, and the less we teach our children about how to deal with reality the less good we do them.
  1. We teach theology and theory instead of Jesus. Paul says he preaches Christ and Him crucified. We should stick to that and strip off all speculation. I think the way to knowing Jesus should be through a deeper understanding of the gospels - which are our primary sources. Instead of immersing ourselves in Jesus and His words of life, we turn to the much misunderstood epistles and end up building our theologies and ethics from contexts that we have no way of understanding.
  1. Our basic understanding of concepts like sin and forgiveness, righteousness, justice, mercy, love, wrath, and indeed of God’s own nature and relation to us, and what the gospel is that Jesus taught, are based on selective readings and improper understanding of Jesus/Pauline teaching. We need to reexamine each of these in the light of the gospels.
  1. We have glorified the church; in fact we have created monsterous organizations that seriously detract from whatever would/should have been Christianity. It is without doubt that building the church has become the primary function of Christianity. The gospel has been subverted to that task and has suffered for this. In fact, our glorification of theology is primarily a church building activity, and creates an extrabiblical authority that has modified the gospel to suit the uplift of the church.
  1. All that is found evil in the world has been imported into churches, as is natural when groups of people get bound together by an organization rather than by true belief.
-We have glorified wealth/status as a sign of God’s blessings and favour.
-We reject the poor, the suffering, the disenfranchised, the despised, the sinner, the marginalized in society, and so we have left Jesus and his gospel far behind us.
-Hierarchies are all too common.
-We make much of our liturgy and of our church buildings refusing to recognize that these are the trappings of idolatry.

  1. Bibliolatry also figures especially in conservative-evangelical circles. We have a view of the bible that is not supported by the bible itself and is detrimental to honest belief.
  1. Our interaction with science (broadly including social science, anthropology, history-archaeology, biology, and physics) has been ridiculous. We look at science as philosophical and therefore as a rival to Christian philosophy, whereas by doing this we have abandoned science to nonbelievers. We teach our children defensive ways of understanding science so that it is not allowed to conflict what the ‘church’ teaches as truth. God becomes a god of the gaps, and the gaps where we try to hide this god become ever smaller.
  1. Our ethics are based more on societal and cultural norms rather than on the gospel. I am not a Jesus vs Paul person, but again, I think we tend to misunderstand Paul’s epistles and build our ethics on principles that are not traceable back to Jesus’ gospel. We also ignore the fact that Jesus reframed OT teaching in a whole new way and ignoring our Lord, still try to bring long dead OT concepts into our ethics. On the whole, our failure to understand temporal concepts in the bible is a major stumbling block and we add insult to that with our habit of selective application of only those OT principles and practices that seem conducive to our concept of what Christian ethics is, as taught by the church.A case in point in South India is the support for casteism that is theologically derived from the tribalism of the OT!

  2.  Any religion is supposed to help point the way to God. Yet all religions end up pointing the way into their own folds, and therefore end up obscuring the way to God. The servant becomes the master!

  3. Denominations are abominations.

  4. Pride! One would think that the discovery that we are desperate sinners, saved purely by God's grace, would leave us humbled. Yet, the opposite happens. I remember that humbling beginning, but it was all too soon replaced by a growing pride in my newfound theology... I went on to quietly believe that 'unbelievers' were missing something, and then went on to believe that because I was 'blessed' I was a complete human being - the corollary being that others were not. Of course, I don't believe this was a conscious progression, or let's say I hope it wasn't. But the result, eventually, was that the humility disappeared and was replaced by a very silent but real pride. Eventually, then, the world got divided into the blessed saved ones - and the unblessed (all the rest). The blessed ones are by definition those within the church, and perhaps more particularly, those who have protected their faith with the most correct theology. 
    -It took a very long time for me to realize that I was wrong.
    -If loving others at least as much as oneself is the starting point to obedience to God, then in spite of my 'true-believer' status, my faith is suspect. By the same reasoning, those with better praxis, are better believers, even if they have nothing to do with church or Christianity. When Jesus demands action, then actions will always speak louder than words.

  5. Finally, to end my rant with a political question - where does the church stand on issues of human rights? The church has always been a political handmaiden to the powerful. The Reformation only realigned the church's political dealings, it did not eliminate it.
    -The most glaring failure of today's Christian church has been its misinterpretation of the gospel to support oppressive, genocidal  regimes. Dare we ask ourselves what Jesus would say if he saw how we deal with Israel & Palestine? Yes, there are a few professing Christians who are horrified by Israel's blatant racism and even more blatant Palestine bashing, but these Christians are a tiny minority. Most prefer to close their eyes and ears to the truth that stares at them every day in the news, on facebook, and on Twitter, and blithely stump the church's litany of so called 'biblical' support for the state of Israel. 

    More generally, what do we think a Christian foreign policy should be? What of Bahrain, what of Saudi Arabia, what of the various 'istans' who form the bulk of the friends of the "Christian nation" of America in the near East? Yes, this is not the church speaking, but neither does the church care to or dare to speak out!
    Many a bewildered young (or sometimes even older) Christian is left to wonder at the huge gap between the gospel and the reality of Christianity - and not a few have decided that the gap is just too great!

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Blues

Muddy Waters , James Cotton, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Mable Hillery, Sunnyland Slim, Otis Spann, Willie Dixon 

Singing "Bye Bye Baby Goodbye"

Blues Jam . 1966 Live


Turn that volume up and enjoy!


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