No fear: Revelation, Hindu Nationalism and open-source preaching

I am not a preacher. That’s very clear both to me and those who know me. But I do consider myself a teacher/communicator… and perhaps there’s a place for that in the pulpit too.

BOOK OF REVELATION (more than a book about the end times)

So I had the opportunity to “preach” at the a chapel… and my “message” was simply this: assuming that the book of revelation was written primarily for Christians who were suffering from persecution and doubt, the book of Revelation encourages Christians not to fear, but wait for God vindication. In fact, Revelation is a call to faith, that God will act on behalf of the oppressed, the persecuted, the God-fearers. This I showed through a quick survey of Revelation 6-11. In these chapters we see horrible judgements upon the earth, and yet we also see constant visions of grace/mercy and sustainence, where God protects his people. The book of Revelation in effect has pastoral implications, and encourages us to look forward to God’s victory.

Jesus was right; non-violence is the only right way for the Christian

I wanted to draw more attention to the fact that it is God who acts to judge; and not man. We don’t ever take our justice in our own hands. Jesus was right; non-violence is the only right way for the Christian(see Matthew 5-7). Our job is to do God’s will, obey him, love humanity and take care of God’s creation… be faithful till the end… and God will do the rest. And He will certainly hold ALL OF US… accountable. But I only could do something basic. And perhaps obviously so.

HINDU NATIONALISM (avoiding the negative ‘fundamentalist’ tag)

Of course this “sermon” was preached in the context of Hindu Nationalism, where a growing number of Hindu Nationalists (some would wrongly call them fundamentalists: it’s wrong because it is derogatory and actually fundamentalism needs to have both positive and negative connotations, not only the negative that is implied) are challenging Christians in India, saying that we are not Indians. Of course that’s illegitimate rhetoric because these “Nationalists” define national identity and nationalism on the basis of “belief” and “rituals” and not in the simple basic fact that the land to which we were born, in which we were raised, is the land that gives us identity. In fact, Hinduism never made India. India made Hinduism. Similarly, no one can choose India as their motherland, it is the land that gives birth to the person. Someone may reject his mother, but the mother will never reject her children. The metaphor is simple; no matter what a Hindu Nationalist says, no matter what an Indian who wants to leave the country says, our identity is fundamentally rooted in India because India gave us our identity. More on that later, back to Fear!

Hinduism never made India. India made Hinduism. Similarly, no one can choose India as their motherland, it is the land that gives birth to the person. Someone may reject his mother, but the mother will never reject her children

Hindu Nationalism is a movement among a few Indians who hold on to certain values within Hinduism; I don’t agree with both their view about national identity or even their view about Hinduism. But since I’m not a Hinduism scholar, I will not comment on their faith (and faith it is). Evidently their view is gaining popular support; and has the potential of generating mass hysteria and ultimately destroying/killing Christians just because people don’t “think” we belong. This has happened all too often with minority communities in India (it’s happened even to Hindus in Kashmir!!!) and of course it will happen again.

In this context, logic/reason is replaced by hatred and blind-passion. So what should we Indian Christians do? Run? Where to? Obviously not away from this land… which the Hindu Nationalists would love to see… (and thus feel vindicated in their rhetoric). But rather, because this land is certainly God’s land (the whole earth is the Lords), we stay here and love. What cliched rot you say? Well, it’s true. There is no other option for us Indian Christians but to replace fear with love, to replace indifference with passion, apathy with service for our neighbour.

OPEN SOURCE PREACHING (def. when many contribute to one message)

How does this work out in the living of the Church community? Well I had the privilege of leading a bible study the same day I “preached” and of course I spoke on the Book of Revelation again, this time on Revelation 12. This time we did a Dramaible Study; which is enacting the story, and seeing it from the perspective of first century readers. The dramatic rendition was quite striking especially since Chapter 12 ends with the dragon choosing to attack everyone who “keeps the commandments of God” and who holds “to the testimony of Jesus”. We realised that was us!

I split the Bible study in groups and I asked after reading Chapter 12 “why should we Christians not fear when we are attacked, mocked, persecuted, killed etc”. And the three groups responded thus:

Group one: (the two views expressed were of children) We need not fear because God took care of the woman, and he will take care of us. God took care of the woman by giving her wings and he can thus give us something to save us from danger. Group two: We need not fear the dragon, because the dragon’s days are numbered. Also, verses 10-12 shows the theological reason; that we overcome by the blood of the lamb. Jesus already died and conquered death, his blood is our victory. Thus, we do not seek to save our life nor run from (fear) death (v11). Group Three: At every stage the dragon attacked the woman, ultimately the God was victorious. God will always be victorious.

Now you may think that these are all simple truths, but let me tell you that these (and there were more ideas) were more than I could come up with alone… and also, some of them were certainly better expressed then I would have done!

BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER

Well I am certainly NOT suggesting that Hindu Nationalism is the Dragon. Far from it! Hindu Nationalism is one voice among many that is attempting to reform this nation. I must listen to them (sometimes I fear them, because I find that their words can cause so much anger that it will only be followed by destruction/death). But even though I fear the consequences of their words/rhetoric, I know that their voices must never be silenced, because even they speak some truth. Therefore they are not our “enemies”.

Then who is dragon? Who is our enemy? The answer anybody, even ourselves. Anyone who aims to destroy God’s work and rejects all that is good. Anyone who uses force to convert us, change us, kill us. For some it could be a mob coming to destroy their home, and for another it could be a corrupt destructive policeman, or it could be a Christian who is out to wrongly discredit/dishonour another fellow Christian. Any of these could be dragons.

How are we to become a community that does not fear? By developing more open-source sermons

The point of this passage is that we need not fear for our lives, because ultimately evil cannot last forever. And in the end, though we may perish, God will prevail. And in Him we have (and will have) life.

And how is this to happen? How are we to become a community that does not fear? By developing more open-source sermons. By this I mean that we need to reject the one-for-all leader-is-baap mentality so prevalent among us Indians. Our leaders/preachers are not the definers of what it means to be Christians. They are not our gurus-gods. It is through our Christian fellowship with each other, through our communion with God through His Holy Spirit, by spending time with His Word, that we grow in the knowledge of what it means to be Christians, and even gain in our expression of this faith. We Christians need to encourage more common Christian voices to be heard, especially so that all Christians (and those who are not Christians) can hear them.

If the vision of Christ was for a church that was equal (gal 3:28), then let us ALL be equal. Let us be diligent to study God’s word, let us be bold to express what we think it means, and humble to learn and be corrected by others.

That, indeed, is open-sources preaching, that, indeed, is the community of God.

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Passage for this Season

Philippians 2:11-13 (NIV) (12)Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, (13)for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

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