Friday, June 18, 2010

Sport and religion: The world cup challenge

A sport is not just a way to entertain ourselves but a coming together of different cultures, minds and bodies. It depends on whether one is on the field or watching the field. For one it is performance and the other it is spectatorship. Both, mind you are important and one cannot survive without the other. Religion can also be demarcated into the enactor and the audience. The enactor detaches himself/herself from the present and uses the past to address the here and the future. The audience brings out their vuvuzelas and rant for victory.

This could sound outrageous or outrageously true! How on earth can sport and religion be discussed in the same breath? It is intriguing that some churches in Kerala still have volleyball courts, badminton courts and play grounds attached to them. This could be because they are near schools or because they have a more youth friendly approach. Whatever the reason, it has led to the youth in the church along with nearby youth belonging to various religions coming together and playing in one turf. The resulting camaraderie achieved somehow cannot be emulated in other instances. Sports do indeed have a case for being discussed.

Football has been a sport/game which has an unparallel following throughout the world because it is played and followed in many nations. It is sort of a religion with a wide following. It has achieved success in acting as a calming influence among disturbed youth and in difficult environments. Youth who would otherwise get into various addictions are given a platform to express themselves. So a sport with a wide following is made use of to help various communities around the world. India more so is obsessed with cricket but come the football world cup, many households and common places burn the midnight oil supporting South American and African teams. Euphoria is created by television and other companies vying with each other to sell their products in the bargain.

Various leaders join in the battle cry for the world cup even suggesting which team will win. Church leaders are not far behind either. But unfortunately what appears to be happening is not a support for a sport which has wide possibility of helping communities and fostering togetherness but a support for companies which stand to gain through sport. Coming a close second is the subconscious need to be part of a battle, whatever kind, as long as it is on a field. Shakira’s world cup song is catchy but the lyrics also talk about this battle. ‘You’re a good soldier. Choosing your battles. Pick yourself up. And dust yourself off. And back in the saddle.’ Again ‘You’re on the frontline. Everyone’s watching. You know it’s serious. We’re getting closer. This isn’t over.’ And finally, ‘Listen to your God. This is our motto. Your time to shine. Don’t wait in line.’

I have loved watching the world cup thus far. The Messi’s, the Forlan’s, the Lee Chung-yong’s, the Mueller’s, the Rooney’s, the Drogba’s, and the Khune’s. But I have also enjoyed watching Binu, Shiju, Philip, Moa, Chinza, David, Ranbir, Sajish, Tasha, Nilu and Priya in the small fields of India, playing for acceptance and togetherness. Why would I watch only the football word cup, a far away battle for primacy and not choose to see a game which is a battle for survival much nearer? I wouldn’t ask anyone to not watch the world cup because after all it is a cultural experience which brings people together. But I would plead with the church and its people to accept the possibility that sports and games offers the church in India. This then is the sacredness of religion and sport. This is the sacredness which lies on the ground and the sacredness which brings people together in a special bond and love.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Who shall save whom? World Environment day

Are you saved? This is the sales pitch (no offence meant) of Christian groups and even certain sections of mainline churches. Obviously the pressure is such that it makes one think as to whether one is indeed saved! We examine our life, the acts we commit and eagerly take our tokens waiting for judgement day. But have we really done enough to sit back, relax and wait for the D- Day? Is what we are experiencing in the form of increased temperatures and melting glaciers a part of the signs of the end of times or is it that the reign of God is here and now and therefore what we sow, thus shall we reap?

What has, being saved and the world environment day got to do with each other? Everything, one must say. Can we be saved in isolation, leaving others to rot in hell? Or do we strive for a more communitarian way of being saved, not just me, not just everyone, but also everything? (For those who would find it difficult to term a tree a she/he but would rather call it a thing) This puts into context the question, ‘Are you saved?’

How can agents of destruction basically ask the question of whether one is saved or not? One has to accept that every religion, sect and group (Barring primal communities like tribal and adivasi’s who don’t have an institutionalised religion) have committed destruction for the purpose of the advancement of their own religion. This is also why it is true to say that, ‘there cannot be any development without destruction’. But to what extend? And if this is so, who are we to talk about saving, when all we do is actually destruction?

This can be questioned by pointing out the steps taken by various religions and churches to plant saplings in every corner of the earth. But unless we rethink our development strategy there can be no turning back of the clock. What has been done has been done and it is only going to get worse because no one is going to slow down but will rather look to up the ante.

Does it then make sense to have a token world environment day when all that we do is actually a farce because when given a chance we will opt to save ourselves and not the environment. It is yet another thing that we time and again forget that by saving the environment we save ourselves in the process too! As usual we will also talk about going back to our roots and to what people did earlier and how they lived in sync with the environment. But we have gone too far in our development process to pedal back so much.

I should not sound too pessimistic. But I can’t sound optimistic at this juncture too. We are in a real soup. Faced with global warming and erratic climate changes, we have pushed the panic button. But we fail to understand the concept of sacrificing oneself to really save someone else. Just like any grand tree would do. It would do good for all of us knowing fully well that we would axe it down at the first opportunity. This is the attitude we need to have, ‘Save someone (thing) and we will be saved too.’ Happy World Environment day!