Thursday, October 28, 2010

Women and politics in God’s own country

The UDF is euphoric, the LDF circumspect, the BJP satisfied with a little and the independents and rebels are repeating “didn’t I tell you so.” The results of the local body elections in Kerala were announced on October 27 and the winners are lining up to govern God’s own country. The uniqueness of this election is that God’s own country will be governed by God’s own women as well this time. A clear 50% of the seats were reserved for women and saw all women contests in them.

So now that we have women leaders in our society it is time we analyse whether they are going to make a difference or not. If one talks to the locals in any area in Kerala, they are doubtful of whether women will be able to make a difference in the political scene in Kerala. The reasons they give are 1. The women candidates are proxies of men who happen to be their husbands or fathers, 2. The husbands will run the show for five years and 3. These women are not well versed in the nitty-gritty’s of local and regional politics. The first two points one must note are not so much about the qualities of women but about the interference of their men!

The politics of reservation has gone wrong in a way and therefore it is good in one sense that it has not been passed for the Lok Sabha yet. An alternative to this has already been suggested in which 1/3rd or half the seats be reserved in political parties and not in constituencies. This leads to women being allowed to contest from wherever the party decides and not from reserved seats. Women will then get to fight seats against women and men. Proper planning will ensure that the parties don’t just give weak seats to women but will give women seats everywhere. This will lead to women feeling that they have earned their victory rather than being put through a performance of reservation.

As that stands we need to look at what the 50% women leaders in Kerala are going to accomplish. Are we scared of them? Do we look down upon them because we feel they are not up to it? Will they ruin Kerala and thereby God’s own country? One needs to look at the book of Esther in the bible. Esther, the woman chosen to be the wife of the king Ahasuerus is faced with the destruction of her people due to the plot hatched by Haman. The newly crowned queen was in all means faced with a difficult situation. Many would have thought that she does not have it in her to help her people and she will be able to do nothing at all. It is interesting as to what Esther does. “She took off her splendid apparel and put on garments of distress and mourning, and instead of costly perfumes she covered her head with ashes and dung.” Further… “She prayed to the Lord God and said, “O my Lord, you only are our King; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, for my danger is in my hand.” Esther’s determination leads to the survival of her people. She understands the seriousness of the situation better than anyone else and helps her constituency.

Instead of one Esther we have several Esthers. It is but natural that we are going to doubt the efficiency of our Esthers. But what we should not do is to get in between the Esthers and God as they try to bring in a new dispensation in our state. Till we fix the problematic reservation bill, we need to be with our women who will try their best to serve their constituencies. Thus will happen as Mordecai dreams in the book of Esther. “Then they cried out to God; and at their outcry, as though from a tiny spring, there came a great river, with abundant water; light came and the sun rose, and the lowly were exalted and devoured those held in honour.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Everyone wants to play God

Kerala is going to have local body elections on October 23 and 25. We are witnessing unprecedented campaigning and new promises being delivered by all candidates. The bottom line is that all want to win. All want to serve and all are doing it as social service. They tell us that there is no hidden agenda and that development is the key. They have all come into politics to ‘save’ the various panchayats and municipalities of Kerala.

Thus candidates of all ages, gender and political affiliations have a religious tone to them in the form of the save all attitude. But even after analysing candidate after candidate, one does not understand what they intend to do for five long years, apart from saving all of us. It is sad that there is no platform to bring all together and make them explain what they are going to do. Online electioneering will take a bit more of time and so we have to rely on what they say to our faces.

The poor and the rich in Kerala are into a spirituality which is uni-religious in confession and multi-religious in action. This is because people are willing to do anything to get their things done. One has to then wonder that if politicos did indeed fulfil their promises, the picture would have indeed been a bit different. So we are faced with the difficulty of saving one of the candidates to help them save us. It is a quid pro quo. You save me and I will save you.

I am indeed confused. My religion tells me that God saves and I am just a part of that saving process. But the candidate tells me that I can save and win too! This election process has thus put me and many others in a dilemma. Do I become God for a day and vote? Or am I being made into God for a day to serve all the other days? Coming to think of it isn’t that what the candidates are supposed to do? Serve the people and stop being God after they have ensured victory? Everyone wants to play God! Is God watching?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The next Christian mission is going to be in space

A space is a place which is visible, tangible and feel-able. It is right in front of us and we can keep seeing it to assure ourselves of its existence. We can make physical corrections to it and even sell it. Correct? Not anymore! The new spaces can’t be touched (though they can be felt), can be seen in miniature (although it is really much bigger than that), could disappear if something goes wrong, and reproduction of the space is possible across space and time. Space will have a prefix to it and become virtual space. As the word itself suggests, it is virtually close to reality.

More and more people have already replaced part of their real lives with virtual lives and the time spent in the virtual world is increasing by the day. The feeling of real world seclusion and limited opportunities of interaction with people of a common wave length have forced human minds to look elsewhere. The real world in this scenario will be a world influenced by the virtual world in various aspects.

As the church thinks about how to do mission in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious context, a new category emerges quietly but strongly. This is the multi-space context. Modern mission in the church is not complete without taking this context seriously. Some of the characteristics of this virtual space involve the people we seek out. These include 1. Ghost believers- those who may not spell out their identity and belief but may still like to learn more about the church or be associated with it in a very virtual but unofficial way. This is over and against anonymous Christians. 2. Finger/thumb believers- life in the virtual space may not be ultimately decided by the heart but by the finger or the thumb. Church mission will thus be confronted by changing singular sense reciprocity as against set multi sense worship patterns. 3. Multi choice/space believers- the inhabitants of the virtual space will have the luxury of choosing what they like from the security of their chair. They will be able to choose from a variety of spaces and faiths, even when touring from one said place.

Mission in this context is going to be challenging because we may have to look at new models of doing mission. Mission itself may have to be qualified into virtual mission. But then what happens to the trinity and to God? Will mission in the market place be replaced by mission in the virtual space? Will we have to read more into the Nicene Creed proclamation of ‘we believe in one God, maker of all things visible and invisible'? Can Jesus’ death on the cross be broken down to virtual consent and application? Will pain and suffering cease to become physical?

One has to say that Christian mission is not prepared to take this plunge into (virtual) space. Tweets and like buttons are going to challenge mission and blogs will construct virtual opinion on modern mission. Isn’t it then the time for us to make sense of space and the people in it? Shouldn’t we analyse the virtual to find missing pieces of the real and maybe even vice versa? Virtually speaking, Christian mission is going to experience a totally different level of paradigm or page shift!