Friday, February 20, 2015

What lessons do the AAP victory offer the church today?

The AAP victory in Delhi two weeks ago for the assembly elections held there is a result of hard work, planning and networking between people from various strata of society. One cannot and should not put this down as fluke, luck or a rare miracle. It is not every day that a political party wins 67 out of 70 seats!

There can always be conspiracy theories that the AAP won because of RSS support or that the Congress party did not bother to put up a fight because they thought that the AAP can take care of the BJP for the next five years in Delhi and be a thorn in the flesh of the Central government as well. One cannot deny the fact that the AAP worked pretty hard, did their home work and worked among various classes of people who are usually ignored by parties.

But what does such a victory do for the church? Is there anything we can learn from it and should we embark on that journey at all? The church is close to politics as it is also involved with thinking about governance, is concerned about the welfare of people and always wants to bring about change for the better in various places. One cannot therefore separate the church from politics completely and say that the church should never come close to politics and politicking.

What were some of the simple models followed by the AAP which can also be followed by the church? One should know that there is no question of one following the other but to rather understand that both the church and political parties are trying to work for the welfare of the people. Firstly, the AAP worked with people in the grassroots and took their concerns seriously. It was just not to impose things on them but to ask them what was needed and how things could be accomplished. Not listening to people and taking their opinion suggests arrogance and the church should never be arrogant and thrust its views on people. Rather the church should know what the people want by talking to them on a regular basis and arranging for meetings to interact with people who have common jobs and find it hard to make a living.

Secondly, the AAP stressed on positive campaigning rather than negative campaigning. They talked mainly about what they were going to do and had an extensive manifesto for everyone to check. There were moments when the media dragged them into comparisons and asked specific questions on personalities and candidates in other political parties. The AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal was quick to steer away from comparisons and questions on opposing candidates. Instead of dwelling at length on them he dwelled on his party and their work. On asked about Ms. Kiran Bedi he said that she was a nice person. This brought in a good response from the voters. The church should understand that we don’t need to criticize each other and other people and instead can concentrate on the good that the church is doing. Going positive can help the church to concentrate 100% on its own plans and work instead of concentrating on someone else for the entire period. Criticizing others and what they do and follow is not how one must believe in God but rather one should concentrate on one’s own positives and work for the betterment of society.

Thirdly, the ability to say sorry should not be seen as a weakness but as an act of strength and character. The AAP made a mistake by stepping down after 49 days in their first shot at running the government. The first thing they did while campaigning was to admit this and say sorry. The church can correct historical wrongs and correct what may have been a wrong decision based on wrong assessments. A decision once taken need not stay for the sake of our own egos but can be rectified considering the general mood of what is right and wrong. Showing that anyone can make mistakes makes us ordinary and vulnerable but also appealing to those who form the actual support base of the church. One wrong cannot be made true by subsequent wrongs to cover up the original wrong.

Fourthly, one should be able to move with the times and trends. The AAP used the internet and the social media to a great extend to get in touch with people, understand political trends, get new supporters, and explain their programs to people. This brought about a great change to how politics was made to enter into the office, study and even bedroom of the individual voter. The internet was also used to announce meetings, give key information and influence people. This reaching out helped to interact with people. The church can do well if it reaches out to the young generation by speaking their language and hanging out where they do too. This may not be limited to the church but in youtube, whatsapp, facebook, blogs and virtual spaces. Keeping out of spaces frequented by the youth will also mean losing them completely in the long run.

Finally, the AAP believed in what they were doing and even gave religious overtones to it. The bible says that one must pray believing that the prayer has been answered. St. Mark 11:24 tells us “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” The AAP leaders and party workers believed that their dream would come true even though they were written off as one time wonders. The church has times when it ceases to believe in itself and more so in God. So much that we belittle and limit the wondrous powers of God. The Delhi victory can become a Delhi belly, the rumblings of which can be felt in other states and institutions including the church. The church will definitely do well to reclaim the simple yet powerful truth of faith and belief.

Be humble, work hard, say sorry when at fault, understand the feelings and aspirations of people and be one of them, believe in yourself and in the positive shades of the people around you and above all, trust in God for God to carry you through. Should I say more?! Isn’t it time for a church of the common people to arise from within exclusive expressions of the church?

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