That was a word which was a part of my life every day, an average of at least ten times each day, in some form or the other. And coming from a family that would rather miss breakfast than a Sunday service, I ended up being deeply involved in my church and its associations. At times too deeply that before I even got to pass my SSLC, I got to see the grey shades of a church its members swore by. And despite its colours I found myself more endeared towards it. After all the blood that coursed my veins(and arteries) was heavily mixed the suriani christiani spirit. Ohh, ur a catholic? "No!!!". A protestant. "Oh please no!". Then? What else is there? "I'm an eastern orthodox". A what?
I come from a sect based out of Kerala perched on the western edge of India where every religion has multiple divisions. That is how religions survive in this country, by subdividing and re-dividing based on the cultural differences governing each state, each region. Each sect traces back their roots to the dinosaurs.. at least they try to; and when that fails at least to the dark ages or bright sages!
Mine doesn't do all that. We accept that we are quite recent, after Christ(anno domini), and that our ancestors were actually brahmins(so there, we are Hindu descendants, but hey brahmin ok!), and we aren't really interested in expansion(we are struggling to keep our remaining folk with ourselves so where's the talk about expansion). But then, can any good come from Nazareth? So, of course, our claim is that we were directly baptised by St. Thomas himself, so u see, we are called the St. Thomas Christians. Or in more official terms, I am a member of the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. With a history that is as rich, colourful and diverse as our name itself. So there, in a short and sweet way, is the basic history lesson that I have got used to parroting every time someone goes "Ohh ur a catholic?". Please, not again!
Long back a friend asked me whether I was religious and I told him I was more spiritual. Recently another asked me the same question and I was confused. Not because I was not spiritual, that had only increased, but because I was also religious but in a different way. I was politically religious. I'm not even sure if that term is a fabrication of my own, but its a term that can be associated with a lot of people of my church. We are all politically religious. We are more involved in the politics of the church rather than its spiritual aspect. We love to revel in the posts and associations set up around the church more to show our leadership skills rather than for the growth of the church. And like all hard core keralites we love power. We love to be in control, not under control. But what we forget is that, to be in control we eventually have to be under control of someone. Unless we own the whole thing. Which being a religious institution we can't. God owns it. Even saying that sounds funny. But well ya, like it was shown in a not-so-recent Bollywood movie, God owns all of it. Oh My God!
Wednesday, March 5, 2014