Christmas used to arouse intense nostalgia in my heart. It marked the happiest days of my childhood. Along with father we would erect a crib with twigs, palm leaves, straw and other things available in the farm. The bed of the crib was made of a grass that we called Unny Iso Pullu [Infant Jesus grass]. This variety of grass grew luxuriantly during December-January in Kerala. Then there would be the carol team that came from the parish church at some odd hour in the night. They would be welcomed with fireworks of all sorts. The Santa Claus in the carol team was an added attraction. The midnight Mass in the parish church was yet another attraction.
Looking back now, I think that the Romance associated with Christmas was the best attraction, however. Joseph walking with his pregnant wife Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem along what I thought would be paths through jungles, their futile search for a place to spend the winter night, the birth of Jesus in a cave with cattle and sheep for company, the appearance of the angel to the shepherds with the announcement of the birth of the divine baby, the melody of Gloria issuing from the heavens, the magi and their special star… Such things hold a unique charm for a child.
The Romance died at the end of my rather protracted childhood. A little later nostalgia too died in my heart – nostalgia of all sorts. When the child in you dies, romance and nostalgia can’t possibly survive. The child in me was subjected to mercy killing by the many religious people who played umpteen comic roles in my life, with the endgame played by the principal of the college where I worked as a lecturer for a brief period. Having liberated me from the child in me, I quit the job and sought asylum in Delhi.
If the Catholic missionaries had not perpetrated the comic murder, Delhi would have done it less comically and more sadistically. There is more arrogance and self-righteousness in Delhiites than in most Catholic priests.
A few days back, addressing a group of Delhi students I asked a question for rhetorical effect rather than for an answer from the audience. “What will we do if god appeared to us personally?” I answered it myself. “We will kill him.” We will kill him because he will make too many demands of us, demands that are too inconvenient. So we will kill him, then make his images, place those images in some place of worship, make rules for him and his worshippers, and then go and kill others in his name. I was introducing Richard Bach’s novel, Illusions.
Today I asked a question to myself. What if Jesus appeared to us personally this Christmas? Dostoevsky had raised this question through Ivan in his novel Brothers Karamazov. The cardinal threatens to burn Jesus at the stake unless he leaves the place quietly. “Why do you come to disturb us?” is the cardinal’s question to Jesus. A decade ago, a scholarly and controversial Catholic theologian, Hans Kung, raised the question again. “By way of experiment, is it possible to imagine Jesus of Nazareth at a papal mass in St Peter’s, Rome?” asked the theologian in his book, The Catholic Church. He answered it with another question: “… would people there perhaps use the same words as Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor…?”
Jesus would be totally out of place in the Christian churches of today. Most Christians wouldn’t even recognise him. Those who do, particularly the cunning priests, will be in a hurry to lock him up in some tabernacle.
A god locked up behind the canons made by imperious religious leaders is a safe god – safe, for those who make a living out of religion. Such a god can be reincarnated at any time in the cribs of churches. Because that god is bound to obey the rules prescribed by those who determine the liturgy and perform the rituals.
I wish the real Jesus would return once again this Christmas.
What does Jesus really mean to me? Please wait until I get time to write the next blog.