I had a very uncomfortable encounter this time when I went visiting my home town a few days back. I happened to attend a Christian Convention where various learned speakers of Theology come and share the word of God. Well, given a choice I would not like to attend such events as a personal preference. Considering the family issues like leaving me alone at home, I rather being the odd man out accompany them to such events. The speaker in the afternoon was tolerable as his story was interesting. However, the speaker in the evening was terrible. He had a captive audience of about 2000 and delivered the most hopeless sermon I ever heard in my life. I tolerated him for a little while but I gave up in between and had to walk out of the venue to breathe some fresh air.
What he spoke was immaterial; the content was irrelevant to the topic given to him. It was just out of courtesy and respect people tolerated him or they were helpless as they had already paid for the dinner coupons after the event. I am convinced that speakers like him are the very reason that people of other faiths detest Christians in India. He spoke in such a manner as if the audience was non believers in the Christian faith. I am convinced such people do not deserve to speak. It was a very sad state indeed that none of the senior priests and church elders had the guts and the gumption to tell this man to walk off. Was it the fear of being impolite or was it fear of God that brings bad times to anyone who opposes such a speaker. Well, I could only protest by walking off.
Be that as it may, I had another encounter with a person in the same convention, who I respect very much. We met during the social gathering after the service was over. I was proceeding for a cup of tea when I met him. The first thing was the praise of my writing skills; I felt really touched and thanked him. The next thing was he said why you don’t write for the church and about spirituality. I said sir give me a break, it doesn’t mean that if I can write I can write about anything. I am not interested in preaching nor am I interested in writing on something of which I have limited knowledge. Besides it won’t be prudent on my part to write about things that do not interest me as of now. The person still insisted and wanted to strike a deal that at least once a week I should write being a prolific writer. I really got uncomfortable and had to tell him that sir please let me have a cup of tea as this conversation is heading to a tense situation amongst us.
He backed off, I moved on and I sat down to think is there something wrong with me. The faith I have in my God is very personal and I don’t have to tom-tom it around. I being a military man, it is my faith that has seen me through the ups and down of life, in good times in bad times in happiness in sadness, in ill health, in fact every life and death situation. I can speak to my divine strength as and when required. I don’t care about the place I am in, I don’t care about the time of the day, I don’t care about the position I am in. I speak to him when I need him and believe you me he has always heard me and guided me. I shall leave it at that.
I don’t know why I get tense while attending any church functions when I go home. I am not sure if my upbringing is such. I do not like or support any religious fundamentalism either. This was evident when I did not appreciate the conduct of the speaker and there after being pushed to write on something which I have not studied to present my views. I would rather stay away from it. I felt pity actually for all those people who sat through the discourse and I feel sad for that learned person who assumed that if I can write on things such as Pakistan and Kashmir, I can write about religion too. May be that person had too many expectations from me.
There was once an officer once commissioned to our unit. We received him and left him alone to set up his room. It was a shock to find about 15-20 golden framed photos of Gods and Goddesses hanging around his charpoy instead of a nude posters from the latest issue of debonair. We rushed to the senior subaltern to report it and immediate corrective action was taken. That night he was on the lawn and rum down his gullet through a funnel during his dining in. The next day being Sunday, most of us got up late. To our horror and surprise one man only in a dhoti, with a three finger smeared teeka of sandal wood on his fore head, a janeyu hanging, kharaau (wooden slippers) on his feet, came to give us Prasad. He had been told to attend mandir parade. Half of us almost died of shock. It took many counselling sessions to get him down to mother earth and told how to behave like an officer.
Well folks, for me religion and faith is very personal. I cannot stand anyone trying to force it on me. I am convinced I know my divine power and he speaks to me, guides me and blesses me. My faith in him ever grows. Same would be the case with you too. Let’s keep the harmony growing amongst us. Will my message be understood in the right spirit? I wonder!!!
© Noel Ellis