Monday, June 17, 2013

The Wolf-Shepherds in our World

A study of the story of Good Samaritan in the context of the recent events in Kerala
A young man sold all he had, and set off to go to an Arabian country to find a means of living. The agent who promised to give him the necessary legal documents to enter the country, however, took almost all his money from him, and disappeared. The young man, penniless, homeless, hungry, and sick, shared the life of the stray dogs in the streets of Bombay. One day, a bishop, who passed by in his car, noticed the young beggar, and immediately recognized him as belonging to his own parish back in Kerala. It was Sunday morning, and he was going to offer Holy Eucharist in a parish on its patron’s day. He was too busy to stop his car. Another day, a priest passed by, and he also recognized the young man, but he couldn't stop either because he had to attend a diocesan meeting. One day a Malayalee Harijan, who noticed the young man being sick and hungry, took him to a nearby clinic, and then helped him to get back to his family in Kerala.


If Jesus Christ lived in our own time among the Malayalee community, this is how he might tell us the story of the Good Samaritan.
There are four types of people in this story.
  •  The robbed
  •  The robber
  •  The supporter of the robbed
  •  The supporter of the robber
The man who was robbed is someone who does some kind of work useful to the others as a means of living. By doing an honest labor, such people take care of themselves and their families. Live and let live-- that is the principle upon which they live. They do not purposefully do anything that is harmful to others. Because they live upon their own sweat, they make just enough wealth to live. They feel themselves to be a part of their society. 
The robbers are selfish, self-centered, and dishonest. They do not consider themselves part of their society. They are not willing to do some kind of honest labor, and support themselves. They make a living for themselves by acquiring the fruit of other people's labor. Robbers are not only the people who enter homes at night to steal. Whoever lives off of the sweat of other people belong to this category. Those who underpay their workers, the workers who do not do their job satisfactorily, and the merchants who overprice their things--they all belong to this category. Not only individuals but also organized societies can be robbers. 
If some people in a society live on the sweat of the other people, undoubtedly it is a dying society. When this happens, the only way to save a society is by empowering the robbed people by supporting them, and by standing against the robbers. The king and the priest, the political and religious leaders, are those who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of taking care of a society or a community. They are the ones to protect a community by taking a strong stand against the robbers. What if they support the robbers instead of opposing them? That would be an awful situation. Jesus accused the priests in his time for supporting the robbers. This is what he meant when he said that they had turned the temple in Jerusalem into a den of robbers. Not only temples and churches, but any establishments originally meant for the good of mankind will be turned into their dens by such robbers.
The priest who passed by was a worse robber than the ones who robbed the man. A robber is a wolf. But he always appears as a wolf. He doesn't have a double personality. But the priest in the story has a double personality. He is really a wolf disguised as a shepherd. The sheep can always run away from a wolf when it comes. The wolf might run after the sheep and kill one or two. It goes away with its hunt, and comes back again when it gets hungry. However, the wolf disguised as a shepherd effortlessly leads the entire flock into its den to suck their blood and eat their meat.
Not only a priest, but any kind of leader can be a wolf in the shepherd's clothing. A shepherd has power over the sheep. He can easily turn the course of the sheep. He can make them stop, or make them move in any direction because the sheep trust him.  People trust their leaders. The wolf-leaders take advantage of this trust, and lead them to their dens.
King David was a shepherd as a young boy. Later he was promoted to be the shepherd of the people of Israel. He knew how to be a good shepherd to his people. However, there was a time when he became a wolf-- when he murdered Uriah, his own trusting soldier. Prophet Nathan fearlessly pointed his finger at the wolf within the shepherd's clothing and said, "You are that man!" 
Help and support come from where it is the least expected. No one would expect the Samaritan to stop there because the wounded person belonged to Judaism, a different caste, the followers of which considered themselves superior to the Samaritans. Nobody would have blamed the Samaritan if he had walked away without helping. In spite of the enmity and the contempt that existed between the two castes, the Samaritan was willing to help because who he saw there was not a Jew but a fellow human being. There existed a thick wall between the Jews and the Samaritans; however, such a wall of separation didn't exist in the mind of this saintly Samaritan. A saint sees no walls that separate one human being from another human being. By supporting the oppressed, this saint puts his own life in danger. He might as well have been robbed and tortured. But he takes the risk. One needs courage to stand up for the truth.
The stand of the Christian community in Kerala in crucial situations in the past has not been very encouraging. When the people of India rose under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi demanding freedom, the Christian community of Kerala was not among them. They were afraid that once made independent, India would be ruled by Hindus. They preferred the rule of the British (Christians) to the rule of the Hindus. Even more shameful was the stand of the Kerala Christian community when the people belonging to the lowest classes of Kerala rose under the leadership of such leaders like Sri Narayana Guru, and demanded justice. When these miserable fellow human beings cried from the sidewalks, the Christian community heard the cry, but ignored it, and moved on like the priest in the story. Why? They themselves were a higher class and caste in Kerala, and they wanted to keep the existing social structure without any change. The Christian community proved themselves to be liars and wolves by not standing with the oppressed people. How do we feel about ourselves when we look back at these crucial events in our history?
In every society at all times there exist these four kinds of people: the people who are robbed, the robbers who live off of the sweat of others, those people disguised as the caretakers but are really robbers, and the few people who see human beings as human beings. What category are we in?


susan said...

No John, I do not know whether the Church as a body was with the colonists but Christians were in the forefront of the independence movement. My uncle ( P J Mathew) went to prison at 16 years of age, and was in Nagercoil Jail which is now a school; my great uncle joined the INA and was missing as he went to fight with Bose, and what about the Malayala Manorama family? I think they were at the receiving end for their patriotic activities. There were hundreds who followed Gandhi and my mom who was in a Christian College (ALuva UC and Kottayam CMS) went out on demonstrations/satyagraha against the British. She used to tell us these stories. There were even some songs from those days. I will ask my mother who is now 82 if she remembers any.

Susan Eapen

Tony Daniel said...

People stop thinking at the Sunday School Level. I have heard priests telling this story to older people, with the moral, "be good to strangers and/or give liberally." [This story is banned in some Sunday Schools because of "Stranger Danger"] Misused parables include "The Prodigal Son", Parable of the "Two sons in the Vineyard". These are just used as "feel good stories". Very unfortunate situation.

susan said...

Dear John,
The most vital difference between Hindus and Christians is that we do not believe in individual salvation. Salvation is for the creation as a whole and until everyone is free, no one, in spite of intentions and efforts, can be free.

Any one who tries to be a good Samaritan may end up being robbed by a fake victim. However, in this context we must also remember that the Samaritan in the parable also faced danger from the robbers who used to hide in the area and in spite of the threat, he stopped to help the victim.

Susan Eapen

John Kunnathu said...

Susan and Tony,
Thank you for reading and commenting.
I agree that individual Christians were involved in the struggle for independence. I don't think individual salvation is the one difference between Christianity and Hinduism. Some forms of Christianity emphasize individual salvation. Hinduism in general emphasize the well being of the whole world as we see in "Loka samastha sukhino bhavanthu".

Tony, your observation is absolutely right. People in our community are discouraged from engaged in any critical thinking. In Sunday school they are taught that any deviation of thinking might make them a heretic.