Many of us don’t realize this. We are experts in our own right. We are experts in proving that God got it all wrong. Consider this. God created everything and found it ‘good’. But we find everything just the opposite -wrong. Basic to our religiosity is the inclination to find all that God created ‘not-good’. Our awareness of evil sharpens even as the goodness of creation increases. After creating man, God said, ‘very good’! But it is this that we find ‘very bad’. We may concede that nature is good. But it is hard for us to believe that human beings are inherently good.
There is a need, hence, to take a re-look at conventional piety, which hinges mainly on self-abasement. It grovels in self-denigration. There is nothing good in human nature. We are reeking of sin. Burdened by a flawed nature, we are doomed to fail in our efforts to be good. As St. Paul says, we may want to do good, but we will end up doing the evil we despise.
What is the truth in all this?
One thing is obvious. If human nature were absolutely bad, we would not have been able to respond to God. Think of the thief on the right-hand side of Jesus on Calvary. Something deep in him responded to Jesus. Why is this emphasized in Crucifixion? Is it not to reassure us that, no matter how dark and desperate our predicament, there is an irreducible element of goodness in us. What is more, God values this residual goodness above all else. Nothing else matters as much.
This much, then, we know about God. God sees. Sees good. Thank you, God! This encourages me a great deal. If God were a sombre divine, a sententious prelate, or sanctimonious preacher, there would have been no hope for an imperfect soul like me. Thank you God, for being God; especially for being unlike me, a preacher. At least you dare to maintain that creation as a whole is good. Human beings are good; very good! Who am I to believe otherwise?
There are two reasons why I believe the Creation to be good. First, the Bible says so. But this would not have mattered much to be, to tell you the truth, if something deep within me did not reassure me, despite my doctrinal obliquities, that life is good and beautiful. This realization gestates in me day by day, which is the second reason.
Why is this re-assuring? Well, I am part of God’s creation, amn’t I? If I am, there has to be an irreducible element of goodness in me as well. That alone is the seed of my worth. Is not my worth proportionate to the goodness I see all around me, my passionate eagerness to increase that store of goodness, and to celebrate it as the sacrament of life? If this is so, doesn’t the inability to see the goodness and beauty of life –which disease has attained pandemic proportions today- indicate one’s own self-invited, self-inflicted inner corruption, rather than the inherent flaws in Creation?
If my heart is wicked, if my soul is polluted, and if the light of the Creator cannot enter the denseness of the jungle inside of me, how can I see the world as anything but a den of evil? In this context, shouldn’t I keep in mind as a point of reference the affirmation on which the Bible begins, “God said, ‘let there be light’ and there was light”. Beauty is a collaborative product, in which light is the active agent. Everything is an object to light. Light is the perpetual Subject. Is that not the reason God is recognized as light? How can Christians, then, see the world in a negative light (pray, pardon the oxymoron) given that Jesus is the light of the world? If Jesus is indeed the light for us, are we not obliged to see the world in his light? The gospels are an account of how the world would look, if seen in the light of Christ.
This is an instructive parallel for us. What we have achieved through centuries of wallowing in self-abasement –which is mistaken for self-denial- is a growing affinity to evil and corruption. If we are flawed in the very seed of our life, why bother? It is useless to try to be good. The idea that Jesus will take care of everything, no matter how rotten we are, is blasé. It doesn’t help in practice. If I have no spark of goodness and godliness –both being the same- in me, I will be vis-a-vis Jesus what my uncle was in relation to music. I will only murmur within, ‘Why invite headaches?’
Ask social psychologists. They will tell you that human beings have an affinity to crime and evil. We harbour a secret admiration for mega criminals; so much so, today crime is an essential ingredient in political charisma. Brutality is basic to political effectiveness. It is suicidal to be compassionate in realpolitik. Be truthful and perish, if you like!
But who elects corrupt and criminal politicians? Good and godly people like us. In this we are exhorted, nay directed, by our church leaders to vote for this party and that, irrespective of what they stand for. This bespeaks something more than the gospel of expediency in which we actually believe. A deeper affinity is at work here. Suddenly Gujarat riot did not happen. Rani Maria was not butchered. Graham Staines and his sons were not burned alive. Christian missionaries were not attacked. Thousands of tribal Christians were not driven out of their huts into the jungle in Khandamal and other places. No church was attacked. Hindutva has lost its fangs. A new camaraderie is born. Hallelujah!
That is not all. The worst is that this foregrounding of human depravity makes us sceptical of the aristocracy of our spirit. If Jesus died for me, I have a worth that the world cannot deny or denigrate. No matter who says or does what, it will remain the terra firma on which I exist. If I did not believe that ‘in Christ we are more than victors’ I am, of all people, the most miserable. Jesus came to not only to lead me to heaven, but also to make me a king on earth: the king of the Spirit. It is my birth right –as a new creation in Christ Jesus- to celebrate my spiritual royalty. It was the spatial proximity of this royalty that made Pontius Pilate ask the nervous question, ‘What’s truth?’
Kerala will enter a new era of spiritual regeneration when, coming into contact with Christians, politicians ask ‘What’s truth?’