Politicization of Scripture

Vincent Kundukulam

It is a scandalous truth that these days Bible is becoming a dangerous book in the hands of many Christians who quote it to legitimate their own standpoints on behalf of Jesus and Apostles. Among these new heralds, there are varied types: those who use word of God to substantiate their rigid and exclusive standpoints; those who refer to Bible in order to endorse their liberal positions; those who consider Scripture merely as a pretext to legitimate their whims and fancies, and so on and so forth. Whatever be the sensibilities of these hijackers of God’s word, all of them make Bible say what they want to say and draw their own theological conclusions. That means there is a politics behind using Biblical revelation and making theological discourses. Unveiling the hidden agendas of the abductors of word of God and politicized theologians is a must to protect the faithful from the false beliefs and practices.

Politicization of the word of God is not to be confounded with author’s intent, which is constitutive of the very formation of the scriptural texts. The Bible is a book written in human history at a particular time and place in order to meet the spiritual needs of believers. In that sense, the passages in Bible are partly the theological constructs of the then existing faith communities or remembrance of the apostles about Jesus’ perspectives or attempts of preachers to explain how Jesus approached the issues their listeners were then confronting. By politicization of the word of God we don’t mean the ‘authentic truth-seeking’ the writers and listeners had at the formation of texts. By this we refer to the endeavours of those who use Scripture and theological properties to gain power over the community of believers and at times to make economic benefits for themselves or for the group.

Political engagement by the religious leaders is not fresh in history. It existed from the time when religious texts were formed and false prophets arose to explain the sacred texts for their interests. There had ever been politically minded religious heads and religiously minded political leaders who were misusing the revealed texts, doctrines and symbols to gather a wider support among the ordinary public for their political interests. In the Hebraic literature there are so many instances where leaders of Israelites, who overtly exerted influence upon the political life. There often we come across with ‘winners’ stories’. To the exegetes, in many such cases, it is not clear whether those canons really translate God’s prophetic will. At times their claims are constructs of a powerful group that needed a sacred history in order to authenticate their political goals.

Coming to Christianity, the controversy between Pope Leo X and Martin Luther regarding indulgence – the decision of Pope to make a sale of indulgence (reduction of the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins) in view of collecting money for the construction of basilicas at Rome in 1517 – is worth-mentioning in this regard. In the context of India, for so many centuries, the Brahmins succeeded in manipulating politically, economically and socially other castes and lower classes in particular through fake interpretations of their Scriptures. The narration about the creation of four castes from the four parts of Adipurusha is an unambiguous example for pseudo-hermeneutics.

The unveiling of the hidden politicization of Scripture and theology is an urgent need of the time when different types of extremisms get momentum in India. Unless we undermine the idols and ideologies that are fabricated by the kidnappers of the Word of God and display how far and how much their literal, fantasied and dislocated faith-affirmations contradict the fundamental message of the gospels and the magisterium, the Catholic believers will get more and more dissolved in the Pentecostal churches in our country.

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