Religion and power are intertwined in life. They are integrated with everything humans do. Religion helps people to surpass the difficult stages of life. It lends human existence meaning and hope during the moments of despair. Power is a quality which is inherent in human person and makes him/her do things s/he likes. Religious power enables people to do things by making reference to the transcendental realities. Prayer, ascetic practices, meditation, etc. are some ways to activate the hidden powers in humans and to get self-empowerment.
The fragile persons who cannot solve the problems by normal means crave for a stronger antidote. They need superhuman realities to get affirmed and strengthened. This desire of man for ultimate security gives the religious heads ample opportunity to exercise their power on him/her. Whoever has more capacity to restore security through super-human qualities they will enjoy a better say on the crowd, says M. B. Ter Borg. The so called “human-gods” know this secret and they satisfy the common people by ensuring security through the exercise of ‘supernatural signs.’
They use the ‘religious capital’ acquired through years of training to boost the weak individuals. This game of power functions also because the feeble hearted people would like to submit their dilemmas and doubts to the religious authorities. Its efficacy is due to the mediation of the cultural tradition in which the people live. They delegate their own religious power to a religious head hoping for a higher return. This gives considerable market to the specialists, to put in a common language, “the fake holders of the gifts of Holy Spirit.”
In the contemporary India a certain number of persons with extraordinary powers have emerged in all religions and they have the support of millions of followers. As far as Christianity is concerned a few priests, sisters and “reverend brothers,” who seem to have received special anointment of the Spirit, enjoy a higher degree of power over the faithful. They are given special dignity, position and attributes which place them in between believers and divinity. They wear special clothing, display special behaviour and maintain distinctive life-style. They claim absolute validity for their interpretations of Scripture and dogmas at the expense of neglecting the scholarly interpretations and magisterial teachings. It is unfortunate to see that their answers are seen beyond doubt by many at all ranks of life. This gives them tremendous confidence to misuse the scriptural passages and doctrines in favour of empowering their cultural ethos and institutional stability.
Unfortunately, the sense of sacred they nurture is not always genuine, it is self-serving. Some of them safeguard their authority and position at the expense of the freedom and dignity of the faithful they govern. Their logic of life is nothing but that of Cain killing Abel: ‘Abel should be killed so that Cain would be seen worthy and loved.’ They annihilate the moderates and the liberals and win the support of the individuals and groups they are entrusted with.
There is great need to educate the faithful to discern between the false prophets and right ones. People in distress get attracted by the “magical signs” performed by the preachers. Cull out from the Scripture the passages referring to the virtual heralds of Christ. Prophet Ezekiel says: “Alas for the senseless prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!” (Ezek 13:3). Listen to Jeremiah: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you; they are deluding you. They speak visions of their minds, not from the mouth of the Lord.” (Jer 23:16). We can guard ourselves against twisting the Word of God to make it conform to our preconceived ideas: “refuse to practice cunning or to falsify God’s word” (2 Cor 4:2).