|NOVEMBER 2008||DEVOTIONAL MESSAGE||
CHURCH AGAINST THE SOCIAL EVILS
The dynamism of the Public mission of our Lord Jesus Christ, as herald of the Kingdom of God, which lasted about three and a half years on the earth, is being continued in this world even after 2000 years, devoutly and without any devaluation. The life of Lord on this earth had bestowed to the human race of all ages, the experience of the Kingdom within themselves in order to maintain a lasting peace and unity among the lives of the devotes, at all levels. While reign of God commenced with His incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension to heaven, the same experience of Kingdom of God as the theme of His gospel is to be shared and carried over by Christians and the Church to the generations until it will be brought into perfection by Christ at the end of time. Two essential aspects of these efforts are activity and exhortation. The mission of Jesus was not limited to exhortation, but it also included actions. The reported activity of Jesus in healing diseases, driving out demons, feeding the crowd, teaching a new ethic for living, and offering a new hope in God to the poor, is understood to be a demonstration of that Kingdom in action.
The Holy Scripture teaches that the coming Reign of God will be a kingdom of love, peace, and justice. Justice is the virtue whereby one respects the rights of all persons, living in harmony and equity with all. Jesus had a special sense of mission to poor and oppressed people. At the outset of His ministry, Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth and read from the prophet Isaiah which was specifically His mission statement of His commission and employment. "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (Luke 4:18-19) Throughout His ministry he reached out to those at the bottom of the social pyramid and marginalized poor people, women, Samaritans, lepers, blinds, children, prostitutes, tax collectors etc. Jesus became poor to set the poor free from poverty and to make them rich.
Our Lord Jesus Christ set an example for the Christians and the Church to walk on. He never did anything for Himself. The church has a great responsibility in this regard and it should be continuously concerned for well being of the entire society. In witnessing to Jesus Christ, we should understand the problems of the society and go deep into its problems for exploring adequate solutions. The gospel does not allow the church to accommodate to the ways of the world. Acting for the sake of God's world requires resisting and struggling against the evils of the world. Goodness and justice of God demands the Church to address the challenges of the world to keep the society in order and peace. God works through the family, educational institutions, organizations, government, and other structures necessary for life in the present age. The Church must participate in social structures critically to fulfill its social responsibility. As a reconciling and healing ministry, Church is called to minister to human need with compassion and imagination. It should strive to pioneer new ways of addressing emerging social problems and evils prevailing in society.
One of the most devastating evil of our society is the problem of drinking liquor. The temperance question is the paramount issue of our state. The liquor trade, as per the accounts of the local authorities, during religious functions like Christmas, Onam etc. exceeds 300 Crores of Rupees in our State which is described as 'God's own country'. This is only the account of sale of foreign intoxicating liquor, while the sale of illicit liquor unaccounted are much more than this. Intoxication by liquor being a moral issue, it is a prime responsibility of the Church to lead temperance/prohibition movements. Christian Churches irrespective of denominations should become the hub of temperance activities.
The prevailing evils in the society over periods of time may be distinct from time to time. If we look back to the history of our land, around a century back, Casteism, caste rivalries and untouchability were the most serious perversion or evil of our society. Caste-related violence and hate crimes in India were very prevalent in our country even after the gradual reduction of casteism. Even today it is base rooted in the mind of people though it is not visible in the open society. The casteism that we find today is the materialistic form of designation that has become a means of oppressing the lower social class of people. A funeral practice among some communities in which a recently-widowed woman would immolate herself on her husband’s funeral pyre, was prevalent in many part of our country. These all evils of bygone time were eradiated not in a day. It was the relentless efforts and social reformative movements for a prolonged period of time. Many social reformers, philosophers and sages like Swami Vivekananda, Sree Narayana Guru, Chattampi Swamikal and many other humanist reformers strived to reform the society from the indignity of the evils of the prevalent society.
To my point of view our contemporary society attribute for a blend of inseparable good and evils. On one hand while a part of the society contemns the practice of an evil, on the other hand another group come for its defense and glorify it. Entire society as a whole doesnot draw a clear line of demarcation between good and evil. Eventually, Good and Evil blend into Gray and it become a curse for our society. This creates a philosophical diversity in the society. This cause some social evils get embedded in current ways of living and thinking. Sometimes consumption of liquor is glorified as an elite practice and many serve liquor at parties taking it as a tolerant custom. Here comes the importance of the Christian values and teachings to discern, what is the will of God - what is good and acceptable and perfect - through the guidance of scriptural and theological reflections with regard to conscience of Christian believers in the spirit of Christian liberty. The blending of evil with good or glorification of evil is the most devastating tendency of the contemporary society.
Today, man had secluded and compacted to his own boundaries than living as a social being. We all know and acknowledge that families are the first and may be the most crucial socializing unit in any person's life. When the joint family system was prevalent in our culture, we had a clear definition for interpersonal relations, modalities of actions and our social behaviors. It cultivated in us a strong spiritual confidence being one for all and all for one. We learned lessons of patience, tolerance, cooperation and adjustment. As the time passed and it gave the way for nuclear families by which man became shriveled and of selfish mentality. In this centric society where individualism is the core almost to the extent of obsession it would be difficult for people to find the time to be social with one another or to look for other's needs. People increasingly feel alienated as there is less interaction within our communities.
Of course, the liquor issue is still tied and linked to numerous other social evils. Anything that could attack the family and personal morale should be viewed as a social evil. Intoxication leads for many accidents and violence. Since it is mostly men who drink, the wives and children in the family are exposed to its evil effects. It is a general notion held that women are morally superior to men in regard to consumption of alcohol. Alcohol problems occur at different levels of severity, from mild and annoying to life-threatening. Alcohol abuse becomes alcohol dependence when drinkers begin to experience a craving for alcohol, a loss of control of their drinking. Alcohol abuse often results in loss of job, neglect of child care or household responsibilities, legal difficulties, health deterioration, economic calamities, interpersonal or legal problems, family breakdown, poverty etc. etc.
When we talk of social evils, as these evils germinate within the society, all structural element of the society are responsible for it in great extend. In our country, legislation against social evils like drinking and smoking, dowry, child abuse, corruption etc. had miserably failed in the past to bring the desired effect. Is it because the government is not sincere about its implementation? Naturally, solutions to this litany of social ills would be complex. The changing civic political authorities handle the pressure of this evil of intoxication in a variety of ways. The beverage industry being a lucrative business activity, many a time a hidden liquor league comes into action to protect the interest of the industry. Eventually, political decision-making bodies fail to act on behalf of the poor and those who suffer with this evil. As a result, the Church and other organizations advocating for the temperance, miserably fail to put pressure on to the government in this regard due to this corrupt political system.
How we can work for the prevention and control of the evil of liquor? The reduction of production is not an adequate way for its prevention. The produced liquor and consumed liquor have no relation. It is the great responsibility of the Church to work together to awaken the society and formulate effective ways and means for its irradiation. The honor of God, the stability of the nation, the well-being of the community, home and individual demand that every possible effort be made in arousing the people against the evil of intemperance.
The liquor interest is an evil power in the world. The man who has formed the habit of using intoxicants is in a desperate situation. His brain is diseased, his will power is weakened. Many people start drinking to forget their sorrows and burden. Many drink as an ease after the hard work of the day. This happens as man forgets the real hope and joy of life. The wise Solomon talk of the mischief of drunkenness: 'Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.' [Proverbs 20:1] Liquor makes fool of a man, promises him that satisfaction which it can never give him. Drunkenness, which pretends to be a sociable thing, renders men unfit for society. St. Paul warns the Corinthians against many heinous evils to which they had been formerly addicted: 'nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.' [1 Corinthians 6:10]
In addition to the liquor intoxication there are many evils in the society, Church should concentrate to address like dowry persecutions, bribery, abortion etc. etc. Another great zone the Holy Church should concentrate is to establish a God fearing moral Church society who follows the ways our Lord had taught us in order that future generation will not fall into the pit of these social evils. Some of the fields we should concentrate are:
God centered family. It is the family gives us courage and incite for a living instinct. Our domestic foundation should be made strong. Children should get spiritual training at home. It gives great security for the children. Such children will never fall into any evils of the society.
Value based education - Though it hear simple it is not that easy to implement in our current educational system. But this can be done through the religious schooling. Through education, student should cultivate dignity, solidarity and civility - a code of manners, a way of behaving that make people to live and work in harmony.
Healthy spiritual and moral practices. There should be adequate involvement in spiritual activities and exhortations. The decline of morality in the family, family breakdown and poor parenting are felt to cause many social problems and lead young people particularly vulnerable.
Law enforcement by the governmental authorities. There should be moral civil society interventions for forcing Government to recognize public demand to legislate laws against social evils.
Prepare work forces for temperance movements and pledges not to practice social evils, in parish level, diocese level and church level.
Church, voluntary organizations and Civic authorities should work together. Unitedly these should facilitate public awareness and mobilize public support towards its effective implementation. People’s participation needs to be augmented in the campaign against social evils. The links between temperance groups and churches should be made strong.
Church should identify the irradiation of social evils as a part of its mission and establishment of Kingdom of God on earth. The Church, therefore, must unite for realism and vision, wisdom and courage and in its social responsibility. Christians should exercise their calling by being wise, active and evil free citizens. Church need to foster in its members a faith that is active in love, a love that seeks justice, and an insight that strives to discern what is right, good, and imitable.
[After H.G. Mathews Mar Barnabas Thirumeni left for American diocese, the Author, H.G. Mar Milithios Metropolitan, served as the President of the Madyavarjana Samithy and contributed exemplary services in all dioceses of Malankara, organizing the students for the cause of liquor abdication and temperance movement of the Church.]
[Message delivered at Maramon Convention 2008, in the Meeting against the Social Evils.
Original in Malayalam - Translated for LOL by Editor Dr. Rajan Mathew, Philadelphia]
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