Human Insensitivity and God’s Incarnation

Those, who are under the illusion that education, particularly the present day education, moulds a person (both teacher and student) into a better human being, are in for a rude shock when they listen to the true story of Sunitha (name changed). Sunitha is a final year engineering student. Since she belongs to a scheduled caste, she is forced to sit alone in the last bench in the classroom. This explains why she doesn’t have friends in her class, and why no one talks to her. One doesn’t need to strain her/his brain much to think what the lecturers/professors or, for that matter, the administration is doing even after witnessing such scenes on their college campus everyday!!!

On the other hand, the “self righteous spiritual elite” question, deride and humiliate Sunitha for studying under SC reservation, because she believes in Jesus Christ. They question her spirituality and faith in God, making her guilty and cringe within herself. What this self deluding attitude of the “self righteous spiritual elite” towards people like Sunitha obscures is, on the one hand they too enjoyed such privileges of reservations in their academic and professional careers, and on the other hand their wilful ignorance of the pitiable, inhuman and oppressive conditions under which people like Sunitha are living. What the self righteous believers did not know or, to put it bluntly, did not want to see is that Sunitha lives in a room, where about 20 students are accommodated, in a social welfare hostel. She can not afford a better facility, as her family is not in a position to support her financially. She lost her father in her very young age. Her mother provides for her younger brother and sick grandmother by earning through tailoring.

With their attitude and behaviour the “self righteous spiritual elite” have identified themselves with the crowd, about whom Jesus said quoting the prophecy of Isaiah, “You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn – and I would heal them” (Mt. 13.14-15). Their self righteous and arrogant attitude towards people like Sunitha exposes their spirituality and the kind of God they believe in.

Sunitha pities herself and cries before God for her situation, because she knows that her God is the one who sees, hears and understands her situation.

The perception of both the “self proclaimed puritans” and the “self righteous spiritual elite” is nothing but an expression of the Indian social order based on, as Baba Saheb Ambedkar put it, “graded inequality”, where people revere in the ascending order and look down upon in deep contempt in the descending order.” It is this deeply ingrained caste prejudice that perpetuates violence (violence as violation of one’s human dignity, value and rights) against the weak, underprivileged and deprived.

What is common between the “self proclaimed puritans” of Sunitha’s class and the “self righteous spiritual elite” of her Christian community? Of course, it is very much pronounced. By treating another person based on caste, but not by God-given dignity and value, and common humanity, both the groups are exposing themselves as less-than-human beings, leave alone “saved and righteous persons”. Because of their less-than-human being existence, they could not treat people like Sunitha humanely.

Ironically, the attitude and the conduct of both the groups are based on their respective religions and their faith in their respective gods. Their religions have made their gods to serve their selfishness, greed and power. Gods are used to exclude and marginalise certain groups of people. Their religions serve the greed of the powerful and not the needs of the poor, weak and vulnerable. This is well expressed by Jesus’ criticism of Scribes: ““The scribes…like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market places, and to have best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets” (Mk. 12.38-39). This extravagant lifestyle of the religious leaders comes at the expense of poor and helpless people like the widow, who in the gift of two small coins gave “her whole life” to the temple treasury (Mk. 12.41-44).

What is lacking in the religions and faiths of the “self proclaimed puritans” and the “self righteous spiritual elite” is the important divine quality, COMPASSION.

Compassion does not mean feeling sorry for people and their situations. It does not mean pity. Compassion means to suffer with, to put oneself in others’ shoes, to enter into the other person’s experience. Compassion is not done “on” people or “to” them from a position of invulnerability. It is the capacity to identify with the suffering.

Compassion is the primary characteristic of the incarnation. God in Jesus Christ identified with human beings, particularly the poor, the sick and the marginalized. God became vulnerable. In the story of Jesus healing the leper, Jesus expressed compassion by touching him and healing him (Mk. 1.40; Lk. 5.13). By touching the leper, Jesus was subverting the dehumanizing culture that had deviously deprived certain groups of people of human dignity, value and rights, and marginalized them. Into the world where the poor and the marginalized were regarded as despicable, dishonoured and ugly, and treated with contempt, Jesus Christ brought a social ethic of human dignity and value. In the Parable of the Compassionate Samaritan Jesus refused to engage in the process of group differentiation and stereotypification. For the Compassionate Samaritan human made distinctions such as ethnicity are irrelevant. His compassion transcends “insider-outsider” barriers. In fact, it demolishes these barriers. For the Samaritan there was only one response: he saw the wounded man and “he was moved with compassion”.

A compassionate person ignores caste, class, race and gender boundaries. Commitment to a new civilization of compassion and human dignity, value and rights is fundamental to Christian missions. The Parable of the Compassionate Samaritan exposes any religion with “mania for creeds (and doctrines) and an anemia for compassion.” The poor, weak and marginalized become a test for the authenticity of one’s religion and faith in a compassionate God. Christian mission recognises full humanity, dignity, value, rights and equality of those historically marginalized, oppressed and exploited.


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