Church and politics in Nagaland
In times of great political stress, hardened politi-cians become very prayerful and the Church encounters greater danger of politicization than at other times. During the political turmoil in South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church provided moral support for the White minority Apartheid Government.
Surprisingly, a Minister of the Church, Dr. Daniel Malan developed the idea of apartness of the Whites and the Blacks into a political Ideology of ‘Apartheid’ and joined politics; he formed the Nationalist Party and when he and his Party came to Power, enacted stringent Apartheid Laws, pardoned Traitors who supported Hitler in the War! Nagaland today is in political upheaval and the Baptist Church in particular is in such a poignant position vis-à-vis Naga Politics as it had never before encountered in the history of the Church since the American Missionaries brought the Faith first in the last quarter of the nineteenth Century from beyond the Oceans and Brahmaputra in Tug-Boats. Today, some trained Baptist Theologians seem more zealous for Naga Nationalism than for the LORD and appear more interested in Socio-Political matters than in the Ecclesiastical matters. Incidentally some of these liberation Theologians teach in the Bible Colleges [Madrassas?] and their interest may very well affect some young minds. The Government seems interested to be in the good book of the Church; it often financially supports Church programs, ordained Theologians are often employed to high positions in the Government machineries. These successful theologians drive government-chauffer-driven posh Vehicles escorted with armed Guards and not surprisingly they view both Church and Politics in the same footing on the analogy that both aim for the good of the Society. They claim the Church should also get involved in Politics and become socially active. The Church indeed needs to help the poor and the down-trodden though Jesus himself had said the poor will always be there, but perhaps it is outside the mainstream domain of the Church to engage in Poverty elimination programs like a Government, and if the involvement of the Church in Social Matters is imperative, in that case, it may be drawn into such social matters like “Gay Rights”, justice in Issues in the Flesh Trade, demand for change of allegedly corrupt Government, demand for resignation of this and that alleged corrupt Politician, support for this and that Nationalist Agendas and the aims of the political State. This is to overstep into the domains that are better left appropriately to the Government machineries than to the Church.
One of the subtlest challenges that face the Church in Nagaland today is to keep the church at proper distance from the state: To take Church and Politics in the same footing on the analogy that both have the same concern for the Good of the Society is to look at surfaces of TWO container Vessels and assume both have the same content. This is too simplistic an assumption in this modern sophisticated World; this is Old Wine in New Wine Bottle, a view too naive or too narrow. Politics and Church may sound seemingly similar Vessels but they have distinctly dissimilar contents; the Church’s Vessel contains Spiritual, Moral and Ethical Values; the Political Vessel contains political ingredients. The Church’s disastrous Crusades to Palestine to recover Jerusalem from the hand of the Muslims in the thirteenth Century; the failure of Cromwell’s
‘Parliament of Saints’ and the Pope’s costly involvements in the politics of the European Wars in the middle Ages made the Society no better. These are profitable lessons for modern Churchmen who have Eyes and Ears to see and listen and the mind to comprehend. One of the greatest disgusts the Jews of the time must have felt with Jesus was his refusal to accept the Jewish Crown. His rejection of the Kingdoms of the World and everything that were in them is example enough for the Christian Church to distance itself from Politics of the State. A study of the life of Jesus as it is written in the Gospels gives doubtless impression that Jesus avoided Politics of the time.
Some people of the time must have doubted Jesus was ‘APOLITIC’ [non-political] and wanted to test him for sure publicly; they asked him loaded questions whether it is proper for a Jew to pay tax to the then Roman overlords of Palestine. Jesus’ reply to render to Caesar the things that appertains to Caesar and to God those that appertains to HIM was brilliantly a wise stroke but hardly the type an aspiring Politician would give for gaining ‘political mileage’. At the end of the day, when everything is said and done, the maturity of Christianity in Nagaland is a function of the Believer’s realization of what constitutes Mammon’s domains and what those of God’s.
It is very heartening quite a few bright intelligent young Theologians appear committed to serve one and only one of the Two Masters. When these young apprentices of today ultimately and hopefully shoulder the responsibility of the Church and its Organizations in the State, the Old may sleep in peace in their graves but as of today the Separation of CHURCH and STATE is the least popular attraction; perhaps the greatest challenge the Christian Church faces in Nagaland today.