By: Wungtei Buchem, Signal Phom Colony, Dimapur.
It was yet another provoking letter to be read. Took it as a constructive comments with appreciation and herewith a not of response. I’m a current student of theology and not yet worth a theological scholar/Theologian nor an acclaimed preacher. I’m in the race too! I’m very sorry to learn that you have hardly been to a church which emphasizes holistic wellbeing that considers socio-political, eco-cultural and spiritual aspects of teaching and preaching in the pulpit. It is saddening to even know that you have only been hearing semons on salvation, heaven and life hereafter. I’m fascinated that people like you could openly ask a public question on the trends of biblical preaching and teaching which is greatly welcomed.
Yes Bible is not the creation without nation. Out of the historical-nations and people, historical narratives emerged, prophets spoke, kings and queens played their part and in all of it there was a conflict confrontation between God and gods of the nations far and wide. Scripture has its own socio-political background, culturo-anthropological residues, methods and models of prophetic transformation, sinfulness of individual/nation(s) and righteousness of individual/nation(s), God acted as the final judge and there is where much talked about salvation was/is defined. Bible does talks about human and ecological rights and also their denied rights, God in the Bible also talks about the oppressed and the oppressors (perhaps you have rightly understood it). Infact the nature of the people in the Biblical nations were hyper political, hyper ambitious, with each one looking for an opportunity to have dominion over the other whereby they become economically powerful, religiously influential and politically right. Perhaps you and me are interested to see the relevancy between the historical past and the present socio-political scenarios and expects that the contextual message be interpreted. As a theological student I’m educated that spiritual wellness is determined equally by physical, economical, psychological and social wellbeing. So I too strongly believe that a talk about heavenly salvation cannot do away with all these aspects pertaining my whole existential being. Ironically, to a beggar in a fast metropolitan city where he/she gets no place to sleep, cloth to wear and water to drink, speaking of the gospel of John 3:16 would not help much but the graceful offer of a cup of coffee and teaching him to make his/her living might be a better gospel, eventually leading to personal conviction and destinity to Christ. His/her salvation is made whole. This is a silly example with greater lesson as far as Kaka D. Iraly would cite AFSPA, land issues, or I would add, the existing issues on rights, dignity, domination and various resistance ideologies. Until these measures are equally mattered where is what Jesus said “I came that one may have the fullness of life?” and without this “fullness of life” where is liberty? Where is rest? Where is peace? And where is salvation?
Nagas have come of time that visibly or invisibly we are under the web of psychological trauma, political unrest, economic and academic deprivation, culturally alienated etc. People who study Indian society and tribal Indian readings will aptly understand when I say this but it is true. Our nation is not free to grow! We are being bound? Many tribals/Nagas fail to live the “fullness of life.” There is no “free(dom)” in our hearts though we hear sermons on “spiritual freedom” as long as our nation, our land, our systems are full of “fear(dom.)”. Interestingly, when Ana Hazare fasted for less than a week the Lokpal Bill was made to reality; how about Irom Sharmila from Manipur who fasts for more than a decade but the AFSPA still reigns? Where is justice? Who is oppressed and who oppresses? What would Jesus do?
Yes Kaka is right when you talk about Bible as the basis for coding civil laws, laws on human rights, bible and ecology, economy and others. Respect and appreciation is reserved for churches, theological scholars, pastors and social reformers who have spoke and is still speaking for the peace in our nation, like prophets who safeguards the rights of the powerless, the weak, the oppressed, who dares atleast at heart to go against AFSPA, who do criticizes consumeristic heartless wealthy mammons, corruptors/nations that ruin other’s wellness. The task still remain as Kaka questions solemnly, can we Naga speak about nation and power politics? As demanded by situational needs, Biblical interpretation is made living and dynamic when one read the scripture from the lens of the reader’s context. Issues about nations and politics in the Bible is a distance past history, however it is made relevant when matters at put in context.
It is encouraged that preachers and teachers of the Biblical Theology widens the dimension of the concept of human holistic liberation-freedom and salvation. So that each subject matter pertaining human life here on earth, societal life, life as a nation, people and politics, spiritually and salvation aspects are altogether not neglected but inclusive and contextual. For, faith is not only a vertical focus but also a horizontal focus. God in heaven must be saying “all is well up in heaven but the world.” Salvation is here and after too. Dear Kaka this is me not trying to preach here but a solidarity rejoinder and a little bit of a reponse with appreciation.