Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Is it ok to be a Christian and have a casteist mindset?


Casteists or Catalysts: Who are we? – Indian Christian Ethics


By Abraham Israel






In this article I am burdened to bring the evil of a casteist mindset that has demonically leeched all the goodness of the life of Jesus Christ from the blood stream of almost every Indian Christian and have acted as a great barrier to the development of Christianity in India for nearly the past 2000 years. The word ‘Casteist’ can be described as ‘One who has the mindset of the Hindu who thinks based on the Social status or position conferred by a Brahministic Hindu system which is based on social class separated from others by distinctions of hereditary rank, profession, or wealth. [i.e. Hindu hereditary classes with prehistoric roots which Brahmins created are the following divisions; the principal castes are the Brahmin (priestly), the Kshatriya (warrior), Vaisha (trader) and Sudra (farmers and artisans). The untouchables are outside the caste system. Each caste is split into countless sub-castes. Because the Brahmins created the caste system they placed themselves at the top of the caste list and placed all others under them] It is so sad that this paganistic casteist mindset of the local culture has creeped in to the Church of the living God and have created ripples and divisions among the body of Christ. I believe this casteist attitude have made the Church of India to be powerless puppet in eyes of the society.

The word ‘catalyst’ means ‘an event or person that causes great change, something that makes a chemical reaction happen more quickly without itself being changed’. I believe with my whole heart that Jesus has made those who believe in Him to be the catalysts of great change to the world system of governance that is strongly influenced by the thinking of Satan and his demonic hordes (John 14:12). Jesus clearly emphasized in His prayer to God the Father to keep the believers who belong to His heavenly kingdom under Him to be supernaturally united just hours before His crucifixion, because the believers who are in the world are constantly bombarded by the pattern of thinking that comes from the world system of governance which is demonically very divisive and against the unity in Christ (John 17:11, 15-16). The world’s thinking is biased against the unity in Christ and is based on the similarities they share among themselves, but is very divisive when differences or variety is seen. Our God is a God of variety and displays His glory not in similarities and copycats, but by ‘unity in diversity’ (Ps 19:1; 1 Cor 15:40-41). This is the very trait that Jesus told will draw the world and make them know the supernatural presence of Jesus in the midst of the Church which is called to be a catalyst of salt and a light to the world (John 17:23; Rev 1:12-13, 20; 2:1; Matt 5:13-14). Salt brings taste to the food and light brings visibility in the midst of darkness. In other words, the world system of governance under the Satanic cursed mindset of divisiveness and hate needs the seasoning salt of the unconditional love of God and the revelation of the mind of Christ’s humbleness through the believers to really get blessed by God (Eph 2:2; James 3:14-16; John 15:13; 1 Cor 2:16; Phil 2:5-8; James 4:6). So every believer is called to be a catalytic agent of change in this dark and tasteless fallen world, where almost everyone lives totally without Christ.



Is it ethically right for a Christian to think and call himself as a Christian from a particular caste?


The Lord again and again warned the nation of Israel to destroy completely the pagan nations whom they conquer by war because of one reason, “lest they teach [the Israelites] to do according to all their abominations which they have done for their gods, and [the Israelites] sin against the LORD [their] God.” (Deut 20:18). In other words, all the paganistic practices which includes casteist thinking is a pagan practice which when learnt and practiced by the people of God will make them sin against the Lord their God, which in turn will make the Lord restrain His blessings that He had promised to pour day by day upon His people. The result, the people of God begin to live under the curse which rightfully belongs only to the heathen people. Thus it is wrong for a Christian to call himself a Christian from a particular caste. Also such things will grieve the Holy Spirit who has been given personally to every believer and has been sealed with Him as a guarantee of a eternal inheritance ahead (Eph 4:29-32; 1:13-14).

I understand that many people who are redeemed in the present time from sin through Jesus Christ the redeemer are from the bondage of Idolatry especially in the eastern countries like India. They are just like the Egyptian-minded Israelites who were redeemed from the bondage of Egypt, but still had that old mentality of bondage in their mind which made them sin against the Lord again and again (Exodus 14:10-12; 16:3; 17:3; 32:4, 7-8; Num 14:2-3; 16:1-3, 41-45; 25:1-5; Deut 1:27). The very word ‘Egypt’ means ‘house of bondage’ (Deut 5:6). In other words, it took just a day for God to take the Israelites out of Egypt but it took forty years for God to take Egypt out of Israelites mindset (Exod 14:13; Num 14:34). Because the Israelites allowed the old Egyptian soulish mentality to influence them perpetually even after seeing all the miracles the Lord had done to rescue them from the house of bondage which is Egypt, God promised not to let these older Israelites who continued in rebellion to the command of the Lord to enter in to the promised land, but led them in to the wilderness circle to die in it eventually as they expected by their own unbelief (Deut 1:27, 34-35; Num 14:26-35).

But Caleb and Joshua who had a different spirit of faith and wholly followed the Lord along with the little children who had no knowledge of good and evil to act by the soulish heart, were chosen to enter the promised land (Num 14:6-9, 22-24; Deut 1:38-39). The Apostle Paul said, “All these things happened to the Israelites as examples for the Church, and are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor 10:11, Paraphrased)

What can we learn from this? If we the people of God follow the Lord with an idolatrous casteist mindset and thus remain in rebellion to the command of the Lord to love one another as He had loved us unconditionally, we too will enter in to the cursed land of dryness, thirst and hunger in our soul which is spiritual wilderness, and not even the least of the spiritual blessings that He has prepared and promised to give us which are already ours in the heavenly places in Christ will be supplied to us (John 15:12; Eph 1:3). There is a place of dryness in soul which is worse than a physical wilderness that all the Israelites suffered with (Is 58:11). It is the spiritual wilderness of the soul. Many Israelites lusted exceedingly in the desert after perishable things because of their wrong soulish Egyptian mindset and experienced such spiritual dryness which is separation of the soul from the goodness of the presence of God that eventually leads to death (Ps 106:13-15). Beware of casteist attitude inside the Church!

Once we become a believer in Jesus Christ and forever from that point of time are taken out from the power of Satan to God, from darkness to light and from heathenism to true godliness to be a separated as a holy people of God (Acts 26:18; Exod 6:6-8; Deut 7:6), we are given the ability like the Israelites to either choose the way and the command of the Lord to love one another unconditionally and be blessed, or reject it and live in the divisive and hateful casteist curses which only belongs to the heathens (Deut 30:19). We are not to be conformed to the old casteist mindset of the heathens, but should choose to renew our minds to be transformed by the power of God to experience the heavenly blessings of God in our personal life, our families, work place and the world surrounding us (Rom 12:2).

God has clearly warned the people of God regarding following heathen customs saying, “28 Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.29 "When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.' 31 You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (Deut 12:28-32).
 

If we apply all the previous scripture verses locally in context to the heathenistic casteist attitude, we see that

(1) Only when we observe and obey the commandments of the Lord to love our fellow brethren without any casteists bias and prejudice (John 14:15; 15:10, 12, 17), then we have the rights to expect everything to go well with us and our children after us forever.

(2) Only when we fulfill the royal commandment of the law of love without casteist bias and divisiveness (Jam 2:8), we are doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD our God. As a result of doing such things, all may go well with us, and the heavenly blessing of God’s anointing oil of the Spirit and His blessed empowerment to succeed in this earthly life with a byproduct of heavenly reward will be continually upon us (Gal 3:14).

(3) Once we are redeemed from our heathenism through faith in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, we need to throw away all our old pattern of thinking from our body system and not inquire about the old casteist and heathenistic way of living in order to incorporate it with the new way of living in Christ (Gal 3:13; Eph 4:21-24; Heb 10:19-22). God expects us to disposses and displace our old casteist way of thinking. Without obeying to do it implicitly we cannot experience the inheritance of living as the sons of God in this planet earth (2 Cor 6:17-18; 7:1).

(4) We should take heed to ourselves [i.e. conscience which will start to act as the voice of God for a believer (John 10:14, 16, 27; Rom 9:1)] which is directed by the Holy Spirit of God so that we are not ensnared to follow a cursed system of caste which is set by the ideas of paganistic gods and deities. Because the system of caste is conceived by heathen gods, having a casteist thinking can be likened to inquiring after other gods. Eventually such ungodly casteist thinking will bring the curse of God in to one’s life and family. The God of the Bible whom we serve is a jealous God who always want His children to be like Him and hates to see them have a paganistic thinking (Ex 34:14; 20:5; Deut 6:15; 5:9; 4:24; James 4:4-5; Lev 20:26; 1 Peter 1:15). As the heathens bind themselves to the caste system of the pagan gods and thus serve them, never ever say I will do likewise and yet follow the God of the Bible. Dare not challenge the jealous God of the Bible and incur His wrath over you and your family, never forget to remember that by sacrificing His only begotten Son He has paid the ransom of debt for our sins and have redeemed us from pagan caste practices. Do not entangle yourself again in to the yoke of the bondage of the heathens to incur God’s wrath (Gal 5:1). Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things like casteist mindset which brings hatred, wrath, murders, dissensions and the like … the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience who are idolaters mainly (Eph 5:6; Col 3:6; Gal 5:19-21).

(5) The casteist thinking is an abomination to God. You shall not worship the LORD your God along with such thinking sitting at the side of your mind. Such worship and sacrifice is not acceptable to God (Rom 12:1-2). You should understand that the Lord who says and instructs us not to offer sacrifices before Him even if we slightly feel that a brother is offended with us because of our wrong behavior, and accepts our gifts offered to Him only when we go to our brother and set right our offence and our wrong attitude (Matt 5:21-24), will accept our offering of thanks and praise along with a casteist attitude sitting pretty and prideful at the corner of our puny mind (Heb 13:15-16)? By no means will He accept such sacrifices, it is an abomination to Him unless we repent for such ungodly casteist attitude of mind and repent [i.e. change our thinking] with a contrite and a broken spirit which He accepts (Is 66:2-4; Ps 51:16-17). We should not think less of ourselves [why? We already have the mind of Christ inside us and have been placed inside the family of God as His very own sons by faith in Christ Jesus (1 Cor 2:16; Eph 3:14-15; Gal 3:26)] instead we should think of ourselves less because we already know who we are in Christ and are secure in it. This is why Apostle Paul has clearly instructed us to think others better than ourselves (Phil 2:3).

(6) Casteist thinking is the way of life by which the heathens live their life to their gods. But we as the people of God should ‘walk in unconditional love, forgiveness and unity’ to reflect our God whom we serve with our lifestyle (Eph 5:1-2; Matt 5:43-45; 6:14; John 17:23). God says that these casteist godless people in some cases will not even have natural parental love for their children but will be ready to burn even their sons and daughter in fire just to appease their gods and deities. O what a merciless act of evil! Do you want your attitude of mind to disintegrate to such level of demonic lovelessness? If your answer is no, then throw away even the smallest speck of casteist attitude that you might have in your mind and humbly ask the Lord to fill you with the thoughts of the mind of Christ instead.

(7) The commandment of unconditional love towards others should be carefully observed by all the people of God because it fulfills all other commandments naturally (Rom 13:8-10). We should be careful not to add any extra things of convenience [i.e. casteist or regional attitude] to our belief system except what God has said in His word. What we accommodate by our excuses will act as a deterrent and destruction to ourselves and all the blessings that God has for us, our children and their generation forever.


Rev.M.D.Azariah states:

Christians of Scheduled Castes origin form more than 75% of the Indian Christians. Oppressive structures existed not only in the society at large but also within the church. The plight of the SC Christians was not followed up by appropriate action by the individual church bodies. The President of the NCCI and the CBCI are complacent about this whole issue. But fortunately some individuals, action groups and study institutes have continued at least some discussion on this issue…..Case studies on the struggles of untouchables and outcaste Christians in their local Church life, one at Sawyerpuram and another at Wynad in Kerala, in both cases, the higher groups of Christians are identified as openly dominating, oppressing and exploiting the SC fellow Christians in the same congregation….The high caste Christians, who are in a minority in the church, carrying prejudices even after generation, unaffected by Christian belief and practice.[i]


From the above information, we can see the works of evil caste system working even inside the church as like in other religions of India. It is an issue that must be seriously dealt with by the Apostles and Elders of the Indian Churches, who must rebuke such pagan attitude and restore the love of Jesus Christ by educating all the members according to the word of God. The so called high caste thinking members live by pride, arrogance and evil way of hating fellow brethrens made in the image of God which is an abomination to the Lord (Prov 8:13; James 3:8-12). They should be taught to shun their casteist attitude completely or else be disqualified from any leadership position inside the Church.


The Statistics from Wikipedia encyclopedia clearly reveals,

Caste discrimination is strongest among Christians in South India and is weak or even nonexistent among urban Protestant congregations in North India. This is due to the fact that in South India, whole castes converted en masse to the religion, leaving members of different castes to compete in ways parallel to Hindus of the Indian caste system.

There are separate seats, separate communion cups, burial grounds, and churches for members of the lower castes, especially in the Roman Catholic Church. Catholic churches in India are largely controlled by upper caste Priests and nuns. Presently in India, more than 70% of Catholics are Dalits, but the higher caste Catholics (30% by estimates) control 90% of the Catholic churches administrative jobs. Out of the 156 catholic bishops, only 6 are from lower castes. In addition, Dalit boys are often not allowed to be altar boys or lectors. According to the "Poor Christian Liberation Movement", a Catholic organization, they are neglected by Christian missionary and convent schools, and they allege that these institutions solely cater to the upper castes. No Dalit Catholics are involved in the administrative services of India, except for a few who have reconverted back to Hinduism.[ii]


It is such a shame for the Church which has been kept in the world as a catalyst by Jesus Christ, has come to such a level that it does not even keep the one commandment which the Lord has commanded it to keep [i.e. to love one another as He had loved us by forgiving all our past, present and future sins (John 15:12; Eph 4:32)]. It is a crime for the Church to have come to the same level like all the Christless religions of the world. Many in the Church are just name sake Christians, full of lifeless nominalism and don’t even have a real experience of being ‘born again’ with a genuine spiritual experience (John 3:3, 5). This is the reason for discrimination happening inside the Church. Eve Pope John Paul II has criticized the caste discrimination in the Roman Catholic Church of India when addressing the bishops of: Madras, Mylapore, Madurai, Cuddalore, and Puducherry in late 2003. He went on to say "It is the Church's obligation to work unceasingly to change hearts, helping all people to see every human being as a child of God, a brother or sister of Christ, and therefore a member of our own family". Every true Christian who is born of God cannot continue to live with a casteist attitude (1 John 3:9). A true Christian will have great remorse when convicted by the Holy Spirit with the guilt of sin which comes as a result of entertaining such ungodly casteist evil in their mind and they will immediately begin to have a repentant attitude to avoid such bad attitude and thoughts in the future (John 16:7-11; 1 John 1:9, 10). This is the most urgent requirement in the Indian Churches to become a catalyst of Jesus Christ.


What should be our collective response to such casteist attitude?

1. Teach the Church the importance of having a servant heart to become a leader (Luke 22:25-27).

2. Each church should have a statement of faith which should emphasize the equality of all its members irrespective of any discrimination due to caste, talent or wealth. Those who do not adhere to it should not be given any kind of leadership position or if a church members casteist attitude continue without repentance, even their membership in the Church should be excluded and must be excommunicated (Matt 18:15-17)

3. Always the Church should follow the apostolic pattern of selecting leaders based on the good reputation of an individual inside the Church and in his home who has been proven over a period of time, especially those who are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom (Acts 6:3; 1 Tim 3:5).

4. The fivefold ministry office of the Church must teach and equip the Church by teaching, preaching and living a reputable life without casteist attitude, so that all other members of Christ body can be able to emulate them (Eph 4:11-13; 2 Tim 2:2; 1 Cor 11:1).

5. The other main reason for the Church to continue stubbornly in the casteist attitude of pagans is because of being conformed to the world rather than to be transformed by the renewing of the mind through the word of God constantly (Rom 12:1-2). This indicates clearly that there is a great need inside the Church for apostolic teaching ministry and not just pastoral ministry as we usually see in all the churches. The Church should learn to encourage and support itinerant travelling apostolic teaching ministries as like in the first century (3 John 9-10; 2 John 9-10; Rom 1:9-12; 2 Tim 1:11; Gal 6:6). Each member of the Church should be taught to submit their very bodies as a living sacrifice unto the Lord to be used by Him to love others (Eph 4:20-24). Apostle John has clearly told the Church that those who do not love their fellow Christian brother perpetually is not of God and thus abides in death (1 John 3:10, 14).


The bottom line we learn from the following exposition of truth is, ‘Never ever accommodate a casteist attitude which will always bring God’s wrath and His curses [i.e. Chastisement (Heb 12:4-11; 1 Cor 11:31-32; 1 Peter 4:17)] in to your life.’ Praise the Lord! 

Be a catalyst of Christ in this world and not a casteist bringing shame to the glorious name of Jesus Christ. You cannot call yourself as a Christian of a particular caste, because to God it is an abomination as we have clearly seen. Live by the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. Don’t try by your own strength to live such glorious life of unconditional love, instead receive it through Holy Spirit who pours out the love of Jesus in to your heart day in and day out freely and unconditionally as you seek and ask for it (Rom 5:5). Only by living such lives we can really be catalysts of salt and a light to this world! Praise the Lord!

 



Footnote:

[i] Azariah, M. D., The Unchristian Side of the Christian Church (Madras: C.L.S, 1982), 5,

[ii] From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, s.v. “Caste system among Indian Christians,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_among_Indian_Christians (accessed 15 December 2009).

 

Bibliography:

Azariah, M. D., The Unchristian Side of the Christian Church. Madras: C.L.S, 1982.

 












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