A Lament for Unnao and Kathua

“Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?”

Around this time last year
a teenage girl lured by the promise of employment,
imprisoned, gang-raped and sold.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.”

Lord of the nations, are you not the Lord of mine too?
How long will you be silent?
Her despairing soul, utterly hopeless,
her plight unnoticed that compelled her to self-immolate,
Nameless and invisible, she cried:

“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

While awaiting justice, she receives a report
not of reparations and relief
but one that escalates her grief
the news of her father’s death
caused not by old age, accident or sickness
but by the merciless beatings with blunt sticks and clubs.
Fourteen injuries in all said the postmortem
in the custody of them who’s sworn duty was to protect.

Where is your justice, O Lord?
“Is your loyal love told in the grave,
or your faithfulness in the underworld?
Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”

Then the 8-year old little Bakherwal nomadic girl
who’s poverty perhaps helped her survive
a possible sex-selective abortion
held hostage ironically in a temple
raped repeatedly by eight men
one for each year of her life
strangled with her own scarf and then bludgeoned.

O Lord of the poor, friend of the weak
defender of the Orphan, protector of the widow
deliverer of the wanderer, lover of the child
didn’t she qualify as the one you should rescue?

“O LORD, the God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice shine forth!
Arise, O judge of the earth.
Give the proud what they deserve.
How long, O LORD?
How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?
How long will they speak with arrogance?
How long will these evil people boast?
They crush your people, LORD,
hurting those you claim as your own.
They kill widows and foreigners
and murder orphans.
“The LORD isn’t looking,” they say,
“and besides, the God of Israel doesn’t care”.”

With a sunken heart, folded hands, and teary eyes
as one with no strength and little hope, I pray,
Give heed to the cries of your people–
abused, mocked and sent to their graves
from where their feeble voice rise unto You, crying
How long, O Lord? How long?

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Towards Freedom of Conscience: Navigating between the Individual and the Community

A paper that I had earlier presented in Delhi (April 2016) is published as a chapter in this edited volume titled: The Bible in India: Religion and Ethics and is now available on Amazon.

Religion and Ethics

My paper argues that the freedom of conscience is inherent and fundamental to the human noetic structure and thus can be conceived as self-evident. Yet, human rights and freedom of conscience primarily take their shape from within specific background cultures, especially shaped by their vision of a good life.

This paper examines two such visions: Cultures that tend to focus on individual autonomy and those that focus on community. Individual autonomy is a Christian heresy and needs to be critiqued just as much as the communitarian calculus in our culture that tramples on the individual freedom. How may we seek a balance? I argue that the unity in diversity within the community of Trinity provides a prototype for a balance between the individual and the community.

Shifting the Narrative: an intro to JP

If you’ve never watched the Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, this is a good intro. I must confess that I haven’t read any of his writings but I have listened to several of his lectures over the last couple of years. I should also warn you that he’s quite persuasive and therefore, this may not be the last video of his you’ll watch! 🙂

I highly recommend listening to him for an intelligent counter-narrative to the dominant ones out here. He shot to fame for opposing the amendment to Human Rights Act and Criminal Code in the introduction of the Bill C-16 (2016) passed by the Canadian Parliament.

I thought this would have been far better if the interviewer, Cathy Newman could paraphrase him more accurately! In this interview, she is often caught between an argument she can’t refute and a position she can’t abandon.

JP

 

Is Secularism Compatible with Hinduism?

Where severely contested beliefs are held within pluralistic societies, they ought to be governed by principles that provide a framework for those pluralities to be practised unhindered, if not help flourish. Secularism has functioned as a vehicle to enable societies that are plural to navigate through the stark differences in a civic manner.

However, given that secularism itself has doctrines that are presupposed, which specific parties/voices within society may or may not agree with, conflicts remain not only despite secularism but also because of it.

Therefore, one may ask, “what sorts of comprehensive doctrine within societies nurture a secular framework?” or, “is secularism compatible with doctrines that are held in a social context?” My paper specifically addresses the latter question.

SAC_ReligiousFreedomAndConversion copy

This edited volume is a collection of the papers presented at the SAIACS Academic Consultation in September 2015 on the theme, Religious Freedom and Conversion. Along with my co-editors, i hope that the book stimulates and provides direction for Christian thinking on the issue.

Deconstructing Equality

Vinoth Ramachandra

The real test of whether we or our governments understand the concept of human rights is whether we or they are willing to defend the rights of our enemies.

I believe that the near-hysterical denunciation of the white far-right marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, with numerous calls on Twitter and elsewhere for their sacking from their jobs and expulsion from universities, is evidence of a lack of understanding about human rights.

The marchers were protesting the demolition of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, one of the leaders of the Confederate Army in the American Civil War. Whatever Lee’s political views, no historian doubts his military genius. And if city mayors and state governors are going to expunge memorials to Americans who were “pro-slavery” or “white supremacists”, they should begin with Thomas Jefferson and shut down the University of Virginia. And, in Britain, the memorials to Churchill and a host…

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Holy Spirit and Apologetics

The narcissistic curiosity of googling one’s own name could be a phenomenon worth reflecting on. It could be a form of taking a selfie– with the exception that it is indulged within one’s own cloistered spaces, and thus, exhibits a deeper level of sophistication on the gradient of vanity– a form of deconstruction where I watch myself watching me, unlike when I google someone else!

well, in the process of all the self-indulgence, the google tossed way too many Varughese Johns– 2,67,000 to be precise, and that in 0.68 seconds.

This somewhat explains my adoption of Aruthuckal Varughese John as the nom de plume hence forth. Aruthuckal happens to be my family– house name in Kerala. My efforts to find what it means has thus far failed. It probably means pirate! 🙂

Anyway, the first use of this variant has appeared in the chapter I contributed in this book edited by my friend, Roji T George. The volume is a fantastic collection. My article is titled Third Article Theology and Apologetics.

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My paper argues that the loss of transcendence from a culture is maximally a loss of the Holy Spirit. After all, unlike the Holy Spirit, the other two members of the Trinity have a visible trail—the Father, his created order (natural theology) and the Son his historical presence (Theology of redemption). Whereas, the self-effacing Holy Spirit is “neither seen nor known” by the world (John 14:17) or by the Church that succumbs to the spirit of the age. In short, the cultural influence of naturalism has left the church Spirit-impoverished.

Thus, I explore how we may recover this loss and prioritize the Spirit? If we looked carefully, a Spirit priority seems to follow the structure of function within the economic Trinity. That is, while the Trinitarian order follows the Father sending the Son to complete the work of redemption followed by the sending of the Spirit to sanctify the Church, human encounter seems to always require an inverse Trinitarian order. It is the Spirit who testifies to the Lordship of Christ, for “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3), and it is in Jesus in whom the “whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9), that we see the face of the Father (John 14:9).

Exploring the epistemic role of the Spirit, I conclude that the Spirit is the epistemic agency as well as the starting point in turning the Christian message into an intelligible account for anyone who hears it.

Given the self-effacing nature of the Spirit who points humans towards Christ, who in turn points us towards the Father, a Spirit priority inherently provides a Trinitarian mould for theological thinking and practice.

@ the JNU Philosophy Colloquium

it was an honor to be invited to speak at the JNU Philosophy Colloquium earlier last year (April 2016) on the theme Freedom of Conscience: Navigating Between the Individual and the Community. It was hosted by the Centre for English Studies and School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies.

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I fumbled when I realized that they were recording the presentation. Yet, here I am engaging in shameless self-promotion, despite how insufferable it is! There were some great discussions that followed, although that was not recorded.