It is the imperial interests of the Roman and Arab empires which determined the general character of Christianity and Islam. And, then, came the compulsions of the church and the mosque.
Today, those empires do not exist. But both Christianity and Islam remain in the mould they were cast by the conquerors. Indian Christians must purge their faith of these imperial distortions. They must bring into their midst the true message of Jesus Christ.
And what is the true message of Jesus Christ? It is this: The kingdom of God is within you. All other Christian doctrines can be derived from this.
For the first time, Jesus and John, the Baptist, made the Jews look inward. And they brought God and man into a new type of relation?to an intimacy bound by love and fearlessness. ?With love implanted in his heart in place of fear, man emerged as the lover of his fellowmen; he learnt to find fulfilment in a life of love for God and service to man,? says a Christian authority on the change that Jesus brought about.
Christianity grew up in the crucible of the Roman empire. Amidst the clashes of steel in the arena, it learned violence. And it forgot all about the love that Jesus preached.
It is violence that triumphed. Remember the slave trade, genocide of the Red Indians, the burning stake, and the torture chambers of the inquisition?those were not born of love, but of the spirit of the gladiators. Love was dead. When Europe went out to colonise the world, it was Christianity which became the principal prop of the colonial system of exploitation. And Christianity stood aside to watch the macabre murder of millions of Jews in the gas chambers of Germany.
Thus, the Christian faith was brutalised. It became insensitive to suffering and cruelty.
Indian Christians must leave this tradition of violence. They are legatees of the Indian (Vedic) tradition of love (of humanity as a family) and the Buddhist tradition of compassion. But this also happens to be the tradition of Jesus.
As a religion of violence, Christianity led to dogmatism, bigotry and intolerance on the one hand and formalism and ritualism on the other.
Man as a spiritual seeker transcends both laws and commandments. Only spirituality can bind man to the eternal and the infinite. The mission of Jesus was to release the Jews from their tribal morality and dogmatic religion. Above all, to meet the spiritual hunger of the Jewish people. Rituals did not satisfy the mind. They were as stones to a hungry man, as the New Testament says.
Love and grace do not negate law and commandments. ?I am come to fulfill,? says Jesus. He tells the rich man to follow the commandments before he takes to the higher journey.
In the search for the source of things, the Western man scoured the universe. He forgot to look inward. And then Jesus came and told them that the kingdom of God was within them. This could hardly square with the Jewish dogma of the innate vileness of human nature. Romans had no use for this doctrine. And, as it turned out, the church too had no use for it. This would have made man sacred.
Do you know the difference between having a God in the sky and one in your heart? In the first case, you will construct a magnificent temple for Him. In the other case, the body becomes the temple. To maintain it sacred and exalted, there is need for the continuous refinement of the spirit, good character and, above all, for ethical conduct. A tall order! The church preferred the magnificent cathedral to attract the flock. Jesus was crucified by the Jews.
Not these alone. Jesus says: Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. But the Vatican was the main support of the capitalist system of exploitation of the poor. Only now has it realised the need for a caring society.
And Jesus said: Blessed are the pure at heart, for they shall see God. The Roman empire had no need for this doctrine. And the corrupt clerics too had no use for it. But there can be no spiritual life without a pure heart. The Katha Upanishad says: ?He who is humble and pure at heart realises the glory of the atman.?
Jesus was a happy man. But this did not suit the church. So it made Christianity into a religion of sorrow and anger. But this had disastrous consequences for the history of Christianity.
Similarly, the church pinned on the world the guilt of Adam and Eve and made atonement and obedience to the church the only means of salvation.
Indian Christians must give thought to these matters, for they alone can give shape to a new Christianity?a Christianity for our times.
Christianity was born as a religion of love. Today it is a religion of hatred. This must be a matter of concern to Indian Christians. Only the guidance of a lofty world view such as that of Vedanta can release them from their predicament. Only they can save Christianity.