Iraq And Syria

It’s a pity, nobody has called me from Washington yet to get my valuable insight on the grim happenings in Syria, which have clawed its way into a seemingly tranquil Europe.

So you guys are it: my audience.

Nothing further needs to be said about a people, who made available to us the profound ideas of equality, fraternity, and liberty: concepts rooted in a Judeo-Christian ideology.

Never mind, the French may have given up on the Christian part of it long ago, but the tenets remain, etched into the French psyche. The beautiful Notre dame, a structure we visited in 1974 with our infant daughter nisha, is sitting there very pretty and very empty.

So after the killing spree at the offices of the French cartoonists in January of this year, the French were said to be despairing over the stubborn resistance to assimilation on the part of the millions, whom they welcomed to their land, to live and to let live.

The next thing they knew, those very rights they fought a revolution over, 4 centuries ago, had become endangered, or been put on the threshold of being eliminated altogether.

The Bikini or the Burqa.

That clash of values catapulted us to what happened last week.

As we see all sorts of added and painful security measures being elevated all over Europe, and across the Atlantic, questions have arisen over how to handle the refugee migrants from a God-forsaken place called Syria.

Ironically, and aside from the rest of the story at hand, some of us call ourselves ‘Syrian Christians’. I don’t think there are any Christians left in Syria. Perhaps we should rename ourselves ‘Suriyani christhianis’. only the ‘suriyanis’ will know what to make of that term.

Anyway, instead of vilifying the governors and the presidential candidates for suggesting we put a lid on the ‘Great Migration’, I have come up with the following. I’m sure some of you are going to tell me, ‘you’re kidding, right’? and it’s ok to do that, and I am not.

Google came to my aid, and I discovered that there are roughly 350,000 Christian congregations in the U.S.

Assuming most of them possess their own sanctuaries, I propose that each of the churches adopt one refugee family each, and house them right in their sanctuaries. Giving sanctuary in a sanctuary.

If you think I’m being facetious, I am not.

In return for this, this guest family can help the churches with moderate amounts of housekeeping, until they’re on their feet, and can move onward. Kind of like W’s ‘Faith Initiative’. and it’s 340,000 more than what the president is edicting.

and on that note: what’s up with the president going abroad, and going around questioning Ted Cruz’s patriotism? isn’t it the same as when his patriotism was called into question? the Filipinos are probably confused.

All the vetting, that word we’re hearing a lot these days, (initially I thought this meant putting some water over the head of these people ), will be the responsibility of the sponsoring church. And the church will also be liable for any adverse outcomes.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and I have a story to tell. Just bear with me a bit more.

Once a time long ago, I was the food co-coordinator for my church Carmel MarThoma. poor folks, they haven’t got over it yet, and have not invited me back to repeat the performance.

thanksgiving rolled around that year, and I foolishly came up with the the novel idea of us, the church folks, preparing the whole thanksgiving meal, turkey and the sides, and openly inviting the Hudson townspeople to share it with us.

I was surprised by the resistance to the proposal, on the grounds of safety mainly, and other matters. I’m not blaming anyone. I haven’t invited townsfolk to my house, ever. I’m just suggesting, we have a different approach when something directly impacts our daily lives.

It’s getting a little tiresome to be repeatedly exhorted of our Christian duty to care for the least advantaged. No argument there. It’s right there in Matthew’s Gospel. This may be arguably the most quoted Gospel verse. No problem with that either.

but is it possible, Jesus may have meant, we the individuals, you and I, take care of this? and not putting it on Caesar’s head, and be done with it?

as a fact, Jesus never exhorted Caesar to do anything.

Next point in this business of the blame game is, that of giving preference to ‘Christian’ refugees.

We can opt out of this dilemma by offering to take people over 50, with no extended families accompanying them. No religious litmus test will then be necessary. It will still be better than the ‘all or nothing’ stand.

Some of us are suffering from this malady called, The Bias of Lowered Expectations (BLE). What is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Some are expected to do only the ‘least of their best’.

why don’t we expect Saudi Arabia to take in half the number of refugees, with whom they share a religion, language, and a culture, that are being sent to Europe? Why is it OK for the Saudis to stand idly by, but not for the Europeans? Isn’t caring for widows and orphans mandated in their holy book?

I wonder if Jesus said anything about double standards? WWJS(ay)?

Apostle Paul was a supremely learned Jew, a pharisee, on his way to Damascus in Syria, to kill the newly minted Christians in AD 33 or so, but lucky for us, he had an Encounter With A Good Jew and he had a change of heart. Is it unrealistic to wish that some of the ‘bad guys’ may also have that same encounter with the same Jew, if we all prayed hard enough? Or am I nutty?

Good Wednesday evening…i hope i get at least a few (dis)likes to my post.

mercy

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Pursuit Of Peace

Raphael,

No argument there. We should pursue peace. How we go about, is the question.

I’m not in favour of any position that first and foremost states, that we don’t spend enough on foreign aid, we violate human rights, Christians are just as bad in using religion to kill, all white people are racists, this, that, and the other.

And I’m not in favour of a president who uses willful manipulation to draw outrageous parallels between Guantanamo bay and videotaped killings. Between events from a thousand years ago, to what happened yesterday.

His narrative is always, America is great, with ‘but we have done some bad things’. It should be reversed, It should be with the preface, ‘we have committed some grave mistakes, but it is still the greatest country in the world’. we have repented, made amends, and we’re in a far better place.

If we all acknowledge this is the best nation in the world to unpack our bags for a good long time, (not to visit on occasion, or veg out on a beach), then we can go somewhere with this discussion on how to pursue peace.

What is so intellectual or fashionable about bashing white folks, Christians, and Jews, but not others, and other religions?

After only a quick read, I do agree with a couple of stands in this article. One, I‘m against torture of any kind under any circumstances, period. It hurts my fiber to think that humans inflict pain on others on purpose. I have walked out of movies that show gratuitous violence, as my husband can attest; all the while acknowledging that it was the ‘water boarding’ of Khalid Sheik Mohammed that brought us the first tip, in 2005, on how to locate bin laden. I gloss over it by pretending it was just putting a little water on KSM’s head!

I’m also not for putting our men in harm’s way in the quagmire that is called Iraq.

so, how do we do it, you ask. I don’t know. The nation that put a man on the moon should be able to figure it out.

Anyway, you expected to hear from me, right?

I love America, not as in a, it’s-the-best-but-it-can-be-better, kind of way. The best, period. And I think the CIA and the navy SEALs are awesome, they’re doing their jobs, so i can sit in my warm house and use my ‘freedom to express’. And I’m glad all of you are my friends. Keep safe as your plow through the snow this weekend… mercy


Anitha’s Step – One For The Ages

“All things are according to God’s plan and decision; and God chose us to be his own people in union with Christ because of His own purpose, based on what He had decided from the very beginning.” Ephesians 1:11

Happy 2015!

Last Sunday was an ordinary day at the Carmel Marthoma Church of Boston. except that it wasn’t.
It was an extra-ordinary day.
Although it happened to fittingly coincide with the final day of a long-planned and well-organized youth conference, that’s not what set it apart.

For the first time in the Malankara Marthoma Syrian Church’s 180-year history, just as the service got under way, a twenty three-year-old young lady named Anitha Oommen, gingerly climbed up the short steps of the Carmel church’s madhbaha, to serve as a ‘deacon’, and swiftly rode into history books.

A job reserved only for the male members of the church has now suddenly become available to the other half, or as some would say, the ‘better half’, of the members.

Eve may have come after Adam, but now occupies equal space and place. The curtain did tear into two.

What may have been a ‘small step’ for the petite anitha, was a ‘giant leap’ for our church populace, the institution itself.

Close to some teen years younger than our youngest daughter, this youth leader with a ready smile my two shy granddaughters took an instant liking to, at a church summer bible school, Anitha has now become a trailblazer.

A woman ‘kapiyar’ in a MarThoma palli!

Although never one to fit the definition of a ‘feminist’ by any stretch, and as one who is always happy to be in the care of my husband, the picture of ‘Anitha’s Step’, that was posted on Facebook by some well-wisher, surprised me with a lump in my throat.
I’m translating that ‘lumpy’ sentiment into prose.

This stratospherical achievement must have been the work of many, many peoples’ thoughts and imaginations, deliberate contemplations and deep-felt prayers, and perhaps some legwork, that spanned months or years, but even the Almighty would give the first credit to our Geevarghese mar Thoedosius thirumeni, the episcopa of the diocese of North America and Europe for the Marthoma church.

It took the divine confluence of a prophetic priest who made the leap, an eager, willing woman who took the step, and the members of a progressive parish that stepped up, to arrive at this momentous mile-marker. at the right time and the right place. all willing to answer ‘The Call’.

To call thirumeni a visionary is akin to saying, Neil Armstrong must have been a good engineering student at Purdue University. An understatement and stating the obvious. Our church, and particularly our diocese have been fortunate for the last 7 years to have thirumeni as our high priest. His superior intellect and his far-reaching vision were gifts to us.

And I’m so glad he ‘ran out of excuses’ (to quote thirumeni himself) for the persistent question of our youth, ‘why can’t girls do all the things in church, as the boys?’

Coming from arguably the most patriarchal culture in the world, it would’ve been easier instead for thirumeni, to hang onto the argument that it is our ‘tradition’ and therefore valid. and thirumeni admitted that was the only rationale he could offer in the end, and it wasn’t enough. Not for a body of Christ.

In addition to all else, during his sabbatical as our bishop, thirumeni opened my eyes to certain profound biblical truths:
this ‘pretend bible know-it-all’ learned for the first time:
– one, Jesus’ words on the cross ‘woman, behold your son; son, here’s your mother’ were the ‘seeding’ of the first ‘church’, an entity where people who are not blood-related taking care of each other as family.
– Two, Jesus’ words ‘I Am The Way’ is not meant to be just a doctrinal mandate or dogma by which to exclude others, but rather, what Jesus commanded us to do is to: ‘follow me, do and behave as I do, follow my exact way’.

thank you, thirumeni.

and anitha, you go girl! How did you end up with one of my favourite last names?!

America, How Do I love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways!

I don’t know many of you in Kunju’s email chain, nevertheless I’m writing blindly, with the hope that you won’t use your ‘right to free speech’ and yell at me.

I am ‘center right’ on fiscal matters, but am pro gun control. The second amendment hasn’t found a space in the Indian-American psyche, I believe. I don’t ever want to touch a gun, let alone think that we should all own guns to protect ourselves from intruders.

Having got that sentiment out of the way, let me answer this one question posed by Minoo Verghese, the writer of this email.

‘Wonder why most of you preferred to settle in the so called “country of the brave and the free” – I’m guessing not for the freedom but for the moolah, whatever.

Let me count the ways. Why I love America and why I have chosen to stay here for close to half a century.

-For the rights, ‘endowed on us by our creator’ and embedded into our constitution by one of the greatest men ever lived, Thomas Jefferson – my ‘rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. If I get killed by a mad gunman tomorrow, my ‘right to life’ will have ended. So can it have ended traversing through some of the chaotic roads in Ernakulam.

-For the ‘Judeo-Christian’ principle that God created us all in His image, one that is at the bedrock of the ‘western’ value that all ‘men’, the rich and the destitute, have the same worth in the eyes of God and man. This translates to: if I had the misfortune of ending up at the MGH (arguably the world’s most premier hospital) tomorrow, I don’t have to have my nephew’s brother-in-law’s wife working there to get a single doctor to even shoot a glance in my direction. if one lowly among us is kidnapped across enemy lines, the 82nd airborne is dispatched to the rescue.

-My privilege to get up every morning, indulge in a hot shower (without water allocation), put on a fresh set of ‘LLBean’ clothes, and drive my own little Toyota Camry, and park in our $7B company’s parking lot with ease. my bosses are Bill and Matt, not ‘sir’.

-My right to not to have to bribe my way through the bureaucracy to renew my driver’s license.

-For a good glass of Merlot, a juicy hamburger, ‘Lenox’ fine bone china, Red Sox in August, Super Bowl in February, and movies with Brad Pitt (‘Moneyball’ comes to mind, if you haven’t seen it, please do).

-Where I can argue with my ‘bleeding-heart’ daughters and my friends on the merits of fiscal prudence.

-For not having to squirrel away my entire life savings and my inheritance, to see my three daughters married.

-For being able to go on a safari in Kenya, and to see ‘Mama Mia’ on Broadway while taking in the ‘Big Apple’.

-To be living in the only country in the world where i can drink municipal tap water.

When we bash ‘white people’ for all the ills of the world, accusing them of aiming to forcefully conform the whole world to the ‘American or European way’, please bear in mind, that it’s the same race that gave us William Shakespeare and ‘Hamlet’, Michelangelo and the ‘Sistine Chapel’, Henry Ford and the world’s first assembly line, the Wrights brothers and the jet airplane, Penicillin and 8-lane freeways, JFK and the ‘moonshot’, the steam engine, the wheel, Steve jobs and ‘Apple’, and surely, the Magna Carta which is the very source of the noble idea of ‘one man to one vote’ (democracy). And who can dismiss ‘Google’?

Need I go on with the names? Like Galileo, Magellan and Copernicus? Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton, and Thomas Edison?

In all fairness, would the ‘native’ Americans or this continent have been better off, if the ‘white man’ who gave us the ‘Declaration Of Independence’ and ‘The Bill Of Rights’, never set foot on its shores?

The ‘proof is in the pudding’, folks.
This country has been the last and the best hope of the earth, ever since a bunch of Anglo-Saxons settled in Jamestown, VA, and introduced the world to capitalism and free enterprise, and people all over the world haven’t stopped since, standing in ‘snake lines’, in scorching heat and blistering cold, in front of US consulates all over the globe, to get that coveted document called an American Visa. When the same happens in front of the Chinese, Indian, Ugandan and Lithuanian consulates, then we can claim they also have the same rights and opportunities, and desirable governments.

And to answer that first question by Minoo one further time, we may have all come here in pursuit of the two ‘Big Greens’, one with a picture of George Washington on it, and another in the size of a wallet card. but it’s undeniably the basic human rights that have pulled and kept us in.

Merry Christmas and a happy 2013, and
Peace On Earth..