Just when you thought the disconcerting conversion debate was dying down, it sparked back up on apprehensions over new anti-conversion laws, the latest being Jharkhand that has joined the bandwagon. An aura of fear and panic has usurped Christian workers across North, predictably shaken by the alarming text snippets shared by scaremongers, many often aimlessly posted through social media platforms.
Regardless of what you read, the draconian anti-conversion laws have been in existence since Independence. Every quarter of a decade we have the state and media ramp up the debate and promulgate laws that in the barb of conversion have created a pervasive climate of fear and fanatic conformity. Some of us in the Christian media may recall the number of sit-ins, campaigns and all the activism undertaken for the repeal of bills, also oddly known as the “Freedom of Religion Acts”.
So what has changed over the years? Nothing, but the growing realization of a resurgence and escalation of such dreary events, may be even on an unprecedented scale. Perhaps time is here for the Church to get over the panic and phobia and reassess the thrust and core of Christian mission. What is the impetus that leads our work. And whether external causes thwart the sovereign purposes of God. The Church will inevitably run into problems and a dispiriting mode when it falls for the mass hysteria that suggests that Mission is undermined by political, economical causes and scientific breakthroughs.
A radical rethinking is needed to reiterate that Mission is first and foremost about God. It is led by God and at the heart of it is the crucified Christ who is “the power of God and the wisdom of God”. The progress of our mission does not hinge on institutional authorities, legal frameworks and those in the higher rungs of power. Neither is it spearheaded by human wisdom, splendid exercises and sophisticated strategies. Our mission flows from the redemptive work of God through the cross. And if our motivation is not driven by it, all what we do is wholly unfounded.
History has shown us how kingdoms have risen and fallen, civilizations altered, great leaders disappearing, but God has been constantly on the move, and for the last 2,000 years the message of the cross has been transforming generations. The hard truth is persecution is inevitable and unavoidable. Jesus prepared his followers for it. Nonetheless, it never stunted the growth of Christianity in spite of the adversities we read of the first disciples to the early Christians who were victims of the organized persecution under Nero in 64CE. The sporadic incidents rather have opened amazing opportunities for the Gospel to reach remotest corners. In the midst of our present challenges, it is wiser to not dwell on causes such as this. Suffering is a pattern that we see constantly used to purify and equip the church, remove those with mixed motives, separate the shallow and build faithfulness.
The ongoing debate also presents the Church an opportunity to retrospect its works. We must be honest and emphatic in acknowledging that we do not draw in people by force, any means of allurement or fraud, as prohibited by the law in dispute. And if there are those among us who employ subtle tactics or engage with communities in a coercive manner, we must be honest that it contradicts the Gospel and the precepts of freewill. For a healthy social engagement, we are not in need of overzealous preachers, but fine communicators whose words and lifestyle embody Christ. And if transformation is what we aim, then God has specified only one way for us to achieve that. It lies at the foot of the cross. That which is built on it, will be grounded and will rise even if shaken.
Written for the Aim magazine.