A Christian perspective on solidarity

Z K Pahrii Pou
Contd from previous article D. Consumerism: The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said: “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
This stark individualism has been fomented by many factors, not least the consumer culture that drives late modern capitalism. Given sufficient money, the consumer is sovereign, satisfying one’s desires and improving life. Or so the advertisers tell us. The advertising world has made us to believe as true what is not true. The logic of consumer culture requires us to want ever more and to continue believing that those purchased products and services will make us better—sexier, healthier, happier. What consumer culture cannot tolerate is contentment, a sense that our provision is sufficient. Instead, it requires restlessness, endless striving, eternal competition and insecurity. In pursuit of our unlimited wants, we have not only spoilt our life but also that of others. Social solidarity life matters. We have forgotten that material things cannot provide what human friendship provides. Consumerism is much more than wishing a so-called higher living standard. It is the attitude and conviction which finds the meaning of life and the purpose of economic activity in access to an ever widening and rapidly changing range of commodities. It is becoming socially accepted orientation that determines social status so that a person’s status depends on the gadget one possesses. Greed and corruption are fruits of consumerist culture. Consciously or unconsciously, many Christians are also influenced by consumerist culture and became materialistic. This culture delineates us from each other and breaks the bond of love.
E. Modern technology and Development: Modern technology promises ‘heaven on earth’ but it in contrary has stolen away ‘heaven from earth’ from our life. The relationship within the immediate human beings, human and nature and human and God is widened by modern technology. Most of the time, we relate to each other only through technology. We are tempted to believe that modern science is good and technology is the solution to all our problems. However, we need to be aware that with the non-stop invention of scientific technologies there is also increasing number of crimes, conflicts, and unrest in all parts of the world. Even human worth is measured by the kind and quantity of technology one possessed.
Sir Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton and others who paved way for the development of modern science treat nature as dead matter to be exploited and use for human benefit. He believed that nature must be “bound into service” and made a “slave”. This anthropocentric -reductionist science then become at the root of the growing ecological crisis. It destroys life and threatens survival. The earth is rapidly dying: her forests, her soils her waters, her air are dying. With the destruction of forests, water and land, we are losing our life-support systems. Introduction of modern technology have enormous effect not only nature but also on the poor. Eighty per cent of all scientific research is devoted to the war industry which clearly indicates the nexus between modern science and violence. Tools of economic production have become tools of war: Using of power tiller for ploughing fields or trawler for fishing had destroyed the means of livelihoods for millions of people. Nuclear reactors & weapons pose great threat to both human beings and nature. Random abortion (sex selection) especially female child are done with the help of modern technology. Vivisection is performed to millions of living species every year for experiment. Modern science appears to be challenging God today as it plays with life without any respect. Millions of people are displaced by modern development. Many tribal areas in India are under a state of siege as tribals and adivasis who persistently protect natural resources are hunted down by coercive forces of the state in collaboration with multi-national companies. We are told that violence is necessary for development, progress, and a better life for all of us. It is usually only understood and recognized by those who are directly affected by it. Even then, the promise of a better life is supposed to be a consolation, although any chance for a better life has, in fact, been sacrificed! In India’s context it is the tribals or adivasis who always sacrifice for others. The rich and the powerful hardly made any concession for the greater common good or for nation.
F. Religion: Religion is supposed to play an important role in bidning together human society. Although all religions teach about love, peace, justice and life, in practice, they do not bring solidarity to the world’s community. The terror activities of the many faith adherents are dangerously extending its tentacles to many countries. The religious fanatics of Hindus, Muslims and Christians are vigorously raising its head in India threatening the peaceful coexistence of people of different faiths.
E. Ethnic Chauvinism: There is growing ethnic division in our society. Many ethnic leaders (inclusive of political, civil and underground leaders) are using ethnic and tribal card to grab power and to stay in their leadership post. Common people fell into this trap without realising the hidden ploy played by these cunning leaders who think not for the common good but for their own survival.
3. Christian Perspectives of Solidarity The calling of the people of God is not simply to live in isolated lives as individuals but to live in koinonia or fellowship. The human are, therefore, to live in community, in intimate fellowship with one another and with God. The Bible begins with fundamental questions of solidarity: “Adam where are you?” and “Cain where is your brother Abel?” However, the answer of the fallen being was, “Am I my brother’s keeper”? We are responsible for each other even as Jesus came to this world to show his solidarity with us. Quoting from the Book of Isaiah (61:1f), Jesus delivered the Nazareth Manifesto: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.” – (Luke 4.18f).He said again in Mark 10.45, “For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” He even taught us what greatest love is from John 15.13, “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.” However, we continue to possess not-in-my-backyard attitude and ask “Am I my brother’s keeper” (Genesis 4:9) and “who is my neighbour” (Luke 10: 25-37). The ‘neighbour…not man in general but the man who meets me time and again in the context of life…is to be loved as ‘one myself’ not as ‘I love myself.’ We need to relate to anyone in need and treat him/her as a person, a human like my own ‘self’. Such concern can help us build solidarity.
There are many other biblical where Jesus demonstrated his solidarity with people. In this mutual understanding and friendship, we must also begin to work together to build the common future of the human race. Jesus told his disciples not to be like ‘gentiles’ who tried to ‘lord over’ each other. As long as people tried to control and oppress each other, there cannot be solidarity. Jesus personally entered into the temple to challenge the various forms exploitations taking place in the temple.
People who had dealings with the Romans (notably the ‘tax-farmers’ such as Zacchaeus and Matthew or Levi) were despised as collaborators. Women were always legally minors, under the authority first of their male relatives and then of their husbands, and lacked status outside the home in any case; but those forced into prostitution by divorce or widowhood were completely outside the bounds of acceptability. People who were deemed ritually impure because of disfigurement, leprosy, haemorrhage or insanity were shunned and forced to live apart. And of the man born blind Jesus’ own disciples could cruelly ask: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he should have been born blind?” (John 9.2). Jesus lived in solidarity with all types of people. Bible said we should not steal. The alternative was hard work with our own hands. But the main purpose was not merely to hoard or even to have. The purpose was “to have to give.” “Let him labour, working with his hands, that he may have to give to him who is in need” (Eph. 4:28). This is not a justification for being rich in order to give more. It is a call to make more and keep less so you can give more. Capitalism is creating havoc today. If Jesus had been with us today, he might have said to the capitalists, “Man shall not live by bread alone.”
Jesus aid that if anyone wants to be great, then they must be servant of all. The Son of Man came to serve not to be served. Jesus taught us to develop greatness through serving but not through served. Serving does not mean that we should be pushover but as an example to others. We have the responsibility to transform ferocious wolves into lambs and lions into sheep so that we can build a society of solidarity without harming each other. It is time to build up harmonious relationship with everyone transcending village, tribe and factional interest. The Prophet Isaiah said that a time will come when ‘the wolf and the lamb will live together, the calf and the lion will graze together and a little child will lead them’ (Isaiah 11:6). Jesus rejected individualism. He came to this world to be with the people- the struggling masses. He came not to seek personal status and fame. He did not try to live a successful life if we considered success in terms of education, wealth and political status which he could have them all as offered to him (Matthew 4:1-11). These are considered as ‘temptations’ by Jesus. Wealth, fame and power lead to conflict and war and destroy solidarity. Jesus’ life and death not only establishes relationship but sustains it. He continuously sets right the broken relationship between God and human and human to and human. We are called to make peace. Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers….(Matt 5:9). Is it not surprise that the blessing is on the peacemakers not the peace keepers? Peacemakers are called the children of God. Those who bring division among people are doing the devil’s work.
CONCLUSION: People’s hope on modern capitalism as solution to all problems proved wrong. Rather it has destroyed solidarity life of the people. Modern education fails to bring equality as it promotes survival of the fittest where the interest of the weak and the poor are neglected. Modern technology has become the extended hand of the rich to control others and exploit nature. Many women continue to suffer under the ghost of patriarchy. Ethnicism is becoming a great threat to harmony and peaceful coexistence. Consumerism has neglected the wellbeing of neighbours. Today even God is made a personal consumerist good. Without solidarity, there will be insecurity, threats and violence of all forms. What we need today is ‘survival of the solidarity’. No society will last long in the absence of solidarity. Lack of solidarity shows spiritual bankruptcy. Even success is not success if it does not bring benefit to the whole society, in other word, solidarity. The wolves need to repent from their oppressive and dominating and the lambs need to regain their forgiving and hospitable nature. The oppressed groups are naturally forgiving and very generous even with the little they have. The privileged groups must repent and accept forgiveness from those they hurt through exploitation and oppression.
The writer can be reached at zkpahr@gmail.com

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