Search for a new bandwagon

The present crisis of the Church has a historical parallel. About five hundred years ago, the Church was heading for a crisis in Europe brought on by the Reformation and the Renaissance soon to be followed by the Enlightenment. However, the growth of European imperialism in the wake of Christopher Columbus' voyages of discovery allowed the Church to combine forces with the emerging colonial institutions and extend its reach across the globe. In a letter to his friend Dona Juana de Torres written in October 1500, Columbus summarised his own achievement as follows:89

I should be judged as a captain who went from Spain to the Indies to conquer a people numerous and warlike, whose manner and religion are very different from ours, who live in sierras and mountains, without fixed settlements, and where by divine will I have placed under the sovereignty of the King and Queen our Lords, an Other World, whereby Spain, which was reckoned poor, is become the richest of countries.

Columbus was doing it all in the name of Christ. As he himself wrote to his sovereigns - 'Their Christian Majesties' Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain: Your Highnesses have an Other World here by which our holy faith can be so greatly advanced and from which such great wealth can be drawn. (Letter to Ferdinand and Isabella, Oct. 18,1498)

He saw his 'holy faith' as the instrument to be used in drawing 'great wealth'. This is entirely in the Spirit of Kali which Vyasa saw and warned the world against. In another letter written on November 27, 1492 Columbus clearly laid down the principles under which Christianity was to be the main vehicle of colonial expansion and exploitation:

And I say that Your Highnesses ought not to consent that any foreigner does business or sets foot here [in America], except Christian Catholics, since this was the end and the beginning of the enterprise, that it should be for the enhancement and glory of Christian religion, nor should anyone who is not a good Christian come to these parts. (Emphasis added.)

Professor Samuel Eliot Morrison who edited the writings of Columbus goes on to observe: "Here may be found the first suggestion of the exclusive colonial policy that Spain and other nations followed.» What one finds particularly striking is the attitude displayed by Columbus in all this: regarding business and colonial expansion as a natural extension of Christianity - again in the Spirit of Kali foreseen by Vyasa. Also worth noting is his view of foreigners as all those who are not 'Christian Catholics' -regardless of nationality as we understand the term today. The Church was and

89 These quotations relating to Columbus and Vespucci (including Morrison's remarks) are taken from Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, New York, Little Brown, 1980.

remains a transnational entity. (Columbus was himself not a Spaniard but an Italian from Genoa.)

Columbus and other colonisers were soon to be followed by Jesuit missionaries, each more rapacious than the other. Missions and missionaries became outposts of the imperial powers. This allowed the Church to survive the crisis brought on by the Reformation in Europe by expanding into new lands; what had been a European institution soon became a world empire. As we saw in an earlier chapter, the Americas were not only plundered in the name of Christ, several ancient American civilizations were annihilated by Soldiers of the Cross. Amerigo Vespucci wrote in 1503:

Those new regions [America] which we found and explored with the fleet ...We may rightly call a New World...A continent more densely populated and abounding in animals than our Europe or Asia or Africa, and, in addition, a climate milder than any other region known to us.

But this idyllic New World which Vespucci saw could not withstand the rapacity of the Spanish and Portuguese Conquistadors and the no less rapacious priests. Even today, most countries of South and Central America show the scars of the ravages inflicted by these marauders in the name of Christ. (In the previous chapter I gave some details of the scale of destruction wrought in the colonization of America, especially as witnessed by Bartolome de Las Casas.) More to the point, Christianity, which was gradually losing its hold over the people and institutions of Europe, obtained a new lease of life by joining hands with the forces of European imperialism. In return, Christianity provided a moral justification for European colonialism and its exploitation of the natives as a mission to civilize the heathen world. The Anglo-Indian writer Rudyard Kipling called it the 'White Man's Burden'. In truth, colonialism served as Christianity's bandwagon.

Such pursuit of secular goals in the guise of religion was not limited to Catholic Spain. The staunchly Protestant David Livingston, regarded a 'great missionary' and humanitarian, let out the truth when he wrote in secret to a friend: "All this machinery had for its ostensible object the development of African trade and the promotion of civilization; but what I can tell to none but such as you, in whom I have confidence, is that I hope it may result in an English colony in the healthy high lands of Central Africa."

This practice of advancing commercial and imperial interests in the name of Christ is by no means a thing of past centuries. Mahatma Gandhi quotes one Reverend Macarish, a leading missionary of the American Presbyterian Church who confessed:

"One cry in this country [America]," Gandhi wrote quoting Macarish, "had long been markets, wider markets. ...If the farmers and manufacturers desire to create a market, they would do well to get in touch with foreign missions, and we are assured that it would not be long till they received their money back with liberal interest."

Although the missionary went to the foreign fields to win souls for Jesus, the results of his labours also meant the extension of commerce. Trade would follow the banner of the Cross, as readily as it would the Union Jack, the Stars and Stripes...

Recently a bill has been introduced in the United States Congress to permit the Central Intelligence Agency to employ missionaries as spies, a practice that had been banned for twenty years. During the Cold War many Christian missionaries all over the world were actually in the service of the CIA. There is also no assurance that the practice of spying by missionaries was not covertly carried out despite the twenty-year ban. Many in countries like India and Sri Lanka have long charged that missionaries have worked also as foreign agents. This now stands confirmed.

As related in Chapter I, Cardinal Posadas Ocampo of Mexico was acting as an agent of the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar when he was assassinated in Guadalajara, Mexico. International drug cartels, like the one headed by Escobar, are States within States which have employed missionaries as agents. The Church has long been involved in drug-related money laundering operations through men like Calvi, Sindona, Marcinkus and Gelli. These developments suggest that the international drug trade may be serving as another bandwagon for the Church.

This scenario is not very different from what happened during the era of European colonialism and the Industrial Revolution. It was recognized that conversion was good for commerce. As far back as 1905, it was stated by the Boston Advertiser -"The Christian man is our customer. The heathen has, as a rule, few wants. It is only when man is changed that there comes this desire for the manifold articles that belongs to the Christian man ... The missionary is everywhere and is always the pioneer in trade. "90

It may not be stated so openly today, but the business imperatives have not changed; if anything, the situation has grown more urgent for the Church faced with imminent collapse in the West. One should not be surprised to see a new initiative on the part of the Church to serve commerce in the name of serving Jesus. There are already noises being made by some Church leaders in India claiming that the service of religion must include economic service also. So we may soon see a Christian Stockbroker Service to match Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network.

This idea is not far-fetched. As we saw in Chapter I, Vatican, Inc. already has several such in operation bearing names like the 'Fabric of St Peter's Apostle', the 'Institute for Religious Works' (lOR) and so forth. Internal documents of the Catholic Church and other Christian organizations make no secret of this desire to combine business with evangelisation. To take just one example, the relatively recent (1980) 'Thailand Report on Hindus' (cited in Chapter I) observes:91

The reaching of the Hindu is one of the greatest challenges to the people of God in this generation. To this end we call for:

(i) Personal and corporate intercession for the evangelisation of Hindu people groups all over the world.

(ii) Personal and corporate sacrificial giving to support this evangelisation.

It is scarcely to be expected that 'corporate giving' and 'corporate intercession' would be done on purely altruistic grounds, or that the Church is ignorant of the fact. All this carries a special warning for the world today when there is much talk of 'economic globalisation'. The Church has always tried to get on the bandwagon of an expanding secular power: first the Roman Empire, and then European colonisation; economic globalisation is its latest bandwagon. One must be aware of the possibility that the increasingly desperate Church may try to sustain itself by becoming partners with multinational companies (including drug traffickers) by placing at their

90 The quotes of Livingston, Gandhi and the Boston Advertiser are taken from Sita Ram Goel in Papacy: Its doctrine and history, New Delhi, Voice of India, 1986. Goel regards Christianity as disguised materialism.

91 The Thailand Report on Hindus, Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Wheaton, Illinois. 1980, p. 24.

service its vast missionary apparatus. Like the multinationals, the Church is also looking at countries of the Third World - at India in particular - as a highly lucrative new market.

India has a special role to play in stemming the unrestrained growth of materialism in the guise of saving souls. Other countries of Asia have neither the experience nor the spiritual-historical roots, nor the resources in terms of sheer numbers of committed scholars to meet this latest threat to freedom. If India gives way to Christianity with its materialistic ideology, and ruthless business practices, there is little hope for the rest of the world. Ecological catastrophe and social chaos become all but inevitable. One has only to look at the scene in Mexico and Central America to get a foretaste. This will be magnified a hundredfold.

In the light of this, the growth of Christianity on the coattails of European colonial expansion is an analogy worth studying in our own time. The growth of multinationals in the name of 'globalisation' is being seen in some quarters as a similar opportunity for the Church. As we saw in Chapter I, the Church has not fought shy of becoming partners with arms and drug dealers like Gelli, Calvi and Sindona. In recent years, Christian missionaries have been caught smuggling arms into India and Sri Lanka - and no doubt other countries as well.

We are already familiar with Mother Teresa using the worst sections of Calcutta as a backdrop in order to project herself as a saviour of the uncared for, but more importantly, as a catalyst in her fund-raising campaign in the West; the West may not have much use for Christianity, but it still has people with money and compassion easily moved by the sight of misery. The average Westerner has not been able to shake off the wholly unfounded belief that Christianity is somehow a civilising influence which the heathens need, even if they have themselves outgrown it (and have become pagans again). And these Mother Teresa has tapped with skill. Being accountable only to God, the Reverend Mother does not tell us what percentage of her collection goes to help the needy in Calcutta and how much of the rest goes to fill the coffers of the multinational corporation called Vatican Inc.

This is not a minor issue. It is known, for instance, that Mother Teresa's hospitals in Calcutta have been lavishly funded for at least the past thirty years. But as I noted in the last chapter, visitors have found them to be substantially below the standards expected today. The question then is: where does the money raised in their names go? There are many other charities in India, as elsewhere in the world that are doing outstanding work, without of course the publicity and propaganda that invariably accompanies her activities.92

Nor is this by any means an isolated instance, or even limited to the Catholic Church. One of the most influential politicians in America is the 'tele-evangelist' (television preacher) Pat Robertson - the founder of the so-called Christian Broadcasting Network. He was a candidate for the US presidency in 1988 and is likely to run again. He has openly expressed his wish to eliminate 'heathen' Hinduism by bringing forth the message of Christ. But more immediately to the point - like the Vatican and Mother Teresa - he has shown a capacity for moral obtuseness in the name of God by willingly associating himself with ruthless dictators like President Mobutu of Zaire. Mobutu, whose record as a bloodthirsty tyrant greatly surpasses

92 To take just one example, the contributions and the services to the poor rendered by Satya Sai Baba, a sage in South India, greatly exceed both in quality and quantity the works of Mother Teresa. Unlike the Mother, however, the Sai Baba is not interested in publicity and does not go on fund-raising campaigns. His good works include a university, world class hospitals, and most recently, a public works project providing drinking water for over seven hundred villages and small towns. All of this has been done without a trace of the self-righteous posturing and publicity-seeking that accompany Mother Teresa's works. Also, again unlike Mother Teresa, the Sai Baba does not meddle in politics. Nor does he seek or accept titles and donations from heads of governments, let alone military dictators like Mobutu and Duvalier.

that of Mummar Qaddafi of Libya, was highly recommended by Robertson as guest of honour for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. (He was not invited.) It was recently reported by James Adams of The Sunday Times:93

To millions of Americans, Robertson is known as the avuncular silver-haired 'tele-evangelist' who uses his own broadcasting network for good works. He is also one of America's most successful businessmen, with a prosperous commercial empire whose tentacles reach into every corner of the Globe - including Zaire, where he reaps rich rewards from diamond and gold mines and thousands of acres of rain forest...

There is much at stake for Mr Robertson, 67, who has long yearned for political power. He ran unsuccessfully as a presidential candidate in the 1988 election and then founded the Christian Coalition, a conservative lobbying group that will have a critical role in the next year's [1996] presidential election...

Shades of Veda Vyasa again and his warning against the Kali Age - with 'spirit and soul yoked to ambition's drive.' One can easily imagine how business, politics and 'religion' could be combined in Robertson's vision of the world. It is not hard to see that if he should get elected president, he will not hesitate to unleash forces of business and political power on the world in the name of spreading the message of Christ. We should remember that it is a firm belief among many businessmen that Christianising the world increases demand for their products. This is exactly what many of them call the 'spread of civilization'. To such minds, the more one spends on consumer goods, the more 'civilised' one becomes. Robertson's is not exactly a new doctrine. His view of the world is no different from what was expressed by Pope Boniface VIII seven hundred years ago:

Both swords, the spiritual and the material, are in the power of the Church. The spiritual is wielded by the Church; the material for the Church. The one by the hand of the priest; the other by the hands of kings and knights at the will and sufferance of the priest. (de Rosa, p.109)

Robertson would go one further - be king, priest and trader: he would transform Boniface's theory of the two swords into a new theory of three swords - a new trinity. Like everything arising from Christianity, this would be entirely a secular movement carried out in the name of God. Did St Paul not free such men from all accountability with his Doctrine of the Faith? This is now combined with the Doctrine of Greed. It is this combination that allows Robertson to loot the rainforests of Africa and also allows Mother Teresa to collect funds from crooks, military dictators and tyrants. With Faith in Jesus, they are accountable only to God.

This being the case, we should anticipate that the Church will undergo some external changes in the name of 'reform' and pay lip service to the 'great and ancient spiritual heritage of India' - as Raimundo Panikkar for one is fond of doing. History tells us, however, that Church reforms are always power shifts accompanied by changes in strategy. Being an institution wedded to an exclusivist doctrine, it is futile to expect the Church to change fundamentally and embrace pluralism. Its expressed hostility to the practice of Yoga, as well as the Pope's recent criticism of Buddhism bear testimony to the fact that the Church remains as exclusivist as ever.

93 Reported also in The Times of India, August 23,1995.

One should, however, expect new public postures, and new and more covert strategies: Raimundo Panikkar's effort to subvert Hinduism in the name of HinduChristian synthesis may be seen as an example of this. Its expansion in Asia - in India in particular - is the new imperative for the Church; for without substantial progress along this front the Church is doomed. Leaders like John Paul II know that his institution needs new pastures following its defeat in the West. It also needs a new bandwagon.

With this history as background, it is not hard to see that Christianity, in its present state of crisis may try to get on the bandwagon of multinationals just as it did four hundred years ago by joining the piracy known as European imperialism. Fortunately, there already exists a secular prototype that allows us to foresee how the Church might operate in the global economy while holding on to its Doctrine of the Faith. This secular institution is the World Bank. It is worth taking a brief look at this extraordinary quasi-religious institution, which greatly resembles the Church as Susan George and Fabrizio Sabelli point out in their interesting if tautologically titled book Faith and Credit.94

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