TODAY -

Tangkhul Church - (Prospects and Challenges)
- Part 1 -

By: A.S. Yaruingam *



In this era of highly secularized society religion is often conceptualized in negative terms, often viewed as hindering efforts for progress and development. Religion seems to have become a forgotten social phenomenon when it's relevant is no more.

But as a student of sociology of religion, I believe that religion is not merely a source of conservation and stability, it can also be a force of development and change. As far our society (Naga or Tangkhul) is concerned, religion still have vital role to play.

In this short article, I want to put across some of my thoughts and opinions on the role of church in our society from socio-historical perspective. In this short article I put across a few of my thoughts and opinions on the prospect and challenges of church in the context of present Tangkhul society from socio-historical perspective.

Let me begin with the definition of church. In the context of the Tangkhul or Naga community, it can be defined as -
(i). the forgiven person in whom is the indwelling of the living God working, to fulfill his purpose (Church at individual level).
(ii) the congregation of this individual (Church at the societal level).

Rick Warren, ( 2008), one of the most prolific writers of our time, and the one who blessed for Barrack Obama, on the day of his the inauguration as the president of U.S.A, called church 'an organism'. According to him, church is a living organism, having life in it, rather than a mere social organization. Here we find church as a unique individual and social group different from any other organizations.

The uniqueness of it is not in terms of structure or character but in term of inner dynamism present in the individual and the group. The secular writers may call it (dynamo) 'ideology' but it is more than ideology; it is the presence of an all powerful, the first cause of all things.

The Bible calls it (Him) 'God' or the 'Holy Spirit'. The very presence of God in the church makes the institution a very unique and the dynamic organization that catalyzes to play a vital role in transforming human society. If we looks at, especially European history, we see how the church has played a pivotal role in transforming Europe from an archaic traditional society to vibrant modern society; from feudal society to industrial society.

In fact, in human history there has never been such as magnitude of social transformation than the that had occurred during one brought about through the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther in 16th century. I would rather argue that all the changes or transformation occurring in the present society is the residue of the Protestant Reformation.

Max Weber (1946) discovered that the seed of this transformation (industrial revolution) was present in the doctrine of Calvinism, a Protestant sect. Calvinists taught that bearing fruit or being successful in life is a sure sign of being saved (soul). belief and Therefore, it strongly advocates its followers to observefollow certain ways of lifestyle such as 'hard work', 'discipline' and 'prudent life,' that they may bear fruit (successful), which consequence to economic revolution (Capitalism) in Europe.

The seed of this transformation was transported to America, unknown wonderland during that age, through a few Christians who escaped persecution in England. America was a land of so called 'Red Indians' but when these refugees brought the gospel to them, they simply accepted it.

Several churches were established in each and every corner of the land where young people flocked in to hear the teaching of the Bible. Many of them were changed and grew as leaders of the nation. I cannot find better more apt example than George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. whom we all know well.

The movement of the church affected each and every part of the American society, -breaking down the old aged socio-cultural practices, beliefs and institutions and transformed them(America); into a liberal modern society-creating a new social political and economic institutions were created based on Christian ethic and values. Thus that movement of church propelled America into a vibrant, and dynamic and prosperous society.

Today, some people think and consider America as heaven and take pride when they study or has chance to visit America. To Indians getting a visa or green card to enter America is almost equivalent to getting permission to enter heaven. At present, The fastest growing nation on the world today is China.

Each and every nook and corner of any small town around the world is flooded by cheap Chinese goods. During my three and a half years stay in Africa, I found that Africans are materially much blessed by the cheap cloths and pharmaceutical goods/medicine and many electronic gadgets that the Chinese produced.

At the same time from some reliable sources (missionaries who are working in China), I came to know that, in this 21st century the fastest growing Christians nation in the world is China's underground church - which is the fastest Christians growing nation in the world today.

Every day thousands of Chinese are being secretly converting to Christianity and worship the living God. Definitely, therefore, one cannot deny the fact that there is a corresponding co-relation relation between church and economic growth and social change.

Let us recollect the past history of our society. Had the Christianity not come to our Tangkhul society, I cannot imagine how would be the state of our society would be today.? I am sure; we would never have reached the stage of progress and development we have reached now. It was the church that Revd. Pettigrew introduced that changed us.

To make it more concrete, Let us honestly ask question, why Aos are more advanced than others Nagas? The reason I found is they that Aos received the gospel first among the Nagas. A cursory view of Naga social history clearly tells us that church has played the most crucial role in bringing development and progress in our society up this state

The question is: Is there limit where church should stop playing its role in transforming society? One of the most successful retired Naga bureaucrats who was taken care of by a pastor when he was a child said, 'Religion is for the old days; it is no more necessary today. What you have to do today is to study hard and compete with the world'.

Such a mistaken secular view puts limitI am afraid such a great mistaken view of our church by some people has deprived on the church to work and transform us continuously. Church has limitless dynamism to change our society continuously because in it there is the presence of God. What are the challenges to do people Tangkhul church today?

Following are few of the points that I would like ponder upon:

1. Restore trust and faith in our society.

Society is built upon relations between two or ore more people. The basic underpinning thread of this relationship is 'trust and faith'. Relation between wife and husband, relations between parents and children, relations among the neighbors and community, nation and tribes are built uponon 'trust and faith'. When this thread is broken, the relationship breaks down. Breaking of trust and faith paralyzes the society.

Today one of the most serious problems of our Tangklhul society or for that matter the Naga society is, broken relations due to of society, absence of 'trust and faith'. Trust and faith between two individual, families, neighbor, villages and tribes are completely broken. Our society has become like broken Jerusalem wall. I found that even wifefe does not trust the husband and vise versa.

As a result doubt & fear, suspicion and prejudices have become the hall mark of our relationship. The consequence of it is very serious:; misunderstanding leading to conflict and struggle among theenmity in families, neighbors and villages. But the more serious consequence is violence among us-between tribes, tribes, groups and factions. Division and , conflict and violence extend even toin the churches.

Several organizations are being formed with good reasonable grounds. But the irony is the more groups we formed, the more misunderstanding and suspicious increases among us, resulting to more chaos and conflict.

The Bible says that, broken relations among men is the result of broken relationship with God. The primary purpose of church is thus to build relationship between God and men. The primary task of the church is to help to grow in deeper and passionate love relations between God and mankind. When church fulfills this task, it fulfills the task of building social relations in the society.

Therefore, the best way to restore relations among us is to restore our relations with God first. When we find the reason why God is not please with us, and ask his forgiveness, our relations with him will be completely restored and relations among us will also be restored.

Trust and faith will prevail among us and our society will rejuvenate its vibrancy and dynamism ultimately leading to peace, progress, and prosperity.

References:

  1. 1. Warren, Rick, 'The purpose driven Church, Zondervan Publication, California, USA, 2005.
  2. Weber, Max, The Protestation Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, England, 1946.
to be continued....


* A.S. Yaruingam (Delhi University) contributes for the first time to e-pao.net . This article was sent to e-pao.net by Angam Awungshi - awungshi_angam(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)in . This article was webcasted on December 10th, 2009.


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