Thursday, 24 April 2014

The Allegory as a powerful tool of expression in twenty-first Century English Literature

Who can say, after reading some of the bestselling novels today, that the allegory as a genre is dead ! One of the earliest examples of the use of the allegory was perhaps John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress which was published in 1678. An allegorical rendering of the principal character’s search for salvation. If salvation was an important theme for Bunyan,  then, what about the most popular themes for novels and short stories in the twenty-first century? Well, the only difference is that today, the theme of salvation is introduced through a more circuitous route - themes dealing with basic survival strategies. Ironically, the  spiritual justification for the existence of the soul is the very fuel that feeds the very basis for the need for basic, raw, and rather primeval needs to survive in a hostile environment. George Orwell’s Animal Farm, is an allegory  that highlights the impracticality of life in a rather structured and highly defined Socialist society, one that has a rather clearly demarcated division of labour. It is an allegory because it attempts to suggest a deeper, moral and spiritual meaning for the whole story – the idea  that human beings in their present state of mind might not be fit enough to live in Utopia! it is rather naive of us to think that human beings would be honest and complacent enough to live in a well regulated cooperative farm society.  Perhaps, the most popular allegory for the twenty-first century is survival.
One short story that strikes me as a good example of the use of the allegorical form is The  Lottery, written by Shirley Jackson way back in 1948. The short story shook my students and me when we read it. The question that arose in our minds was, why would one use a lottery system to select the sacrificial victim? Was it so that Mr. Summers could absolve himself of manslaughter ? A washing off his hands from the whole affair and  blaming fate for choosing the victim? You can blame fate, you can blame luck, anything but the man who is overlooking this game! It is surely a strange way of using the lottery, to end a life, and not to win a huge sum of money. Well I guess the death of one person wins a reprieve for others, so yes, maybe it is a lottery that brings luck to those who are not going to be stoned that season! When Mr. Adams says to Old Man Warner, ‘who stood next to him, “ that over in the north village they’re talking of giving up the lottery” ‘, Old Man Warner replies, ‘ “Pack of crazy fools,… Listening to the young folks, nothing’s good enough for them. Next thing you know, they’ll be wanting to go back to living in caves, nobody works anymore, live that way for a while. Used to be a saying about, ‘Lottery in June, corn be heavy soon.’ “ The idea of the Sacrifice as a means to ensure a bumper harvest has in itself a very strong allegorical significance to the idea of the Crucifixion on the Cross as a means for achieving salvation and a washing away of sins. Thus according to Old Man Warner, having a Lottery in the month of June would ensure a bumper harvest. The very characters present in the story are a symbolical representation of the figures that appear in the scriptures - all actors in the Christian journey towards redemption. The allegory in The Lottery also has a lot to do with the pagan ritual of sacrifice, such as that practiced by the Mayans in South America. Woven within the allegory of Sacrifice are various strands from mythology, pagan rituals, fertility rites, and  blood letting and culling as a means for ensuring the continued health and prosperity of the community. The overwhelming feeling of sadness and the irony of the death of Mrs. Hutchinson, and the fact that it was Bill Hutchinson who held up the slip of paper that marked his wife as the sacrificial victim, questions the very need to follow rituals customs and traditions so blindly. After reading the short story, one is left wondering whether Mrs. Hutchinson deserved to die after all! Well this is what happens when we become blindly enslaved to tradition. Mrs. Hutchinson ends up shouting, “It isn’t fair, it isn’t right,” and thereafter the people ‘were upon her.’ This is a short story that is also an allegory which draws a lot from mythology pagan traditions, the Christian Idea of salvation and it questions the very need to follow traditions which might not be relevant after all!
Another short story that drew the attention of my students, and me included, is the short story - The Most Dangerous Game written in 1924 by Richard Connel. A powerful allegory that highlights the popular theme of Man v/s Man, it questions the moral nature of the  fabric of the society that we live in! The rather predatory nature of man is revealed in the story which describes how a very rich man from New York falls off his Yacht, swims to an isolated island and then is hunted by Cossack Aristocrat. While speaking to Rainsford, General Zaroff says, “God makes some men poets. Some He makes kings, some beggars. Me He made a hunter. My hand was made for the trigger, my father said.” When General Zaroff suggests that they might participate in the “ most exciting game in the world” with Rainsford as the quarry, Rainsford blurts, “This is a grisly joke!” The whole story ends in an ironical reversal of positions with Mr. Rainsford becoming the victor while General Zaroff has to make ‘ one of his deepest bows’. The actual killing of the General is not mentioned directly, but then, it is hinted when the story ends in Mr. Rainsford observation “ He had never slept in a better bed.” In this world of cut-throat competition for survival, there can only be one comfortable bed and that is reserved for the victor - forget about the idea of  sharing, or, for that effect, co-existence!   In this rather dystopian version of the world, you can only have the hunter and the hunted. It is a journey back to the primeval world of raw instincts for survival,  cavemen who fought each other for survival. A harsh yet touching comment on how life, even today, is about survival. Darwin’s concept of survival of the fittest applies to the Society even today. Nothing has changed in spite of all the technological advancements that we have made since the times when our ancestors lived in caves! An allegory written in the year 1924, The Most Dangerous Game can be said to have provided a foretaste of the depravity and inhumanity that led to the extermination of Jews in the Concentration camps run by the Nazis. One can say, in fact, that The Most Dangerous Game has indeed highlighted t predatory in nature  man can be!
A variation of The Most Dangerous Game and The Lottery can be found in the Hunger Games series of novels, written by Suzanne Collins( which incidentally are very popular among young readers like my students), and The Kill Order by James Dashner (Which I have begun to read). The words, ‘the reaping, or food shortages, or the Hunger Games,’ or for that effect, the idea that life in district 12 nicknamed the Seam, is all about celebrating after the reaping that ‘their children have been spared for another year’ speaks volumes about the theme of survival, surviving in difficult times, especially in times when there are predators out there waiting to feed on little children. The reaping is like the drawing of chits of paper in the short story, The Lottery. What happens ideally, is that twenty-four people are imprisoned over a period of a few weeks in an outdoor location which could be a desert or a frozen wasteland and they must fight themselves to death. The last one standing would be the victor. The obvious similarities with  the short story, The Lottery are obvious. Taking the kids from the towns and then forcing them to kill each other while their parents and relatives watch a live telecast on T.V. screens is a rather strange but distorted variation of the theme of Sacrifice. It also provides a rather vicarious thrill to those who are watching in so far that they are mute spectators in a game of Russian Roulette and they can revel in the thought that they had missed the boat! Like in the short story, The Lottery, the populace of Panem are forced to treat the Hunger Games as a festival. The last man or woman  standing would  bring his district prizes including food and something as basic as sugar! Rather paradoxically, the Mayor announces that the start of the Hunger Games should be treated as a “time for repentance and a time for thanks”. It comes as a shock  to the protagonist when her Sister’s name, Primrose Everdeen, is selected for the reaping. Too shocked at the idea that her little sister would die at a tender age, Katnis Everdeen  volunteers to replace her little sister. An example of the readiness to sacrifice ones' self for the sake of someone one loves has the undertones of the readiness with which Christ offered Himself as a Sacrificial Lamb to be Crucified on the Cross. The allegorical significance of sacrifice connected to the New Testament is quite evident here!
It is clear, therefore, that the Allegory continues to be a favoured genre of writing for many writers of short stories and novels even today. It might  not  be so much of a throw back on the morality plays of the fifteenth and sixteenth century, nevertheless, the themes of salvation, sacrifice, renewal, re-birth, resurrection and morality continue to find expression in some of our contemporary English fiction. The fifteenth century play, Everyman probably written by an unknown Monk was an allegory based on moral truths, lessons in Christian Living and  salvation albeit garbed in an invented story. The personifications of good and evil, pagan rituals of sacrifice, the mythological rendering of a reaping, bloodletting for a better harvest are all some of the themes that are still popular today. If readers continue to be  enjoy reading novels like The Hunger Games and The Kill Order, then isn’t it obvious that they are intrigued and attracted by the deeper, symbolic meaning of the story? Are we therefore intrigued by the deeper and hidden meaning of life as opposed to the obvious? Are allegories the twenty-first century equivalent of the Morality Plays of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries? Has scientific advancement  somehow left us  hungering for a deeper meaning to life as we know it? Are we still searching for redemption and salvation in a world that has become dehumanized and mechanical? The answers to these questions might lead us to settle on an understanding of the meaning of life, rather in the same way as Plato did in the Allegory of the Cave, in his discourse titled, The Republic.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Jesus is Alive! A Photo-Essay of a Play marking the culmination of the Easter Celebration at The Church of the Epiphany, Gurgaon

The Easter celebration at the Church of The Epiphany, Gurgaon was rounded off by a wonderful Dance Drama organised by the Samson Group at 7:00 p.m. in the Basement. This was a an ingenuous adaptation of the dance form to depict the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Members of the youth fellowship acted in the dance drama. Mr. Daniel Charan took the onus of organising and putting the show together in the shortest possible time! Without adding to much of a written description I have pasted below some of the photographs I took on the occasion.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Can we do without the teaching of formal grammar in schools today?

Having studied in Ethiopian Schools from 1975 to 1984, my initial memories of grammar lessons go back to the teaching of formal grammar in all schools of Ethiopia. While the preferred mode of testing in the final exams was objective, what with the use of multiple choice questions, the pedagogy was as traditional as the teacher could permit. Formal Grammar was taught in the schools of Ethiopia and this included Grammar Rules, although it cannot be claimed that the teaching of Grammar was out of context or for that effect isolated from the teaching of writing skills. This was probably because of the fact that the student had to choose the correct answer from a multiple choice of options. At the school level, test papers would include various objective forms of questions such as, fill ups, true and false options and the third mode would be multiple choice. The system had its own benefits and weaknesses. One of the benefits of the Objective form of assessment was that you had more questions in the paper, you could test a wider area of the syllabus, and it discouraged rote memorisation in students-especially as the presence of multiple options in every question would aid easy recall of what the student had learned earlier in class. One of the biggest disadvantages of the Objective style of assessment was that the students’ writing skill abilities were highly compromised! The student could be assessed for wide coverage of the syllabus, wide knowledge, but then as far as assessment of In-depth knowledge was concerned, one would have to acknowledge the success of the Subjective form of assessment that still forms an integral form of assessment in India, at all levels, and especially at the twelfth board level. Various problems were faced by students from Ethiopia who wanted to pursue their higher studies in Indian Colleges as they found it difficult to convert to the Subjective form of assessments where they had to write extensively on a particular topic. The impact of having gone through the multiple choice form of assessments meant that students coming from Ethiopian schools were not able to write more than a few sentences in an essay type question requiring the student to write a good two hundred words!
But then to return tot the main topic, the question of whether or not to teach formal grammar and the rules, I remember that my Mother had with her a hardcover Grammar book titled High School English Grammar and Composition by Wren and Martin. This was an amazing book, and it still is, a book that was the ultimate guide to grammar. After the revolution took place, the Ministry of Education took some time to replace the Contact Series of textbooks which were also very good books for learning formal rules of grammar and enhancing comprehension skills. The Contact textbook for grade nine was the thickest of all the books since it contained more lessons and exercises on grammar topics like tenses, direct and indirect speech, active and passive voice, transformation of sentences from simple sentences into compound, and complex and vice versa. Students were literally drilled and grilled on grammar rules, and clauses were taught in depth, thus they would be aware about the difference between adverbial conjunctions and conjunctions functioning as adjectives and conjunctions functioning as nouns. Clauses were always taught through the joining of individual sentences and clauses. I don’t see how this method of teaching clauses and the transformation of sentences can ever be termed as being out of context with writing skills or being in isolation from other language skills. If the students were being taught to apply their knowledge of grammar rules  to form new and more effective sentences, that too without repetitions, then I don’t see why we can’t continue to use the same methods even today!
When I started my teaching career in 1994, in India,  Formal Grammar was taught from grade six to grade eleven. The amount of formal grammar taught in grade nine of the English Core course was the greatest with  the maximum time being devoted to the teaching of tenses, direct and indirect, transformation of sentences, joining of sentences with different linkers, infinitives, and voice-Active and Passive Voice. Today, I wonder if students of the same classes would have any clue about the meanings of the topics mentioned above, such as non-finites, transformation of sentences, or even modals, forget the difference between the present participle  and the Gerund! Yes, it is true that many of the students in those days could not speak very fluently in English, but then they did know how to write long passages with the least number of errors. Today we have veered away from the teaching of formal grammar, our students speak in different accents, but then they are not able to use the present perfect continuous tense in their writings, and they falter when asked to convert the direct speech into the reported speech. Many students of English find it difficult to differentiate between the rules for transforming statements into the reported speech and the rules for changing questions into the reported speech, and they continue to use ‘that’ even while reporting questions! When you tell them that tell them that you can’t change the sentence, ‘ I jumped from the  the first floor,’ into the passive voice, then you need to explain that the verb, ‘jumped’ is in the intransitive form and therefore cannot be used in the passive form. The question is, how do you teach students to write good English unless to teach them basic grammar rules? What do you do when the syllabus doesn’t give room for teaching the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs? When we talk about the communicative or interactive approach of teaching English and forget to teach our students basic grammar rules, are we not fooling  ourselves into thinking of English as a first language for student’s whose mother tongue is not English but Hindi or Tamil? Somehow in our eagerness to jump on to the Western Bandwagon, we have somehow forgotten that there is a big difference between the pedagogy of teaching English as a first language and the pedagogy of teaching English as a second language. True, Noam Chomsky has claimed that every child is born with neural networks in the brain which have been programmed for grammar, but then what I would like to ask the curriculum framers on the continent is whether these neural networks are not programmed for the native  tongue? If so, then it is clear that students need to be given enough exposure to the learning of formal rules of grammar in any second language. Hindi and English are two distinct languages which have a distinct set of grammar rules. You just cannot translate the Hindi sentence, ‘Woh Itihas pad raha hai.’ into ‘He is reading History!’ You also tend to get muddled up about the tense forms when translating sentences from Hindi to English.
The question that I would like to return to again, is whether we can really afford to ignore the teaching of formal grammar rules to students of India, and that too, learners for whom English is a second language? I guess this question needs to be thoroughly researched by linguists and curriculum framers in India. I still remember  going through my Father’s Uncle’s sermons that had been written in an immaculate hand and had no discernable grammar errors, forget about spelling errors! My own grandfather, a presbyter and the Principal of a Diocesan school in the town where I lived wrote with an excellent hand, his sermon notes contained perfect, semantically  accurate sentences and he had a wonderful vocabulary. Both grandfathers had studied till the Matric level, that is the grade ten standard. My grandfather later did his  Adib Fazil in Urdu,followed by his B.A.Hons (English), and teachers’ training. Both of my Grandparents’ command in written English had been the result of a rigorous education that involved the teaching of what might be termed as formal Grammar! Today, there is a noticeable deterioration in the students’ grasp of rules of good grammar with the result that  they are not able write grammatically accurate sentences in their final term papers. The CBSE board keeps instructing its teachers and evaluators not to cut marks excessively for grammatical, spelling and expression oriented inaccuracies. This is apparently because the very focus of teaching English in schools in India has shifted to a communicative approach. It is enough if a student has written ‘I going to school everyday.’ because according to curriculum framers, he or she is communicating the notion of going to school and that is enough. If you call this language, then what about the bloopers and blunders that we see on trucks and banners throughout the country in which do communicate an idea but make us laugh our hearts out! Are our students, therefore to be the butt of jokes for writing grammatically inaccurate sentences, and are we to reward them for communicating their ideas in the most creative ways? Take a look at some of the words that I found on the backs of trucks and other places:
water late
What is noteworthy in the above photograph is a worthy example of communicative English but then what I find difficult to accept in the slogan, ‘Water Late Then Never’ are three things, first, there has been a wrong use of the word ‘Water’, it should have been ‘Better’, the word, ‘Then’ should have been, ‘Than’ and then is the fact that the slogan doesn’t end in an exclamation mark, if not a full stop. Does this mean, therefore that we can do without the formal rules of grammar? Would you like your own child to make such errors in syntax and semantics?
2012-04-05 17.37.24
Unless of course you would like to drop your extra flakes here,
And sure you don’t mind the Prawns ( A Gread), well, whatever that means!
2013-03-27 17.58.39
And if you were baffled by what the sign means, well I wouldn’t blame you! If language is about communication, then it is also about communicating effectively, and not just communicating gibberish or nonsense! To think that you can promote the teaching of English as a medium of communication and yet ignore  knowledge of the formal rules of Grammar is simply absurd!
To conclude, I would like to remind the reader that most languages like French and Hindi pay particular attention in making the student aware of the rules of Grammar. When I studied French from the Alliance Francaise at Addis Abeba, later appearing for the subject in my twelfth boards, I remember how much pains my French teachers put into making us understand the rules for subject-verb agreement, conjugation they called it. French, which is one of the most logical and  beautiful languages in the world has an intricate structure of grammar rules, and woe betide the student of French who hasn't learned his rules for participles! Hindi, another language that happens to be my mother tongue also requires a sound knowledge of grammar rules. The masculine and the feminine forms of the words have to be learned very carefully, although to this day I mix them! The 'matras' in Hindi also have to be memorised, there is no other alternative. Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia, which incidentally I speak fluently but cannot write or read is another language which cannot be mastered without an understanding of formal rules of grammar. If all these languages, (French, Hindi and Amharic) require a strong foundation in the knowledge of formal rules of grammar, then how is English different from them?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

The Significance of the Supreme Sacrifice-Food for thought during the Lenten Season

When I went to Church today for Sunday Mass, it was the second Sunday before Easter. The good Pastor, Revd. Sunil Ghazan talked at length about the significance of the impending death of Christ on the Cross and its implications for all of us. The good Pastor started his sermon with the words, ‘Life comes after Death.’ The Call for the worship was from the Book of John,12.23-24 and read, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ Jesus clearly acknowledges this to be the case.
The idea of life after death, reconstruction after destruction, and regeneration have been present within the human psyche since time immemorial. The myth of the Phoenix is a wonderful pagan myth that highlights the theme of new birth after death with the Phoenix ending its life in flames only to rise reborn and new from the ashes of its former self. P.B.Shelley’s Poem, Ode to the West Wind is an attempt to compare life with the cycle of seasons where if Autumn is equated with death, then Spring is definitely the season of birth, rebirth, or revival. Jesus’s decision to offer himself as a sacrificial lamb to be put upon the cross goes however beyond any example no to mankind where the Son is ready to sacrifice himself for the redemption of Mankind, that too in Obedience of his Father’s instructions! Nor have we seen any other Father, both mortal or in a deified form who went so far as to sacrifice his own Son for the sake of the welfare of the whole Mankind! The Old Testament does describe how Abraham was ready to sacrifice his Son Isaac, but then his hand was stayed at the last moment, thus preventing the human sacrifice that  was destined  to take place later.
But then the question still remains, and that is, what was the reason for Jesus’ Sacrifice on the Cross all those days back? To examine this question, one can start with the more immediate reason which was that Caiaphas one of the leading Jewish Priests was worried about the growing popularity of Jesus and so he suggested to the other priests that he should die. Well this was apparently a more immediate political reason. This is however not the real reason for the greatest sacrifice known to all mankind. The real reasons behind the need for Jesus’ Crucifixion on the cross have been mentioned in the Old and New Testament well before Jesus was even born, and one example is Gabriel appearing before Mary telling her that her son should be called, ‘Jesus’. Jesus talks about his being the Way to the Father in the days preceding his Crucifixion and he assures his Disciples not to be worried and upset since, ‘ “I am going to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to myself, so that you will be where I am. You know the way that leads to the place where I am going…I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.”-John 14.2-4,6. Jesus apparently wanted to tell his disciples that he had to go to prepare a place for them. His impending death on the cross was a necessary to bring in a new world order, a new world that was based on the idea of God as a forgiving God, and not the Vengeful God of Adam and Eve! Jesus wanted tell his disciples about a journey he had to make in order to secure for them and all mankind, an opportunity for redemption, salvation and forgiveness from the original sin for all those who were willing to acknowledge this supreme sacrifice, and repent.
That his death was a necessity has already been described by Jesus to his disciples. Death was not an ending of life as we know it, but rather a journey into another form of life, a spiritual and lasting life as opposed from a more physical and temporal form. In many ways this reminds me to some extent of the process of metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly. This is an awe inspiring process in which a creepy, crawling bug or a worm is transformed into a thing of beauty, something so delicate with such an intricate design on its wings that only God could have made for our benefit. The process of moulting and transformation would have been very painful for the caterpillar, but then the end was probably worth it! Part of The Thanksgiving, Section 29 of the Order of The Lord’s Supper reads,’Through him you have freed us from the slavery of sin, giving him to be born as man, to die upon the cross, and to rise again for us; Through him you give your holy and life-giving Spirit, to make us your children and the first-fruits of your new creation.’ It is clear Jesus’s death on the Cross was essential for the Advent of a new world order, a ‘new creation’ a world free from the shackles of the Original Sin, it might be equated to some extent with the process of Metamorphosis of the Caterpillar into something new and much more beautiful. I would like to quote from a portion of Section 33 of the Order of The Lord’s Supper in support of this need for an Immaculate Sacrifice, ‘we celebrate and proclaim his perfect sacrifice made once for all upon the cross, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven; and we look for his coming in glory.’ Jesus’ resurrection as opposed to the re-incarnation  celebrated in some religions is an affirmation of newness of life, newness of purpose, and a new creation-a complete transformation of lives, it is as if one is born again!
The very Church (the people of the new faith) after the resurrection was symbolic of this process of transformation, the process of metamorphosis.The new believers all belonged to the Jewish Religion. They were Jews, and yet they had undergone the process of transformation to be born anew as the followers of the messiah, Christians as they began to be called. The initial years of the Christians were difficult years as they were full of persecution, tribulation and afflictions especially as the followers were viewed as Pariahs in the land of their birth. These years might be viewed as the birth pangs the precede the birth of a child. The very Church came into existence because of the ultimate and supreme sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. Herein lies the significance of the Crucifixion of Jesus on the Cross-it was in order to bring salvation and forgiveness to all, it was in order to usher in a new world order, it was about a ‘new creation’ a freshness a revival that would bring back new life, new hope, and spirituality into the lives of people all over the world! It was about giving birth to a beautiful Butterfly, a testament of God’s Love for all mankind. In its  perfect form, this perfect Sacrifice was that highest kind of Sacrifice, a father sacrificing his beloved son for the salvation and upliftment of all mankind.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Where Pubbing and Gambling are the new Religions of the Century…

When a lady from Britain told me about how church attendance by young people  was falling in England, I remarked that incentives such as soup kitchens might be started in order to increase attendance. Little did I know that things would soon become so bad that Churches would be used for activities other  worship. A recent article appearing in the Hindustan Times on the second of April, 2014, titled, ‘Supermarkets and pubs: Britain’s churches reborn’ literally raised my hackles especially as it described how some of the Churches are being used for purposes other than worship-a sorry state of affairs, indeed! Being a congregant member of The Church of North India, a close follower of the Church of England, I was even more astonished to learn that ‘At one church, the only thing being worshipped is beer-at another, gleaming cars are on sale.’ One cannot help wonder whether the commodification of religion as observed in most developing countries, even mine would not after all have been better than the conversion of sacred places of worship into Pubs and Automotive Sales Showrooms. And yes, there was this another description of innovative use of these Churches and these included the inclusion of slot machines in place of pews! Now whether these slot machines might as well be machines that dispense chocolates or for that effect, cash as prize money to winning  visitors would need to be verified.
What I can see is a gradual weaning away from the very teachings of the scriptures, the habit of going to Church on Sundays to attend Mass, and the eagerness to listen to a good Sermon by an accomplished speaker. One might perhaps call this a process of sterilisation, a movement away from a more institutionalised form of spirituality to other more popular  interests better suited to a fast paced life in a modern metropolis. Where Commercialisation, Commodification, Propaganda Techniques, and the Equated Monthly Instalment play a more important role in our lives today, why would going to Church matter, and why would converting a church building matter to us? In times when we are becoming more and more restless and cannot  wait for the Almighty Lord to grant us His blessings, where Instant Gratification is the result of the expectation of being given the goods immediately after the payment, it is but natural for many of us to stop going to Church on Sundays. After all what does one do when prayers do not yield immediate results? The Book of Job from the Old Testament teaches us about the importance of being patient and having a very strong faith in God in spite of being in the centre of a maelstrom of tribulations and sufferings-teachings that go against the concept of Instant Gratification or the Instant Coffee attitude! Well, I guess, commercialisation has finally discarded  Spiritualism and Religion for better and more lucrative fields!
When this lady from Britain told me about how only the middle aged and the elderly were the only people who went to Church on Sundays, it somehow connected to the idea that the elderly were perhaps better insulated from the Instant Gratification Syndrome, and perhaps less sensitive to Propaganda Techniques employed by Business Houses and Corporates! A dying lot, the elderly and the middle aged members of the congregations of many churches are fighting a losing battle to save the sanctity of their  Churches, and the observation of Mass on Sabbath Day. It is clear, somehow that what we see from the conversion of Churches from places of worship into places of commercial activity is the emergence of a new religion based on a rather commercial and commoditised view of the whole world. This is a rather disturbing tendency which is steadily leading to a desensitized and sterile view of life as a whole. We are moving towards a world order where there is no room for Spirituality because we have no time for it. Anyway,  who wants to waste a Sunday going to Church and worshipping The Almighty Lord when one can sleep on after a Saturday Night of partying, or for that effect, catching up with clients or making cold calls for a possible client?
In times when Pubbing and Gambling are the new religions, it is not surprising that more and more Churches are becoming derelict with reduced attendance and corresponding rising costs of maintenance. With costs of real estate shooting up, one can imagine how tempted the roving eyes of estate agents must be when they see a perfect structure to turn into a commercial establishment, a Mall, a Pub, or a training centre! It makes perfect sense, therefore for congregations in the present times to think less about building huge structures as churches that will become derelict in the coming times and instead plan for better outreach programmes, social services, and other programmes meant for the spiritual upliftment and enlightenment of the young and the old. A true church is not limited to the walls of the structure, the true Church is made up of the members of the Congregation- the Congregation itself is the Church! It is high time we spent more time and resources in saving the Church, not by building more buildings but by improving fellowship, and the quality of the service. The calling of a leader of the community, the Presbyter or the Priest cannot simply be linked with any other profession where what you make in a month matters more than the number of souls you save! It is high time we turned our Churches into living, thriving houses of worship, and not just exclusive  Country-Club gatherings for  the hoity-toity!
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