The faithful believe that they have a living God. Some of them look up to the heaven. Some look within. Some wait for the advent. But, what if God comes and stays in your neighborhood?
The crisis of faith most often emerges in a rational mind when doubts arise about the contextual relevance of sermons and scriptures. For most religious denominations, their creed and the faith are rooted in scriptures that are several centuries old and in events that said to have happened millions of years ago. There could be instances when some of the believers seek from their leaders or explore themselves the contextual interpretation of the writings and oral traditions. Whether it is Adam- Eve, Big-Bang, connection between the microcosm and macrocosm, or any mundane chicken-egg question, the faithful tend to engage in inconclusive debates.
During my sixteen and half hour journey in Rani Chennamma Express Train to Kolhapur in Maharashtra state, ‘Joshua’ gave me company. It is a fiction written by Joseph F. Girzon, published by Collier Books (Macmillan, New York) in 1983. That was my second reading of the entire book. Some books do not age. The apt sub title tells it: ‘A Parable for Today’.
It is quite a coincidence to pick up this book to read again on the day media reported with a lot of interest and excitement about Pope Francis’s view on evolution and big-bang. He had said that ‘the scientist must be motivated by the confidence that nature hides, in her evolutionary mechanisms, potentialities for intelligence and freedom to discover and realize, to achieve the development that is in the plan of the creator’. It has always been a challenge for the theists and religious leaders to give divine authenticity for things that happen today. They are asked these questions: What would be God’s view on this? What would God do if he faced such a situation? It needs a lot of courage to admit the truth to the world even if it might be interpreted as a deviation from the existing conclusions.
How is it like if Jesus takes ‘reincarnation’ after 2000 years in this world? What will he do to earn a living? What new gospel would he preach? What would be his attitude towards the religious denominations founded in his name? Will he drive out the people there? Will he pay a visit to the multitude of churches established in his name and what would be his response to the activities there? What would be his lifestyle? Will he use the modern amenities? What would be the reaction of the people and the authorities? Will they crucify him again or shoot him with a gun?
|A poster of the film based on the book|
The book ‘Joshua’ is a story about the arrival of a carpenter in the 1980s to a peaceful town with simple people. He taught everyone about the freedom to expand the breadth of inner life. The life was not easy for him though there were many admirers. The book is indeed inspirational and introspective.
Readers get an impression that Joseph F. Girzon wanted to tell his views to the world attributing them to Joshua. A fiction was the easiest and harmless route for that. However the book ‘Joshua’ does not have the flow or style of a good novel. Factually too, the book suffered from several shortcomings. Casual reductionism is very evident while he manifested an oversimplified view of the reality as it existed. One example is his (through Joshua) rejection of the inevitable institutional structure and authority conspicuous in large organized denominations. As a retired catholic priest, Girzon would have known it better.
I found the content thought provoking. The narration could make readers forget the fact that the book is a work of fiction. I fell in love with Joshua just like the way the characters in the fiction viz. Phil, Mary, Charlie, Pat, Herm and many others got infatuated.
I have jotted down a few of my wishes after reading this book. They are given below:
I wish I could carry a huge cherry log of problems on my shoulders and walk unaware and unconcerned about its weight.
I wish I could notice all those beautiful creations and know how much the Father loves me
I wish I could make my inner life richer and less showy
I wish I could avoid creating human laws to dictate how one can worship the creator
I wish instead of being an expert in law, can I be an expert in love?
I wish I could break my bread and share with a total stranger.
I wish I could make a living just to meet my needs of the day
I wish I understand the fact that 'talent doesn't justify putting on airs and any ability I have comes from my creator, and my recognition of it should make me humble, not arrogant'.
I wish I understand the ' modern unforgivable sin' when I tend to see the 'latest discoveries and creations as reasons to question the very existence of the person who gave them the abilities to discover and create'.
I wish we had leaders who set an example, 'who draw people to God by their own deep faith and by the beauty of their personal lives, not by intimidating people into sterile external observances'.
I wish I tell to myself often that everyone has imperfections as that's the way God made them and “perfection is more a process of striving than a state to be attained"
I wish I could be more humble in my attitude towards those who are less privileged than me
I wish I can lay aside the pettiness and prejudices, even those that have been consecrated through the passing of centuries.
I wish I have more goodness so that I will be chosen to witness better things in this world
An imperfect soul I am, I do not wish to be suppressed by the guilt, threat and fear. Let me be vibrant and joyful to cross the hurdles created by me, accepting the way I am and enjoying the freedom the creator has bestowed. Then I can be like Joshua: free, simple, courageous, loving and peaceful.
Views are personal © Sibichen K Mathew