Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Read: Luke 4: 14-30
                               With the arrival of I Phone, mobile phones became more than a phone. Now with mobile phones like Samsung Note 2,  one does not need even to carry a laptop nor an I Pad and tablet, as these phones are known as Phablets- combination of phone and tablet. What made mobile phone a multi tasking technological wonder was the apps that was available for both the apple, the android and the window phones. Apps are literally revolutionizing our life. From accessing our bank accounts to booking flight tickets or even to have the route map for the journey that we intend to travel, today there is an app for everything. With the new and new apps coming every day, apps have been classified as games app, utility apps, education, entertainment, book, finance, health and fitness to name a few. But recently an app that came in the market has come in for a lot of criticism. Google has come out with a so called fun app named "Make Me Asian", where the makers of Google seems to think it is fun to make oneself look like an Asian by changing the shape of one's eyes and sporting a Fu Manchu mustache and a rice paddy hat. Thus with this app one can transform a person to a Chinese, Japanese, Indian or Korean within few seconds.  Though Google thinks this is a fun app, the Asian American organizations are not bemused. They have launched a petition to get Google to remove this app since the app uses racist stereotypes of Asian. Along with these app of Make Me Asian, Google has also come out with another so called fun app titled " Make Me Indian", where one can make a native American with brown skin, war paint and a feather headband.  Thus the Asian American organization claims that more than 18 million people have already signed the petition to remove these apps since these apps tend to be racist and is an offensive portrayal of Asians and Native Americans. Moreover this apps also seems to be perpetuating a superiority complex of one ethnicity over another. But Google still feels that the apps are not racist as these apps are not in violation of the policies of the company, where hate speeches of any sort are condemned. Apps were designed to make one life and living more easy and less arduous, but one can tend to think that apps also now tend to be misused and is becoming a tool of exploitation and suppression. All these forms of exploitation comes with the mindset that my race, my ethnicity may be superior than my neighbour. How does our faith and faith living help us to comprehend and also to challenge racist overtone and beliefs that may tend to dominate our thinking and our belief system, that may have even come in the form of apps in our phones?.    
                                   When we look at the Word of God one of the unique aspect of the life Jesus Christ is that, the Son of God consciously limited himself not only to time and space but also with regards to ethnicity and race. Jesus does his whole public ministry as a Jew. In Luke 4: 14-30, we find how Jesus begins his pubic ministry, his focus and the response of the people. In v: 14-18, we find that Jesus taught in synagogues and one day when he went to the synagogue he stood up to read the scroll, and it was the scroll of prophet Isaiah that was given to  him and Jesus reads " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor and to proclaim freedom for prisoners and also sight for the blind and release the oppressed". After reading this Jesus states that "today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing". But when Jesus makes this transformatory and revolutionary statement how does the people respond. They respond by saying that "Isn't that Joseph's son"?. Here is Jesus Christ bringing a new identity to the people who did not have any identity those days, the poor, the prisoners, the oppressed.  An identify that is not seen through the eyes of race, ethnicity nor the place where you were born. But look at the response of the people. The people tend to belittle Jesus Christ by saying that isn't the son of Joseph, the person who is a carpenter, and how can that person who is lesser known Jew suddenly say that through him prophecy is fulfilled?. When Jesus was trying to bring a new sense of identity and a new consciousness about ones identity what the people were trying to do was to emphasize once again the importance of one's identity as something to condemn another person or use the issue of race to exploit another individual. What Jesus does through his birth as Jew and as he preached the gospel of liberation was the emphasis of two divine truths. The first truth that he emphasized was that it is our faith identity which is more important than our race or ethnicity. When Abraham hears the call of God he get a new name, a new identity, a faith identity[ Gen 12: 1-2]. When Paul states that "if any man is in Christ he is a new creation" [2 Cor 5:17 ], what he stresses was the new faith identity in Christ. It is this faith identity that we have in Christ that we should be stressing more that our individual race or ethnicity. But does that mean our race and ethnicity is not important. I believe No. This is the second truth that Jesus teaches us. When Jesus grew up as Jew he affirmed his Jewish identity and associated himself with all the Jewish cultural setting and ethnicity. What is important along with the affirmation of our faith identity is also, being comfortable and proud to proclaim who we are in terms of national, racial and ethnic identity. I think we should be proud to say " I am an Indian" or " I am an American". The problem happens when the identity of one person is used to suppress another. We don't know what was the intention of Google in creating apps whereby one could transform oneself to another race, but let us not create in our life nor in our thinking that we belong to a superior race or ethnicity rather that in Christ we are one and that our faith identity is one and also in the process respecting and affirming that in our faith identity there are diversities in race and ethnicity and these diversities bring beauty and meaning to our faith living.