~ Zawlthanglien Khawzawl

Every interaction between various groups in a society at different levels, formal or otherwise, is defined by ends they each set for themselves.  The ends here are of differing ideological interests of standing nature, if not mere differences of opinion which usually is the case with us. Basically, it means there always will be differences between groups or individuals in a society over issues and matters of overlapping nature. The inevitable question that comes to the mind then is how to resolve such differences. The manner and methods employed in the interactions and of the strife towards the solution of it is a measure of societal maturity. If one were to measure our society on that scale of maturity principle, the likely measurement would be that of a teenager in terms of human existence. How and why it is so may well be a good thing to start a question with.  

The most significant historical moments of our society to the present day have been, unfortunately, met with misused of power and authority. There may only be few exceptions. The numerous split witnessed by NEIGM in 1953 and the subsequent split experienced by Independent Kohran in 1968 followed by the mushrooming of different denominational church up to the early nineties testify the negative character of power and authority playing a role in our society. However, a strict and exclusive application of the negative or positive nature of power to explain the phenomena may yield no conclusive conclusion but the huge efforts and struggle for power was hugely unmistakably there looking smugly back at us with a wide condescending grin. The struggle for it continued to this day.

The Root Cause Behind The Idea
We often think and perceive the numerous denominational churches in our society as a liability, an eternally divisive existence, a stumbling block to social solidarity and the root cause of our past and present predicament. This mode of thinking stems from the fact that church history constitutes our history or at least, half of it. The coming of Christianity and the subsequent formation of NEIGM and establishment of Independent Kohran thereafter formally united the whole lot of us who otherwise were scattered over numerous villages and across vast and different regions without any serious or formal link as social and political unit. Let not it be forgotten also that had it not been for the Independent Church the very language we now speak would never have survived the onslaught of Lusei hegemony.

Unfortunately, the very force that had united us became or rather was made a tool of division, a baton in the hands to beat others up who held views different from our own. The resultant environment was so saturated with general hatred and personal enmity that it failed to dissipate even after the passes of almost half a century long year. The child of that environment is denominational ideology whose prisoners we all are, perhaps. This is the foundational reason behind the interpretation of denominations as a liability, and therefore, a force against which anyone with the hope to achieve social unity and solidarity must struggle and fight like it’s a fundamental duty.  


The Struggle
The power base of those who hold such view is found mostly in the social groupings, sometimes formally called or named Fellowship or Welfare, in various cities of our country. They are the banners of hope of social unity and brotherhood, or so it is believed. The core belief of such view is, in time, in the demise of the numerous denominations towards which they keenly looked forward to. 
The belief in such thoughts is, however, not without its share of merit. 

Birds of different denominations flock together and found themselves enjoying the company each other in praise and worship. Such environment stimulates and awakens the feelings of togetherness and unity, a thing no denomination in all its luxury can hope to give. It is on the strength of such powerful social feelings that the hope to unify ourselves and consolidate social solidarity have been based and built. This project, social or otherwise, however, is the point interface where two opposing ideological forces meet and interact.

This basically can be understood as a struggle for power to capture the loyalty or allegiance of the masses on whose verdict their political fortune rests.  Two options are made available to be chosen – Fellowship/ Welfare as representing unifying force and denomination as representing division. Any attempt to paint grey areas between the two is met with such a fierce hostility that the situation looks like the Stalinist regime after the WW2 wherein the popular refrain and propaganda was - there is no murder in paradise! Of course, murders took place and murderers were there then but since murder was (regarded as) a capitalist disease it had to be denied.  So too was, and still is, our situations. Some things must be denied and has to be swept under the rug irrespective of its truth value.  And the way this conflict of interests plays out in the real social world is something which will continue to haunt and befuddle social thinkers.

Anti-Denomination as Self Defeating
Coming back to the view that held denominations as eternally divisive, one might ask how reasonable is it to believe in the real merit of it, and at what costs? There is a lot more rhetoric to it and less of substance and truth in such thoughts than its proponents may hope to admit. And I think imbibing such thoughts and creating an impression as such upon the youths of our society is a dangerous business to engage in simply because future social well-being of ours is at stake. Various objections against the view can be had a few of which are discussed as follow.
Firstly, the notion about denomination as eternally divisive presupposes the idea that the existence of denominations is inherently incompatible with social unity. This concept is rooted in the historical facts of church history from which all of us can’t seem to escape. Unfortunately, this fact is the thing which overshadows, with unfailing perseverance, our entire current predicament of social incoherence and disunity. The fault, therefore, on the part of the present generations is that all present social interactions are made contingent on this historical fact. Consequently, everyone and everything is brushed with the colour of denomination one is attached to irrespective of the neutrality or goodness of the actions. Therefore, there is an urgent need to break away with history and as quickly as possible, and ran away from it as if our life, social and private, depends on it.
  

We need to run as far away as possible and with all the energy our thinking mind could carry us from such thoughts because the existence of denominations in itself is not divisive. On the contrary, it is in the mishandling of competing group interests and the irresistible impulse to resort to majoritarian narratives to justify our actions that our divisions find expression. If, for the sake of argument, there are social groups as numerous as the denominational churches we see in our society today and they each replaced the latter, we would still face the same problems and difficulties of social solidarity. This tells us that the problem with our struggle for social unity is not because there are too many churches but because we fail to understand why there are so many churches in the first place. Rights, freedom and equality we must learn to imbibe. The active cultivation of these values will inculcate respect into our individual and social lives. Respect, therefore, must be the definition of every individual and social relationship if we ever hope of achieving real unity as a social and political unit. It is the only possible moral and logical path to solving the problems of uniting ourselves. 

The idea of denomination as divisive is false because it is based on church history.  It is false not because it is a historical truth but because we relive it. After all, why would we allow ourselves to be given to history that had in all its glory divided us and pitted us against one another?  History is to be celebrated and learned from and not to be relived. If the Blacks of America always dig into their past and actively dwell upon it, what do you think would happen in the US or in countries where they had been immensely hurt and subjugated? Conversely, why do you think the Middle East, and in particular Iraq, scramble over their dead and the destructions and mayhem they experience presently? At least in part, the active efforts made by a section of its people to establish the past and relives it in their present social settings are responsible for the current pain they experience.

We take more pride in reliving the past than learning from it because modern education and its values have not changed our basic mode of thinking and perception. We love living in a country where ‘unity and diversity’ is celebrated and respected but balked at our own diversity. We distrusted it and looked at it with contempt and scorn. The logical thinking and actions that follows is to attempt, real hard, at achieving social unity within the confines of uniformity.  We failed miserably, however, because we failed to understand that solidarity or for that matter unity is not contained in uniformity but celebrated and realized only in diversity. We try to realize social unity on the strength of shared group interests and values and reject anything or anybody who does not share thoughts which are not in line with ours. This approach is completely flawed because it makes us blind to the thoughts that social unity is like a house built and constructed with the bricks of disagreement and differences, and cemented together by the values of respect for the rights, freedom and equality of each individual and group as well. Therefore, the sooner we learn and acknowledge it the better it will be for the cause of our unity.  

Secondly, the very idea of denominational divisions as eternal is circular in its reasoning and effect, and therefore offers no logical exit solution for the very problem it seeks to solve in the first place. This is so because the idea necessarily entails the existence or creation of anti-denominational group, secular or otherwise, to counter the supposed divisive group character of denomination. The necessity nature of its existence necessarily, in turn, whipped up antagonism against denominations it refused to or can’t control among its proponents and die-hard supporters. This antagonism against denominations, which was supposed to exorcise society of its denominational possession, unwittingly metamorphosed itself into the very evil it had hoped to drive out of societal systems. In other words, the situation is akin to a Pastor who becomes possessed in the process of performing an exorcism. The Pastor becomes possessed perhaps because he lacks faith and we become possessed because we lacked real understanding of what we fight for.   

Anti-denominational group knows perfectly well that individual doesn’t stand a chance, and hence employed the scheme of group versus group strategy against denomination by absorbing individuals, as many as possible, into its circle of influence. In this way, it seeks to muster up power enough to nullify the supposed divisiveness of denomination so as to steamroll its way to social unity. It tries to increase its moral command and authority over people within and outside of its sphere of influence by passively or at times actively picking on denomination with particular emphasis on the divisions it causes within our society. However, the unfortunate thing about this whole idea is that the more it draws people in within its circle the more antagonism it will create between various groups in the society. This is so because it is afflicted by the same afflictions it sees in others. A vicious cycle of causes and effects is, thus, created with no solution in sight. All because the very force it chooses to use for the realization of its goal limits its capability to see beyond or escape the wall of divisions which it blurrily sees as having source from denominations. In the end, it becomes just another group or organisation no different from those it tries to remove or condemns as divisive.   

Thirdly, another problem with the anti-denominational view is its one-dimensional usage of power and authority. In other words, power and authority is used solely to impose its views and enforce obedience in line with its ideology. Anyone found guilty of dereliction is made to suffer social ostracism or warn with threat of stigmatization. This inflexibility or irrationality in the use of power and authority or reasoning is a symptom of social groups with far-right political leanings howsoever persuasively it claims it stood for goals reflective of progress and social wellbeing. This sort of politics is currently prevailing the world over, be it Brexit, US under Trump or the politics of cow India presently witnesses, and it seems we too are not far behind in the game.

The perils of anti-denomination in its present form are, therefore, not only because it is divisive but more so in the execution of its power and authority. The current social conditions of the Hmars in Delhi bear testimony to it. Layman or not, we have no qualms and we show no compunction about what we are doing.  What does that tell us? Logically, we would not hesitate displaying the same emotional quality over the whole society given we are in a position to do it - suppress, harass, coerce or ostracize individual or people who hold different views and beliefs on what social behaviour should be like! Actually, we are no different than the RSS in terms of political thoughts and action but whom we snubbed and looked at with contempt and distrusts. This is the kind of madness we have embraced and the level of dignity we have climbed down to for the sake of self-justifications.  There is no dignity in hurting one’s own tribesmen; it is a sign of extreme desperation and immaturity of the mind and heart consumed by desire bereft of vision. It would indeed be a great sight and funny too, to see a man walking hand in hand with a monkey dressed in wedding gown with a wide grin in the face. So too is the social conditions of the Hmars in Delhi, not because it is funny necessarily but because it is an anachronism.  

Conclusion  

Anti-denominational view will not solve our problem of social unity. It will only help create more divisions in the society because it is self-defeating. It is an idea we can hope to follow at our own peril as a social political unit. It must be abandoned, the sooner the better. Social solidarity will not be found in the removal or annihilation of the diverse groups rather it is in the acceptance of our diversity that the solution to it lays.  Unfortunately, what is frighteningly alarming is the silence of public leaders and people who called themselves guardian of the interests of the society as well as civil societies on such issues. The silence is deafening, actually. Might be it has something to do with the lack of impartial observers or intellectuals because our environment has become so saturated with hatred that impartiality has become as rare a quality as diamond. Or still it may be the case that we don’t want to talk about it. That’s understandable. However, this fact of our social conditions will not go away by keeping our mouth shut or by stifling opinion. It may appear, for a time, to have gone away but it will certainly raise its ugly head again, and again, in the future. Therefore, in the interests of society as a whole discussion about social issues should be encouraged, talked about and debated as much as possible. We may fail to deliver but there never must be a time when we fail to protest against injustice.   



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