Vinoth Ramachandra

Archive for December 8th, 2017

In politics rhetoric, while a necessary skill, usually misleads. For instance, no country that carries the title “democratic” and/or “socialist” is either democratic or socialist in any meaningful sense.

Similarly, the United States and the United Kingdom are not only deeply divided politically, but are the most economically unequal among all the industrially developed (OECD) states. That economic inequality keeps widening at a terrifying pace every year. The wealthiest family in the US (the Wallmart owners) have assets amounting to $90 billion, which is the same as the combined income of the 40% poorest Americans or 120 million people.

Last week not only saw the U.S Senate endorse Trump’s egregious tax cuts for the rich (who hide their taxes in secret offshore havens, anyway), but also the resignation of the entire Board of the UK’s Commission on Social Mobility. The reason for the resignation given by the Commission Chair was the massive and frustrating gulf between political rhetoric and political action when it came to addressing the glaring inequalities in British society.

Those of us who were transiting in airport lounges last week would have been subjected to the unavoidable, relentless CNN barrage about Michael Flynn and the Mueller investigation into possible Russian involvement in the Trump campaign. All other news took a back seat. Why should the world care about Russian involvement in American presidential elections when the US has been interfering in the elections of several countries since the Cold War, even to the point of liquidating politicians thought dangerous to American interests?

Just take the case of Nicaragua. The Reagan administration armed and helped train the Contra rebels who were seeking to oust the democratically-elected Sandanista government. The Contras were hand-in-glove with Nicaraguan drug lords, from whom they got the funds to buy weapons from the CIA. The CIA, in turn, protected the drug lords from US law enforcement agencies while they sold crack cocaine on the streets of Los Angeles and other American cities. The Contra conspiracy was eventually exposed and Reagan’s plans failed. But his “war on drugs” achieved its real goal of removing young African-Americans from inner-city ghettos and incarcerating them instead.

When I asked the former leader of an American university Christian organization to help promote my books among his staff, he replied, “I am frustrated that my staff are not reading books”. But, then, he added, “There are also things in your writings that many Americans find difficult to accept.” I was rather taken aback and could only manage a weak riposte, “There are many things in the New Testament that I find difficult to accept!” But accept I must, or else I die.

Talking of death, my beloved wife, Karin, seems to be in the terminal phase of her cancer. We don’t know how much longer she has, but we are thinking of weeks and months rather than years. My prayer is that she will live the last days of her life the way she has always lived: with a clear mind, loving Jesus and caring for others, always reading books and learning, enjoying beauty in creation- and, of course, with minimal pain.

We have just celebrated our nineteenth wedding anniversary. What drew us together was a shared vision of the Christian life, which included a passion for social justice and an insatiable appetite for learning. We begin each day together with a time of Bible meditation and intercessory prayer, and instinctively seek to view the world and its unfolding events “from the underside”, to use Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s evocative phrase.

Karin often points out that the typical Christian books on suffering coming from the West deal with the middle-class questions, “Why Me?”, “Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People?” Suffering is an uncomfortable intrusion into an otherwise comfortable existence. But for the vast majority of humanity, suffering is an everyday reality that only makes the world’s headlines when a natural calamity exposes a gross injustice that has been festering unchecked for decades.

Ironically, I had to speak on “Hope in Christ” at an East Asian student conference in Korea in August (you can watch the video at https://vimeo.com/235359504/022027a994). I said nothing new, let alone original, but Karin loved the way I had put it all together and was moved to tears by it. She has been my biggest fan as well as most perceptive critic.

Now it is time for me to walk the talk.


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