These are epochal days in the history of India. News of Modi's stunning landslide election victory deserves inches of headlines and multiple columns. If you want a clear, concise and short analysis, check out this story in The Economist (Remind me again - why do people even bother with TIME magazine anymore?!).
But does the swearing-in ceremony of the prime minister and his cabinet warrant the level of attention which this newspaper gives it? I guess it does... Stories about the gathering of the rich and powerful, the stars of bollywood and cricket. The stuff of news in every society these days, it seems. Celebritous vacuity. Oh - and the anxiety about getting the seating arrangements just right, given 'the hierarchial nature of Indian society'.
But then cast your eye down to the lower left part of the page.
Earlier on the day of the swearing-in ceremony, there had been a train crash in some remote part of Uttar Pradesh in which 40 people lost their lives. Yes, you read me correctly. Four Zero. 4-0. Forty. That is a lot of people dying in a single accident. Imagine the press coverage that would get elsewhere in the world?! Four years ago we had a mining disaster in New Zealand in which a fewer number of people lost their lives and the story still hits the headlines from time to time. Tragic accidents involving multiple loss of life attract so little attention in the media. I know what callous people far away are thinking, "Oh well, there are so many people and so many accidents..." Blah, Blah, Blah. Take care, my friends.
Particularly irksome, on this occasion, is the juxtaposition of the stories. Take a closer look:
The Ambanis - 'beaming billionaires', the caption says - almost seem to be mocking the tragedy in the neighbouring column. [NB: In the background is one of their wives who was hugging and cherishing match-winning Kiwi Corey Anderson at the IPL cricket game in Mumbai the night before!]. Then there is more mocking in the same column as the train tragedy is given the same front page space as two stories that probably shouldn't be in the newspaper at all.
This kind of attitude to human life is unacceptable.
Some lives are so cheap. Other lives are so cherished.
In times like this, my instinct is to travel to Athens and to Corinth.
'From one man, (God) made all peoples...' (Acts 17.26). My theologically-uneducated father screwed this truth tight and deep into my heart and mind. Oh yes, he did. And it ain't going nowhere. If God made 'all' from just the 'one', what does that say about the 'all'? Their common origin means they share a fundamental equality - an equality that then extends to being equally cherished as image-bearers of that same creator God.
Jump from Acts and Athens, across Rome and Romans, to Corinth and Corinthians. Look at the way God looks at his people, how he 'arranges' things: 'those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable and the parts we think are less honourable we treat with special honour' (1 Corinthians 12.22-23). Find the weaker and lavish indispensability upon them. Find the less honourable and fill them with special honour. That is how it is meant to work. That unleashes the Spirit among us.
Cheap life is an odious oxymoron.
And this is not just an issue for India. Every nation plays its own melancholic variations on this 'cheap life' theme. Goodness me, one thing which Barby and I see more clearly now, as adults living in India, is that one of the reasons why the gospel carried by those early British Christians had so little influence on the caste system is that it came packaged in a class system.