After a long absence, I happened to look at the KB website and I see yet another article on the ‘doctrine of Jewelry.’ Since this is a Galatian type heresy among the KB I am compelled to post one of my previous articles. Those have read this in the past would see this as redundant but those who haven’t read could see this ungodly heresy exposed to some level.
How did the Jewelry prohibition crept into KB community?
I initiated this new thread with a broader vision of dealing with the origin of this prohibition and how it had been affecting our vision and effort in evangelism. Many people sincerely believe this prohibition was one key area of separation Christians so badly needed in this world. During the course of this thread we may deal with such issues. This teaching of prohibition still causes division, discord, misinterpretation of the Bible, dishonesty by sneaking out and wearing them outside, ineffective evangelism, misunderstanding of the gospel, Galatian heresy etc. This made the KB convention speakers act disingenuously since hardly anyone believes it is a legitimate prohibition, but are afraid to speak out fearing they may lose the speaking opportunities. I have had personal discussions with few such speakers, and they plainly admitted to me that they are afraid to say that it is unbiblical fearing repercussions.
Some people genuinely believe this teaching had done great things among the KB. Also they believe that this has helped much with Christian testimony in general. I beg to differ. Whenever there is anything unbiblical, it will invariably damage the intended purpose of the gospel and other teachings of the Bible. We have no right to add anything to the Bible. With this imposition KB had done it and are reaping the damaging effects of it and we would continue reaping it until we eradicate this erroneous teaching.
The origin of Jewelry prohibition.
Unlike most KB believe, this was not initiated by KVS. KV Simon was the pioneer teacher who initiated the NT teachings among the KB in the latter part of the 19th Century and continued in to the 1900s. But none of his writings contained this teaching. It seems to be true that KVS went along with it, without discouraging the practice as unbiblical.
As I have mentioned in another article that the people who initiated this were Justus Joseph [or Yousthus Joseph, also known as Viduwan Kutty Achen – I will refer him as VK for easier reading] and his brothers. VK’s brothers were not as genuine believers as VK was by assessing some of their later decisions which I will explain later. Yet they were able to bring a revival movement in Kerala [then known as Travencore, I believe] and many people from the denominational background came to know the Lord. But VK and followers did not teach or insist on the believer’s baptism. But they taught the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. This era is popularly known as a period of revival because of a change in the outlook and lifestyle that began sweeping across Travencore along with the message of salvation.
During these revival meetings many women started breaking off their ‘Thalies’ [gold wedding symbol, usually hung on golden chain or even a string] and other gold ornaments and left at the feet of VK. It is possible that the money raised by selling the gold was used towards the cost of travel, food etc. VK and his brothers [one brother was Yakoob Bothakar [= teacher or Guru] and the other I cannot recall, all wore the maroon colored ‘saintly attire’ copied from the Hindu saints.
Many men started wearing the same type of clothing as these ‘Bothakers’. These Bothakers were all vegetarians even before they got converted form the Brahmin Hindu background. They kept the same dietary routine and started teaching that eating meat is against the Biblical teachings. Many Syrian Christians believed it and started becoming vegetarians. My grandmother, who died in 1967 at the age of 101, shared with me how she became a vegetarian in one of those meetings, and she remained as a vegetarian until death. In fact she developed a real aversion towards meat and we had to hide any meat product from her. She started getting sick to her stomach if she found out that there is meat in the house. She gave up all her Jewelry and left with a large hole in each of her earlobes. There is a write-up about our grandmother in T A Kurien’s memoir of his mother [Njaan Enganee Marakkum – How can I forget?] and he and I had the same grandmother.
Along with forsaking the Jewelry many people started wearing the saintly maroon outfit and became vegetarians in Travencore. Moothampackal Kochukunju Upadeshi [a well known hymn writer and preacher, a contemporary of KVS] wore the similar clothing until death. KVS also remained as a vegetarian all his latter years as part of his simple lifestyle.
Some of them felt they should be vegetarians because they argued that Apostle Paul became a vegetarian and forsook meat based on 1 Cor 8:13, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.” An elderly man I talked to some years ago attributed to this verse and said this was the reason KVS remained as a vegetarian. But none of KVS writings ever mentioned such thing. I believe it was part of his simple lifestyle and KVS, in my knowledge, would not make such rudimentary error in interpreting that verse.
As years went by, people started looking into the scriptures and found no support for the special clothing or dietary restrictions. But they were able to come up with isolated verses they thought could support the Jewelry prohibition and held on to that teaching. Needless to say, they were all verses taken out of context and the product of misinterpretations.
Out of the major three traditional changes that took place in Travencore the Jewelry prohibition [abstinence] continued on. KVS and many of his contemporaries felt it is indeed a good tradition and there is nothing inherently wrong and they felt that it would remain as a symbol of simplicity. Because the traditional ‘Minnu or Thaalies’’ had a sign of pagan god or goddess, the believers were asked not to wear anything carrying such symbols of foreign deities.
Something that started out as a symbol of simplicity in KVS eyes became the norm and the norm became a ‘biblical mandate’. Many people started misinterpreting verses so that they can support this stand. Soon KB’s focus became converting people to a ‘Jewelry-less’ group and lost its zeal for the real gospel. The true gospel is that a sinner, no matter how he was and is when confessed of sins, can find forgiveness in Jesus Christ and once he/ she accepts the Lord as the Savior, that person instantly becomes a child of God. That message of salvation was swept under by this Jewelry prohibition message and many among the KB, even today fail to understand the clear gospel.
While growing up as a teenager in a Christian KB family and attending local KB assembly, I was totally clueless of how to be saved. I prayed to God to save me at least 100 times. I felt I have to forsake this and that and act like so and so to be accepted by the Lord. The message of the gospel was trampled under this unbiblical Jewelry prohibition. Also, not having any jewelry became the ‘sure sign’ of salvation and the readiness for baptism; something that Bible does not support.
I believe this unbiblical prohibition was nurtured among the KB by Satan to destroy the real focus and he indeed was successful. Even today many people are denied the Lord’s Supper and baptism in the name of Jewelry. Many people look down upon others who wear Jewelry, as though the real sign of perfection is the removal of Jewelry. They teach the new believers that some day when they become mature, they would see the need for the removal of jewelry. Who else, but Satan would promote such unbiblical teachings among God’s people by misguiding naïve, yet sincere believers?
Adverse effects on evangelism.
Many evangelists who migrated to other states from Kerala carried with them this unbiblical prohibition on Jewelry. In total honesty and simplicity in their mind, they silently communicated a message of abstinence to the local people. Locals who were traditionally considering Jewelry as part of their lifestyle and a means of acceptance and norm, were confronted with a message of unnecessary abstinence in the name of Jesus Christ. This ‘weird appearance’ became an obvious deterrent to the locals and many of them ‘wrote this gospel off’ as strange and unprofitable. Instead of presenting the gospel just as it is given in the Bible, we started adding unbiblical prohibition and packaged it strangely and unappealing.
Col 1:23-29, we see the trademarks of Paul’s ministerial goals. We failed to display such focus in our efforts. Our intentions were sincere and lofty, but generally our approach was wrong. There are some exceptions and there were some with greater visions and they stepped out of the box and made impact in the lives of many. Oftentimes we built walls between the ‘non-Jewelry’ and the ‘Jewelry’ Christians. Except few evangelists, others remained as ‘Malayalees’ among the locals, displaying the strange unbiblical tradition and silently communicated that this is what genuine Christianity is all about.
Some of our men and women walked around with constant frown and sadness on their face, as though this is the Christian trait. Yet they were giving out ‘gospel = good news’ to the lost! Unless we are happy, why should others hear our news about ‘happiness’? We stayed separated [verpadu] from locals, thinking we can spread the gospel with the remote control and the real separation means staying away from the sinners. We failed to see how our Lord was when He was on this earth. This strange unbiblical prohibition gave us the weirdest appearance among the people, yet as one sister pointed out elsewhere ‘our women walked around in expensive saris and hairdos and travelled in the most expense automobiles – like a decorated Christmas trees.’ Thank you sister; that indeed was an accurate description!
What had happened to VK and Youomayam?
VK and his disciples preached the gospel with great enthusiasm. VK’s songs became very popular all across Travencore. Who could resist the song ‘Shuthippin Shuthippin Yesu Devane?’ and such 70 some profound songs? Even though they did not teach believer’s baptism to my knowledge, they were very much high on visions, prophecies and emotional outbursts similar to many of today’s charismatic groups.
Satan found a perfect opportunity in undermining the noble efforts, by giving a very strange vision to two of VK’s disciples. One of them was ‘Koodarappally Thomman’ and the other one I cannot recall the name. These two men supposedly saw a vision of the Lord’s return and a special revelation that the Lord would return in six years from the day of this vision. Based on what they have testified, they both had this vision at the exact time, as they fell asleep in their respective homes. In the vision each were instructed to start immediately from their homes and walk towards VK’s home. In the dream, they were told that they would meet each other at ‘Kannetty Paalam” [a particular bridge] and were told that the other person would greet with a special greeting [a code] and that would be a further affirmation to the vision.
Based on their testimonies all these things happened precisely as they have experienced in the dream. They met at Kannety Paalam and together they reached VK’s house well after midnight. They shared the dream with VK and also how the Lord gave additional visions to support their original vision. VK and his other disciples were convinced that the Lord would indeed return on October 2, 1881; preciously six years after the initial vision. Revival meetings along with placing Jewelry at the feet of ‘Bodhakars’, wearing ‘Kaashaaya vesham = maroon attire’ and forsaking all non-vegetarian food, swept across the land.
Nothing of any significance happened on October 2, 1881 and VK was greatly troubled in his soul. He went to a nearby place on a hill and started praying and singing a new song. The very famous song; ‘Kaantha Thamassa Enthahoo’ came out of his lamenting heart. Days went by, and followers all were getting puzzled. VK’s brothers counseled VK to go along with a made-up story that the Lord indeed returned, but returned invisibly and took residence in VK. His brothers coerced him to go along with it thinking that would save them from further embarrassment. Being a sincere man of God, VK felt remorse and stopped preaching and composing anymore songs. He became a recluse and within few years passed away.
His brothers continued with this story of deception. I don’t know if they truly believed that the Lord indeed could have returned as they have claimed. I think it was just deception and not sheer ignorance. Also they insisted on abstinence from meat products and Jewelry and wearing maroon attire. Such insistence gives the appearance of cultic movement, and is the reason for me qualifying them as a cult. I am not being dogmatic here, whether they are a cult or not.
There are some families near Trivandrum and Venmony [near Thiruvalla] that I know were/ are practicing this faith. Although the numbers were steadily decreasing they are still around. They do not insist on the maroon attire and I am not sure of their dietary restrictions. They are still strict about Jewelry prohibition.
I sought the help of my Father-in-law who is now with the Lord, whose father and grandfather were part of ‘Yoyoumayam’ for a period of time to get the most accurate account available to me. Up until my discussion with my Father-in-law few days ago, I had only sketchy information regarding ‘Youyomayam’, which I had from multiple sources in the past, including my Father who passed away some years ago.
If there are any factual errors, they are accidental and are because of the lack of written accounts. I was careful to be factual in depicting with what I learned form others without being too carried away by emotions. [Kristeeya Gaana Rachayithaakal by P. T. Kuruvilla, Chemmankary, page 58 supports the removal of Jewelry and placing them at the feet of VK.]
Let me quote some comments by a contributor on keralabrethren.net forum [Varghese] on this subject. His comments are worth listening to.
“More than ornaments, I believe the focus should be on ornamentation. How can we live a Christ-filled simple Christian life with our hope set on eternal things? Does our life speak forth the imminent return of the Lord? On the other hand, do our possessions (mansions, cars etc) on earth silently testify to firm ties to this earth for good? Are we focused more on eternal things than fleeting things on the earth?
When we focus too much on mere ornaments, we miss the whole picture. Our beauty must not be a mere external adornment but far more what is shown forth from inside. 1 Peter 3:3-4 is one passage that some prohibition advocates use for their defense. I believe this verse speaks to us on what our focus must be, rather than outright prohibition. When believers wear ornaments (as in most parts of the world) and still can truly show forth their inner beauty in Christ, it is sad that our cultural viewpoints prevent us from seeing beyond their ornaments and appreciate their inner beauty!” End of quotes.
I am not leading a ‘crusade’ against this prohibition. But I sincerely believe it sends out a wrong message. It makes the lives of many sincere sisters living hell, by hurling guilt upon them. It sends a mixed message; faith plus Jewelry removal – at least to be baptized and to take part of the Lord’s Supper. We need to get out of this unbiblical yoke that is placed upon us! Share the gospel as it is taught in the Bible. Let others see the Lord Jesus Christ in us – our talk, walk, work, church.
There is a website www.biblestudycentre.net [my older brother T John Mathew] and you may find more reading materials there with the real meaning of salvation. If you know how to read Malayalam I do have a recent write up from my brother [PDF] reminding us how we should ignore such unbiblical teachings and focus on the greater responsibility of preaching and teaching the gospel message just as it is given to us.
You may request that or this article or both, from me ‘firstname.lastname@example.org