Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Politics comes to church

There can be no redemption unless
the truth about the world is told
and justice is done.
Miroslav Volf

This year’s election must be a sort of watershed for the church in Malaysia. Going by the number of reports online (such as this one , this and this one) Malaysia’s 2.8 million Christians have suddenly become an important voting bloc. But this Malaysiakini report characterizing the church as ‘normally sanguine’ doesn’t quite fit as Sook Ching rightly pointed out.

The truth is - if I may be permitted to generalize - the church in Malaysia has been either indifferent or phlegmatic with regard to politics for the longest time, at least in Protestant circles. Historically, the Roman Catholic Church, thankfully, has always been perceived to be aware and involved, although its socio-political inclinations have sometimes been unfairly dismissed as theologically misinformed, or worse, an expression of ‘salvation by works.’

Ironically, the tables have been turned as evidenced by outrage at a protestant church leader’s statement that the church should be apolitical as its primary concern is spiritual. Suddenly, taking the middle ground was seen as a cop-out and a lesson in missing the point of Jesus’ politically charged earthly ministry. Protestant or Catholic, church leaders, pastors, priests, and academics, have by and large led the way (and rightly so), and by taking the path that angels fear to tread they have galvanized less-assured saints to follow. Whether the response was out of love for their neighbour, or in response to Islamist encroachments on religious liberty, or both, is moot. Well, at least something is stirring.

I think it is not far wrong to say that traditionally the church has been casting its vote in the direction of stability and security, meaning BN, with scant regards for the bigger picture. Now this is what upsets me. I know it’s not a peculiarly Christian shortcoming, since in the main, bread-and-butter issues rank pretty high for most ordinary Malaysians too. But how tragic if all a Christian got out of his Bible is therapeutic tripe and not the radical implications of discipleship. This world is not my home and I’m just a-passing through, so goes an old gospel favourite. The point is made, though I have no excuse to close my eyes and ears nor shut my mouth when along the way cries for peace and justice are raised. (On another note, see NT Wright’s counter argument about God’s kingdom coming on earth as in heaven).

Anyways. If politicians are beginning to take notice of the church, then it’s high time Christians return the favour by paying attention to politicians.

Say NO to BN!

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