Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Confused ramblings on whether Christians should be involved in politics

So much has been happening in Malaysia.

Just read a cyber friend's blog post The Pulpit the Pastor and politics

My writing this blog post is not a response to his post nor to advocate my position but more for my own personal development

This kind of spins off from my recent readings of the words of two of my passive mentors ... 

The first Henri Nouwen's words that came in my mail on Friday ....

Writing, Opening a Deep Well

Writing is not just jotting down ideas.  Often we say:  "I don't know what to write.  I have no thoughts worth writing down."  But much good writing emerges from the process of writing itself.  As we simply sit down in front of a sheet of paper and start to express in words what is on our minds or in our hearts, new ideas emerge, ideas that can surprise us and lead us to inner places we hardly knew were there.

One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see.

And the second, a strange phrase from Eugene Peterson where he wrote in his book "Pastor's: A memoir" (page 239) .

Heuristic writing—writing to explore and discover what I didn't know.  Writing as a way of entering into language and letting language enter me, words connecting with words and creating what had previously been inarticulate or unnoticed or hidden. Writing as a way of paying attention. Writing as an act of prayer. In the badlands the act of writing was assimilated into my pastoral vocation, revealing relationships, drawing me into mysteries, training me imaginatively to enter the language world of scripture in which God "spoke and it came to be," in which "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." And it became a way of writing in which I was entering into the language world of my congregation, their crises and small talk, their questions and doubts, listening for and discerning the lived quality of the gospel in their lives. Not just saying things. Not just writing words.

Not that I am in any way thinking I am able to emulate these two modern "giants" of the faith but I think it is important for my own sanity for me to put down some of my thoughts in writing. It's been a bad few weeks for me in terms of sleep. Too many stray thoughts have been invading my dreams (more than usual which for me is a lot!) and I tend to wake up tired.

It used to be that things like the charismatic movement (speaking in tongues, personal prophecy) and perhaps women's role (?) were the hot topics that divided the church. Now it seems to be Politics (and political correctness(?). 

I have been praying and struggling with all the political related stuff and I am certain no matter what my position I will make many unhappy with me (even angry and possibly despised). Fact is I am not sure whether my position (in terms of my actions and affiliations) on many areas will change tomorrow! Simply because I am not a political scientist and simply do not know enough about the madness that is the Malaysian political culture and scene. 

BUT I think what I currently hold as principles will probably not change (more about that later). 

Here's some facts about me for all to see (and perhaps condemn? *sigh*)

  • I did not attend the Auckland Bersih 3.0 gathering despite the fact I support BERSIH's goals because of PR parties involvement, simply because BERSIH ought to be for all irrespective of political affiliation. (Of course I know it is but ....) I suspected and I was right that Anwar Ibrahim would "hijack" the sit in. It does not matter to me whether he planed the break through of the barricade to incite the police to act, or whether it was planned by BN plants. 
         What matters to me is his ego is so big and his personal political ambition so strong that              
         he could not for once stay in the background and let the BERSIH organizers lead. He had  
         to give a speech to his supporters and BN has ammunition to use against the opposition. 

         Okay maybe that is being judgmental and I should give him the benefit of the doubt but for  
         someone who wants to be PM of Malaysia and who has so many political enemies out to 
         get him, I would have thought hew would have more sense not to put himself in such a 
         situation unless ...

  • I think BN as a whole needs to go! Stayed too long and is riddled with so much corruption as part of its culture and leadership that reform seems practically impossible. Unless of course they lose the elections and make a humble return (far fetched perhaps but certainly possible)
  • But I do not have confidence in PR especially when led by Anwar Ibrahim. I think the country needs leaders with integrity, willing to serve the country. It bothers me that PR cannot seem to push to the forefront fresher faces of capable Malay leaders. I am sure there must be so why are they not there? It bothers me that PR (I suppose mostly PKR) SEEMS to depends so much on ex BN politicians. And if no non Malays are allowed to lead, then why not someone like Nurul Izzah? (I suppose I should discount her since I don't trust her father? But I do not think that is the right way of thinking)
  • Now you see why I am confused? (both :-) and :-( )
  • And I am also wary of all this talk about democracy. Being in the majority does not imply one is in the correct company ... (in fact I think more often than not, the majority has been shown to be wrong) I think I would rather focus on issues like justice, truth and compassion, and attempt to be as consistent as possible (high hopes for me with my often confused thoughts *heavy sigh*)
  • And another dilemma for me. I now live in NZ. Yes I am a Malaysian citizen but I find I cannot function and fit into NZ life and do my part to make a difference here if my mind thinks too much about Malaysia. Should I not focus on making a difference where I am?
  • And to add to more fuel to the fire ... I am afraid that my mind set is such that I am a Christian first and the rest (whether Chinese, Malaysian or NZer) comes in a less relevant distant second.
  • I am a member of a political party here in NZ. But I find it personally interesting that in my mind, it does not mean that I will blindly follow the party leader. The whole idea is to give my input if I think it is needed. And after voting in two elections in NZ (PR's can vote as we pay taxes. Cool isn't it?) I find it interesting that I have voted according to my conscience and "wasted" my votes on non winnable candidates (twice) ...

Should Christian leaders (and pastors) be more involved in politics? 

I actually think that every Christian should be more involved though the level of involvement should be that of personal conviction. I think trying to be apolitical is inconsistent. Not that one needs to be a member of a political party but in the sense that I think all Christians need to be constantly evaluating his / her understanding of biblical justice and his / her involvement in community (and by that I mean not just the "koinonia").

I think Luke 4:16-21 needs to be taken very seriously. It is after all, Jesus' first recorded sermon and his explanation of his mission and calling (and we are called to be His disciples and follow in His steps). No matter how one decides to "interpret" the passage, I do not think one can run away from the call to be involved!  I am not sure I can be involved in community without some form of political involvement ... 

 16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.
 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." {19 Isaiah 61:1,2}
 20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,
 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

I see in the NT of John the Baptist and Jesus getting politically involved in their own ways - and in a downright dangerous and daring manner too

Matthew 14:3-4: 3 Now Herod had arrested John and bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife,  4 for John had been saying to him: "It is not lawful for you to have her."

Luke 13:31-32: 31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you."

 32 He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'

Enough rambling for now. Hope I sleep better tonight!


  1. Paul,
    Thank you for this piece. I found it very helpful for two reasons.

    First, I too am struggling with PKR. I particularly dislike their fear-mongering on Lynas, and like you, I worry about Anwar (and Azmin). I am mainly anti-UMNO-BN, because I don't think things can get worse after 55 years of entrenchment and UMNO-BN needs to be taught a lesson they will never forget.

    Second, I'd never heard about heuristic writing. I've just got a better understanding of why I write (it doesn't come easily to me). I now see I'm trying to be a better member of my church, "entering into the language world of my congregation, their crises and small talk, their questions and doubts, listening for and discerning the lived quality of the gospel in their lives."

    Very helpful indeed. Thanks again.


  2. Thanks Rama. Glad it is of help. The term "heuristic writing" too was an eye opener for me.