The Bible and the Ballot: Reflections on Christian Political Engagement in Malaysia Today

What a joy to know that before Christmas, a joint effort between a small band of us who are part of Friends in Conversation together with GraceWorks could produce this book.  This is our small contribution to the wider discussion on religion and politics in our homeland. Many thanks to those who endorsed our project.

 

How do we relate Christianity to political engagement in Malaysia today? This is the question that we, as part of the community of believers, are trying to answer in this book. It is our conviction that “if Jesus Christ is not Lord of all, He is not Lord at all”. We proclaim the lordship of Jesus over every aspect of life. Therefore, it is important for us to reflect on the relationship between what we confess on Sunday and what is happening in the country every day.

This compilation of articles has been produced within the context of a circle of friends who share a common concern over national issues and the importance of Christian engagement on those issues. Although all of us are Malaysians, some of us are located in Malaysia, some in Singapore, and one in Norway. We come from different traditions and denominations of the Christian faith, but are connected through Friends In Conversation, a network where we discuss relevant issues that concern Christian discipleship in the contemporary world.

“The Bible speaks of Christians as salt and light, but not as voters. What is our theology of engagement with the political process? Does our heavenly citizenship mean the Christian Church should not be concerned about earthly elections? A group of Christian writers cajoles and challenges our thinking on this critical contemporary concern, with intriguing outcomes.”
Andrew Khoo, Member, Steering Committee, BERSIH 2.0


“Politics is often seen as ‘dirty.’ But Romans 13 talks about authority of Governments. Who holds them responsible and accountable? Citizens who vote make that decision. In the past, we had poor teaching about political involvement or engagement. This book teaches biblical views and opinions about the Christian and non-partisan politics. Recommended highly for all Christians!”
KJ John, PhD (Organization Theory), Executive Director, OHMSI.


“On the eve of the 13th Malaysian General Election, these essays are a timely reminder to all Malaysian Christians that we should never be apolitical, that we should feel comfortable in voicing our political affiliation, that we should be politically engaged through various channels, that we should not be blindly and unquestioningly partisan, that we should engage with the relevant stakeholders with wisdom and courage, with our hearts, minds and spirits firmly fixed and dependent on Christ.”
Dr. Ong Kian Ming, PhD, Duke University


“The Bible and the Ballot is a deeply reflective compilation of essays that represents the Zeitgeist of the Malaysian social conscience, real thoughts from real people who have struggled to clarify their positions on politics and society. Compelling reading as we — all of us, no exception — try to make sense of the country’s changing democratic landscape and the roles we play in it, consciously or not.
Tricia Yeoh, researcher and writer

Posted on December 23, 2011, in Book, Christianity, Ethics, Islam, Malaysia, Politics, Religion, Theology. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Hi, I just finished reading your monograph. It is timely religious and political views! Here is my nickel’s worth about the book. Though I agree wholeheartedly with each of the authors’ view about the need for Christians to vote, and to vote responsibly, but I feel there is a much bigger religious political issue which is not clearly addressed. To be “a blessing to Malaysia,” most importantly to me, is to share the hope that we have to other Malaysians and others who do not have it. Political issues, just like the poor, are always be with us. So is oppression and persecution. Look at Jesus, He lived in it all while He was here on earth. Nonetheless, He chose to die for the sinner instead of solving these issues. The Great Commitment is His other example about priority. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that social and political injustice issues are unimportant, but I believe, we need to know and state what our priorities are.

  2. Thanks Santori, for your encouraging comments. One way to understand the ‘Gospel’ (Big G) is to see it within the way Jesus talks about it in the ‘gospels’ (small g – in the New Testament), reexamine the way we talk about the ‘gospel’ (no s).

    There are others who have talked about oppression and persecution, and these are important, nonetheless, what is pertinent, in the case of Malaysia, is not ‘religious oppression and persecution’ that is isolated from the wider ‘issues’ at hand. So, what this book does is to first, bring some attention to social and political justice issues, and from the Big G – Gospel perspective.

    It’s complementary to those who would take another angle on the areas you mentioned such as what is commonly known as ‘great commission’ which is related to Matthew 28 on Jesus’ call to make disciples and teaching them all that I have commanded you.

    Perhaps, taking a step back and noticing, the ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ piece is good to remind us of the link Matthew 28 would have with the Lord’s Prayer and it’s surrounding context in Matthew 5-7, esp. the ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ bits.

    The priority therefore is in ‘God’s kingdom’ and God’s will’ and ‘God’s authority’ and not between what some say evangelism and social justice or concern. Once our eyes are on deciding whether the priority is either evangelism over social justice for example. It might reflect the need to return to (1) what does ‘evangelism’ mean? (2) what does social justice mean? in the Bible, and for the world today.

    But more importantly, if we use the word ” God’s Mission” to hold the above two, it’s more fruitful from a Christian perspective. Our little book is not the whole thing, but it’s connected to this Mission as a part or dimension.

    Thanks once again for giving us feedback.

  3. Hi there,

    Can anyone do a review of the Bible and the Ballot for New Mandala.

    2000 words upper limit.

    An example could be this:
    http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2011/09/09/review-of-palace-political-party-and-power-tlcnmrev-xxviii/

    And it must be new (unpublished)

    Thanks very much.
    Greg

  4. LOL, I think it’s better you do it or someone else, because let’s face it we wrote the book!

  5. I asked one to do it. It’s not an academic book, it’s more for a lay audience. No need canggih theology

    • Ok boss – anytime someone does it, let me know. Happy to run it on NM or refer to it. Another alternative is to capture the main essence of the book as a view on how Christians in Malaysia interact on political issues.

      Have a good weekend.

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