In view of the upcoming Malaysia's general election, Graceworks has conducted an interview with all the contributors of The Bible and the Ballot: Reflections on Christian Political Engagement in Malaysia Today. Here is the first round.
Question 1: The book is so 'cheem'. What’s it all about actually?
When I ‘marketed’ it to my church members, I said that the book was especially for Christians who are still somewhat apathetic about the political situation in Malaysia, those who are steadfast against voting (or who haven’t registered themselves), or who have decided to keep an arm’s length from issues like justice, power, oppression, etc.
The Bible and the Ballot hopes to remedy the above mindset by approaching politics from different angles and perspectives, all of which have one objective in mind: To sensitize the reader to the problems Malaysia is experiencing as a nation, the abuses committed by the incumbent government, and issues Christians need to engage with.
Basically, each of us in our own way set out to think about Christian involvement about politics.
The Bible and the Ballot is about what it means to engage Malaysian society today, as Christians, in a very politically charged environment. We explain what motivates us. We share our thoughts on current events and we speak about the people who challenge, inspire and guide us.
Hahahaha… Actually, it’s the other way round. A reader told me that The Bible and the Ballot is not cheem enough; in his words, it “lacks depth”!
All the same, I would say that it is not so much that the content is too in-depth, but it is perhaps foreign. What I mean is that the issues discussed in the book are not what the majority Christian community in Malaysia are usually exposed to. Churches in our country do not often teach about these matters. So the book is meant to create awareness that Christian discipleship at certain times in history includes socio-political engagement. And we believe that the present is such a time.
But if you have been following this sort of conversation for a while (like the person who said that the book is not cheem enough) then the book wouldn’t be so foreign.
'Cheem'? Really? Then again the authors are writing authentically from their own unique experiences and reflections. Overall, it's a book about how Christians are critically thinking through their choices in the light of so much that's been happening in Malaysia. Furthermore, it's also about how one wrestles with drawing from Biblical wisdom in the midst of challenging circumstances in today's complicated world.
It's not a one-size-fit-all book; it's more like “here’s what some of us have done, and we offer it as one way of living our Christian faith today”, or “this is how we've thought through this, and we hope it will encourage you to reflect with a Christian mindset”. Of course, my own hope is that the readers will be encouraged to “act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God” in both our personal and public lives!