Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Bible and the Ballot: Interview 2: What’s your article about?

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 second round.

Questions 2: There are seven articles in the book. What’s yours about?

My article “Naming Names” tries to make a biblical case for churches to be less hesitant in identifying with specific political candidates. I’m hoping to abolish the fear of a preacher speaking against (or for) a particular candidate. I wish to draw some connections between how Jesus and the prophets were tembak-ing certain specific people, and how maybe we needn’t hesitate that much today if we come across similar crimes.

My piece “Strengthening Democracy in Malaysia” deals with the public sphere. I point out that Malaysian laws have stemmed public information and discussion on issues that concern all of us. However, with the advent of social networking tools and the results of the 12th General Elections, things have changed. People are increasingly getting and sharing information that was once restricted and organizing themselves into groups to make their concerns known to the authorities. Consider, for example, the public protests that have taken place in the past year or so, and how the government is becoming responsive to these concerns.

In my piece “Why am I Attending Vigils for Dr Jeyakumar and EO6?” I tell of my encounter with deaths in detention. I also share how studying the book of Revelation with the aid of a book by Eugene Peterson helped me recognize that I had been radicalized by the Messiah. I cite Vishal Mangalwadi who gave me fresh insight into what to expect when we proclaim Jesus as King, not only of heaven, but also of all the kings of the earth. I explain why my mere presence at a protest is power for others. While my contribution is mostly a personal story, the other contributors seek to motivate and suggest frameworks for reflection and action.

My contribution in the book “Prayer and Political Consideration” is to provide a guide for Christians to pray for the country and how we can respond to others. For example, Matthew 5:44 says that we ought to pray for those who persecute us. Does this mean that Christians can only pray and must not defend themselves when persecuted? Also, what does it mean to ”love your enemy” when the Christian community is mistreated politically? These are the issues that we try to engage in the book.

On my part, rather than writing another article, I offered to write an “Afterword” because I saw that each individual piece was actually part of our ongoing conversation together in different arenas at different times, i.e., face to face or in most cases screen to screen via blogs, email and Facebook.


Martin Yee said...

Wow. Thanks. These synopses are great. They will certainly enhance the appreciation of this book in a significant way.

If there is a reprint can put them into the Foreward. Just a 2 cents worth.


Sze Zeng said...

Hi Martin,

Soo-Inn reprinted the book once, not sure will he print for the third time.

If there is third round, then I'll pass your suggest to him to include these. Thank you for your suggestion! :)

Martin Yee said...

Hi Sze Zeng,

After reading those synopses, I re-read some of those articles, they made much more sense and I was able to appreciate them better. Otherwise it looks like a collection of disparate ramblings and incoherent rants. May be in the next revised edition perhaps put those synopses in front of each of their article. It really helps. Just a suggestion.

On further reflection, just a couple of thoughts:

May be there should an extra chapter interacting with the Reformed/Lutheran doctrine of the Two Kingdoms and how this plays out in the current situation. Also how do you guys interpret Matthew 5:38–42? Non-violence or passive resistance? I know you did discuss it in your article but it lacks cheemness. If you do not do this it will be seen as theologically deficient. Just saying Jesus or the Bible teaches Christians to stand up against oppression/injustice will not do.

Also do interact with Moltmann's eschatology/"The Crucified God" and Dietrich Bonhoeffer's idea of arcane discipleship amidst the sufferings of the world. This would certainly make this book rocks! This two guys should not be left out of such discussions. Check this out!/2012/04/five-most-moving-works-of-academic.html

Just a thot.


Martin Yee said...

Oh ya, forgot to add in.

It is also good to interact with Reinhold Niebuhr's ideas too as its "Christian Realism" based on simul justus et peccator concept serves as a powerful justaposition to idealistic expectations. He also see God's grace as the source of our hope in the face of the human waeknesses and failures.


Sze Zeng said...

Good ideas! :)

Martin Yee said...

Do include some interactions with Michel Foucault too. Foucault saw how ideas are often both undergirded by and used to perpetuate relationships of power and subservience in particular social and cultural contexts. He seeks to expose the ways in which these phenomena have operated at various times in history and how they have formed the values of particular cultural eras. Of prime concern to Foucault is the fact that a given idea – say criminal justice – usually serves to justify the coercive power of the ruling elite class by marginalizing, controlling, and sometimes even reshaping, other classes of people to suit the former’s dominance of the culture. More significantly, Foucault seeks to show that the very concept of knowledge is fundamentally wrapped up with this cultural quest by elites for ideological, social, economic, and political power over others. Don't neglect Foucault too if possible :) He is a good guy to consult.

Hope to read the main course soon!

Another 1 cent worth,

Martin Yee said...

Also do interact with Augustine's City of God too, see Cynthia's post here

Cynthia btw is also a Foucault expert. She breathe's and exhales metaphysics. Quite an amazing lady.