Wednesday, December 22, 2010

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

31 October - Reformation Sunday

We received this email from one of our readers, T Lee.


This Sunday is Reformation Sunday (Ahad Reformasi). So, it is time to  nail the 95 theses on all church doors. Some of the major ones are:
(1) Back to God,
(2) Back to Christ and the Cross (no heretical prosperity gospel),
(3) Back to the Bible (no false apostles and false prophets),
(4) Back to True Worship (not chanting and entertainment),
(5) Back to Biblical leadership (no authoritarian pastor),
(6) Back to True Church (no commercial mega church complex),
(7) Back to True Doctrines (no watering down of Biblical teachings on exclusivity of Christ as the only Way, the Truth and the Life),
(8) Back to Biblical ethics (no situation ethics),
(9) Back to Biblical family life (no divorced persons as pastors or leaders),
(10) Back to Church Growth through Evangelism and Conversion (no luring of members from other churches),
(11) Back to Missions (giving and going),
(12) Back to Decency (no indecency in dressing),
(13) Back to Honesty (no fake doctorate degrees),
(14) Back to True Cell fellowship (not gossip meetings),


We did some research and found some information on The Reformation.


What is the Reformation?


It is the opposition to the Roman Catholic Church and its false teaching in the sixteenth century, by a Roman Catholic monk named Martin Luther who posted his 95 Theses (propositions) against the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church on the Castle Church door at Wittenberg, Germany. Luther’s intention was to bring reform to the Roman Catholic Church, and in doing so was challenging the authority of the Pope. With the refusal of the Roman Catholic Church to heed Luther’s call to reformation and return to biblical doctrines and practices, the Protestant Reformation began. From this Reformation four major divisions or traditions of Protestantism would emerge: Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist, and Anglican. During this time God raised up godly men in different countries in order to once again restore churches throughout the world to their biblical roots and to biblical doctrines and practices.

Underlying the Protestant Reformation lay four basic doctrines in which the reformers believed the Roman Catholic Church to be in error. These four questions or doctrines are :
How is a person saved? 
Where does religious authority lie? 
What is the church? 
And what is the essence of Christian living? 


In answering these questions, Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, and John Knox established what would be known as the “Five Solas” of the Reformation (sola being the Latin word for “alone”). 


These five points of doctrine were at the heart of the Protestant Reformation, and it was for these five essential Biblical doctrines that the Protestant Reformers would take their stand against the Roman Catholic Church, resisting the demands placed on them to recant, even to the point of death. These five essential doctrines of the Protestant Reformation are as follows:

1-“Sola Scriptura,” or Scripture Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that the Bible alone is the sole authority for all matters of faith and practice. Scripture and Scripture alone is the standard by which all teachings and doctrines of the church must be measured. As Martin Luther so eloquently stated when asked to recant on his teachings, "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen."

2—“Sola Gratia,” Salvation by Grace Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is by God’s grace alone and that we are rescued from His wrath by His grace alone. God’s grace in Christ is not merely necessary, but is the sole efficient cause of salvation. This grace is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to Christ by releasing us from our bondage to sin and raising us from spiritual death to spiritual life.

3—“Sola Fide,” Salvation by Faith Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. It is by faith in Christ that His righteousness is imputed to us as the only possible satisfaction of God’s perfect justice.

4—“Solus Christus,” In Christ Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is found in Christ alone and that His sinless life and substitutionary atonement alone are sufficient for our justification and reconciliation to God the Father. The gospel has not been preached if Christ’s substitutionary work is not declared, and if faith in Christ and His work is not solicited.

5—“Soli Deo Gloria, For the Glory of God Alone: This affirms the Biblical doctrine that salvation is of God and has been accomplished by God for His glory alone. It affirms that as Christians we must glorify Him always, and must live our entire lives before the face of God, under the authority of God, and for His glory alone.

These five important and fundamental doctrines are the reason for the Protestant Reformation. They are at the heart of where the Roman Catholic Church went wrong in its doctrine, and why the Protestant Reformation was necessary to return churches throughout the world to correct doctrine and biblical teaching. They are just as important today in evaluating a church and its teachings as they were then. In many ways, much of Protestant Christianity needs to be challenged to return to these fundamental doctrines of the faith, much like the reformers challenged the Roman Catholic Church to do in the sixteenth century. 


Answer taken from : Got Questions.org
 
What is the 95 Theses?

The 95 Theses, a document written by Martin Luther in 1517, challenged the teachings of the Catholic Church on the nature of penance, the authority of the pope and the usefulness of indulgences. It sparked a theological debate that fueled the Reformation and subsequently resulted in the birth of Protestantism and the Lutheran, Reformed, and Anabaptist traditions within Christianity.


Luther's action was in great part a response to the selling of indulgences by Johann Tetzel, a Dominican priest, commissioned by the Archbishop of Mainz and Pope Leo X. The purpose of this fundraising campaign was to finance the building of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Even though Luther's prince, Frederick the Wise, and the prince of the neighboring territory, George, Duke of Saxony, forbade the sale in their lands, Luther's parishioners traveled to purchase them. When these people came to confession, they presented the plenary indulgence, claiming they no longer had to repent of their sins, since the document promised to forgive all their sins.

Luther is said to have posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517. Church doors functioned very much as bulletin boards function on a twenty-first century college campus. The 95 Theses were quickly translated into German, widely copied and printed. Within two weeks they had spread throughout Germany, and within two months throughout Europe. This was one of the first events in history that was profoundly affected by the printing press, which made the distribution of documents and ideas easier and more wide-spread.

Answer taken from : Theopedia   

What is the Summary of the 95 Theses?
Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses in 1517 as a protest against the selling of indulgences. After he sent a copy of the theses to Albert of Mainz (who sent a copy to Pope Leo), Luther continued to write, elaborating on the issues raised. He makes three main points in his 95 theses. Here they are, in his own words: 

1. 
Selling indulgences to finance the building of St. Peter's is wrong.

"The revenues of all Christendom are being sucked into this insatiable basilica. The Germans laugh at calling this the common treasure of Christendom. Before long, all the churches, palaces, walls and bridges of Rome will be built out of our money. First of all, we should rear living temples, not local churches, and only last of all St. Peter's, which is not necessary for us. We Germans cannot attend St. Peter's. Better that it should never be built than that our parochial churches should be despoiled. ...


Why doesn't the pope build the basilica of St. Peter's out of his own money? He is richer than Croesus. He would do better to sell St. Peter's an give the money to the poor folk who are being fleeced by the hawkers of indulgences."


2. The pope has no power over Purgatory.


"Papal indulgences do not remove guilt. Beware of those who say that indulgences effect reconciliation with God. ... He who is contrite has plenary remission of guilt and penalty without indulgences. The pope can only remove those penalties which he himself has imposed on earth, for Christ did not say, "Whatsoever I have bound in heaven you may loose on earth."


Therefore I claim that the pope has no jurisdiction over Purgatory. ... If the pope does have power to release anyone from Purgatory, why in the name of love does he not abolish Purgatory by letting everyone out? If for the sake of miserable money he released uncounted souls, why should he not for the sake of most holy love empty the place? To say that souls are liberated from Purgatory is audacious. To say they are released as soon as the coffer rings is to incite avarice. The pope would do better to give everything away without charge."


3. Buying indulgences gives people a false sense of security and endangers their salvation.


"Indulgences are positively harmful to the recipient because they impede salvation by diverting charity and inducing a false sense of security. Christians should be taught that he who gives to the poor is better than he who receives a pardon. He who spends money on indulgences instead of relieving want receives not the indulgence of the pope but the indignation of God. ...


Indulgences are most pernicious because they induce complacency and thereby imperil salvation. Those persons are damned who think that letters of indulgence make them certain of salvation. God works by contraries so that a man feels himself to be lost in the very moment when he is on the point of being saved. ...Man must first cry out that there is no health in him. He must be consumed with horror. This is the pain of Purgatory. ...


In this disturbance salvation begins. When man believes himself to be utterly lost, light breaks. Peace comes in the word of Christ through faith. He who does not have this is lost even though he be absolved a million times by the pope, and he who does have it may not wish to be released from Purgatory, for true contrition seeks penalty. Christians should be encouraged to bear the cross."


Answer taken from : Uncommon Travel Germany


Click here to read the full:  95 THESES



Monday, October 25, 2010

US Church files for Bankrupcy

This is an Article taken from : Yahoo News

Crystal Cathedral megachurch files for bankruptcy
By AMY TAXIN, Associated Press Writer – Mon Oct 18, 7:48 pm ET

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – Crystal Cathedral, the megachurch birthplace of the televangelist show "Hour of Power," filed for bankruptcy Monday in Southern California after struggling to emerge from debt that exceeds $43 million.

In addition to a $36 million mortgage, the Orange County-based church owes $7.5 million to several hundred vendors for services ranging from advertising to the use of live animals in Easter and Christmas services.

The church had been negotiating a repayment plan with vendors, but several filed lawsuits seeking quicker payment, which prompted a coalition formed by creditors to fall apart.

"Tough times never last, every storm comes to an end. Right now, people need to hear that message more than ever," Sheila Schuller Coleman, the Cathedral's senior pastor and daughter of the founder, told reporters outside the worship hall decked with a soaring glass spire.

"Everybody is hurting today. We are no exception," she said.

The church, founded in the mid-1950s by the Rev. Robert H. Schuller Sr., has already ordered major layoffs, cut the number of stations airing the "Hour of Power" and sold property to stay afloat.
In addition, the 10,000-member church canceled this year's "Glory of Easter" pageant, which attracts thousands of visitors and is a regional holiday staple.

The church was founded at a drive-in theater and attracted congregants with its sermons on the power of positive thinking. Its worship hall opened in 1970 and remains an architectural wonder and tourist destination.
The "Hour of Power" telecast, filmed in the cathedral's main sanctuary, at one point attracted 1.3 million viewers in 156 countries.

Church leaders said the Crystal Cathedral's Sunday services and weekly-telecast "Hour of Power" will continue while in bankruptcy.

Other megachurches have also suffered from the downturn and reduced charitable giving.
Crystal Cathedral saw revenue drop roughly 30 percent in 2009 and simply couldn't slash expenses quickly enough to avoid accruing the debt, said Jim Penner, a church pastor and executive producer of the "Hour of Power."

Vendors owed money by the church formed a committee in April and agreed to a moratorium to negotiate a repayment plan with the Crystal Cathedral. But after several filed lawsuits and obtained writs of attachment to try to collect their cash, it was difficult to keep the group together, Penner said.

Now, the church is avoiding credit entirely and spends only the roughly $2 million it receives each month in donations and revenue, Penner said. The church still hopes to pay all of the vendors back in full, he said.

"What we're doing now is we're trying to walk what we preach, we're paying cash for things as we go," he said.

These are some photos of the Crystal Cathedral.



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Christians & Politics (In The Star)

This is an article taken from The Star Online (http://thestar.com.my)
URL:
ifefocus 

highlighting on the issue of 'CHRISTIANS & POLITICS"
________________________________________________________________________
Opinions are divided on Christian involvement in politics, but most people
agree on the need to fight for justice.

SINCE the “political tsunami” of March 8, 2008, Christians have become
increasingly vocal on national issues. However, according to the Malaysian
Census of 2000, only 10% of Malaysia’s population is Christian, with the
majority being in Sabah and Sarawak (where they make up 40% of the
population).

But what Christians lack in numbers, they may make up for in influence. As
one local Christian politician put it, “Christians may not be so numerous
but we are usually well-educated, middle-class and well-connected,
especially in urban society. The moment something happens, it will be widely
discussed in cell group meetings or put up on the Internet.”

Malaysian Christians praying for the Pope John Paul in 2005. Prayer aside,
Christians in the country have begun to speak up and take action to
contribute towards nation-building. – File photo 

A minor awakening
“I have never had so many political discussions with Christians than in the
past two years,” says Sivin Kit, pastor of the Bangsar Lutheran Church in
Kuala Lumpur. “We are swept up by the currents of the political climate.”
Political analyst Ong Kian Ming, a Christian himself, notes that “since
March 8, more Christians are voicing their concerns about political issues.
However, other Malaysians are doing so too.”

In 1992, the late Tan Sri Dr Tan Chee Khoon, a staunch Methodist, wrote in
the book, Challenge of Vision 2020: Christian Involvement in Politics:
 Pastor Sivin Kit ... we want to contribute to the common good. 
“To be involved in politics, the Christians have to increase the level of
political consciousness. By this I do not mean that Christians should form
political parties as is the practice of Europe.

“We are a multi-racial and multi-religious nation and the injection of
politics may well disrupt the religious harmony that now prevails. But there
is no harm in Christians taking an interest in the politics of our country.
“By all means they should join political parties and even join the component
parties of the Barisan Nasional if they so desire. If Christians so desire
they may also join Opposition parties. If Christians do so, let us hope that
the level of politics in this country will improve with honesty, neighbourly
love and charity amongst the political leadership in our country.”

Eugene Yapp, research executive secretary of the National Evangelical
Christian Fellowship (or NECF, an umbrella group that includes the Assembly
of God, Full Gospel, Brethren, Baptist and Sidang Injil Borneo
denominations) notes that after the last general elections, churches are
speaking out more.

“This is part and parcel of the process towards a just and righteous
society,” Yapp says.

Indeed, those who want to improve and help society face a dilemma: Should
they try to apply short-term first aid to the symptoms (the so-called
welfare approach)? Or should they address the long-term root causes of those
problems (the advocacy approach)? Or do both?

Kit explains that “Christians want to contribute to nation building and the
common good of society. We want to be a blessing to our country.”
Traditionally, the church has done this through social (welfare) work. “But,
as many NGOs have experienced, one cannot ignore the structural problems in
our (socio-political) system, causing problems to arise. So it’s about
working towards long-term solutions.”

Dr Ng Kam Weng, research director at Kairos Research Centre, a Christian
think tank, says: “There are Christians who think politics is rotten, so
let’s not get into trouble and hope to migrate. But now, more Christians are
very concerned about the state of the nation.”

For instance, churches have been holding talks or forums on issues of the
day, like the Perak political crisis last year, he adds.
Kit observes that while the Catholics have always spoken up more on
socio-political issues, the Protestants had been more quiet – until
recently.

“Just before March 8, there were very well attended one-day events (around
KL) with titles like ‘The Christian and the General Election’ and ‘Was Jesus
Political?’”

After the elections, several “concerned Christians”, himself included, set
up a Christian socio-political discussion website called The Micah Mandate.
Ong says since then, “more young Christians want to get involved, be it
through Pakatan or Barisan. It doesn’t really matter which side they choose
as long as their hearts are sincere.”

However, he observes, many of the older Christian leaders are still wary of
anything political, to the extent of declining to promote voter
registrations.

Roman Catholic Bishop of Penang Antony Selvanayagam raising an issue at a
dialogue session between Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and representatives
from the various Christian churches and groups in the state. 

Is it right?
I asked a few times on my Facebook account if Christians should speak up on
political issues and got numerous strong comments for and against. One
person cited the verse in which Jesus told his followers to “render unto
Caesar what is Caesar’s, render unto God what is God’s” as “proof” that
Christians should steer clear of politics.

Yapp says if one defines politics in the “broader philosophical sense” of
how best to manage a nation’s collective life for the common good, then,
“naturally, God calls us to be righteous citizens of the country. And so we
do have a role to play by speaking out against all forms of evil.”

Kit admits that there is a genuine fear among some church leaders. “Since
there are already so many restrictions, why should we speak out and incur
the wrath of the authorities? But do we fear God more than men?”

He advocates a good balance.
“There is respect for authority. We don’t advocate a disrespectful, violent
approach. As Martin Luther King Jr said, the church is the conscience of the
state. In Malaysia, all religious communities should be that conscience.”
Dr Ng emphasises the “need to recover the teachings of the Old Testament
where the prophets always denounced injustice whenever they saw it.”

In Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, author Ronald Sider recalls that his
survey of over 1,500 church leaders showed that the conservative ones spoke
out only against “personal sins” such as sexual misconduct, but not “social
sins” such as unjust economic stuctures and militarism.

Indeed, many commentators have noted that President George W.Bush won his
second term because of the votes from the so-called “Christian Right” which
condemned abortion and homosexuality, but not the American invasion of Iraq.
Bishop Hwa Yung of the Methodist Church in Malaysia says some Christians
have what he calls “life boat ethics”.

In his book Bribery and Corruption, released in April, he explains that some
20th century evangelical Christians withdrew from engaging the world as it
is sinful, like a sinking ship.

“Hence, there is no point in trying to save it. Instead we are to jump into
the life boat, namely the church, and leave the world to sink!” he writes.
Hwa also explains that the so-called separation between “church and state”
or between “spiritual and secular” is actually a bias of Western European
Christianity and Augustine (one of the church fathers), who in turn was
influenced by Greek philosophers like Plato and Descartes.

Cheryl Lee, president (2008-2010) of the Independent Christian Renewal
Society (ICRS), a local Catholic discussion and advocacy group, says: “The
cross does not only have a vertical dimension, between you and God. It also
has a horizontal element, which is about how you care for your brothers and
sisters, including non-Christians.”
She thinks that is why the Catholic church has always been vocal, even in
the past.

“We are called upon to embody the joys and hopes of the majority of people.
The Catholic church has a ‘preferential option’ for the poor. In Matthew 25,
God often comes in disguise as the poor, the powerless and the marginalised.
When you help them, you are helping God Himself.

“For instance, Michael Chong (head of the MCA Public Complaints Bureau) is a
Catholic who witnesses his faith by doing a lot of good work.”
The ICRS has organised talks at Assumption Church in Petaling Jaya on topics
such as human trafficking and corruption. “Far from staying away, politics
is a moral responsibility for Christians,” Lee adds.

Bishop Paul Tan, who oversees the Malacca-Johor Catholic Diocese, says all
parishes have set up an Office of Human Development to spread the social
teachings and organise programmes like giving free tuition to poor students.

Not anti-government
Tricia Yeoh says there are many challenges to overcome. 
However, before imagining any great “awakening” on socio-political issues,
it’s worth remembering that all this is not the mainstream practice among
Malaysian Christians. Dr Ng notes that this limited activism is usually
found in the Klang Valley.

What about Sarawak, where there are many more Christians?
“The state has traditionally been almost 100% Barisan and with the usual
carrot and stick policies, the churches there don’t publicly criticise the
government,” he says.

Tricia Yeoh, a policy analyst and Christian, says her personal view is that
“churches are beginning to wake up. They are aware of all the issues and
pray for those involved in politics. But real action, the wave of
reformation across Malaysian churches, has not taken place yet.”

Lee adds that “it’s not like in the past when you had NGOs versus the
police. We have also invited the police for talks on topics such as migrant
workers. And ministers like (Tan Sri) Bernard Dompok (Plantation Industries
and Commodities) have spoken at our group events and will do so again.”
One result is that after these talks, all the Catholic churches in PJ have
conducted voter registration excercises.

“It’s not just about criticising. There are good things that the government
does and we support that. It’s about going against wrong-doing.”
While direct political participation may not be for all, there are many
other forms of indirect involvement. After all, what is politics anyway?
“Let’s be honest, the church also has politics, so we are not immune,” says
Kit, who elaborates on the verse about “rendering unto Caesar”.

“Everything is political, but politics is not everything. For instance, when
we pay taxes, that is political. When we invite a politician to officiate at
a church event, that is political. So what is the appropriate level of
involvement?”

He points out that some scholars believe Jesus was crucified for political
reasons.
“People tried to make Him a king, but He refused. The politics of Jesus was
not the gutter politics of domination. It was one of non-violence, peace and
justice ... a broader definition of politics.”

Christians must go beyond the narrow definition of politics as Barisan
versus Pakatan, or Democrat versus Republican, Kit stresses.

“There are many types of involvement. When a residents’ association
discusses community concerns with the local wakil rakyat, that is political
involvement too. Some may want to write to newspapers or websites, or join a
group. Others may want to support quietly behind the scenes.”

Dr Ng hopes that churches can be more “big-hearted” about their talented
members who want to do “God’s work”.
“Apart from working in church, they should also give them the option to join
NGOs (that advocate socio-political issues). Similarly businessmen are not
just there to contribute to the church building fund. They can also help
bring social changes.”

What about supporting political parties?
Kit says some individual Christians may choose to contribute as a politician
of any party. As for the church itself, the “textbook answer” is that no, as
an institution, they should be politically non-partisan.

“I prefer that word to saying the church should be neutral. There may be
specific issues on which the church many need to make a political stand. No
one will say that the church should have been neutral about Hitler or
apartheid. Or about corruption.”

Kit adds that, historically, the Bible has also been “abused” by certain
parties to justify slavery and even apartheid.

“And part of the German church (tacitly) supported Hitler as well. But there
were others like Dietrich Bonhoeffer who resisted by insisting that Christ
was the true F├╝hrer (leader), not Adolph Hitler. The moment politicians
demand our total allegiance and obedience, we need to pause and reconsider
our priorities.”

Why did Malaysian Christians not engage in socio-political issues in the
past?
One reason is historical. As a former Methodist pastor once explained to
this writer, “the church came with the conquering colonial powers.
Naturally, it was reluctant to speak out against colonialism and
exploitation.”

In contrast, in 19th century Britain, Chris-tian politicians such as William
Wilberforce and his friends were at the forefront in the struggle to abolish
slavery throughout the empire. They also spoke out against the exploitation
of the Industrial Revolution, when child and women workers were literally
chained to their machines for up to 15 hours a day by greedy factory owners.
Some Christian evangelicals (charismatics) also subscribe to the concept of
what they call “The Last Days” before Armageddon.

“Since the world is getting worse, leave it to the Devil and let’s focus on
saving souls (for Heaven),” quips Ng.

Reports in The Star in November 2009 and March 2010 had it that a renowned
charismatic church in KL had allegedly mismanaged church funds. Plans for a
lavish “spaceship-like” RM150mil Christian “convention centre” had also
split the congregation.

After some 400 church members, who called themselves the Truth, Transparency
and Good Governance Group (TTG), demanded accountability for church funds,
their names were mysteriously removed from the membership rolls. They then
staged a demonstration against the church’s leadership and lodged police
reports.

Conservative middle class
Ng thinks the other reason for Christian passiveness is cultural.
“Sociologically, since Christians are a minority, they prefer to keep to
themselves and not ‘get into trouble’.

There is also the inherently conservative nature of middle class people.
“Urban English- and Chinese-speaking churches can be a comfortable and
conservative middle class institution,” says Kit. “They shy away from
rocking the boat.”

So why are they speaking up more now?
Traditionally, the church has played a big part in social work. Malaysian
Christian Association for Relief (Malaysian Care), for example, has
programmes for those with special needs. 

“It’s the Internet that has led the change in Christian thinking, not the
church, unfortunately,” he adds. “There was some discussion on
socio-political issues back in the 1990s. The Church as an institution has
been conservative, but it has been pushed to respond. Now, different leaders
are more vocal.”

Dr Ng observes that “Dr Mahathir’s regime was very authoritarian. Then came
Pak Lah. People felt there was more room to speak up and everybody, not just
Christians, did so.”

Kit, who was trained at the Malaysian Theological Seminary in the 1990s,
says local theologians have been discussing socio-political concerns for at
least 20 years, “but it did not go down to the grassroots”. In recent years,
however, the Lina Joy case and the Allah issue have raised Christian
awareness.

“More Christians are asking questions. The climate of the country is such
that the church has no choice but to discuss social and political issues.”
“For me, the turning point was the M. Moorthy incident (in which his Hindu
family members and the Muslim authorities tussled over the ‘right’ to bury
him),” says Kit. “I was struck by the whole idea of arguing over a dead
body.”

He thinks the younger Christians “who are not caught up in the old way of
thinking” are more willing to participate in socio-political change.

Spreading the message
While many Christians on the ground are still apprehensive about speaking
up, the organisations which represent them (at least in theory) have issued
a few press statements on current socio-political concerns.

These groups are the NECF, the Council of Churches Malaysia (or CCM, whose
members include the “mainline Protestant” churches such as the Methodists,
Lutherans, Anglicans and Presbyterians) and the Christian Federation of
Malaysia (or CFM, which includes all Christians both Protestant and
Catholic).

In January, the CCM criticised those trying to provoke religious conflict by
throwing pigs’ heads into mosques, using a cow’s head in a protest, or
burning churches.

In September 2008, when blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, MP Teresa Kok, and
journalist Tan Hoon Cheng were detained under the ISA, NECF said: “As a
national body that represents some one million evangelical Christians in
Malaysia, NECF Malaysia is deeply concerned over the use of the ISA and
printing laws against newspapers and individuals who are performing the
vital duty of bringing critical issues to the attention of the Malaysian
public for constructive debate.”

And in July 2009, after the death of political aide Teoh Beng Hock, CFM head
Bishop Ng Moon Hing said Christians were “appalled” by the “strange
circumstances” of his death.

So if organisations representing Christians are speaking up, why does it
seem strange for ordinary Christians to do so?

Bishop Tan notes that Christians have made “statement after statement”
through groups like CFM and also the MCCBCHST (Malaysian Consultative
Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism).
“The press picked up a few but most of the statements were not published,”
he observes.

If the mainstream media has certain “limitations”, should the church then
employ its own means to spread the word on such issues?

Kit says: “Sometimes Christians see that it’s the role of such organisations
to speak out while they continue the normal religions activities at church
level. On the ground, there is not much conscious talk about it.
“This makes some young people feel that the church is not relevant to the
changes happening around them. My view is that these issues should be
included in sermons, prayer items, church newsletters and group
discussions.”

Muslim-Christian relations
Recent religious controversies have also stoked Christian socio-political
awareness. Christians have long felt uneasy about the authorities’ decisions
on the approval of church buildings and the limitations imposed on (and
recent confiscation of) Bahasa Malaysia Bibles.

In more recent years, there have been contentious cases (eg Lina Joy), as
well as raucous protests against the Article 11 inter-faith dialogue and the
Bar Council forum on religious conversion. Then came the Allah issue and
various incidents of churches being set on fire.

As the authorities are perceived to be Muslim-controlled, there are
questions about sensitivities.

“When you say sensitivities, that actually depends on which Muslim I am
talking to,” says Kit, pointing out that the Muslims themselves have
different opinions on the Allah issue.

Dr Ng believes Christians should not become more politically active only
because of issues.
“I always tell church people, don’t seek justice only for Christians. Seek
justice for everybody, including Muslims,” he says.

Edward Lee, the DAP State Assemblyman for Bukit Gasing, PJ, who is well
known as a Christian politician, adds, “One municipal councillor from PAS
told me, ‘The way you do things is like us Muslims.’ We should be
magnamimous and give people a chance, not just criticise them. Malay culture
has a softer way of speaking.”

Of course, it is naturally easier for Malaysian Christians to speak out for
their “own” interests. But a higher and nobler move would be to speak out
for everybody’s common interests, on issues like corruption, the
environment, economics and education.

Kit agrees that this is a better demonstration of Christian love – which is
why he is one of the few local pastors to speak out in support of
Palestinians.

In January, Archbishop Murphy Packiam, the leader of Malaysian Catholics,
issued a call for prayer vigils for Gaza so that “God will soften the hearts
of the leaders to avoid the sledgehammer tactics of Israel or the acts of
Hamas, which only further the sufferings of innocent people in Palestine.”
Bishop Hwa writes that Christians who live in an Islamic context need to be
more “socially engaged”. This is because the Muslims affirm that their
religion is relevant to all of life and does not separate the spiritual and
secular realms.

“As long as Christians hold on to a dualistic worldview which leads us to
forget about our socio-political responsibilities ... our Muslim friends
will always see Christianity as an other-worldly faith that has no relevance
in the real world,” he says.

In short, if Christians spoke out more, they would be on the same page with
Muslims since Islam advocates fairness and justice, not just in religious
matters, but as an addeen (total way of life) that encompasses the moral,
devotional, social, economic and political aspects of a community.
Perhaps Christians can follow the example of, and indeed join hands with,
their fellow Muslims to speak up for a better society?

Kit notes that in Western countries like Germany, there is a “rich
tradition” of Christians espousing positive political values and even
forming political parties such as the Christian Democrats.

“This is similar to PAS. For instance, Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (Pas Central
Working Committee member) has described his party as Islamic Democrats. My
stereotyped view of PAS has changed.”

However, in practice, bridging the divide is not always so easy.
“We can disagree, but with respect,” says Kit. “Sometimes in inter-faith
dialogues, I sense that no one is really listening and we’re all talking
past each other.”

The future
Yeoh says there are many challenges to overcome.
The Klang House of Victory, a drug rehabilitation centre, was set up by a
Christian organisation. 

“I suppose people are inherently self-involved, preferring to prioritise
their own spiritual health and needs instead of others’. Living in a
materialistic and urban (consumer culture) setting does not help either.”
Bishop Paul Tan admits that the Catholic Social Teachings have reached very
few people. “As someone said, it’s the most well kept secret of the church!”
Lee believes many people are still conservative; she recalls how one
Catholic priest inPJ was asked to “lay off” political issues by his
parishioners.

“Things don’t usually improve with a big bang. We are planting seeds of
change. And we leave it to the conscience of members to decide how to
respond.”

And how should Christians respond?
In the heat of online political discussions, things can sometimes get
confrontational and aggressive, with name-calling and rough language
involved. “This reflects real sentiments, and we cannot ignore the
frustrations displayed there,” says Kit.

“But as Christians we are called to model ‘speaking the truth in love’. To
me, this means we focus on the issues at hand and refrain from getting
sucked into mud-slinging and personal attacks.

“While we may get into hot debates, we must not demonise the other person.
We must recognise his humanity, warts and all.

“It’s a delicate balance. The challenge is that Christians may come across
as sounding too nice and therefore unclear because we are not critical
enough.”

He adds that a good example of this balance between forgiveness and
frankness was seen during the South African Truth and Reconciliation
Commission, held after the fall of apartheid.
Lee says that getting politically involved is an expression of Christian
love.

“The essence of people is to love, otherwise they will die unhappy. I have
visited sick people in hospital and I find those who have lived a full life,
given and served well, tend to die peacefully. Those who are self-centred
are often more scared to die.”

Yapp adds: “We believe our actions are transformational in nature rather
than revolutionary. We seek to be the ‘salt and light’ to the world by being
a voice and a conscience of the nation to bring about real improvements. 

May God bless Malaysia!”