SLOW TO ANGER

Posted on August 13, 2008

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In these uncertain times when no one of us can be blamed for thinking that the country is fast going under, there is wisdom in our respective sacred books which can help us to achieve justice and keep the peace. Regrettably, more often than not, religion is blamed for bringing about the opposite effects and the undesirable results.

The truth of the matter is that this undesirable situation we Malaysians find ourselves in is more often than not less to do with what the Sacred Books actually say but how we who read them interpret and apply them.

One of the more strange but unfortunately more common conduct of those of us who claim to be religious in our respective ways is the curious feeling we have of having to defend our respective faiths. This feeling that our beliefs and, by extension of that, our God need to be defended is a religious phenomenon found in all religious circles through all ages.

The notion that God needs vigorous defending by me who is but His mere creature is a psychologically mind-boggling concept and in my saner moments should show me how ridiculous I am and can be or have been.

Who needs to defend who? In many places in the Bible, it is clear that it is us human beings whom God has often found necessary to defend. When I am called upon to do any defending, the Bible speaks in such fashion: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-17, Holy Bible). That is the defending I am to be doing.

Where the Bible may even speak of the idea of defending the faith, I take it that it means not physical action as such but through the civil and intellectual means of clarifying and explaining the faith as well as the spiritual means of healing and deliverance (from evil).

In religion of any and every kind, the tendency to be mistaken about how to “defend” or advocate for our respective religion of choice is ever present and alas, only too potent. When in our religious faith we get it right, the result is sublime. When, alas, we get it wrong, the result is torturous, bizarre, bigoted and everybody suffers. Including the very religion we profess to defend.

The best promoter of religious faith is good conduct. It has been said: “Your action speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you are saying.” Bodily and verbal violence is not virtuous conduct by any religious measure. It is only too easy for me to react to the anger demonstrated last weekend with anger of my own. But anger begets anger. Our prayers must be for conduct which will build bridges which can connect us and bring us together.

I leave it to experts of the respective religions to expound the wise, rational, wholesome and virtuous exhortations found in their respective Sacred Books. It is critical that those who truly know their respective religions should speak up for the very survival of the Malaysian society.

For myself, in the after gloom of last weekend’s reminder of how fractious our Malaysian society has become, when rationality and religious calm were abandoned, I found solace in these sacred words which is exactly what our nation desperately needs:

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.”

(Letter of James 1.19-20, Holy Bible)

The preacher that is me is sorely tempted to elaborate on these wise sayings. But let me for once resist the temptation to add my own human words to these Holy Scripture which is more than capable of speaking for itself.

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Posted in: Perspective