MOVING ON NEUTRAL?

Posted on August 25, 2008

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Life is about involvement. Yes, there is legitimacy in leisure, rest, sleep, even standing still. But only in the context of work and involvement. When Jesus said, “Come unto me … and rest”, he was speaking to those “who labour and are heavy laden”.

 

In the face of this, it is curious to say the least why the Christian leadership in Malaysia seems so slow, reluctant and unwilling to address issues of nation-building, social justice and governance. Why is it that Christian leaders feel that silence seems always to speak louder than words?  

 

Yes indeed it is written in the Book of Ecclesiastes, there is “a time to keep silence”. And in a sense, many leaders, and members of their congregations and other human beings in general, wish that at times they had kept their views or words to themselves. But in the biblical text this is immediately followed by  “a time to speak”. It is never meant to be a matter of “either or”. There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak.

 

Granted there is a risk. One can speak wrongly in terms of timing, tone, and content. In speaking out on something, for sure one can be misunderstood or one’s saying can be taken out of context or misquoted. But then there is also risk involved if we always keep silent. Silence can also be interpreted or misinterpreted.

 

In fact, the Christian leadership in the country has been so pronounced and prolonged in their silence that the signal is sent out LOUD & CLEAR to Malaysians of the various faiths and communities that the Christian Church is uninterested in the affairs of state, in lending its voice to issues of good governance.

 

In fact, other Malaysians have noted that the Christian churches are only interested in looking after themselves: their places of worship, building renovations, their rights, their bibles, what words they can use, and their burial grounds.

 

In fact, in pleading its understandable non-partisanship in politics, Christian churches have seemingly also held its peace and would not care to speak on critical matters concerning the equitable distribution of the nation’s resources, the status of state institutions, the state of the judiciary.

 

In the peninsula, we will soon be observing our 51st year of independence. Shortly, the auditor-general will be publishing its annual report. Will Malaysians get to hear words of wisdom and maturity from Christian leaders? Will there be Christian voices coming from recognised leaders instead of more of the same from small fry’s such as myself? Where are the John the Baptists of today? Where are the voices in the wilderness?

 

Why the silence? Are we Christians saying a Christian voice on national issues is insignificant, unimportant, unnecessary? Is preaching within church walls all that Christian leaders are called to be doing? It is alright if what the Christian Church says is eventually rejected by Malaysians out there. Better to be heard and rejected than not heard from at all.

 

Yet some churches feel the injustice when the home ministry sent show cause letters to Herald, The Catholic Weekly and Catholic Asian News (CAN) faulting them for not keeping strictly to narrow religious themes. But what is the use of a licence to speak if on the whole Christian leaders do not wish to speak and hasn’t been speaking in the first place? This terrible silence only gives credence to the home ministry’s interpretation that the two Catholic periodicals are the exception not the norm of Christian practice. Therefore they could be isolated and dictated to with inappropriate state attempts at defining what is Christian and what is not.

 

I, small fry though I am, dare say that in the main, today’s Christian churches keep silent because they fear to offend those who seemingly have power over them. I dare say that Christian churches keep silent not necessarily just through understandable prudence but that we have become cowards. I dare say that Christian churches no longer serve as conscience of the faith but may have tended to become pleasers of men.

 

There are times when we are called upon to be silent for the sake of God’s kingdom. That I am afraid is not the same thing as hesitation to speak for our own sake.

 

The neutral gear is engaged to keep the vehicle from unintentionally moving when it is inappropriate for it to move. The Christian Church cannot move on neutral. Neutrality is a strategy. It is intentional. It should not become a hiding place. Or an excuse to stay still or keep silent for an indeterminate period of time.

 

We need men and women leading churches to have the courage to engage either the forward or reverse gear to effect desirable movement for God’s sake and the sake of the poor and voiceless whom God has sent us to. 

 

We also need men and women in the churches to tell their church leaders to get off their comfort zones and start acting as Christ’s ambassadors and speak the truth sometimes in righteous anger but always in love. For Christ’s sake speak up and state your stand!

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in: Leadership