Wednesday, September 17, 2008

9/16, Jesus and Caesar

9/16 didn't happen. At the very least, it hasn't yet. But I'm concerned.

Because there's an unmistakable tendency/inclination to associate the 'Malaysian 9/16 narrative' with the story of God's kingdom being realised.
Why do we talk as if our deepest hopes for the country relies on something like 9/16 happening?

Why are we pushing the community to focus on virtually nothing else?
Is 9/16 the new promised land? Is Anwar the 'returning King' (Tolkien fans heads-up)? And is removing the Barisan Nasional leadership the will of God??!! (So far not many have said this OUT LOUD, but the silence is deafening...and what about the Christians serving under the BN right now? What do PKR Christians think about them, and vice-versa?)

Caesar didn't give the church her power, her calling, her tasks. And Caesar cannot take it away either. So why are we getting all excited about the possible replacement of one Caesar with another?

Granted the new Caesars appear to be more concerned about justice than the old ones (although this really depends on who you read, doesn't it?) and if more justice and less corruption happens, praise God.

But Caesar is still Caesar and as Caesar he still rules via the sword; the Kingdom community consists of people of the Cross.

The Sword. The Cross. One is about putting down the bad guys (justice). Another is about dying for the worst guys (mercy).

The Sword. The Cross. One involves the politics of power (remove the cronies). The other is a politics of suffering and forgiveness (transform them).

The Sword. The Cross. One is about the 'will of the people' (which raises the question: which people? the high/middle class? rural/urban? and will over what issue?). Another is about willing in the kingdom via our actions and words and prayers regardless of who is in government.

Am I saying we shouldn't care which party is in power? Of course we should. I'm personally quite keen on seeing 9/16 happen, too. I also hope that politically motivated arrests-without-trial will be abolished.

But Jesus didn't spend a whole lot of time rooting for a better human government, did He? Jesus didn't spend much of his prayer life praying for a transition of political power, did He?

Jesus wept when his friend, John the Baptist, was ISA-ed and even killed. But that event didn't revitalize Jesus' efforts to DE-THRONE or REPLACE the Jewish pseudo-government, did it? Whilst I'm sure He didn't condone it, Jesus didn't go around protesting these unjust laws, did He? And complaints and criticisms about the reigning administration were hardly Jesus' concern, were they?

Instead, He spent more time preparing and nurturing a community who would think and love on a scale and intensity never seen before.

Again, the kingdom of God doesn't require a Caesar and even works well even/especially(!) when Caesar objects.

If Caesar helps, great, though let's not pretend that:
1. The new Caesar will not himself bring new problems and injustices i.e. that it'll be an utopia (which is what, I fear, 9/16 seem to symbolize in the hearts of many - a new political Canaan)

2. That the mission and power of the Church is at all dependent on the new Caesar or, worse still, that the coming of the New Caesar is at all equated with the vision of the Malaysian church(!!) or plays an integral part in her calling.

Matthew 22:21.


Derek L. said...

Hypothetical thinking point re political and religious power...

Let's say Caesar declares Christianity illegal and starts cracking down. Let's say that the law is simple - denounce Christianity or your family pays the price.

What would you do then? Would you risk your family?

alwyn said...

the faith would have to go underground, as it did for the first few decades (maybe more) and even in some places in modern times recently (e.g. China, Mid-East, Communist countries).

but that's the *opposite* problem of the situation happening in M'sia, where many churches appear to be aligning themselves with a certain political party.

Bob K said...

Read the original .. found the last sentence hilarious :D. I'd suspect most Christians would be more inclined towards the "D" entity rather than what you originally proposed.

Nonetheless, this is a good challenge to the Church, at least the more activism oriented minority, but perhaps lacking some qualification? Appreciate the heads up though :)

Al said...

thanks for the thots, Bob.

but you lost me: what's the "D" entity? :)

At this stage, about the only line I would qualify is the one where I compared 'justice' and 'mercy' (where I'd say that God will bring about *ultimate* justice eventually, except: i. it won't look very much like 'earthly' justice and ii. right now our primary marching orders are to show mercy, and only secondarily to 'fight for' justice - and yes it *appears* counter to much of what 'civil society' is doing, but, well...).

the issues are deep and worth exploring...i think it tends to get at the very heart of what the faith is about.

Bengbeng said...

read thie piece. while i get the gist of it... i find it a little unsettling though. i wouldn't equate Anwar with all that u mentioned. perhaps to a small niche grp... but the world is all about diversity :)

no offense meant :) I am jus a nobody

Derek L. said...

Ah, I didn't mean what the faith would do. I was asking what YOU (Alwyn) would do? Would you risk your little boy and your wife? Let's get personal here. :)

For me, I'm willing to risk myself for something I believe in. But if you're asking me to risk someone else... That's a whole more complicated situation. I don't know how I'd handle it.

alwyn said...

It's a paradox. It's hard to anticipate what one would do about a crisis BEFORE it happens, because as in all crises', one doesn't "think" very well.

I would like to HOPE that I'll do something which can *both* preserve my family's safety AND be a faithful expression of the kind of suffering love I believe the Bible teaches.

Going underground MAY be one option.