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Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Bible and the Ballot - Book Review

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This book is relevance with the current political scenario in our country. I believes many of us would rather avoid being politically involve than take the courage to understand the objective of political matter. It is a war of establishing agenda and not gutter politic. Ignorance is a bliss. Some of my friends would say, as a Christian we should never be involved political matter, it is DIRTY. The dire motive made by politician causing us stray from politic's world. Lets us not be fooled with such tactical works, but I encourage all of us to look at political with positive stand of view, because towards the end, the outcome of the election will determine the policies maker  and that will affect us, either you like politic or not, we need to pay for the consequences. What is morally wrong cannot be condone. Strive for injustice and lets us used our right to choose the politician who serve the nation with righteousness. Lets us change our country political landscape and transformed this land as GOD FEARING nation. 

I personally challenge each and everyone of us to practice our right as citizenship. Restore this nation to the right place.

Let us learn from the book of Micah - Micah 4:5.

The name Micah is a shortened form of Micaiah which means "Who is like unto the Lord?" The longer form of this name appears (In the Hebrew text) in Jeremiah 26:18. In Micah 7:18 a word play is made on his name. "Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?"Micah was a man of the country.

A great deal of Micah's message may well fall within the time of King Ahaz. "The corrupt and idolatrous conditions reflected throughout the book may be related to the low ebb of morality and religious interest during the days of Ahaz" (Schultz, The Old Testament Speaks). "Socially and morally Judah presented a dark picture" at this time (Hailey). The wealthy coveted the land of the people around them (Micah 2:1-2). They robbed the poor (Micah 2:8f). Corrupt business ethics were practiced (Micah 6:11). There were numerous false prophets (Micah 2:11) who prophesied for reward (Micah 3:11). The priests also taught for a price (Micah 3:11). Rulers and judges could be bribed (Micah 7:3).

The book of Micah contains a three fold message of sin, judgment and hope. The lower class people of Samaria and Jerusalem are the main recipients of this prophecy. However, Micah preaches to the rich when opportunity permits. Micah addresses issues that deal with the common people of Israel during the time of Hosea (the prophet to the Northern Kingdom) and Isaiah (the great prophet to the Southern kingdom) to princes and kings.   All three prophesied during the reign of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1). Micah did not deal with world politics as Isaiah did, but dealt with the moral, civil, and economic conditions of the country. The message fundamentally was the same sin, destruction, restoration, and the Messianic age.

In this book, we will encountered with various point that against dishonest trade practices and the illegal acquisition of land by wealthy (likely foreign) landowners, who forced eviction of local farmers, and the judges and priests who allow and endorse it. He foretells the divine punishment of Samaria for the influence their practices have on Judah, which, in his view, had resulted in the corruption of their political and judicial systems.

Book Review

CHRISTIAN thought on the believer's involvement in politics can be a minefield of explosive opinions. Some say politics is dirty and Christians should not get involved but instead live peaceful and quiet lives. Others feel it is enough just to pray for our nation but act no further, for we are to submit to the governing authorities.

Yet others believe it is necessary for the Church to speak up on political issues that concern justice and public welfare, but that the pulpit should never be partisan in the sense of endorsing any party. Individual Christians, however, are free to choose their affiliations.

Into this spectrum enters The Bible and the Ballot, a joint publication by Graceworks and Friends in Conversation (FIC). One of the book's essays propose that in certain situations, it is alright for a preacher on the pulpit to advocate support for a particular party or condemn another. This is if one party "far better 'fits' the image of justice and forgiveness than another". It is argued that a preacher making such a recommendation is not necessarily being partisan.

Such views are bound to ignite debate. NECF, for one, subscribes to the theological position of American theologian Carl FH Henry that the Bible has no mandate for the institutional Church to use the name of Christ in endorsing election candidates, laws or policies. Of course the Church must speak against injustice, but when she does, her mandate is to state the biblical criteria by which all people, including human agencies like government, are to abide. And God does lay down the standards expected of governments. The prophetic books of the Old Testament are replete with such injunctions to the evil kings of Israel.

Henry once said, "The church must do a more effective job of enunciating theological and moral principles that bear upon public life". In the course of doing that, however, the Church may be misunderstood as being politically partisan, even if that is not her intention. In the general course of things, though, the church should not get into endorsing specific political solutions, unless perhaps, there are clear instances where the government acts against the very fundamentals of human existence. It is for further debate to define the criteria of such instances where the Church has to make specific endorsements, such as the times Dietrich Bonhoeffer lived in under Nazi Germany.

Whatever your view, The Bible and the Ballot is a thought-provoking read. It is worth some scrutiny for any Christian eager to take the discussion on engaging the public sphere further.

Public sphere engagement is a topic rarely addressed from the pulpit but is clearly something the writers in this book have wrestled with. Alwyn Lau argues for naming names from the pulpit, citing specific episodes in Scripture where evil doers were called to account. Christopher Chong writes about the public's role in strengthening democracy. Joshua Woo looks at how and what to pray for in politically complex situations. Rev Tan Soo Inn outlines the reasons why he would vote for a change of government, citing "mismanagement and corruption" as a top reason. Rama Ramanathan reflects on his participation in illegal assemblies as the power of physical witness. Rev Sivin Kit in the book's "Afterword" ties all views together in a conclusion on how Christians can be a blessing to Malaysia. The book carries a Foreword by Rev Datuk Ng Moon Hing, the Anglican Bishop of West Malaysia.

The writers, a few of whom are in academia or seminary, are members of FIC, an online forum of Christian discussion on integrating faith, spirituality, community and society.

The book retails for RM15 per copy and is available at Canaanland bookstores.


An Interview with Joshua Woo, Co-editor of "The Bible and the Ballot"