Sunday, November 19, 2006

The wrap: Malaysia edition

Malaysia's had a quite a rough ride this year, even from my rather distanced perspective. The long, drawn-out war between Dr.M and Badawi, with the spectre of Anwar Ibrahim lingering in the background, and an upturn (perceived or otherwise) in Islamic fundamentalism and inflammatory racial rhetoric, along with the usual complaints about corruption and injustice must have wearied all Malaysians. We seem to be approaching a delicate moment in our history - where should we go from here?

While Malaysia fiddles, its opportunities are running dry - This piece by the Australian columnist Michael Backman touched a raw nerve somewhere. Despite Rafidah's summary dismissal of the article, the truth is, it eloquently articulated the concerns of many Malaysians.

For those interested in an overview of the Dr.M-Badawi faceoff, TIME ASIA has done a decent story. It probably won't be available free forever.

Kuala Lumpur assembly marked by power struggle - An concise AP report of the recent UMNO assembly. For one of the many examples of some of the things that were on the agenda, see here. I have sympathy for our Prime Minister, but this over-the-top NST editorial is just ridiculous. Finally, see this Al-Jazeera article to see how often news is spun differently in both the English-speaking and vernacular press.

Farish Noor is oft-lauded as Malaysia's most straight-talking, irreverent, public intellectual. Utilising postcolonial theory and a deconstructionist framework, he argues that the Malays have accepted the racial construct that British colonisers had imposed on them, namely that of the idle and barbaric race.. It is such a construct that is ironically used to perpetuate existing power relations. I'm not sure if I can fully accept the methodology that Dr. Noor employs (can everything be reduced to discourse analysis and ideology?); nevertheless there are insights to be gleaned from here. There is an an edited version available at this Pakistani newspaper.

[On a related note, here is an Intro to Postcolonial studies which might help if you're feeling a little lost after reading Noor. Dr. Ng Kam Weng's Exploring the role of Orientalism is quite interesting as well.]

The Agora has posted a press release from NECF Malaysia in response to UMNO President's Presidential address.
Also worth reflecting on (and praying through!) is their statement on the Lina Joy case.

Some important Scriptural principles regarding government.

Life as a secret Christian convert, from the BBC. I hope to catch the repeat on radio tomorrow.

Finally, some words from Scripture:

"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."
- 1 Tim 2:1-2

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Baptism and the family of God

Tonight 2 people got baptised at my church. One was, in her own words, a "mouthy feminist", who had come from a nomimally Catholic background but who abandoned God in her teens before her "annoying friends" (said affectionately of course!) kept telling her about Jesus and showing her what Christian love is really like. She saw the truth, but ran away from it for a while, before eventually turning and declaring her faith in Christ.

Another was a Jew, who had been told, and believed all his life that Jesus was a blasphemer who had rightfully been crucified, and was primarily a "God for the Gentiles", a false Messiah. In addition, this seem to be justified by the atrocities that was committed in the name of Christ, such as the Crusades. But against his will, going through a Christianity Explored course (similar to Alpha, but more rigorous and with a particular emphasis on looking at Mark's gospel) he found himself having to ask the hard questions, and after looking through more than 430 Old Testament prophecies which was fulfilled by Jesus, he knew that he could no longer afford to reject Jesus.

2 rather different stories, but I tell them because at the baptism pool, we are reminded that their old selves have been hidden with Christ in God, and "raised with him through your faith in the power of God." (Col 2:12) They're joyful events! I think they're one of the highlights of church life.

But I also tell them to remind myself, and others, of its significance, not just for the individual, but for the Christian community; indeed, baptism is one of its most visible signs. I've been trying to think through Christianly the implications of our captivity to consumer culture in recent weeks (prompted by some of the alarming trends I've been hearing about in publishing). I haven't gotten very far, hitting many dead ends, but the practice of baptism, I believe, helps lay some of the foundations for a response. For baptism reminds us firstly, that we do not have to live on the world's terms, but instead, we should be bound up in the Christian metanarrative - one where, knowing that our selves are hidden, can now "set our minds on things above" for "when Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." (Col. 3:1-4). It is fundamentally, a narrative infused with hope, a reminder of what really matters. It sets us all on a level playing field, where we are "no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household." (Ephesians 2:20), and reminds us to proritise people ahead of commodities.

I also very much appreciated how during the baptism, we all, rather than just the minister, participated in the liturgy - the asking of questions. It really felt like we as a family were welcoming them. And so I'll end this post with some insights from Andy Crouch, who says them better than I possibly can.
" ...Baptism [is primarily about] Christ's commitment to us. And yet baptism could be the church's most powerful response - perhaps its only response - to individualism. We who are baptized are no longer our own, we belong to God...
Baptism is our birth into a new order, a new community, something different from the world in which our prebaptized bodies eked out an existence. It is also an ongoing testimony to the evangelistic work of the church, which is not content with self-replication (something that is so easily presumed in communities that baptize infants) but is always seeking the lost and offering them the opportunity to truly lose themselves and then be found, by dying and rising with Christ. The only postindividualistic community is the fellowship of the baptized."

- p.81, Andy Crouch, The Church in Emerging Culture: Five Perspectives; see also his comments along the same lines on the Lord's Supper in pp.82-83.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Reboot attempt #491

When your own sister texts you wondering if this blog is permanently dead, I guess it was time to get a move on. That, and the fact that today has been quite a depressing day. It's been stop-start all year round here, and I even missed one whole month for the first time ever, I believe. I've finally changed the tagboard, and will try to update my book/films list and maybe even refurbish the links a little at some point, hopefully soon.

But what have I been up to is the question uppermost on your minds, I'm sure. I mean, c'mon, from the moment you managed to clear the grogginess from your head after destroying the alarm clock to the moment you jumped into bed after stealing the duvet from your spouse/sibling/flatmate/cat in the dead of night, that's all you were thinking about!


As it turns out, my student days are not quite over. Yes, rather surreally, I have joined the ranks of postgraduate students - something that I never in my wildest dreams actually fathomed. But I guess this is a little different - I'm actually doing a more vocationally-based Masters (in Publishing), as opposed to my first degree (in English Literature) which was very academic in nature, although I will still be writing a research dissertation at the end of it.

Also, after years of resisting, I have, after 3 years, finally ended up in London, at least for the coming year. If things go well, it looks like London will be my base for the next couple of years actually. I guess I feel more prepared for London life now, having had time to mature a little(at least, I hope so!). I'm glad I lived in Shrewsbury and then Oxford first though, to get a better glimpse of this country since London is so atypical of England.

One question I've been asked quite frequently recently is along the lines of how I'm finding/settling in London, and to tell you the truth, I still don't quite know. In some ways, I've gotten used to life here fairly quickly, since I've been here for short periods of time before, so the public transport system, for example, is familiar. The college I'm attending is very different from Oxford, but, at least right now, I'm actually welcoming the change. On the other hand, I do miss the more cosy atmosphere of Oxford, and as is the case when moving to a new place, developing friendships take time. I think it's even harder than usual and can be very frustrating in a huge place like London, and I do miss some of my old friends. It's hard to find kakis to go watch a movie with, especially now that the cinema is no longer 5 minutes down the road!

Anyway, I'll try to weave blogging into the fabric of my life better and let's hope that I'll actually manage a decent run of posts at least once this year!