I was at a dinner tonight, and as is fairly common at such occasions, conversation soon turned towards the injustice located in the structures of Malaysian society. There was the litany of complaints directed at our education system, corrupt bureaucracy and so on.
I've been thinking about why I usually feel a little uncomfortable whenever the floodgates open. OK, so part of it is probably that by nature, I'm not a happy bunny when it comes to conflict. I like the still waters, not the grand rapids, thank you very much. Maybe I'm guilty of apathy. But I do believe that to pretend that all is well, to be tidak apa
about the wrongs that the innocent suffer, the way that so many crooks seem to get away with their abuse of power, is wrong, plain and simple. It's also probably fair to say that in context, the 2008 political tsunami notwithstanding, such talk arises perhaps because there is a feeling that we need to be woken up from our general malaise. We can't maintain the status quo forever. So such conversations are full of heat and light.
And yet. Here are a few reasons why I feel unsettled whenever such talk occurs among Christians (btw, this isn't necessarily true of tonight's conversations; they simply sparked the thought):
1. These conversations sometimes have the whiff of self-righteousness around them
. Look at how rubbish everything else is. It's as if the taint of sin has affected everything and everyone apart from the one pontificating away. We feel justified by the way we remain above the fray. The purity of our motives. Surely there must be a humbler way to express our anger and sadness at the way the current system is broken.
2. These conversations are often tinged with cynicism
. Things will always be this way. It's better to send our children away. I'm like, whatever happened to God bringing all things in heaven and earth under Christ? Whatever happened to God putting the world to rights? Maybe again, by nature, I'm an idealist, a romantic, a head-in-the-clouds kind of guy, but it seems to me that Christians have the gospel - good news - the good news that shouts "Jesus is the crucified King!" and calls on us to turn from sin to the living God. And that should shape our responses to injustice.
3. These conversations lose sight of God
. My immediate point above suggests that sometimes we act more like fatalists than theists. We forget God is on the throne. He does care about what goes on in his world, not just churchy things. He can effect change, and he loves to use his people to do it. And although contemporary Christianity sometimes shun the image of God as judge, it's actually good news, because it reveals our God is just; the bad guys aren't gonna get away with it. But our God is a merciful God as well. And this is great news, because to our horror, we discover that actually, we are more like those we condemn than we care to admit. We too are in need of mercy, and in view of God's mercy, we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, not the other way around.
O Lord, the next time we are tempted to recite from the Book of Common Complaints, help us to remember instead the Lord's Prayer. For there we find nourishment in remembering who our Father is, strength as we ask for his kingdom to come, and humility as we acknowledge our need for forgiveness. Then maybe we can go out into the world and shine like stars in the universe, as we hold out the word of life.
Labels: commentary, culture, Malaysia, personal reflections, politics