Are churches ‘misusing’ the pulpit? Yes, they should!

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The problem is not political indoctrination, it’s about misrecognising the fact that virtually all church-goers are already politically indoctrinated, observes Alwyn Lau.

GE13 draweth nigh. Bersih 3.0 has taken place. Election fraud is imminent. Putrajaya’s war drums are sounding. What do Christians do? Especially in church on Sunday mornings?

We know the answer of people like Steve Roads who, recently in The Star, expressed his concerns about churches misuing the pulpit. Folks like Roads are turned off by what they call ‘political sermons’ which incite the holy and harmless Sunday worshippers against the government. And – gasp – some pastors are even inviting non-Christian politicians to speak at workshops, all of which compounds the apolitical super-spiritual Christians with ‘political motives’.

This, we are told, is bad because politics is divisive and emotive and good Jesus-lovers shouldn’t be exploited by opportunists in politics. Instead of receiving the warm sweet milk of spirituality, the fear among some quarters is that Christians nowadays are being forced fed the harsh carnal whiskey of political indoctrination! Far be it that churches become the place where the neutrality of Christians are undermined and that pious motto – “politics is about power and Christianity is about sacrifice” – reversed and sacrileged. No, pastors should spend more time in ‘introspection’, setting church affairs right before indulging in self-righteous ‘pontificating’.

Tough news, Steve. We Christians are out of luck. Because the problem isn’t about us being infected with political sermons; it is that apolitical sermons are already ‘political’ in the purest way. By refusing to discuss and preach on local issues of justice or oppression we would be behaving AS IF these don’t exist and by so doing justify them.

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The problem is not political indoctrination, it’s about mis-recognising the fact that virtually all church-goers are politically indoctrinated. The problem isn’t about how politics is divisive, it’s about being ignorant of the severe divisions and inequalities in the country caused by governmental actions. The problem isn’t about pastors not putting right things within the Church, it’s about how churches are TOO concerned with administration to the point where church-goers can get upset because a wall-deco was hung wrongly but feel nothing if 20 people are wrongly imprisoned.

The problem isn’t that Christians’ spiritual desires are being hijacked; it’s that Christians have a pretty skewed idea of what it means to be spiritual. We’re so obsessed with buying (and renewing) our hellfire insurance we couldn’t care less if the world burns. Of course there’s another heavenly world awaiting us but a key part of that culmination involves the Church acting in a way that earth is ‘as it is in heaven’. Yet, how can the Church do this if it can’t tell its church members to, among other things, kick Barisan Nasional out of Putrajaya? We tell ourselves in the kopi-tiams that 1Malaysia is a lie but on the pulpit we act as if it’s, excuse me, ‘Gospel truth’?

“But hold it, Alwyn, I never said churches should support Barisan Nasional or 1Malaysia on the pulpit!” – alas, you don’t have to! That we even use the term ‘apolitical’ means that we have accepted the distinction between what is in the ‘political’ domain and what isn’t, and this distinction is precisely what political usurpers want the people to embrace.

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There is nothing Barisan Nasional would love more than for the rakyat to believe that certain activities are neutral, ‘merely cultural’, and so on. Likewise, there is nothing Najib & Co. would love more than churches telling their flock that the pulpit is not a place to talk politics because, in one stroke, the act of speaking against the government would be denied a primary place within the worship life of the church i.e. the sermon.

To fail to acknowledge the above and to sift them through the lens of the Bible – and what other purpose of the pulpit is there other than to examine things of the world through the Word of God? – is not only to delude ourselves, it is also to prevent truth from doing its work.

Of course the paradox is that preachers have already made it very clear in many other ways which political party they support. If you check out the Facebook links of many preachers and listen to their conversations, it’s quite evident who they believe Christians should vote for. Furthermore, the very act of pasting a link on one’s Facebook status and raising an issue during the sermon (e.g. Jais’ raid on DUMC) is, for all intents and purposes, an act of political side-taking.

Put bluntly, Malaysian preachers are ALREADY – by their actions, online activity, conversations, etc. – “telling their congregation who to vote for”. Yet on the pulpit everyone expects preachers to be ‘neutral’; since when is the pulpit a mini-Geneva?

Does all the above not sound like the situation faced by one of those angels in the movie Dogma, played by Alan Rickman, who was allowed to see, touch and even sip alcohol but never to drink or swallow it? Hence, he had to keep spitting out the liquid each time? So, in church and out of church, Christians aggressively behave and talk like partisan members, but on the pulpit everybody ‘spits out’ their partisan loyalties?

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Are we misuing the pulpit? That’s the wrong question. The right one is: How must we ‘misuse’ it even more?

Alwyn Lau is a regular Aliran online reader.

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Paul Raja
Paul Raja
7 May 2012 2.28pm

The unfortunate thing is that Steve Roads and the like were asleep when Mahathir had subtly indoctrinated the church with fear for the government. Almost all church leaders fed on the spirit of fear. The church leaders in turn fed their congregations with the same spirit; may be including Steve Roads himself.That’s the reason why Christians now turn a blind eye on corruptions, abuse of power and money, and all sorts of evil.

Any awakening and responsible church leaders must undo the indoctrination that they have unconsciously done to their congregations for many decades. Where are the prophets for the nations who stand for truth and rigtheousness?

upsidedown119
upsidedown119
6 May 2012 3.25pm

Dear Peter, When Christ was on earth, there were many attempts to rope him in to support one side of the political argument – Jewish struggle against the Romans. But our Lord Jesus Christ would have none of it! Both sides practiced injustice (e.g indiscriminate killing – the Jewish Zealots’ murders and the Roman massacres, one of which was carried in Galilee – Luke 13:1) in their struggle. Both sides were in the grip of the spiritual disease called Sin. Jesus Christ dealt decisively with this problem by paying the penalty of Sin on behalf of all mankind through His death and resurrection. Both Zealots and Romans were saved by Him and in Him were they reconciled. Uphold justice by all means, but for whom and in Whose eyes? If divine justice is upheld without mercy, ALL will be thrown into Hell. But if mercy through Christ is to be exercised, it must be to ALL sinners – you, me, PR and BN! And if the Church becomes partisan in politics, it will not only be unfaithful to its commission, it will also effectively deny mercy… Read more »

sosmalysia
sosmalysia
16 Nov 2013 11.32pm
Reply to  upsidedown119

have you heard of the saying that it is no point to be so heavenly / spiritually focussed that one ceases to be of earthly use ? Do endear mercy to all , both sides of the political divide, but surely one crosses the line when one by reason of its prowess ( as if blessed – honestly or otherwise) , it choses to impair and denigrate the wellbeing of its ruled – the masses. the end does not justify the means…… injustice is injustice by whaichever name it is called. A church is either God’s dutiful servant to combat injustice or else it is no church at all. No apologies to the purpetrators .

Peter Sinniah
Peter Sinniah
6 May 2012 12.24am

CHRIST represents JUSTICE and as a Christian if you fail to uphold justice when you see it being robbed, then you are no CHRISTIAN.Fullstop. The pulpit is right in upholding justice.

upsidedown119
upsidedown119
6 May 2012 12.02am

Sir, Christians do not fight against flesh and blood (Eph 6:12). We pray both for Najib and Anwar, BN and PR. To us it is God who appointed them and it will be God who will dispose of them in accordance with His good and perfect will. We are NOT neutral between good and evil, but denounce evil in accordance with the Bible and promote the good, also in accordance with the Bible. But evil affects both sides. Therefore both sides of the political divide needs our spiritual support if they are to discharge their duties well. Evil, according to the Bible, is personal to all. Therefore BOTH sides need our spiritual support to overcome. That is the spiritual work of Christians on a personal basis and the work of the Church as the Body of Jesus Christ and the family of believers. This work is discharged via prayer and counsel if sought by any party of the political divide. But in the Church during worship, the focus is on the building up of the believer and the honouring of God. Therefore, politically partisan sermons are… Read more »