Wong Chun Wai doesn’t understand essence of faith

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Holding a simplistic view that faith should be kept out of politics is equivalent to saying there is no need for ethics in nation building, says Ronald Benjamin.

wong chun wai
Wong Chun Wai – Photograph: chartnexus.com

The comment by Wong Chun Wai in The Star (11 November 2012) that faith should be kept out of politics in his criticism of certain churches seems to be noble but lacks intellectual and spiritual insights on what faith is all about. The question is, can faith be kept out of politics?

Faith in God is not merely a private affair of individuals but it encompasses spiritual living besides being a contributor to ethical living in society. Faith finds its expression sometimes through political movements when fundamental issues that effect the social foundations of society such as support for gay marriages, extreme feminism, social injustice, and religious exclusivity touch the moral conscience of citizens. When society seems divided, people of faith can build bridges by seeing the good in others besides standing up for the poor and oppressed.

The real concern in Malaysia is not that faith in God should be kept out from politics but the misuse of religion to score political points and divide people along ethnic and religious grounds. The churches are basically responding to these issues, and Nurul Izzah Anwar’s statement on freedom of religion basically reflects these realities.

If Wong Chun Wai is really concerned about churches being used for political purposes, he should write more articles on the root causes of ethno-religiosity and its effects on people of different faiths and how this ideology continues to retard intellectual and spiritual freedom.

Holding the simplistic view that faith should be kept out of politics is equivalent to saying there is no need for ethics in nation building.

Ronald Benjamin, an Aliran member, is a human resources practitioner based in Ipoh.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Religious teaching cannot be a private affair when the state seeks to impose regulations which infringe on it and contrary-wise, a public affair when it comes to taxing citizens of one faith to aid another or those of no faith to aid all.
    – R. Lawrence Siegel, quoted in One Woman’s Fight, by Vashti Cromwell McCollum (1951).

    • A state has the sovereign right to do anything its constitution allows it to do. Even if that means taxing its people, then applying those taxes to others (in this case you say of a different religion). It would be wrong if it did not tax the Malays and Muslims in Malaysia’s context and taxed non Muslims alone.

      How many non Muslims receive the benefit of others in the practice of their religious faiths like the Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Taoists and Chinese in general from the relief from taxation given to their numerous foundations and charitable trusts to give education from world class educational institutions exclusively to their own?

      It was only till Mahathir changed it all that more than 2 Malays per classroom were allowed into Christian schools. There is still a lot of catching up to do.

      The quote by Lawrence Siegel is out of context and distorts the truth.

      In any event the contributions by the Church of England and the Vatican to Christian religious institutions are also contributions from taxes collected from people of other races and religions in the source countries and channelled to adherents of their own religion in places like Malaysia. It cuts both ways …

      Think about that.

  2. Correction in my previous posting on the subject:
    Should read Wong Chun Wai instead of Wong Chin Huat.

    • I m a bit dissappointed that u dare not write down for all and sundry what is your personal definition of church and latter politics. I find you therefore of no merit to discourse with me on such an important subject. Btw, are you a paid cybertrroper putting in some dutiful arguments to disallow christians from engaging with the governance of a nation of which the likes of you will no doubt be subject to ultimately n for better or for worse? Bye bye , I will refrain from engaging with you in view of your not publishing your personal definition which I conclude that you are not qualified to pronounce the role of church . Much as I respect your democratic right to your opinion but which christians will not agree to. Look forward to your thoughts on other subjects aside from christianity per se.

  3. Its is hypocritical of Aliran to publish such unfounded criticism of Wong Chin Huat. Religion and “faith” (a belief in something for which there is no proof) are two pillars of politics. Religious morality is a differnt thing altogether. Thats what Chin Huat appears to have been trying to convey.

    Keeping the Churches out of politics in Malaysia is a must for a number of reasons. They especially in the Catholic Church (and in the various other protestant and Anglican branches of Christianity)serve not a foreign God but foreign governments.

    The Protestants and Anglicans serve the government of Britain and its colonies whose “titular head” is theirs too.

    The Queen of England and her appointee in the Archibishop of Cantebury are political appointments subject to a foreign constitution. Their adherents and followers therefore also serving the same foreign constitutions and governments are subject to their laws and rule.

    The Vatican is a more blatant example of the point. The Vatican is a sovereign state with temporal and spiritual powers which their faithful must uphold against any other law. A dangerous principle if given force through being compelled by the clergy which the Catholic church in Malaysia appears now to be doing.

    “One man cannot serve two masters. for he will either love the one or hate the other”. A quote from the Christian bible.

    • you have insufficient understanding of the dynamics of religion entwining politics , zero understanding of christianity , so may i suggest to you not to further embarras yourself and desist your writings. Stick to other subjects , but not on christianity of which you cannot fathom the truth and integrity it espouses, especially as how its values implementeable to nation building. We serve a higher God. Seek Him while you yet have your breath n may your eyes and ears be open to the truth for it , when found, will set you free. So help you God.

      • you have insufficient understanding of the dynamics of religion entwining politics , zero understanding of Christianity” SOS

        You have insufficient understanding or capacity to understand….full stop.
        What an ignorant rant and rave for a response. This subject is clearly out of your depth.

        • Dear sir ,Do you even know what u r saying when u pronounce that the church shall be kept out of Malaysian politics ? R u talking about dichotomy or r u saying other copuntrie’s churches can ?
          May i ask you to do a simple test honestly. Do not ask anybody else except you yourself at this very instant upon throwing your reply, tell us in your own words, how you define church ? I should wager a bet that you will not be able to define it correctly in most probability. And if my guess is right about your soon-to-be
          How shall you liken it to the other religion having their hearts and souls into politics or are you susceptible to selective religion coopting politics ? I havent asked you on how you defined politics in the context of your professed authority of distancing church from politics ???
          haha, may i leave you these two big words for you to chew about. Take your timebut please answer the definition yourself >Then only will i see it fit to continue challenging your profound verdict that the church is to be kept out of politics – in Malaysia ?

          • Perhaps if you cease trying to impress yourself and re write or re phrase what it is you are trying to say in your scrambled message above I could attempt a response. But then again there is a moderator and if it passes him I suppose its okay by you too?

  4. The sooner the better Malaysia will be if people like Wong Chun Wai begins to understand and accepts that politics and religion is intertwined. Also for MCA to accept that the chinese are not all buddhists so stop plying politics with religion, there are million of Chinese who are, buddhists, million who are Christians and million who are muslims or even Hindus.
    Therefore stop playing politics with religion,the way like (those) … from Umno with Islam, the Malaysian Chinese are all converts of all known religions.

  5. How can we christians stand aside and not help to right a wrong? If we keep quiet it means we condone such wrongs in the eyes of others.Christians should not only be seen to be righteous but do righteously too however inconvenient the issue be.

  6. Wong Chun Wai is nothing more than a … who (is beholden) to the political master. He doesn’t has conscience … to uphold ethical journalism.

  7. Power lies in service. Guess he conveniently left that out. To ask churches to turn a blind eye to the politics governing the nation is to ignore the teachings of the Gospel. At the end of the day, we are asked to live our lives as free persons. If in Malaysia today, we can’t have that with pockets of society living persecuted lives, being marginalised, left out of nation building or even decisions regarding their own lives, can the church just watch and pray silently? Faith must be actively working in our lives and not just a matter of hanging on to structures or traditions. If we can’t question our political masters as the faithful, are we not heading towards political tyranny?

  8. Ronald Benjamin appears to imply that mixing religion and politics will have only one outcome – good outcome.

    Unfortunately, the history provides a more balanced view than Benjamin’s. The mix of religion and politics have had plenty of disastrous consequences.

    Perhaps Benjamin should read both the even and odd pages of history. Not just the even pages.

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