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Thursday April 26, 2012

Church has social role

I WRITE in response to “Churches misusing the pulpit” (The Star, April 25). The writer’s arguments seem meaningful but he has failed to see the bigger context of things when he says that churches should remove politics from the pulpit.

I do not know which mainstream church he goes to, but to say that sermons from several mainstream churches incite people against the Government is misleading and untrue.

The main gist of the writer’s argument is that mainline churches should not bring politics to the pulpit. As a Christian myself, I do not agree with such a view.

The writer is flawed in his thinking that the church should not highlight political issues that affect its congregation.

The truth is everything from religion, economics, culture, the right of every citizen to business, commerce, education, policies, and the rule of law is politically intertwined in Malaysia.

The writer has cited some statistics of how Christians are the “second largest and fourth largest faith community in their respective population strata”.

Statistics do not mean a thing to the pressing issues at hand facing the Christian community.

The church would not do so if there is no pressing need for it to address certain national issues.

The church is not infringing on its religious authority when it does so; it is merely playing its universal role in seeking and highlighting issues that affect the Christian community and its welfare.

In fact, one should be proud that the church has now stepped out of its sometime symbolic role to play an important part in nation-building.

It is also very common for Christians to turn to the church for guidance, motivation and enlightenment in difficult times.

The church does not force anyone to obey it. Again, if one does not agree with what is being preached, one can choose to focus only on the religious message and not be bothered with the political content.

Malaysia is seeing the growth of civil society groups that now also include religious bodies, which is an unavoidable phenomenon in a maturing democratic society such as Malaysia.

For 2,000 years, the Catholic Church, for example, has been involved in many aspects of the affairs of the state, from international diplomacy and foreign affairs to peace mediation in international conflicts. Therefore, the church plays an important role in international relations and global economics.

The recent visit of our Prime Minister to the Vatican further strengthens the view of how international relations and a religious authority can co-exist in a healthy plain.

Rather than judge the actions of the church, the writer should try to understand the integral message it’s trying to preach, which is a universal struggle against injustice, the evils of tyranny, the persecution of the innocent (oppression), unfairness, corruption and greed.

Similarly, criticism from the church is not meant to harm anyone or any government, it is meant to improve the elected government of the day in its responsibility to the people.

This is the social role that a religious body like the church is trying to play. As the saying goes, “to receive criticism is good, to not receive criticism at all is dangerous”.

A CHURCHGOER TOO,

Petaling Jaya.

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