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Why Christians Should Not Be Afraid to Talk About Politics

Have you ever gotten into a political discussion at church? It’s not always the most comfortable topic.

“So what are you doing after church this afternoon?”

“Um. . . Going to the protest march.”

Awkward pause. “Oh. It’s so much noise and disruption. I’m not sure what the point is.”

That could be one of the more civil exchanges. Many Christians are reluctant to voice their political views among their brothers and sisters. And how often have we heard the advice to not talk politics around the dinner table?

While I have never been afraid to voice my political views, in recent years I am learning what it means to speak as a Christian. We as followers of Christ owe allegiance to no political party or power, and because of our neutrality, humility, and love, I think we have an important perspective on politics the world needs to hear.

 

1. We have a unique perspective

When entering political conversations, the first thing to remember is that we are Christians. We are not merely followers of one or another flawed human party. When lines are drawn in the sand dividing some people from others (liberal/conservative, pro-establishment/pro-democracy, etc.), these lines simply do not, and must not, apply to us.

When we offer our opinion on politics, the first and foremost opinions we have should come from the Bible. We as Christians are law-abiding citizens and submit to earthly authority (Romans 13:1-7). But we also boldly defend the dignity of the widow and orphan, and any others who are marginalized by the world (Proverbs 31:8-9).

Both of these views can be uncomfortable. On the one hand, we do not always want to submit to earthly authorities. I’ve known of missionary families who refuse to pay taxes to authoritarian governments. “Why should I help their persecution?” they ask, forgetting that Christ Himself told the Jews to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21).

On the other hand, defending the weak often comes with a price. For example, Christians who speak out against forced abortions may face harassment from the community.

But when we remember that our loyalty is not to political parties or systems—but to a coming King—we can speak out lovingly, humbly, and boldly. Such a combination is uncommon in our current political landscapes, and is more likely to encourage meaningful, constructive conversation than our often superficial views. Perhaps through those conversations, our unbelieving friends might see that we hold dear something that is not swayed by political trends, and might be inspired to reconsider their own understanding of politics.

 

2. We are united in Christ

While we agree on submission to authority and defending the weak, Christians may  disagree on how specifically to carry this out. I have dear brothers and sisters with whom I disagree vehemently when it comes time to vote. We disagree on whether or not there is anything worth protesting about and whether or not a march is a reasonable way of doing so. We disagree about the extent of authority a government should have.

So, why bother even talking about politics?

Because we know that such differences are superficial, but important. Speaking of spiritual gifts, Paul reminds the church in Corinth that “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). We are united in Christ, but we each have different strengths and weaknesses, and different preferences. That’s a good thing. Our flawed but individual attempts to live out Christ’s teaching make for the beautiful mosaic we call the Church.

My friends Steve and John* are both sincerely seeking to live out the teachings in the Bible to the best of their abilities. However, though they have the same foundation in the Bible, they work out the political implications very differently. In effect, they support completely opposing candidates and policies.

In the early days of their friendship, they had many heated discussions and minimal respect for one another when it came to politics. But as their friendship grew, they did not ignore the differences, but learned to lovingly and humbly challenge each other’s choices, and point each other back to the Bible.

As much as Steve disagrees with John’s politics, he has learned to trust that John is actively seeking to please God. Because of that, Steve does not tire of trying to understand how John’s favored politics (which seem so un-Biblical sometimes) connect to John’s love of God. And John patiently does likewise for Steve. They ask each other questions as they seek to understand opposing viewpoints, such as, “Why do you think this?”, “Have you considered. . . ?”, “I don’t entirely follow the connection between your points.”

By recognizing their unity in Christ, Steve and John often come to a better understanding and respect of each other’s choices, even though they still disagree. And sometimes, they even come to agreement on unexpected issues.

Even though we disagree with brothers and sisters on specific issues, when we recognize our unity in Christ, we can challenge one another to love God more deeply and love man better.

 

3. We know who is king

Ultimately, we are not afraid to speak out politically because the Bible is political.

I’ve been reading Isaiah recently, and Isaiah gets really specific about the coming judgment of various nations and their wrongs. But each of these prophecies also point to a time where a king will reign on Zion and bring peace and prospering to all nations (Isaiah 25:6, for example).

A king is an inherently political title, and in claiming this title, God promises that He will return and right the wrongs of our broken political systems.

Clearly, the time where all nations kneel before God and recognize His authority has not come yet. But we as Christians live in hope of that day. We know that the evils our rulers perpetrate are, ultimately, temporary. We know that Christ the King is coming back, and when He does, He will bring a sword of judgment and right all wrongs (Revelation 19:15).

When we discuss politics with other people, perhaps the one thing we can all agree on is how imperfect and broken politics is, and how little faith we have in our politicians. Different people propose different solutions, but let’s be honest, have we ever seen a political system work the way it should?

When commiserating about current politics, perhaps we can offer the hope Christ has extended to us. That one day, the Perfect King will come and rule the earth in a perfect manner.

In submitting to imperfect human rulers and speaking out against the injustices they commit, we look forward anxiously to that day. We live in anticipation of the time when God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

And ultimately, when we discuss politics as Christians, we share the very real hope we have in Christ.

“Come, Lord Jesus.” (Revelation 22:20)

 

*Not their real names.

It Doesn’t Stop At Our Votes

On May 10, 2018, Malaysians woke up to a new reality. For the first time in the nation’s 61 years of history, a new coalition—Pakatan Harapan—has assumed the role of the government.

This reality has been years in the making, and for many Malaysians, it probably still feels too good to be true. As one of many Malaysians living in Singapore, the lead up to the elections was a whirlwind of an experience. As soon as the date of the General Election was announced, me and my friends scrambled to book flight and bus tickets home, or help each other find carpool arrangements, so we could all go home and vote.

I myself had planned to leave Singapore right after work, vote early the next morning, and then fly back to Singapore in the evening. It was an insane plan, and I had underestimated how exhausted I would be from all the waiting and traveling, but seeing the proliferation of “purple fingers” and pictures of the voting queues on my social media feeds made my heart swell with pride. It was the greatest display of unity that our country had seen in a long time, and I was glad that I got to be a part of it.

My family and friends kept each other updated as we queued to vote and anxiously waited for the election results to stream in. For the first time, it was unclear which way the votes would swing—and while we were all hopeful that our votes would make a difference, our hopes were also tempered with caution.

As soon as I landed in Singapore, I rushed home so I could follow the results. That night, me and my friends were glued to our television, hand-phone or laptop screens, hearts in our throats, afraid to move, bathe or even eat—just in case we might miss an important moment or result. It wasn’t until 3:00 a.m. that I reluctantly forced myself to go to bed so I would not appear as a zombie at work the next day.

A few hours later, I woke up to a torrent of jubilant messages on WhatsApp and social media about the new era that Malaysia had just entered into. There was much excitement in the air as everyone around me began anticipating the changes that they hoped the new government would put into effect.

It has been a few days now since the government has been installed, and the euphoria of the victory is wearing off. As the government begins focusing its efforts on reforming the country, the question on my mind, and probably on many others’, is: Will it be able to fulfill all its promises?

While I believe and hope that the government will set many new laws and policies in place that will improve the well-being of Malaysians, as a Christian, I am also cautious of placing all my hope in the hands of men. As with any transition in power, the government will take time to put its plans into place, and nobody knows how long this process will take or how extensive these changes will be—but we can be encouraged by the fact that our voices have been heard, and our voices matter.

So, what can we do next as citizens of Malaysia?

If there’s one thing that I’ve realized from this election, it’s that we have the power to change things around us. What filled my heart with hope this election was not the speeches of the candidates or the manifestos of the different coalitions, but witnessing ordinary Malaysians rise up to take charge of their nation’s destiny.

I saw hope in witnessing throngs of both the young and the elderly queuing up to vote so that future generations will have a better Malaysia. I saw hope in the decisions of young people who refused to give in to the voices of defeat around them, but who gave up comfortable and promising careers to dedicate themselves to nation-building by actively participating in politics. I saw hope in the way Malaysians—whether overseas or at home—came together, contributed their time and energy, and used the resources that they have to volunteer as Polling or Counting Agents, book flights to help bring postal votes home, and even organize car pools and donate their own funds to ensure everyone had a chance to decide on the future of the nation. These were the actions that made the world stand up and view Malaysians in a different light. These are the actions that make it clear to me that change has already taken place in Malaysia.

While I may not be in Malaysia at this juncture of my life, I hope to carry that same spirit wherever I go. I’ve learned that we should not solely rely on our elected representatives to do the work of reforming our nations, but there are many opportunities for us to bring hope to those around us as well. I hope that as believers and co-heirs of God’s grace, we will open our eyes to the plight of the fatherless, the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized around us (James 1:27). I hope that we will treat our foreign workers with dignity and care, and help them feel welcomed and at home as they help build our nations (Leviticus 19:34). I hope that we will make our hearts and home a refuge for the lonely and brokenhearted (2 Cor 1:4). I hope that we will have compassion on those who are struggling and lend a listening ear or a helping hand to them if needed.

Whether we’re overseas or at home, let’s pray for a smooth and peaceful transition, and submit ourselves to the governing authorities and their decisions, for as Paul wrote in Romans 13:1, “there is no authority except that which God has established”.  In view of that, let’s also focus our efforts on praying for our government (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Let’s pray that as our newly appointed leaders put together their plans in this crucial period, they will do so with the people’s interests at heart. Let’s pray that they will be a government that leads with righteousness and the fear of the Lord. Let’s pray that they will be a government that understands the weight of the mandate that has been given to them, and work faithfully and diligently to carry it out.

Most importantly, even as we pray for our leaders, let us look towards the Hope that “will not lead us to disappointment” (Romans 5:5, NLT) and pray and long for the day when He will return to bring forth justice to all nations and restore all things.

Hannah Yeoh: Becoming Malaysia’s First Woman Speaker

Written By Janice Tai, Singapore

Despite being the minority as a Christian Chinese female in Malaysia, Hannah Yeoh became the country’s first female speaker in a state parliament—and its youngest—at the age of 34 in 2013.

 

To date, Hannah has seen the faithful hand of God guiding her through a decade in politics as a representative for the town of Subang Jaya and five years as the speaker of Selangor State Legislative Assembly.

The former lawyer’s unlikely foray into politics started with a dramatic love story.

During a supper with a pastor friend in January 2007, he dropped a bombshell prophecy on her: You will get a marriage proposal in June.

“It seemed quite far-fetched then, as I was single and not seeing anyone. Even up till May, there was still no romantic prospect in sight,” Hannah tells YMI.

She continued to go about her daily life, helping her father and friends with his event management business and serving God in church. By then, she had stopped practising as a lawyer.

In June, Hannah, who was then serving in her church’s ministry for new believers, preached from the pulpit for the first time. Unbeknown to her, fellow church member Ramachandran Muniandy, an IT engineer, was sitting among the congregation and listening with rapt attention.

She had caught his eye, as God had been giving him visions in the last few months of his future wife preaching in church.

Ramachandran and Hannah were already friends at the time, but from then on, he saw her in a different light. He told her to pray about the next stage in her life. That same month, he proposed to her and she accepted the proposal 10 days later after praying about it. The prophecy was fulfilled. But God had even greater plans for the couple.

Hannah was then co-leading a cell group with a former schoolmate, Edward Ling. He had a keen interest in politics and believed in its role in effecting change.

Hannah, in contrast, had neither inclination for nor knowledge of politics. She was not even a registered voter. But she wanted to give him her support, so she joined the Democratic Action Party (DAP), an opposition party, with Edward.

In the meantime, God had spoken to Hannah and her fiancé and told them to get married in January. They did not understand what the rush was for, but obeyed Him and tied the knot on January 5, 2008.

 

Becoming Malaysia’s first female speaker

The reason for a contracted dating and marriage timeline soon became clear. Elections were called a month later and the DAP chose Hannah to contest the Subang Jaya state seat. They believed she would appeal to the young, middle-class professionals there. Edward became Hannah’s campaign manager.

“I had no political ambitions so it came as a surprise. But God provided me with a husband who prayed with me about it and supported me even though I felt ill-equipped to speak at rallies during the campaigning period,” says Hannah.

Hannah needed as much support as she could get. She was up against a seasoned female politician. During the campaign period, her opponent distributed a booklet containing a long description of her political experience; all Hannah had was a leaflet with her passport photo printed on it.

Many mocked her for being young and inexperienced but Hannah persevered and leveraged on her youth. She even came up with a tagline that said, “Yes, I have no experience, I have no experience in corruption!” At rallies, she also brought in young people to share their ideas and vision for the country.

Though she could cough up only RM700 (about US$170) from her savings for the election campaign, her supporters and friends raised more than RM100,000 to support her campaign. She won the seat with a majority vote of 71 percent in 2008; she was only 29 then. Hannah was re-elected in 2013 and also sworn in as speaker—out of the 56 state assemblymen in the state assembly—to preside over the proceedings of the House that year. 

 While elated and grateful for the honor, the ex-lawyer nevertheless found the post-election road a lonely one. Young people her age were free to hang out with friends after work, but her weekends were taken up by community events and other obligations.

“God led me on this path and I obeyed, but I also felt discouraged because I felt far away from my own dream to be a preacher,” she recalls.

Press Conference on introduction of Opposition Time in the Selangor State Legislative Assembly

Pressing on in Politics

However, Hannah persevered because she believed God had given her a larger platform to fight for honesty and integrity in Malaysia. Her party’s battle against corruption and race-based policies also resonated with her.

In the last five years, Hannah has pushed for more checks and balances in the political system by strengthening the role of the opposition in her state, though her party is the governing party there. For example, she introduced “Opposition Time” for the Opposition Leader to speak in the State Legislative Assembly before each adjournment of the House. She also saw through changes requiring the Opposition Leader to chair the Public Accounts Committee inspecting the state government’s spending.

In Malaysia, race, religion and politics are often intertwined. But Hannah, while a Christian, sought to institute fairness in land allocation matters. During her term, she successfully fought for land for places of worship for other faiths, representing the different stakeholders in her constituency who entrusted her with the mandate to be their spokesman.

At the same time, she remained passionate and vocal about her own faith. Three years ago, she launched her biography, Becoming Hannah, which traced the hand of God in her life.

Her detractors, however, used her book to play up religious sensitivities. In May last year, a university lecturer lodged a police report accusing Hannah of attempting to “coax, influence and instigate” people to convert to Christianity through her book. It came right after a well-known Christian politician in Indonesia, Jakarta’s former governor Ahok, was sentenced to two years in prison over comments about the Quran.

Hannah was questioned but no charges have been pressed so far. “My opponents usually attack me by playing the religion card, especially in the online space. I have learned to respond by setting the record straight on false allegations immediately and by keeping my hands clean so that they don’t have anything to use against me,” she says.

While numerous duties such as overseeing committees and hosting diplomatic visits as a speaker fill her days, Hannah still manages to run a home. She and her husband—now a pastor—take turns to pray with their two daughters, aged four and six, before putting them to bed every night.

Ask her if she intends to stay in politics for the long haul, and her reply is: “One day at a time, one election at a time.” Her desire, she says, is to stay in politics not one day longer than what God intends. For now, at least, she has discerned that God still wants her to contest the next elections.

Her parting words for young people: Never lose hope in God’s plans and purpose for your life.

Hannah says: “People have told me that it is impossible to stay clean in Malaysian politics and that the system will swallow me. But Nehemiah sought to rebuild broken walls despite the desolation and ruin. No task is too great if one trusts and hopes in God.”

 

Speakers’ Conference 2017 held at Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, May 2017

Tim Farron Quits as Political Leader — Was it the Right Call?

Photo credit: Liberal Democrats via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Written By Chris Wale, UK

Two days ago (14 June), Tim Farron, leader of the UK Liberal Democrats—one of the larger minority political parties in Britain—announced his decision to step down. This move, which came a week after a general election in which his party did not do particularly well, may not sound all that surprising.

But Mr Farron’s decision had nothing to do with his party’s performance.

In a hastily arranged statement, surrounded by close colleagues, Mr Farron explained, “The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader . . . A better, wiser person may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to remain faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment. To be a leader, particularly of a progressive liberal party in 2017, and to live as a committed Christian and to hold faithful to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”

As a Christian living in the UK, the question I’m left with is this: Has he made the right decision? The general election resulted in a “hung parliament” (which basically means no one won), throwing the country into even more chaos at a very sensitive time. Surely our leaders should be stepping up to the challenge, rather than stepping down? Couldn’t Mr Farron have done more, despite the barriers and burdens he faced because of his faith, and compromises he may have had to make?

I work with people who know Mr Farron very well; they go to the same church as he does. They speak of him as a humble man who loves Jesus. I can’t think of a better description of the sort of person I’d like to be a political leader! We need more people like this guiding our nation. But he chose to step down. Was he right to?

I’m reminded of the advice the apostle Paul wrote to his young friend, who was also called Timothy. Timothy wasn’t a political leader, but he was the leader of a church. Paul told him: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). Timothy clearly had responsibility for the people he led—but as Paul mentioned, Timothy’s first responsibility was his own life before God.

I think that’s what we are witnessing with Mr Farron as well. What’s most important is that God gets the glory in our lives. For Mr Farron, being a humble man who loves Jesus is more important than making political waves (as good as they may have been). If being a party leader was indeed compromising his faith and beliefs, then he absolutely did the right thing. His life before God is his first responsibility—as it is for all of us who know Jesus.

As Christians, we are all going to get “shot at” for our faith. It makes us stand out. Our responsibility is to humbly love Jesus throughout, even if that means making hard choices and walking away from important things. Mr Farron stood out for Jesus, and the media mocked and hated him for it. Yet, despite the “popular opinion” of him, he leaves behind great respect and a God-centred impact on his party.

Mr Farron left his political position before his faith was compromised. He was ridiculed and hated by much of the media (including one report that called his decision “self-obsessed”), but before God, he has clearly shown his priority. When the choice was standing firm in Jesus or pursuing his political career, he chose Jesus.

Thank God for that witness. May we all hope to leave legacies as simple and direct as that.