50 years from now, what kind of Malaysia would our children be living in? I wonder what was in the minds of those 50 years ago.
Once upon a time, I was in a “world” where questions revolving around Malaysia were not at the forefront. I confess, I was busy thinking about other matters – my studies, my work, my family, my friends, my entertainment, my interests, my faith ….
well, it’s only natural to think of what is private and personal. But sadly, it was not in relation to the wider context I’m living in. I think the word is compartmentalized. And even if I did it was more reactionary because of perceived threat to my immediate well being.
The reality is while we can distinguish between the private and the public (at least in our minds), we live today where the relation between the two cannot be divided. The challenge is how do we discern (1) the relationship between the two (2) what are the appropriate was we respectfully work through areas of tension and conflict (3) why we react in certain ways (4) how we can move forward as individuals and as a group (or nation?)
My 2 kids and no. 3 coming have no idea what is going on apart from their immediate needs. But as their father, especially these past 2 years questions have been mushrooming and is starting to crowd my intellect to the point of overwhelming.
In short, I can no longer live in a “world” where I ignore the pressing issues especially of politics and religion and especially about how we can first live in harmony and respectfully with each other, and second, to move forward together in nation building.
What is challenging is … (1) How we can have a way of looking at what is happening around us with some level of understanding – enough to make inform and reflected opinions and steps for practical living, (2) Who can we converse about these matters and provide support and encouragement. (3) What are the ways that we can check and balance, or even make us re-examine this on going process.
I confess, as a Christian (and as a pastor) … I’ve very often been starting in silence, solitude, and prayer. I’m rereading the Bible specifically the Gospels with fresh eyes. Corporate worship has new meaning for me for multiple reasons. Spending time listening to those who are different from me first and foremost makes me rethink about myself more than changing their opinions.
Once upon a time, some of these practices may have been a form of escapism where I plunge into another “religious world”. And if not handled carefully, it can turn into a “conservatism” where I’m indoctrinating myself with “us/then” or “under siege” thinking. This is a real temptation towards being a Christian fundamentalist. The newspapers are splashed with stories and people who scare those who are living around them. Frankly, I’m not too excited about this kind of direction.
The Christian practices and beliefs that I hold and am engaged in needs to help me develop a mindset and manner of living which makes a mature human being (for starters), one who can live with conviction and yet in cooperation with others seek a better environment we can all exist in and express ourselves responsibly in, with a decent dose of fun thrown in 🙂 There are many less popular resources I’ve found helpful to poke me along this quest. And nice to have friends who walk along side me.
Today, one of the many questions I have, is it possible for me to live an undivided and discerning life in a multi-cultural, multi-religious, majority Muslim 50 year old country based on a kind of Christian faith which avoids falling into narrow minded bigotry or fear or jumping into a secularized non-faith based liberalism? For this to happen, there needs to be a kind of Christianity that I practice and believe which encourages this kind of direction. I think there is but it’s an evolving and emerging journey … it’s one that refuses an “escapist” mentality but requires a wholehearted, total minded (if there’s such a word) critical and creative “engagement”. But this requires courage, and commitment. And there’s a cost involved.
Courage, commitment, cost … not very popular words these days amongst people in our 30s, maybe? Oh I stand corrected, I hear it often when it comes to our career and even our religious faith. But, courage, commitment and cost in relating it to pursuing a society where ALL of us and move beyond tolerance to respect, coexisting to harmony, living in isolation to genuine integration , the list goes on. All of this sounds a little to big at first sight, but with so many issues in our face, I’m growing increasingly tired if the only response I have is ranting over a cup of tea and coffee.
The trick is looking for the “spaces” where I can respond. This “blog” is one. But it’s merely the surface of what’s going on daily as I face the “real and messy world” we live in. It’s how I relate to the young Malay man who did a pretty good Ramli burger for me last night for dinner, to trying hard to enter the mind of people who took the microphone at a forum last Thursday expressing their convictions with a strongly religious framework. It’s trying also to make sense to why a an old friend of mine is pursuing a so called “interfaith” perspective which only scratches the surface and not really get us into the matters at hand. It’s observing an activist yawn at me (whether out of jest or discrimination I don’t know) talking about church history and how that is informative on how we understand religion and the influence on politics today.
Then there’s also the mundane daily … shuttling the kids to school, waking up and going to work, trying to cultivate a healthy family .. and so forth. So, I can understand why it’s more tempting to not even want to be “overwhelmed” by so much … that’s going on around us.
For me, this is where the silence, solitude and practice of prayer – created more space for me to re-orientate all these floating bits into a mosaic for reflection and action. Starts there, after those times .. I feel a little more courage, a little more commitment, and a little clearer of the cost involved. Now, it’s how collectively how people with a healthier and confident faith which is secure in who we are can engage the issues a fresh. Perhaps, nudging forward from the impasse we seem to be facing. For ourselves? sure … but at least for our children ….