Dethroning – Corruption, NOT Islam!

Recently certain parties in Malaysia have alleged that the minority Christians there convened to make a pact to work towards a Christian Prime Minister – see here. However the so-called pact-meeting was really a conference on how Christians can participate in battling the problem of corruption that is so prevalent in Malaysia. Though I was not at that specific meeting, I was one of the presenters at the central chapter of the the conference in Kuala Lumpur. Hence, I can attest that there was no discussion of attempts to “Christianize” Malaysia (good lord, why would anyone want that???!!!). In fact, there were two Muslim gentleman who were present at my talk as they waited to share about their NGO. Below is the excerpt of my talk which may provide a perspective of the focus of the meetings:

What is corruption essentially?

As we try to define corruption, we cannot help but run into what we Christians know about the condition of humanity – sin. But we need to view the sinfulness of man not just from a personal perspective (personal sin) but as social sin (societal level) as the fall of man had universal consequences. As Christians, our insight into the sinfulness of man leads us to conclude that ultimately corruption is a moral evil resulting from sin. The effects of sin do not end within the interior of each person. There is little doubt that our individual choices for sin affect the social environment in which we exist as well.

It is imperative, therefore, that Christians in recognizing corruption as a moral sin ought to be deeply offended by its existence as it violates the character of God – his justice and his righteousness. He is a God of justification and of justice – this is evident in his dealings with ALL people groups in the Old Testament.

How ought Christians respond to social sins such as corruption?  

Beware of sin of omission: There is a common oversight when we approach the task of the Great Commission where we often think that it is merely about evangelism and getting people to convert to Christianity. Philosopher Dallas Willard calls this the church’s Great Omission where Christians have responded by making “Christians” not “disciples.”

The genius of God’s plan of redemption is that it is not merely about saving “souls” but about transforming lives and all of life. It is about us, his followers, participating in his work of redemption of the rest of his creation – morality, culture, work, economics, arts, etc. The Gospel has supernatural power to change lives, and those changed lives can bring good to the world in which they find themselves.

A good we can bring to our local society is a commitment to highlight the injustices perpetrated by, and embodied in corruption. We are conscientious about refraining from sinning by not committing any moral evil. However, we risk committing the sin of omission when we fail to do something we can and ought to – especially against the prevalence of evil or its uprising. We risk committing the sin of omission when we allow the prevalent systemic corruption to prevail and do nothing about it.

Engagement in the public square is the call of EVERY Christian: Once we acknowledge our sin and the effects of sin within society, it follows that we should act to right the wrongs that have been committed. The persisting effects of sin need to be addressed.

We need to be realistic about trying to realize earthly Utopia: Given the depth and persistence of corruption in some spheres, it may be unrealistic to expect Christians to generate or sustain a mass rejection or repudiation of corruption. As we live in the Now and the Not Yet – it would be unrealistic to seek Utopian solutions to the problem of corruption.

Even though Christ calls each of us to struggle towards perfection, the reality of man’s sin means there is no possibility of building an earthly utopia. In fact we should affirm that there is no paradise on earth. We are here only as pilgrims as we wait for the new heaven and new earth. Perfect freedom, complete justice and total peace do not exist in this life because of the reality of original sin.

However, instead of all resignation or a sense of doom, Christians should insist that relative joy, relative success and relative justice (relative in comparison to eternal life) CAN exist in this life. As such, though we live in an imperfect world fraught with fallen systems, we have to and must learn to work for redemption within these limitations.

We need to acknowledge the nuanced nature of corruption:  Often when we are confronted by a case of potential corruption, we find ourselves in a moral dilemma as it is almost always difficult to decide on the thing to do where we must choose one of two things; but either would be wrong to do. When we have a ethical dilemma, sometimes you choose the greater good, hence having to do the lesser evil.

First steps to making a difference

There are no easy solutions to the problem of corruption. Many of the incentives to engage in corrupt action are difficult to overcome. I will not attempt to prescribe specific solutions, particularly in view of the fact that the precise form of corruption varies from industry to industry and case to case. Instead we will look at what are the baby steps we can take as individuals and a small collective.

1. Be informed – about a broad range of issues in the socio, political and economical sphere – keep abreast of a wide-range issues and reflect on our Christian response (1 Pet 3:15)

  • ACTON Insitute (www.acton.org)
  • A Theory of Corruption: The Theology and Economics of Sin (Osvaldo Schenone & Samuel Gregg; Acton Institute, 2003)
  • Bribery and Corruption: Biblical Reflections and Case Studies for the Marketplace in Asia (Hwa Yung; Graceworks Pte. Ltd., 2010)
  • Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context (Glen H. Stassen & David P. Gushee; IVP, 2003)
  • Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Nancy R. Pearcey; Crossway Books, 2003)

2. Be involved

  • Full participation in NGO’s (NECF) and civil society – be a volunteer, join as a member. We are to be salt and light at where we are – local community, etc.
  • Engage in dialogue with social and political activists who may have differing opinions from us – understand their position so that we can better formulate our Christian response • Start a blog to record real incidences – both successes and failures
  • Form work/accountability groups to garner moral support and prayers. Meet regularly to brainstorm solutions to real cases
  • Most importantly, offer prayers with discernment – for rulers to be righteous

3. Practice makes perfect

Aristotle the great philosopher taught that moral virtue is habit long continued. In other words, we cultivate our virtuous self through external disciplines where our intentional doing (of the morally right) becomes a habit – a part of who we are. Our inner spirit is shaped and formed by the structures and disciplines within which we live. Although there are limits to what we can accomplish working from the outside in, it is the first step towards moral transformation.

This training in virtue requires that we struggle with the moral situations which we find ourselves in so that, hopefully, such a struggle will help us develop a character sufficient to avoid, or understand differently, such situations in the future. It takes some moral development to be able to solve *ethical dilemmas. And we may not always get it right or end up doing the right thing! We must begin to see how the commands of God do not so much tell us what we ought to do, rather, they direct us to the only kind of life that can ultimately allow us to flourish as human beings: a life lived with, rather than against, the grain of the universe God has created. The purpose of God’s commands is to perfect us and complete us – making us whole again (Romans 12:1-2).

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~ by iccthomas on May 12, 2011.

One Response to “Dethroning – Corruption, NOT Islam!”

  1. Best and clearest piece I have read on the subject. Thanks a lot. Keep it up.

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