The Methodist Church in Malaysia is apparently under heavy criticism after it accepted money from the BN federal government during the recent Sibu parliamentary by-election. Quite clearly, the context in which the money was given strongly suggests that the money transfer was political of nature. The transfer could have been done outside of election time but I am confident that without the election in Sibu, the money would not have found its way to the Church’s hand.

Bishop Hwa Yung of the Church’s Council of Presidents in defending the Church, among others, states that it is the responsibility of the government to give grants to religious bodies.[1]

The Bishop insists that the Church cannot takes sides in politics. Yet, the Church suffers from politicization and it was presented with difficult fork: accept the money and be dammned as pro-government; reject the money and be deemed as pro-opposition.

A pragmatist would look at the options, understand the inevitability of politicization under the scenario and settle for the least hurtful outcome. Between suffer politicization, or suffer politicization and be several millions richer, the optimal solution is non-brainer. The Church is a pragmatist. It took a pragmatist action. It took the money. It is as simple as that. Save the moral argument.

The fear of politicization issue would have been comprehensible if it is not how the Bishop defended the action of the Church. The Bishop writes “the problem in our country is that most of the money for religious bodies is usually given to one particular religious community, with relatively much smaller proportions given to other communities“.

It is hard for me to sympathize with the Church when it uses that reasoning as its shield. First of all, the Church should realize that this is an arbitrary gift from the government. The grant in no way solves the problem of unfairness that the Bishop raises. Besides, no wrongdoing should be used to correct a wrong. The act of justifying the arbitrariness is thus problematic, making the Church’s fear sounds hollow.

As a secularist, his statement that it is the responsibility of the government to give grants to religious institutions makes it impossible for me to sympathize with the Church.

Perhaps such dilemma would not have existed if the state was secular. By secular, it is the idea that it is not the responsibility of the state to provide religious bodies with money.

If the Church does not want to find itself in such dilemma ever again, it should support such secularism. Under such secularism, the Church will never have to face the oh-so-painful problem of accepting or rejecting money from the government.

Secularism solves the dilemma cleanly. Why not try it?

But really, is it a dilemma to start with? Who are we kidding? A lot of us can do with a little bit of money. That includes religious institutions as well.

Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams. Some rights reserved

[1] — Many of our church members are aware of the reports in the media that the government made grants to four Methodist churches in Sibu, on the eve of the recent parliamentary by-election. The Council of Presidents discussed this matter at its May 25 meeting.

Pending fuller deliberations on the matter by the General Conference Executive Council at its upcoming meeting, we wish to issue a pastoral letter stating the following:

1. First, the giving of grants to religious bodies for the advancement of religion, as well as to other bodies like schools, etc, is a government responsibility. To receive such is a citizen’s right. After all, the money given is actually taxpayers’ money. [Church is non-partisan, grants put us in dilemma. Hwa Yung. Malaysiakini. May 28 2010]

One Response to “[2216] Of solution to Methodist Church’s fear of politicization”

  1. […] If they had any moral authority anymore to start with. I say that because some church accept arbitrary ”gift” from the government without caring the conflict of interest that […]

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