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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Desire, Allah & Trinity – Alwyn Lau

The name of God is like desire. If someone has a bad case of Horny, demanding that he becomes a purity angel will only make him grow horns. Try to tell people they’re not allowed to love in a certain manner and you may as well try to put out a fire by drowsing it with Ron 95. Police the erotic and you’ll end up eroticizing the policing.
Isn’t this why virtually all attempts to stamp out the gay "problem" tend to back-fire? If you judge my sex you’ll not only generate more heat than light, you’ll get me and my partner in heat faster than you can say LGBTQ.
On the Sunday right after the Court of Appeal’s unappealing decision on October 14, most non-Malay speaking churches in PJ/KL proudly defied the law and used the word ‘Allah’ for (probably) the first time in their worship services.
Previously – and would you believe Allah has been a BN-created problem since 1986? - had these same churches used God’s Arabic title, many worshippers would’ve been giggling. Today, the word is a rallying cry. On the whole it’s like trying to ban Americans from using the word “American”. Try that and it’ll be the 4th of July every day.
A law against invoking God’s name is a recipe for rousing God’s people. But that’s not the only irony of the Allah judgment.
Other than producing more only-in-Malaysia jokes, it also provided some theological laughs. Like when Jakim claims that Christian use of Allah nullifies the Trinity. Haha. This is like saying that my conference in Penang should not be called a Malaysian conference because it’s held in only one state. Haha.
Three centers of consciousness (the sexier term for “persons”) known and worshipped as one God is no more nullified by a single title (in reference to the Godhead they are and share) any more than Baskin Robbins’ thirty one flavors are nullified when people speak of the ice-cream served at BR in the singular.
The Trinity means 3-in-1. God is plural, but not alone. Likewise, Malaysia is 13-in-1 hence it’s quite un-Malaysian when some states (not least Sabah and Sarawak) are treated like unwanted children left alone. In fact, Trinitarian thinking is something our law-makers could consider because the concept entails that the Many draws value, strength and purpose from the One (and each other), and vice-versa.
In Malaysian-ese this means, e.g., that Terengganu and Selangor and Sabah are one and the same with all the other states, we are all Malaysian, we share with each other and mutually nurture each other up. It means that Malay, Chinese and Indian all encapsulate the “Malaysian” because we adhere to and grow with each other.
A Chinese already Malaysian but she is most Malaysian when she shows compassion to and solidarity with a Malay and Indian. Ditto, East and West Malaysia.
You know how most Singaporean churches today couldn’t give a rat’s behind about the plight of their Malaysian "family in Christ"? Well, isn’t that the same deal with Peninsular Malaysians vis-à-vis our Sabah-&-Sarawak churches? Even now, nobody’s exactly rushing to GIRO funds over to East Malaysian churches. Even now, there is a nagging suspicion that most Christians in the Klang Valley are more concerned that they - and NOT the folks living next to Mount Kinabalu and the hornbills flying around it – aren’t allowed to use Allah.
This is doubly weird, because East Malaysian Christians were never "in" to the word in the first place. It simply wasn’t on our minds, let alone on the agenda. Doesn’t this uncannily remind you of the consumption phenomenon? Our lives were perfectly fine without fancy cars, without smart-tablets and without the latest TV.
But lo and behold one of our Facebook friends (whom we spend less than two seconds a year thinking about) shows it off one time on his wall, and without ado we decide we MUST possess it! God forbid it wasn’t in our hands yesterday.
This is what Marx calls "commodity fetishism" i.e. our consumables develop an aura, a life of their own over and above practical utility or real worth. The point here is not to compare the ‘Allah’ issue with IKEA discounts. It’s to highlight how flimsy and flippant our emotions can be.
It’s also to caution that we don’t do with God’s name what we do with pop-tech stuff i.e. get excited for a while and ignore when something cooler comes along.
As with an iPad, not so with God’s name. The Allah issue shows Malaysian Christians how much we need each other despite the South China Sea separating us. The Allah issue shows how much the Malaysian faithful are connected despite the doctrines and dogmas separating our faiths.
We don’t know what we have and we don’t care about what others have until perfectly sensible and community-loving parties (how else to describe stalwart groups like Umno and Perkasa?) take it away.
In 1990 I heard a church leader say, provocatively, that perhaps Saddam Hussein was anointed by God in his invasion of Kuwait. Because when, later in response, Rambo’s colleagues started marching into the Middle East, so did many Christian missionaries, Red Cross workers and all manner of humanitarian aid folks many of whom would not have been given the chance to "invade" the country with their compassion and contributions.
Could something similar be happening now?
Thank God for allowing this incident to bring Malaysian churches (and religions?) together. The West needed the compassion; the East a shove.
* Alwyn Lau reads The Malaysian Insider.

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