Media, Politics and the Kingdom of God

In my previous blog, I had talked about how Channel News Asia represented the Malaysian General Election 2013.  There is a term for this. It is called Dominant Culture Rhetoric.  This means CNA reports the position of whoever is in power.  If the opposition had won, they become the Dominant Culture and CNA will report things from their perspective.

In contrast, some sites in Singapore are filled with Contra Culture Rhetoric.  These are the sites that attract people who oppose everything that is held by those in power.  All policies are consistently opposed, regardless of their soundness (like the Occupy Movement).  Their role in the larger scheme of things is to provide a platform for dissent. In practical terms, they can improve good policies by pointing out where the weaknesses are.  Contra Culture Rhetoric tends not to have a direction of its own.  They function just to oppose.  It is like the football fan who goes to the game with the T-Shirt “Referee Kayu” (Referee is Dumb [Wood]). They are not there to see if the referee does a good job.  They have decided ahead of time he is not going to do a good job.

I want to make clear my position to you.  I adopt a Counter Culture Rhetoric. This is the type of cultural rhetoric found in the Bible.  The Bible was not pro-Roman empire, nor was it anti-Roman empire.  If it were pro-Roman, you will find the Roman worldview represented.  If it were anti-Roman, you will find a seditious worldview.  We don’t find either.  Instead we find the Bible has its own agenda.

When Jesus came, he inaugurated God’s Kingdom.  It is not a “spiritual-only-kingdom.”  Such a view is Dominant Culture Rhetoric.  It is the view that says it doesn’t matter who holds political power on earth or what they do, the Kingdom of God is a personal thing, it is within your heart.

Interestingly Liberal Theology and Conservative Theology have their own brands of Contra Culture Rhetoric. Liberals have Liberation Theology, and conservatives have disparate expressions such as Reconstructionism, Dominion Theology and Kingdom Now Theology. These see the existing political leaders as evil and are in need of replacement or at the very least, they are the antithesis of Christian values. They tend to suggest a vague and more ideal government, but their main task is to criticize the existing governments.

I believe the Bible is Counter Culture.  It was not pro-Rome, it was not anti-Rome.  The Kingdom of God had its own agenda.  At times it fit into the Roman structure, at times it was diametrically opposed, and at times it was unrelated to the Roman worldview.  Let me give you an example.

The early Christians value human life as people created in God’s image.  They couldn’t love God without loving people. The Roman worldview did not accord an equal value to all human life.  Infanticide was common.  Slaves were killed without any legal consequences.  People of lower social status did not get the justice they needed.  The early Christians set out to realize God’s Kingdom.  They did not try to overthrow Rome under the banner of these human rights abuses (which would not have been seen that way during that time). Instead they rescued abandoned babies and raised them as their own. They insisted that slaves and masters were both brothers in Christ.  The spiritual egalitarianism as the basis of their social interactions rejected the stratified rights found in Roman society. They advocated a legal framework that recognized the equal right to life of every human being.  Instead of killing political leaders, they worked to redeem them from error, sin and destruction.

Counter Culture can, and does confront Dominant Culture.  But it is a moral-ethical confrontation not a confrontation by swords and spears.  It is the rejection of evil by living-out and advocating virtue. Counter Culture has its own culture and does not find its raison d’etre in opposing Dominant Culture. The Kingdom of God is neither pro-government nor anti-government.  Secular governments operate with a set of assumptions.  Some are right and some are wrong.  Secular governments create laws and work out their goals, which may be right or wrong.  The Kingdom of God is based on a different value system – the one taught by Jesus Christ.  The existing government can remain, reform or be replaced.  Jesus Christ is not Democrat or Republican. When he returns, Christ will fully realize his Kingdom on earth.  The Kingdom of God is neither a ‘personal-only/spiritual-only kingdom’ nor is it ‘Kingdom Now.’

Christians are called to live-out and to proclaim the inaugurated Kingdom of God on earth now, and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God when Christ returns.  We are to live for the present expression of God’s Kingdom while we wait for Jesus himself to bring earth into its glorious future.

My rhetoric is consciously Counter Culture.  I do not have dog in the political fight.  We have a worldview whether we are conscious of it or not. Mine is to live-out and proclaim God’s Kingdom.  You will see me advocating and rejecting things done by the same political entity.  My faith is neither in the PAP, nor WP nor SDP, etc. When I lived in America, I was neither Democrat, nor Republican, nor Libertarian, nor Independent.  I do not live for or against the institutions of man.  I live for the Kingdom of God.

So help me God.

His unprofitable servant,

Peter Eng

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