Civis 003/2016

IV. Christian Attitudes Toward Politics

It is clear that politics, as the ability to live together in a polis, is inevitable, except if the church and Christians only want to live in a ghetto. Then Christians must involve themselves into the political life of Indonesia. Prophetic voices delivered by the churches are part of the critical attitude. That is the political attitude of the church. Church develops a politics of moral. By this, it is clear that the church cannot be identified with political parties, including the Christian political party.

The Church is the institution that, at a certain degree, established by its leaders. Church leaders must not inappropriately involve themselves with a political party, because then they would be partisans, which sooner or later, would hinder their service as leaders and pastors. It must be realized that the church members have their political preferences according to their conscience. If a church leader is a part of party A, the parishioners who join party B would easily have a concern. In fact, everything that he says will be suspected to promote the party programs.

Then who should be encouraged to involve in day to day politics? Yes, all members of the church who are interested and who have the talent for it.  If you are not interested and untalented, you should not be forced to involve. Otherwise, we will obtain a politician who is poor and has no clear commitments.  This will be harmful, not only for the entire nation, but also for the churches who “sent” the politician. To obtain a reliable political candidate, then the church should organize political education for political cadres. If the church cannot do it, this can be done in cooperation with other institutions that are qualified for it. Thus, it would appear that politics is the area served by the church.

The politicians who were “sent” by the church are expected to have a high commitment in carrying out their duties, uphold ethics and political morality. A church leader has thus serve in politics through the services performed by the church members. Christian politicians, because they come from different political parties, will be subjected to their party’s ideologies, therefore the church should have a political vision. Political vision was formulated in such a way that anyone who reads it will feel compelled to join the fight. One of the many things that Christian politicians should strive for is that they do not have a narrow and exclusive interest, but have a zeal for the welfare of all people and justice without discrimination.

Is it altogether impossible for church leaders to engage in day to day politics? Not really. World history shows that many church leaders involved, even pioneered in various political struggles, such as participate in various demonstrations. Cardinal Sin in the Philippines, for example, participated in the overthrow of President Marcos who wanted to have an absolute power. Bishop Desmond Tutu pioneered in the collapse of the white apartheid regime in South Africa. Alan Boesak had been imprisoned by the racist of South African regime, due to participating in various struggles to topple the regime. In World War II era in Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer involved in a conspiracy wanting to kill Hitler. This is a mystery of history. However it can be assumed that according to Bonhoeffer, it was better to kill one person rather than killing the entire world by the flames of war. Barmen Declaration, which opposed Hitler, actually was a political statement that supported peace and justice.

In 2004, the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) was involved in politics in the context of the presidential election 2004-2009. In a pastoral letter from PGI, it was alleged to let Christians to keep in mind that they chose not only the president but also his coalition. Christians in Indonesia must watch carefully which political parties that were faithful and loyal to the State Ideology (Pancasila), despite of whether it was in a coalition with presidential candidate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. This appeal was something like the “Open Letter” written by Father Franz Magnis Suseno in order to refuse another presidential candidate, Prabowo, because of his coalition with the Just and Prosperity Party (PKS-Islamic Party).

From various cases, it could be concluded that the leaders of the church with its institutions can only involve in politics if they sincerely believe, based on careful observation and sharp analysis, that the State and the nation was in danger if there is no drastic measures. In ethics and political morality, actions of this kind can be justified.

V. Is there any limit of the loyalty of a Christian politician?

Certainly! In the context of the Republic of Indonesia, every politician, including Christian politician, was sworn to be faithful and loyal to the State ideology (Pancasila) and the 1945 Constitution. That means, in accordance with the collective agreement, we have established a nation state, the nation-state based on Pancasila, which is Indonesia. However, if at any time the deal is no longer adhered to and bigger groups by relying on his greatness, and wants to come out of the deal, the Christian politicians have no sin if they resist. By doing so, they refer to the joint commitment, which is to be faithful to God who has endowed this nation to us.

(This paper was presented by the writer in the Strategic Forum of Church and Politics, in Jakarta, April 7-9, 2016).

The Writer

Rev. Andreas A. Yewangoe. Senior Fellow of Leimena Institute, Former Chairman of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (PGI) (2004-2014), Chairman of the Advisory Council of the PGI (2014-2019), Emeritus Pastor from Christian Church of Sumba.