On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Politics and religion a bad mix

Last week, a Gallup Poll Survey showed that 50% of Americans supported gay marriage while 48% opposed it. What Obama hopes to do from his announcement is to win over the younger voters who are more open to this subject. His rival, Republican’s Mitt Romney, has come under attack from the Obama camp for being out of touch with his anti-gay marriage stand.

Obama also believes that blacks will still stick with him even though opposition against gay marriage among black church-goers is the highest among all the racial groups in the US. He retains the black votes and wins extra votes from the white liberals, and he knows he’s into his second term.

But I do not think it is necessary for Obama to invoke his Christian faith as well as Scripture in his defence of gay marriage.

He is not only the first American president to reaffirm same-sex marriage but must also be the first one to quote from the Bible to justify his decision. In this instance, he quoted Matthew 7:12, known as the Golden Rule from Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount.

The Sermon On The Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus that emphasises moral teaching in the Gospel of Matthew. The Sermon is the longest piece of teaching from Jesus in the New Testament.

In a nutshell, the Golden Rule states that one should treat others the way one wants to be treated. My Bible states the Golden Rule paragraph as: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

What Obama has done, like many politicians and their supporters including those in Malaysia, is to read selectively a passage or chapter from a holy book to back their political arguments – political expediency, in other words.

Worse still, some Obama supporters have written about or appeared on TV to point out how some figures in the Bible were polygamists or adulterers while conveniently leaving out the parts that these people eventually repented and found God. They can get away with this because most of us feel inadequate to take on a debate on theology.

Holy books are supposed to be read as a whole, not as a chapter or two, to enable us to have a complete understanding.

Obama, for example, has even implied that the Apostle Paul’s objection to homosexuality in the Bible “is less than transparent” and perhaps even at odds with Jesus. I am not sure if Obama, whose campaign theme is Change, is planning to change the Scripture.

In Malaysia, we are used to reading and hearing PAS leaders – politicians masquerading as theologians – quoting from the Quran to justify their political positions. Umno leaders are often criticised as “pharaohs” from the Age of Ignorance – kejahilan – before the age of Islam.

But now there is a trend among some Malaysian church leaders and Christian-based writers, who support Pakatan Rakyat, to quote from Scripture to justify the need to vote against the government in the coming general election.

This is done during Sunday sermons and via email, and those who are uncomfortable with this religious push are being made to feel guilty or not in sync with the rest of the church. Likewise, nobody wants to listen to a priest or pastor on a Sunday heaping praises on the Barisan Nasional or telling us about the coalition’s transformation plans. We will leave that to the Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Idris Jala.

Politics and religion should not be mixed. People who go to places of worship are united in their faith and never for a particular political party or politician. That’s why we are in a democracy and that’s why we have elections – the right to differ and the right to choose.

The lesson to learn from the Obama controversy is this – the first time around, he was a fresh personality and people around the US wanted change. They were fed up with anything conventional and mainstream. Obama represented hope and ideals.

But the fact is, he is not a Saviour. He is just another self-serving politician who will do anything for self-preservation.

First, it was same-sex civil union. Now it’s same-sex marriage and once that’s legal, same-sex couples would have the constitutional rights to adopt babies from orphanages, and churches will break the law if they reject performing wedding rites for them.

Well, that’s change for you from Obama.