Beyond Tolerance: How Do We Deal With Fundamentalism

Posted by binsar on 27 Aug 2007 at 10:32 am | Tagged as: Article, Christianity, Interreligious Dialogue

This is my paper that was presented at Caux, on the theme “Belief and Culture: Fuelling or Resolving Conflict? Theme of the Day in Caux”.

First of all I would like to thank you for this wonderful opportunity to share my experience and my conviction with these two wonderful people, Grand Rabbi Marc Raphael Guedj and Prof. Nasyr Abu Zayd. As introduced my name is Binsar Jonathan Pakpahan. I am a vicar of a protestant church and now doing my PhD in

Amsterdam. I am working on my dissertation with the title: “Towards theology of remembrance: a basis for forgiveness and reconciliation.” Basically I want to do my research on the importance of remembrance in order to be able to forgive and reconcile. So, instead of saying forgive and forget I want to say that we have to remember and forgive. This issue alone has been in the air throughout our conference.I think I need to be clear about my background before I will say my opinion on this topic. I am Indonesian which is the country with the biggest Moslem population in the world. I was born in a Christian family for quite a few generations, raised in Jakarta, a melting pot metropolitan where I met all kinds of people. I went to public school which means that most of my friends are Moslem. I still remember that 15 years ago I was able to exchange inter-religious jokes with my Moslem friends. I never realized that they were inter-religious until years later. One of my friends during primary school told me that we Christians only pray once a week, and he told me that we are kafir in a joking way. Then I asked him, “What does kafir mean? He said that kafir means pagan, then I said, “Well you must be mistaken because we have three Gods and our God outnumbered your God.”

Then things started getting bad after 9/11. The global situation gotten worse ever since and after Soeharto regime fell there are more groups in Indonesia that want to have the Syariah (Moslem law) to be implemented in Indonesia. This is the time when I entered my theological studies. During that time we organize an inter faith discussion group about theological questions among students. I also remember the time when we used to play soccer or badminton together with my Moslem friends from Islamic University. We often joked about having a bet on conversion, meaning whoever loses convert.

I think in discussion like this it is better for me to be open and vulnerable about my own tradition and also stating what are the things that strengthen my faith in God. First of all let me state my stand point. I believe in God the creator, Jesus Christ Son of God, Son of Man the redeemer of human, and the Holy Spirit that are there since the beginning. I believe that the scripture is the message about God. It is not of God because it is actually a story about God. It is a story telling about the relation between God and human. It tells the story of relation and confession about God rather than a precise historical event and was written by people with the guidance of God’s spirit. This would be important to walk into my critical analysis of my own tradition.

Now the Rabi has talked about how spirituality should be strengthen in order to overcome fundamentalism. If we want to talk about spirituality that can overcome fundamentalism, Christianity is precisely a religion of spirituality. Christianity was born without any strong or strict law or rule, there was only faith. Yes, Christianity was born out of faith of the God and Man Jesus Christ and the message of the

Kingdom of God that he brought. But nevertheless there was no clear law or rule. Why did I say this? If we want to compare with the Jews, they have the Torah. The Moslem has Qur’an and Hadith. What does Christian have? People will say that Christianity has the bible. However the bible does not really write rules and ways of life of how you should become a Christian, it may contain the most significant law of all which is the law of love but they are not as clear cut as the Torah and Qur’an.Let us look at The Bible. The Bible consist two testaments, Old Testament and New Testament. The Old Testament is what Christian picked up from the Jewish tradition. This is because we believe that Jesus Christ came not to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them. Christian believes that Jesus is the Messiah that God promised Israel and therefore the history of it should be included. (Matthew 5:17). Jesus himself was a Jew, and many considered him as a rabbi, a great teacher. So the continuation of the tradition is there.The New Testaments consist 4 gospels (the story of Christ, 3 are synoptic), and letters of the apostles (mostly Paul). These books in the New Testament were written after Jesus went back to heaven. The gospels were even written in later years than the letters. The letters were written for a specific context (for Galatians, Corinthians, Ephesians, etc), at a specific moment and for a specific purpose. It does not consist clear rules about how Christians should act and do to become true Christians. So each community of believers at that time had their own style of gathering and worshipping without able to claim that they are the real Christians. This probably will be easier if Jesus had written something himself, but he did not have time. He started his ministry at the age of 30 and died three years later. Three years is such a short time for Jesus who had travel frantically to gather his disciples, spreading out the good news, heal people and teaching all at the same time. The one account that I can say here where Jesus had written something is when he was tested on the case of a prostitute. (John 8:6-8) The only thing Jesus wrote was on the ground and we don’t know what it is.

There were also power and political struggle at that time among Christians among the oriental and the western churches. Churches are growing a lot without any single form. It took 300 years to gather in the Council of Nicea to decide what should be the criteria to decide the things that are Christian and the things that are not. This is then is the problem of identity. What is Christian identity? Dogma and Christian theology tried to explain and elaborate this question.

What I’m trying to say is that Christianity was not born with rules; it was born out of faith of the risen Jesus Christ the Son of God that came because of God’s love towards the world. In fact this was the real main attraction to many people of that time that were feeling pressured by religious rules and rites. However, precisely because there is a sense of freedom and independence people need guidance to keep their sense of freedom from being attacked by others. This is what the church fathers saw when they created church tradition and ways and dogma. In brief, because there were no clear rule in Christianity, dogma is needed as guidance and rule.

Often dogma causes friction among churches. I can’t even tell you precisely how many churches are there, especially for protestant churches. I was working in the national communion of churches in

Indonesia, and the numbers of church synods are increasing, many were born out of conflict with the mother church.There are also some difficult verses that needed to be explained …? Conversion has always been a tricky problem in the relation of Islam and Christian. This for instance is written in Matthew 28:18-20. I will not try to elaborate this more but only to state that we do have to go back to our own roots to understand what God told us to do.

What is it that Christianity has to offer as to transmit religious values that go beyond dogma? I believe the thing that Christianity can offer is God’s love and calling to everyone. Christianity is all about God’s love. God has given Jesus to the world for all people as a token of God’s care. We are all the children of god and we are all called to do our own way to serve God and the people. We are all special in God’s eyes. Whatever you do, you are special. You don’t have to try hard or reach hard to come to God, God has come to you and you are special in any way. (I would like to close this presentation by a story of the orchestra).

5 Responses to “Beyond Tolerance: How Do We Deal With Fundamentalism”

  1. on 29 Aug 2007 at 5:50 am # james mangte
    Thanks for writing this piece. But u know wat, I never knew u were a christian while we were together at Puncak for the 12th APYC. I appreciate u for sharing ur personal experience and faith in Christ.

    Always be strong and committed in Christ.

    your bro


  2. on 30 Aug 2007 at 11:15 am # vera agustina sibarani
    Horas juga..
    Setuju, bhw kekristenan adalah segalanya ttg Kasih Allah,Karena Allah adalah Kasih,Dan kita adalah Anak2 Allah yang di panggil keluar utk melayani Tuhan dan sesama..,begitu kan bin?
    Btw gimana penerapan / aplikasinya dlm hidup sehari2 ya bin..
  3. on 19 Sep 2007 at 10:08 am # binsar
    James my brother, thank you for your comment. Well, maybe I wasnt behaving christian-like during apyc hahaha… i was a rebel remember hahaha…

    vera, terima kasih ya.. penerapan dalam hidup? wah, ini perlu diskusi khusus lagi nih…

  4. on 16 Nov 2007 at 5:17 am # Niloufer
    Hey ! dint know you and james knew each other ! mighty awesome coincidence !


  5. on 17 Nov 2007 at 12:33 am # binsar
    Nilu… ofcourse I know James… we were in the same house during apyc.. and had a good football game back then

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One Comment

  1. I think it’s very very depressing that there’re idiots in The United States who are purposely trying to hurt the feelings of the Muslim people by desecrating their holy book. Despite having the legal right to do it, they should certainly be embarrassed of themselves.

It will be great to have your reply here