Therefore when we talk about the ideal of ‘God' as an almighty or spiritual being that exists independent of all human existence, it is always a very challenging concept to fully appreciate our tendency to ‘anthropomorphise.'
In human language therefore, we consequently often "reduce the very nature and being of God" into human ideas and ideals to better understand and appreciate such an entity bigger than our minds or hearts can fully appreciate or understand.
Some elements of reductionism is always needed for humans to understand and appreciate much more complex realities like the spiritual universe.
All our scriptures are only aids for our hearts and minds to seek greater wisdom and understanding of the spiritual nature of life.
Therefore, we need to be consciously aware of the reality of such "reductionism," even while it is always necessary.
Any simplification of complex ideas to a level of common understanding is fraught with risks of diminishing the very ideas and ideals we seek to extol.
This is what I think happened with the Utusan's "mistranslation" of what Nurul Izzah said at the Public Dialogue at Subang Jaya.
Having reviewed the text, as published by Malaysiakini, whose reporter and citizen journalist were physically present for the event, I am of the view that "rookie writers who do not understand or appreciate complex ideals from the world of spirituality should keep their political reporting at bay!"
In that process, I am only sorry to note that Nurul (right) who gave an accurate explanation or interpretation of this Koranic verse and text, has since been abused by lesser mortals with their institutional abuse!
I want to categorically state that neither the questioner nor the answer asserted or alluded to the issue of apostasy.
The questions were simple enough, for all those present in hearing of that conversation within the context of the dialogue. Both the spirit of the questions and their answers were fairly straightforward.
Nurul did an excellent job as a Muslim politician who answered well to protect and preserve her personal convictions; which at the end of the day is always a personal interpretation of the subject matter within any such conversation.
Therefore, I was glad when I also heard that last Friday, at the Kelana Jaya Mosque, the Khutbah "clarified the same verse of contention and made it clear of the issues in contention and consideration are deeper than "a mere newspaper conversation of the issues!"
Moreover, I am aware that PAS has also clarified their views and interpretation of this matter! I also appreciate that her father did not rein in this conversation either.
Finally also, since such reductionism is the risk we all face, and since unlike the Catholic Church which has one "clear and inspired interpretive capability built into their hierarchy, when there is absence of any clear and interpretive authority source, the ultimate interpretation of such personal truths may always remain with the beholder of that same truth.
Beauty is truly in the beholder.
My search for truth
Having defined the ‘big word and concept,' allow me now to share my own story of questioning and trying to better understand and appreciate such spiritual ideas and ideals from a rather young age.
Once, when I was about 15 years old, I was home for my high school holidays, when one Sunday morning, I simply told my father that, "I would not go to church with them anymore!"
He threatened to punish me, and I said it did not matter and I would accept the punishment. I thought any physical punishment would be fine as I was already ‘a tough enough person' after the military training at my alma mater.
However, my father did not punish me.
The next weekend, again on a Sunday, I went to see my father and asked for permission to ‘bike to a church service on my own!" My father was surprised and asked, "I thought you did not want to go to church anymore?"
To which I replied I did not enjoy the church services in Malayalam, our mother tongue, because I could not follow and fully appreciate the meaning of the service or even the songs of praise!
I was therefore opting to switch into a different language towards an English-based form of worship of a one true God.
Language and the spirit of worship
My parents always and only truly enjoyed their worship when it was in their mother-tongue.
We kids were English and Malay educated but could not equally appreciate "true spiritual worship" in a language for which we had only rudimentary appreciation.
Therefore, since the early days of our denominational heritage two features have kept my faith vibrant and kept them faithful.
The first was what was called the open-bible movement which began about 200 years ago, when the mystery of interpretation was made available to all those who were literate.
The bible was made accessible in a language of common appreciation. This was also the reformation which took place in the Catholic Church worldwide when "Latin was desacralised!"
Vatican Two also clarified that freedom of human conscience is an imperative.
The second was the fact that "truths were also open to personal interpretation in a non-hierarchical form, with greater importance made for consensus building."
Therefore, all doctrinal issues, in all faith systems, have to finally and ultimately mean the personal interpretation and adoption of that truth as a dictum for life.
If done otherwise, there will always be a gap between our espoused theories and our lived theories in use.
To me, and having followed Nurul's actions in life, I can conclude and say, that is one reason I will vote for her. Unlike many others, she appears to live her life along the lines of her stated faith's values!
Wise and foolish men
The bible teaches that the wise man builds his house on the rock but the foolish man builds his house on sand.
When the storm comes the wise man's house stands firm while the foolish man's house collapses. We all have to build our houses on rock rather than on sand!
May God bless Malaysia!