The Dance of Two War Camps
by Rev. Eu Hong Seng - NECF Malaysia Chairman
The Beloved and His Friends
Return, return, O Shulamite; Return, return,
that we may look upon you!
What would you see in the Shulamite- As it were,
the dance of the two camps?
(Song of Songs 6:13)
In the Song of Songs, we have perhaps the most pervasive use of imagery and metaphor. In this collection of love poetry, the key characters, a dark and comely maiden wooed by her lover, find each other in gardens (Song 6:2-3), under an apple tree (Song 8:5) and amidst seasons of separation in hostile settings (Song 5:6-8).
In one particular scene, the Shulammite woman offers to dance before her beloved so that he might enjoy her beauty in lovely motion.1 In the NKJV and the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), this is described as "the dance of the two camps."
Mounce2 suggests that it could possibly mean "the dance of two war camps". The point of the metaphor is that the Shulammite spellbinds her audience in the same way one is awed by the movement of two armies engaged in battle.
As the general elections draw closer, there is no doubt that a modern-day dance of two camps is mesmerizing spectators from both within and beyond the Church.
Clearly, this is the time when the citizenry and the Church must be discerning and on guard against the seductive wiles of the dancers. As we walk to the polling booths, do not assume our decision will be easy.
For starters, there are good men on both sides. While a popular song lyric may lament, "where have all the good men gone?" the simple truth is there are just too few of them around.
One might prioritize zero tolerance for corruption. Yet what is the difference between one who has "stolen" from the one who has not stolen just because he has not been tempted yet?
(Of course, to be fair, some new administrations have done wonders for their state budgets.)
Aha, it is simple - vote for the pro-Allah camp. Recent events in Jan 2013 tells us a pro-Allah party can flip flop and this is a well-timed reminder that what we have today are political positions and not moral convictions. After the GE, it would not be surprising to find both pro- and anti-Allah campers in the same pub, gleefully recounting how they used Allah as a political football.
Another simple option - vote for someone of the same faith! But what is the point if they succumb to the whip and become wimps, and end up being part of the silent majority in Parliament? They take their seat of power, get paid by taxpayers, strut around as "YBs" but will not speak out against injustice, extremism and the like.
One young teacher recounted recently that the old-timers3 (teachers) are frustrated with what they perceive as ever-changing education policies. The blueprints look good, but the implementation is oftentimes politically skewed. To date, the use of English as a medium of instruction is still hotly debated at the grassroots. So, do we vote for more of the same or for change? But when we vote for change, what is the likelihood that we end up with different players who have the same game plan?
The waters are continuously being muddied, now with even calls for a Royal Commission into Tunku Abdul Rahman's legacy. How do the kampong folks and interior villagers begin to process the attacks of the revisionists, let alone spell the word "election".
"The evil that men do lives after
them; the good is oft interred with
"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." But then William Shakespeare never lived in Boleh-land. Whilst some countries exhume dignitaries to see if they have been poisoned, here we exhume their legacies to see if we can poison the good they have done. Never mind what Shakespeare said.
The war drums are out. The dancers with war paint on their faces are out handing out goodies, making promises, spewing out politically correct manifestos. To borrow Clint Eastwood's phrase, "the Good, the Bad and the Ugly" are out in full force.
There is very little difference between a prostitute and a b-a-d politician. One sells her body, the other his soul. One is loyal for a night, the other for a season. Both do "it" for money. In a land where almost everything can be politicized and nothing is sacred (Scriptures included), and where anyone can be demonized (the dead not exempted), may God help us weed out the genuinely bad and ugly.
Let us recognize that today's dance is not being performed out of love or respect for the Church or the people - in contrast to the dance in the Song of Songs. It's staged purely for votes. And for someone who does not dance nor enjoy dancing, watching this dance of the two war camps can be quite painful.
Alas, this is what politics is all about.
Providentially this week, I heard a refreshing voice of reason:
"We cannot solve today's problems by harping on the past. We have to live with the past, and not find excuses when we are unable to govern well now. We solve problems by working together, by adopting peaceful means and by having big-hearted leaders like the Tunku."4
With all that in perspective, Allah alone can grant us wisdom on how we should choose our suitors. I entreat the Church to continue to intercede that God will give us parliamentarians with a true lover's heart for this nation.
We need statesmen, not seducers.
1 NKJV Study Bible.
2 Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Word.
3 according to his experience.
4 Blog post by Zaid Ibrahim, 22 Jan 2013. I hope we are mature enough to understand that quoting a person from one camp is not synonymous as endorsing that camp.