A recent conference addressed the issue of corruption through the Bible, within the culture, and in government and business, urging Christians to fight against this sin which works on both an individual and collective level.
On August 17, the Anti-Corruption Conference was hosted by the Lausanne Movement and the World Evangelical Alliance’s Global Integrity Network, with the title of “Anti-Corruption: Perspectives and Practices”
According to its official website, the Global Integrity Network is “an issue network of the World Evangelical Alliance and the Lausanne Movement on Integrity and Anti-Corruption - which is a response to the Call to Action of The Cape Town Commitment for the church to identify and expose corruption in the church and society and to renounce and repent from this menace in the name and authority of Jesus as Lord.”
Dr. Lazarus Phiri, the vice-chancellor of Zambian Evangelical University, claimed that the Bible is anti-corruption “in the context of God’s attributes of holiness, righteousness, and omniscience”.
In his speech titled “Anti-Corruption in the Bible”, the professor said, “Corruption can be defined as dishonest or fraudulent conduct by any person, typically involving deceitful practices. Corruption according to scripture is sin.”
By using the examples of the corruption of Gehazi in 2 Kings 5, the corruption of Achan in Joshua 7, and the corruption of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5, he stated that the scriptures were consistent in showing us that corruption was always punishable by God, as well as by the law of the nation or society.
“For the children of God, corruption is a sinful act, against God, His people and society. The mandate of believers, is for them to be salt and light of the world. Corruption is the antithesis of God’s plan and purpose of His image bearers. Furthermore, it then becomes a scandal of who God’s people should be and represent in this world and the world to come. The Bible, which is God’s word remains anticorruption in its form and directive,” he concluded.
Dr. Martin Allaby, chairman of the Steering Committee of Faith & Public Integrity Network, offered a cultural insight into anti-corruption stating that integrity and justice were two primary characteristics.
“Integrity means all our social interactions are based on honesty and fairness, not favoritism,” Dr. Allaby said.
Looking back in history, he claimed that integrity was used positively within society.
“In the first millennium, the Catholic Church prohibited marriage between close relatives and allowed widows & spinsters to own property in their own name. This increased the number of wealthy, unmarried Christians, which in turn helped shift Europe from a culture of tribalism to a culture of individualism, weakening kinship as a basis for privilege.”
“After the Reformation, Protestantism emphasized the individual’s personal responsibility for avoiding sin. John Wesley and other 18th century reformers helped bring about a ‘Silent Revolution’ of moral behavior in Britain.”
On the contrary, integrity was also often taken advantage of, resulting in the high levels of corruption in today’s many “Christian” countries and the disappearance of the traditional Protestant ethics from many Protestant churches, as well as the “little evidence to suggest that religion, in terms of religious content, impacts upon individuals’ attitudes towards public morality.”
He continued that justice could be defined as “’(when) we use our power to serve others, not exploit them’” because “we believe that is right (as ‘benevolent dictators’) and because of “pressure from those we rule (as ‘accountable democrats’)”.
Justice also contributed to positive and negatives throughout history such as the establishment of the concept of the common good but many “Christian” European countries endeavored to “dominate and exploit the rest of the world during the colonial era”.
In light of those negatives, he urged Christians to “repent of our personal and institutional failures”, “immerse ourselves in the Bible’s teaching about integrity and justice”, “promote a socially engaged theology that emphasizes both justice and integrity”, and “build sustainable collective action against corruption in our societies”.
Regarding the issue of anti-corruption in government, Eva Marie “Joy” Famador, national coordinator of Micah Philippines, said that not committing corruption in government referred to “doing the job with due diligence, making decisions that are not prejudicial to the interest of the public, produce excellent work worthy of the public trust”.
She added that the voices and acts of Christians who worked outside or inside the government system should be heard and featured in mass media as the kingdom of God started with a mustard seed that could grow big.
Several approaches could be taken to prevent corruption in government, such as writing letters to officials, visiting them with a presentation of data and evidence of corruption, and supporting those government workers who directly witnessed corruption.
Dr. Willy Kotiuga, chairman of the Board of Regents of Bakke Graduate University, shared the cost of fighting corruption in the marketplace. Often it was more than we were willing to pay, but the rewards outweighed the cost.
“When we look at scripture, we see striking examples of prosperity and growth when people lived in a covenantal relationship. The initial exponential growth of the church sharing everything took place in a covenantal paradigm. The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was (that) they were stuck in a transactional framework. Corruption gets snuffed out in an actual covenantal environment because it cannot survive where everyone genuinely watches out for one another.”
“The pathway to sustainable change is to work alongside what God is already doing. Do we recognize the roots of corruption? What do we know and understand about the true nature of corruption? With what we know, we need to discern and hear what God expects us to do. And the most important part, how do we fit into God's plan to walk alongside Him in the mission to move society from transactional pillars based on contracts to fully supportive covenantal foundations? We should never try to get God to agree to our plans. Instead, we should always align ourselves with His plan. His presence and leadership are essential in each step of the way,” he stressed.
Dr. Yoon Hee Kim, president of Torch Trinity Graduate University, concluded the four speeches with the notion that these four areas were “creating an ecosystem for our lives, and we breathe and live our realities within them”.
She urged, “My concern is that while the non-believers are fighting against corruption, we Christians are living insular religious lives within the church walls and remain insensitive and complacent to social justice issues. This conference is being held to break us out of that framework.”
“We all have to do something about anti-corruption whether it is through loud advocacy, soft advocacy, small steps, or daring steps. As we are willing to pay the cost and bear consequences by fighting against corruption in all kinds of forms, there is nothing we can’t accomplish both individually and collectively if we are led by God,” she ended.