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Can a politician be religious? Tan Chuan-Jin on living out his faith in the public eye

by Gabriel Ong // June 26, 2020, 11:54 am

TCJ - Religion and politics

If you’ve seen his posts on social media, then you’ll know that few in the political realm are as open about faith as Speaker of Parliament* Tan Chuan-Jin.

In an Instagram live broadcast organised by impossible413, the former Brigadier-General discussed at length on topics like community spirit and leadership.

But at various points in the conversation, Tan also spoke plainly on what it’s like to be a Christian leader in the public sphere.

Tan Chuan-Jin speaking to youth leaders at the Singapore Model Parliament in 2019. Image source: Tan Chuan-Jin’s Facebook page.

OF PIETY AND POLITICS

“I’m not shy about sharing my faith,” he said, believing that one could be a follower of Christ and serve in public office concurrently.

Sharing a similar point he had made on leadership, Tan reaffirmed that we should aim for consistency in both our public and private selves.

“It’s far easier to be yourself,” he said, emphasising the need for authenticity. “Otherwise, you keep putting up a front and start losing track about who you are and what you are.”

Even though he doesn’t use his position to proselytise, Tan shared that he sometimes receives comments about how he should not be quoting from the Bible on his Facebook page simply because he is a Speaker or Minister.

“There will always be naysayers. That’s something that you have to deal with and accept,” he said, revealing that he runs his own social media accounts.

Image source: Tan Chuan-Jin’s Instagram page.

WHEN ALL EYES ARE ON YOU

However, Tan also offered a word of caution, urging Christians to be careful in how they conducted themselves online.

Explaining that what we put up on our pages are a “very public testimony”, he said that it becomes stumbling when one quotes the Bible on one hand and “cast stones” in the other, in ways that do not glorify God. 

“Often times, we are the poorest witnesses for Christ,” he observed.

But Tan also clarified that simply sharing Christian verses online does not make him a “good Christian” by any means. Instead, it is an aspect of his life that he feels convicted not to hide from the public eye.

Image source: Tan Chuan-Jin’s Instagram page.

At the end of the day, Tan shared that he is a Christian who has his shortcomings, with much to learn and do in the pursuit of God’s heart.

Beginning the session by acknowledging that he felt “exceedingly inadequate” especially at being put up as a leader on a Christian platform, Tan rounded up his sharing by admitting that he does fall short even as he tries to live in a way that is pleasing to God.

He also encouraged others to stand up for what they believe in, imperfect as they may be. What that means for Tan is being able to acknowledge his inadequacies and still be comfortable in his own skin. 

“I still have my own struggles as a Christian and as an individual,” he said. “But notwithstanding that, in my public role, I do feel there’s a responsibility there to do what I can.”

*At time of writing, Parliament had not been dissolved. Tan Chuan-Jin has also shared his reflections on other topics during impossible413’s Instagram live conversation on May 30, 2020. Catch up on our stories here:

Not sure of your purpose in life? Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin shares how things were not always so clear to him

Going from “me” to “we”: Speaker Tan Chuan-Jin on transforming the spirit of Singapore

About the author

Gabriel Ong

Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.