Theological Controversy

Aug 25th, 2008, in News, by

LutherPeople from East Nusa Tenggara continue to play out 16th century European theological battles.


Journalist Lambertus L Hurek writes of the recent governor's election in the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT) that, unlike in similar elections on Java, "primordial", tribal forces dominated the campaign and voting patterns, with ethnicity, religious affiliation, and church denomination, playing vital roles.

The results:

  • Frans Lebu Raya-Esthon Foenay - 772,263 votes/37%
  • Ibrahim Agustinus Medah-Paulus Moa - 711,116 votes/34%
  • Gaspar Parang Ehok-Julius Bobo 584.082 votes/28%

A survey institute found that 70% of Catholic voters plumped for the Catholic candidate Frans Lebu Raya, from PDI Perjuangan. While 80% of Protestants voted for their co-religionist Ibrahim Agustinus Medah, from Golkar.

Lambertus doesn't say where Gaspar Parang Ehok, who was supported by a coalition of small parties including Partai Penegak Demokrasi Indonesia (PPDI), Partai Pelopor, and Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (PKB), drew his support from, possibly including a lot of the Muslim minority.

Colonial Zoning

The origins of this split along denominational lines lies in Portuguese, and especially Dutch, zoning policies that began from the mid 16th century, where Flores, Belu, and Timor Tengah Utara were designated as Catholic, and other areas as Protestant, he says.

Doctrinal Disputes

Even to this day Lambertus says NTT people of different Christian denominations have trouble getting along, and very rarely intermarry. Whenever there is a case of sacrilege committed against the host (the sacred bread), everybody knows Protestants must have been behind it.

And especially when they meet up at universities on Java, NTT students are wont to get into heated theological disputes. Protestant students will berate their Catholic fellows from NTT, hurling at them bits of the 95 Theses of Martin Luther, 1517 version, he says.

Lambertus, who is a Catholic from Flores but lives in East Java, admits to being tired of having to fend off the attacks and ridicule of the Lutheran and Calvinist Reformers from NTT, especially since the Catholic church already reformed itself after Vatican II in the 1960's.

Whereas in other parts of Indonesia such tribal-sectarian divisions are not as strongly felt anymore, Flores and West Timor are still run through with them, and he worries for the future of such a place in the modern age. hurek.blogspot

14 Comments on “Theological Controversy”

  1. avatar AchmadSudarsono says:

    Gotta say, Patoeng, this is great sh*t. Where do you find it ?? But perhaps could you elaborate a little on the 16th century theological dispute ?? Seems to be only in the bottom para. If you do, I promise to tone done the race-baiting and sh*t-stirring.

  2. avatar David says:

    Achmad, not sure I’d take too much notice of the titles I give to things, I’m trying to avoid using the same titles over and over…anyway, it’s not the last para it’s the last section, the theological disputes, I guess the article assumes people are familiar with the 16th century protestant Reformation, so…. I’d imagine they are arguing about things like whether good works are of any value (catholic view) or whether you are saved sola fide (by faith alone) (protestant view), but Lambertus says that the Protestants quote the 95 Theses of Luther against him (and the Catholic church), so that is mainly criticism of indulgences, existence of purgatory, papal pardons and authority, things like that.

  3. avatar Achmad Sudarsono says:

    But Patoeng,

    Did u pick this up in the regional press, the naional press, like Kompas — or would that be telling ? Well spotted, anyway. It’s fascinating, as you say, that a 16th century debate is playing itself out 500 years later on an island half way between Asia and Polynesia…

  4. avatar sputjam says:

    If you belong to a particular group, such as nationalist, racialist, religionist, idoelogist, you are considered as idol worshippers, and just causes, rightoeusness etc overides the interest of the group you belong.

  5. avatar Kris says:

    Does anyone have exact demographic numbers for NTT? Wikipedia only says “91% Christian (majority Catholic, large Protestant population)”. Thanks

    @Achmad: That theological dispute led to a all-out European war fought out in Germany, over the course of which 1/3 of Germany’s population lost their lives… (Granted it started out as a religious dispute and quickly took on strong political colours).

  6. avatar Purba Negoro says:

    Some background info some readers may not be aware of:

    Catholics are fondly well remembered in Indonesia for their massive charitable work amongst the poor- Muslim included. Many Javanese are Catholics.
    Catholic Churches are routinely zealously guarded and repaired by Muslims from nearby mosques- one brave Muslim man killed while guarding the Cathedral opposite Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, when some anus-hole bombed it. Those responsible were never “found”, and considered “missing” (hint, hint).

    Protestants are generally aligned (obviously not always- many Batak heroes) with the Dutch placing them in a blurred category of Colonial collaborators and sympathizers and “sell-outs” mimicking their white masters.
    This is obviously a crude generalisation- but still common in public debate.
    Ambonese, Flores-ese, Maluku and Sumaterans especially the Batak are famous for being Protestants (and many National Heroes) but moreover being fantastic vocalists.

  7. avatar berlian biru says:

    Fenians and Prods having a go at each other eh? Now why does that seem so familiar?

    Given that the Blue-noses of Nusa Tenggara Timur owe their allegiance to their former Dutch masters do they revere good King Billy? Have they considered setting up an Orange Lodge? The Rising Sons of Wanukaka perhaps, or maybe the Kupang Loyal Defenders. “Hello, Hello we are the Billy Boys!”

    You really couldn’t make it up.

  8. avatar David says:

    Did u pick this up in the regional press, the naional press, like Kompas — or would that be telling ?

    Just click the footnote link! Achmad, btw, you have an awful lot of email addresses, that is what causes the hold up in your comments sometimes, I’d use the achmadtellsit one, esp. if you want that nice photo of you to show up.

    Does anyone have exact demographic numbers for NTT? Wikipedia only says “91% Christian (majority Catholic, large Protestant population)”. Thanks

    These are the official stats from Dept. of Religion – Nusa Tenggara Timur, Islam 384.945, Kristen 1.369.302, Katolik 2.185.195.

  9. avatar Purba Negoro says:

    welcome to Indonesia- land of 230 million lunatics. Enjoy your stay in the asylum!

  10. avatar Kris says:

    @Patung: Thanks I appreciate it! (now do you also happen to know statistics by kabupaten, to check out the regional imbalances discussed in the text?)

    @Purba Negoro: I think you are mistaken. Florenese are famous for being Catholics. I don’t know the exact numbers (hence my request above) but it is quite clear they are mostly Catholic.

  11. avatar Purba Negoro says:

    Maybe- if so- I apologize- Nuwen Sewu- and stand corrected

  12. avatar Neil of Newcastle says:

    BB, I trust that the indigenous disputants rise above toasting the little gentleman in the black velvet coat, or melodically enquiring if Bobby Sands wants some chicken soup…. The most interesting Christian division in Indonesia has to be Irian where the Dutch divided the place to mirror the Great Divide in The Netherlands – RCs to the south and Prods to the north

  13. avatar ultratupai says:

    I guess there is the bloody Dutch to thank for this (in part). It is interesting how religion can co-opt tribalism (both Christianity and Islam) and how the post-colonial can co-opt the colonial.

    I wish I were President of Indonesia.

  14. avatar Lairedion says:

    Through my father’s line age I’m Manadonese which automatically would mean I’m Protestant but my father wad raised Catholic by his Javanese mother and I followed suit. But now I’m happy to tell I’ve set my mind free from old-fashioned dogma’s of the Middle Eastern origins.

    Perhaps Celtic and Rangers can have a go here with their Old Firm rivalry.

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