Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Christianity Amidst the Challenges of Corruption

Written by: on February 1, 2024

Avoiding living in a false world may sound academic and detached from everyday concerns. But that assessment rapidly changes the moment someone or some group comes along and tries to conscript you into their ideological fantasy … You can run, you can submit, you can bloody your knuckles. Or you can craft a better argument and make your case boldly.

-Matthew R. Petrusek-

Our country’s corruption index score in 2023 is 34, ranking 115th out of 180 nations evaluated.[1] This number shows that corruption in our country remains high. This is startling since it violates our declaration that God is the first of our country’s five basic pillars. Our country officially recognizes six government-sanctioned faiths. Furthermore, the government has accommodated those practicing indigenous faiths in several regions. The Ministry of Religion, headed by a State Minister oversees religious issues. Religion is required on our ID cards (KTP), and religious holidays are recognized as national holidays, with places of worship filled during these periods.

These data demonstrate that the state sees religion as the major underpinning for its existence. We also think that all religions promote universal moral norms, such as the ban on theft. However, the question arises: why does our country’s corruption index continue to show pervasive corrupt practices? Despite the government’s varied efforts, including outreach initiatives involving community leaders, educators, and religious figures, as well as a formidable anti-corruption organization with the right to wiretap and make real-time arrests, major results have yet to be realized.

In my perspective, our country’s seriousness has not been matched by strict law enforcement. Corrupt individuals continue to face extraordinarily low punishments, with remissions given almost every time they are halfway through their sentences. Not all of their assets have been seized. As a result, corrupt persons lack a feeling of deterrent, and those considering corruption exhibit no fear. As a result, our country has quickly developed a corrupt culture that affects all levels of society. Even churches and priests seem powerless in this circumstance. This is due in part to the fact that churches and leaders require significant financial assistance as well. When evaluating sponsors who make considerable contributions to the church, it is critical to investigate about the source of this cash. Other church members, on the other hand, frequently see these people favorably. As a result, the church is not only helpless but also pretends to be unaware. This cultural problem remains a big burden for our society.

Using a Catholic social teaching approach, Petrusek proposes different methods for performing evangelization within the framework and culture of the church. This essay, emphasizing that all Catholics have a role as evangelists, attempts to equip those doing the process of evangelization to make the strongest possible case for the natural-law alternative to secular politics.[2] Petrusek further explains, “The greater goal, the goal behind the goal, is to offer the culture an escape from hyper-politicization by presenting an alternative to thinking—and acting—ideologically altogether. It is to invite the culture into a relationship with a man who calls everyone to do everything possible to fix the world while also unambiguously declaring, “My kingdom is not from this world” (John 18:36).”[3] Petrusek asserts that the inherent rationality of the social teachings of the Catholic Church constitutes a robust foundation, ultimately pointing towards the Logos, synonymous with Agape or unconditional love, embodied in Jesus Christ.[4]

According to Petrusek, if evangelists can effectively give evidence that the Church has a solid political perspective—specifically, a vision firmly established in objective truth—then we should be willing to explore if the Church also has a well-founded theological viewpoint. This attitude, he believes, would result from objective love.[5] Petrusek does not intend to co-opt religion into politics and vice versa. Rather, he argues, it allows us to show these two aspects in their right relationship to each other and direct them both in the service of God and true human goodness.[6]

Corruption, as previously said, has become a widespread and detrimental cultural phenomenon. Petrusek links this behavior to a deeply ingrained mindset, similar to an act of idolatry.[7] Petrusek’s optimism originates from his idea that Catholic social teaching gives ‘a vision established in objective truth,’ “vision that grounded in objective truth, then we at least open the door for considering whether the Church might have a good vision of religion as well—a vision founded in objective love.”[8]  While I appreciate your viewpoint, I try to avoid utopian and gloomy perspectives.[9] I am not recommending that we compromise our Christian faith to gain a temporary ally.[10]

However, it appears that Petrusek’s method, given our culturally diversified context, requires collaboration with other solutions to successfully address the cultural and ideological obstacles faced by corruption in our nation. Such coordinated efforts may include strict and disciplined law enforcement, as well as the assimilation of local wisdom found in our country’s traditional communities. The latter teaches vital lessons about appreciation and satisfaction. Integrating biblical principles with indigenous wisdom might provide an alternate method to combat corruption in our society. Is this a viable proposition? I then recall what the Bible says, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”[11]

[1] https://www.transparency.org/en/countries/indonesia. Accessed January 31, 2024.

[2] Matthew R. Petrusek, Evangelization and Ideology: How to Understand and Respond to the Political Culture (Park Ridge, IL: Word on Fire, 2023), 13.

[3] Ibid, 14.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid, 15.

[8] Ibid, 14.

[9] Ibid, 87.

[10] Ibid, 469.

[11] Mark. 10:27. NIV.

About the Author


Dinka Utomo

Dinka Nehemia Utomo is an ordained pastor of the Protestant Church in the Western part of Indonesia (Gereja Protestan di Indonesia bagian Barat or GPIB). He has served for more than 15 years. The first five years of his ministry were in the remote area of East Kalimantan, including people from the indigenous Dayak tribe in the small villages in the middle of the forest, frequently reached using small boats down the river. For more than 15 years, Dinka has served several GPIB congregations in several cities in Indonesia. He has always had a passion for equipping Christian families, teaching and guiding them to build equal relations between husband and wife, maintaining commitment, love, and loyalty, creating a healthy and constructive Christian family atmosphere, and rejecting all forms of violence and sexual violence. Dinka's beloved wife, Verra, is also a GPIB pastor. They have two blessed children. Dinka and his wife and children love to spend quality family time, such as lunch or dinner, and vacation to exotic places.

10 responses to “Christianity Amidst the Challenges of Corruption”

  1. Jenny Dooley says:

    Hi Dinka,
    I am always so impressed by your posts, how you synthesize the readings, and apply them to your context. I have a tough time understanding what is going on in my own country due to missing out on 30-years of cultural shifts! I appreciate what you said about collaboration, “However, it appears that Petrusek’s method, given our culturally diversified context, requires collaboration with other solutions to successfully address the cultural and ideological obstacles faced by corruption in our nation.” In your country, do see the church and state collaborating? If so, in what ways? If not, what might collaboration look like? I am making a trip to your capitol city in May and I am very much looking forward to visiting your wonderful country again!
    Thank you for a great post!

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Jenny! Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it!

      In our country, the church and the government frequently collaborate to promote government projects at the national, provincial, and city/district levels.
      This alliance includes anti-corruption activities. The government partners with religious leaders to raise anti-corruption awareness. However, as I stated in my essay, as long as the government is not serious about legal and regulatory issues, new corruption will continue to emerge in our country.

      By the way, I’m delighted to hear that you’ll be visiting my country. Hopefully, there is a chance to meet you.


  2. Scott Dickie says:

    Hi Dinka,

    I appreciate your insight into your context. Your question, if I understand it correctly, seems to be questioning whether like-minded (or same-valued) groups that share similar values/belief–but perhaps not all–should become allies against cultural ideologies. It seems like Petrusek answers, “no”…and I would tend to answer, “yes” (although I admittedly need to study Petrusek further to fully understand what he means by the statement you quoted). Perhaps the best example of the ‘yes’ answer in Canada is the various monotheistic religions sharing a similar voice against various social/political ideologies that are progressing in our country. While we share divergent views of truth and salvation, we can stand together against the current dominant secular ideology that we live in.

    Is this similar to what you are considering with your question?

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Scott! Thanks for your comment. I appreciate it!

      I resonate with your analysis, friend. Thank You. In my opinion, Christianity in my context needs to collaborate with other social groups to overcome the problem of corruption. Christianity or churches can use their values and principles based on the Bible. And other groups may use their values and principles.
      Christianity and the church here must also respect and appreciate the social diversity that is highly valued here. However, Christianity and the church can be an example and role model for living honestly and with integrity for others.

  3. Kally Elliott says:

    Hi Dinka, Like the others have said, I appreciate how you synthesized the readings with your particular context and how you understand your context so well. You write, “However, it appears that Petrusek’s method, given our culturally diversified context, requires collaboration with other solutions to successfully address the cultural and ideological obstacles faced by corruption in our nation.” The way I read Petrusek was that he seemed to think his way was the only “right” way of believing, acting, etc. Do you think he would be amenable to collaborating with other solutions?

    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Kally! Thank you for your comment. I Appreciate it!

      I appreciate Petrusek’s thinking in trying to present a solution by offering a Catholic social teaching approach. Indeed it does seem like he is offering that approach as the “only one.” In our context, that would be met with a lot of challenges and resistance. That is why churches, including the Catholic church in our context, also collaborate with other parties to spread the love of Christ. For example, many churches also use local traditions and the wisdom of local tribes to preach the love of Christ.
      About Petrusek, he could collaborate with contextual values or wisdom when presenting his writing in another context filled with diversity.

  4. mm Russell Chun says:

    Hi Dinka,
    You wrote, “Integrating biblical principles with indigenous wisdom might provide an alternate method to combat corruption in our society.”

    Dr. Clark mentioned (in his thesis) that there is a third space where Christians can view opposing thoughts. From this perspective I see your statement of integrating biblical principles to build bridges very relevant.

    Dr. Cocanougher (a graduate of the our program) said that the, “Church needs to influence politics, not the other way around.”

    Nice post.


    • mm Dinka Utomo says:

      Hi Russell! Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it!

      I agree with you.

      In my humble opinion, Christianity or the church was presented by God together with other communities to build a harmonious and peaceful life for all of God’s creation.


  5. Hey Pastor Dinka. Thank you again for your well-written post and insight from Petrusek. How does the corruption you speak about impact the people in your congregation?

  6. mm Dinka Utomo says:

    Hi Todd! Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it!

    Maybe I won’t give a picture based on the members of my congregation. But, I will give you a general overview of what is happening to Christians in Indonesia.

    Yes. The culture of corruption (and the ideology that underlies it) also has an impact on some Christians in our country. Not a few officials or bribers who are arrested for corruption cases are Christians and active church members. Not a few of them donate their money to social causes and to the church so they are usually respected by other people or fellow church members. This is what makes Christianity or the church here experience great challenges in fighting corruption. Several months ago, a state minister who was still in office was arrested for a corruption case. After investigation, quite large funds were given to one of the churches. This means that churches that receive these funds must return the funds to the government. However, the name of the church had already been announced.

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