Do you know what’s the saddest thing I find about the conclusion of the City Harvest trial?
No, not that the convicted would continue to claim that their actions were right in their eyes (or God’s), or that their followers would continue to support the church leaders. These were all predictable outcomes of this long-drawn trial given the track record of all parties mentioned.
What I found sad was the lack of forthrightness of some Christian critics and the lack of a robust, intellectual defence from CHC supporters.
What I mean is that some Christians were unwilling to name the church or its convicted leaders when they posted critical notes or comments on social media about false teachings or church management, when their posts were obviously about CHC. Why not just say it as it is?
Of course, there were the very furious pieces from ex-CHC members like this one which took off the kid gloves.
And then there were Christians who criticised other Christians for criticising CHC (yes, mindboggling) and they kept using the whole “why can’t you love your brothers and sisters” argument so Christians wouldn’t sound “so unkind” about their brethren.
And perhaps my social media circle is not wide enough, but I didn’t see any CHC member or supporter posting a written defense of why they continue to worship at that church or why they support its policies. All I read in the newspapers and social media were their oft-repeated PR statements that they would continue to support their leaders blah blah blah. Nobody from CHC had a good answer to the awful China Wine video or the sensational financial evidence from the court proceedings.
(Before anyone decides to come in here with angry, hysterical comments, I should remind you that no comment gets published without my moderation (it’s my turf, and I paid for the blog’s server space), and my position on this case has been made clear a long time ago. Your comment only gets published if it is rational, respectful of others and polite, thank you.)
The result of Christians on either side of the argument not putting in their all into the conversation?
The whole discourse gets owned by the irrational, pitchfork-wielding mob from the secular side who not just condemn CHC but get the wrong ideas about Christianity*, God’s view on money**, tithing*** and evangelism****.
You see what I’m getting at?
And that’s why I always ask “Why do you do what you do?” to myself and others, when it comes to the important things in life (work, religion, pursuits, family and so on).
It’s really all about critical thinking and unrelentless self-reflection: When we are clear on our motives, have thought through them with different approaches, and are able to articulate the motives clearly, our actions become clearer to everyone (including ourselves).
We need to ask why we think the way we do, and why we continue to. We need to accept that others have a different point of view, and be constantly worried if we are the ones in the wrong to begin with.
For example, I won’t bother to ask someone why he or she would continue to worship at any controversial “prosperity gospel” church. It’s his choice. But I would ask this person to consider why he does so and is he able to explain his rationale in a biblical way. Where many people will get stuck (or try to ignore) is the damning view of the love of money by Jesus.
Moving away from the Christian issues, over the past few years I’ve been observing different things which reminded me of the “Why do you do what you do” question.
During the National Conversation session on education a few years ago, I saw how some participants were very passionate about education but only from their narrow point of views.
Some defended the existence of elite schools (and only because they were products of elite schools themselves), while others wrung their hands about the problems of parents without considering the plight of teachers. Frankly, I think the highly-publicized conversations didn’t lead to any conclusive actions – the PSLE system is still as broken as ever and the Education Minister keeps changing every four years (the role is a more like a milestone in a stellar career progression) while our kids suffer in misery.
This week, I attended a dialogue between the Traffic Police and a bunch of motorcyclists from different backgrounds. I was most impressed by the Harley-Davidson riders (mostly Caucasians) who had very balanced viewpoints about motorcycling enforcement and could articulate them clearly without offending any party. They had good data, personal experience and were straight to the point.
On the other hand, I was dismayed by one other participant who came up with such ill-informed suggestions that the rest just rolled their eyes politely and ignored his statements.
And recently, I was discussing with my friends on the challenges we faced with Generation Y (folks in their 20s today) when it came to hiring and working with them. On one hand, they’re very clear on what they don’t want with regards to their careers and job aspirations, and it’s good for recruiters to see that perspective.
On the other hand, the young guys don’t seem to realize that from the point of Generation X (we old fogeys who aren’t even 40) – you can’t job-hop every year and hope to be able to show depth of experience or long-term results that is only possible with a tenure of several years in the same role or company. That’s why there’s such a mismatch of labor needs and supply in this small country.
Personally, the past few years have been an exciting time of asking myself about my own actions and beliefs, and it took a long time to figure out some bits and to actually act on them. I’ve changed my eating habits, my spending habits, the way I do parenting, my walk with God, and most recently my career path.
One thing that really helped was having these conversations not just with myself, but with other people to constantly debate and test my reasoning.
Social media has allowed us to share our ideas freely and widely, but people need to come clean with themselves before we can have fruitful conversations and achieve better outcomes.
The featured image is Caravaggio’s “The Calling Of St Matthew”.
* Christianity : You only need to believe you are born separated from God, and that Jesus came to die for your sins to enter heaven and have eternal life, and not be condemned to eternal hell. Which church you attend, or whether you speak in tongues, or how much money you give to the church, is not going to decide whether you go to heaven or not. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16″
** God’s view on money is pretty clear, but somehow many Christians don’t want to be reminded of it. The minute you see a church or pastor focus on the excess accumulation of money for frivolous ends, that’s when you should be worried. Many Christians also pursue wanton materialism but say it’s ok because God didn’t say it’s wrong to be rich. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. -1 Timothy 6:10”
*** Tithing: Here’s the surprising truth most non-Christians may not know – there is no mandatory percentage on tithing. You give to the church as much as you feel you should and within your means. “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. – 2 Cor 9: 6-7″ More on the context of tithing here.
**** Evangelism : Christians are commanded by Jesus to go out and spread the Word, so that people will receive the word and make their own decision if they wish to accept Christ as their savior. You share the Word with honest testimonies and examples of Christian living.