Thursday, January 13, 2011

3 types of Malaysian Christians

GUEST COLUMNISTS Thomas Lee Seng Hock, Sin Chew Daily

An indictment against the Christian community

Tuesday, 04 January 2011

"Are they not God-fearing Christians, just like Muslims are also God-fearing? Why then did the organisers remove the sacred crucifixes? Isn’t it logical to deduce that they are not God-fearing beings but Satan-fearing arse-licking politicians who claim to be Christians? God-fearing Christians would have defended the crucifixes, Jesus Christ and God. Do they value the presence of the PM more than God?" Jackson asked.

My friend Jackson Ng has raised a very rational and legitimate point in his comment in the Malaysia Chronicle on the matter of the Najib aides asking the organisers of the Christmas Eve gathering at the St John’s Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur to remove the crucifixes, and the banning of singing hymns.

Jackson asked why didn't the church organizers object to such unreasonable instructions?

Although he is not a Christian, Jackson said he decided to write on the issue because it is a matter concerned with the universal acceptance of basic principles and the rights of mankind.

He has rightly pointed out that the removal of crucifixes and the banning of hymn-singing at St John’s Cathedral constitute a violation of religious freedom guaranteed under Article 3(1) of the Federal Constitution.

According to news reports, Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s aides had ordered the removal, claiming that the crucifixes would be offensive to the prime minister.

Jackson said he was not only upset with the instruction given by the Najib aides, but more angry with the church leaders for their failure to stand up and speak out on the matter.

"Are they not God-fearing Christians, just like Muslims are also God-fearing? Why then did the organisers remove the sacred crucifixes? Isn’t it logical to deduce that they are not God-fearing beings but Satan-fearing arse-licking politicians who claim to be Christians? God-fearing Christians would have defended the crucifixes, Jesus Christ and God. Do they value the presence of the PM more than God?" Jackson asked.

"As it was, the organisers, for reasons best known to them, felt the presence of the PM was more important than their Jesus Christ and God. To them, it was more important for the PM to grace the function and, therefore, abandon Jesus Christ and their God. Disgraceful and shameful are two words best to describe the organisers," he said.

"God-fearing Christians must therefore start defending Jesus Christ and their God by throwing out the organisers from their holy house of worship. If not, they too are condoning what they did," Jackson said.

Strong words, indeed, but Jackson certainly is right to lambast the church leaders for being spineless cowards in the face of such violation of human, civil and constitutional rights.

Jackson's denunciation of the action or lack of it of the Christian leaders is perhaps the first public indictment against the Christian community in Malaysia, as far as I know.

And it is not without justification, and surely, appropriate too.

One of the major reasons that the fundamental human, civil and constitutional rights are slowly being eroded is the failure of so-called community and religious leaders to stand firm and steadfast to preserve, protect and promote these rights.

I am very familiar with the Malaysian Christian community, having been a Christian for nearly 45 years and actively involved in teaching and preaching for nearly 40. Hence, I think I am well-qualified to make observation and comment on the Church in Malaysia.

There are basically three types of Christians in Malaysia.

The first common type is the introvert conservatives, who are generally shy, reticent, and typically individualistic self-centered persons, predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings, with nary a care for things outside the walls of their church.

These traditionally orthodox Christians are always concerned about their own "spiritual growth", and are generally timid and harmless.

They live their lives in the familiar safe comfort zone of their church community, and speak a sort of churchy language, often convicting themselves that they will be okay if they go to church regularly, give often to the church and their pastor, pray always in whatever situation they are in, and shun, evade and eschew controversial matters, especially political ones. They dress decently and avoid elaborate and spectacular extravagant and lavish display of wealth and luxury.

They made good church members and citizens as they never ask questions or challenge any rule, precept or instruction, no matter how excessive, unreasonable or even oppressive the rules and instructions are. They are generally afraid of anything official, especially the government and its enforcement agencies. Mention the ISA or May 13, and they will secrete cold sweat and clinched in fear.

Their pastors and church leaders love these church members, because they are literally under their complete control, and want them to remain in their innocent gullible situation.

Hence, there is no real teaching of doctrines, biblical and theological matters, and on issues concerned with life, thoughts and faith in relation to the world outside the church.

Actually, the pastors and church leaders themselves are as biblically and theologically disabled as their church members. Hence, they play church happily, and never growing beyond their religious pubescence. The church is their safe abode, and anything outside the church is none of their business.

The pastors and leaders of such churches generally avoid speaking up on issues, even if the issues affect their churches or their rights to religious freedom. They will not sign petitions to seek release of political and religious freedom fighters, and will not want to be part of the movement to struggle for the right to use the word "Allah" in the worship, teaching, preaching and publications of the Church. We have many of such Christians in the Malaysian Christian community.

The second type of Christians are the so-called Health and Wealth charismatics, whose main focus in their life, thoughts and faith is material wealth and luxurious living. Their church worship services are no difference from that of an entertainment disco joint, with whirling colourful psychedelic lights, with an intense, vivid and swirling abstract loud music and repeated chantings masquerading as worship songs that produce religious hallucinations and apparent expansion of spiritual consciousness.

Most of the worshippers jump, wave, swing, sway and undulated to the thumping rhythm of the deafening music, and wail loudly, with some making animal sounds. There is no solid biblical exposition, only entertaining motivation talks masquerading as sermons. A good preacher is one who tells a lot of stories and joke, and make the congregation laugh. No Bible message, just a feel good prosperity gospel.

Such churches are usually housed in mega complex with attractive facilities like gyms and swimming pools to attract members of other churches to their fold.

There is no growth by evangelism or conversion, only the seduction of church members from other churches.

My personal observation is that most of these people are no different from those under the influence of psychedelic drugs, with their mental intuitive capability almost unilaterally being under the complete control of an irrational runaway emotion. These people are certainly brain-washed into giving large sums of money to their churches and pastors.

Most of the pastors of such churches receive big fat pay packets, driving top brand cars, and live in luxury houses in upmarket residential areas. They go on church-sponsored overseas holiday masquerading as "mission trip" two or three times a year.

Obviously, the pastors, leaders and members from such churches couldn't care about what is happening in the real world outside their churches. They are in a world of their own. For the members, the churches are where they can find escape from their frustration, misery, griefs, mental suffering, and get release and relief for themselves.

For the pastor, the church is a high income generator, giving him undreamt levels of wealth and luxury. The recent news reports of a mega church in Singapore, where the pastor is a multi-millionaire is one example of such a church.

Such churches will not hesitate to remove any religious artifacts, like the Cross, and stop singing hymns and praying in order to receive a non-Christian VIP. To the pastors and church leaders, the Lord Jesus Christ is irrelevant so long as they receive material benefits such as government grants for their mega church building and facilities. After all, Christ is just a brandname of their religious commercial enterprise.

Finally, there are the radical non-comformist Christians, who will stick out their necks to stand up for their faith and principles. There is no organised body of such Christians, but they are found in various churches, especially the traditional denomination churches.

These are Christians who are well-educated in their faith, know what it means to be "salt of the Earth" and "lights of the World", are professionals in the various fields in the secular marketplace, are outspoken and articulate in issues, especially on matters concerning the truth, righteous, justice, fairness, racial and gender equality, freedom of religious practices, freedom or speech and press, and accountability and transparency in the church and in government.

These are the Christians that the pastors and church leaders generally ignore and avoid, and will distance themselves from, for fear of getting into the bad book of the authorities.

We don't find them holding leadership positions in the churches, but we see them active in the secular marketplace, spearheading the struggle for the advancement of God's kingdom among the people of the world, standing up and sacrificing career prospects for the sake of the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

These radical non-conformist Christians will never allow their faith and ethics to be compromised for the sake of acceptance by any unreasonable and oppressive regime.

My friend Jackson Ng is right. It's time the Christians who are truly God's people stand up and be counted in the face of the increasingly excessively unloving and tyrannical repressive regime.

The Author of the above article wrote it in response to the incident below.

Paranoid’ aides told church to remove crosses for Najib's visit
By Debra Chong

December 29, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 – Catholic church officials were told to remove crucifixes and to avoid hymns being sung when Prime Minister Najib Razak attended the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur’s Christmas tea party last Saturday.

The overzealous bid to protect the prime minister’s Islamic credentials was described by sources familiar with what happened as “paranoid” and done without Najib’s knowledge.

The sources also noted the actions of officials from the prime minister’s office could have jeopardised warming religious ties.

The Malaysian Insider understands that Najib’s men may have been spooked by the National Fatwa Council’s recent repeated announcements over Muslims at non-Muslim celebrations and had tripped over themselves to ensure his attendance at the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur’s Christmas Day high-tea passed without a hitch.

It was Najib’s first time attending a Christian function in his official role since taking over power in April last year.

The Malaysian Insider understands the PM had been invited to last year’s open house hosted by the Mar Thoma church in Brickfields here, but did not attend.

Najib has been instrumental in bringing the heads of different creeds to the same table earlier this year to try and peacefully resolve the long-standing interfaith disputes after a series of attacks against houses of worship nationwide.

The violence erupted following a controversial court ruling allowing Christians to also use the word “Allah” to refer to God beyond the Muslim context.

Sources disclosed that this year, the PM’s aides had issued a list of instructions to Archbiship Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam to facilitate Najib’s attendance on Christmas Day.

Among the directives given were:

. To remove any overt Christian symbol, such as crucifixes, from the party premises

. That carollers not belt out hymns

. Not to quote from Scriptures or say any Christian prayer during the visit.

Similar conditions have been laid in previous Christmas celebrations, including those graced by the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong himself, said a member of the Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM), the umbrella body representing the various denominations.

The instructions usually came from the staff without the knowledge of the dignitary, said the insider who has been on the organising committee on more than one occasion.

“Previously, the carollers even sang some Christmas hymns. The King was there. No one made a fuss. I don’t think they heard.

“I suspect the PM would not have objected either,” he had observed that a member of Najib’s office had conferred with Pakiam and made a quick circuit of the party grounds at Bukit Nanas shortly before the PM dropped in.

The Archbishop could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

But another member of the CFM echoed the observation.

“No conditions from PM. Only from his staff. That resolved by ABP very quickly,” the source told The Malaysian Insider in a text message, calling the Archbishop by initials.

The sources noted that Najib’s aides had little to be anxious about as the party was held outdoors where several marquees had been set up, where religious paraphernalia were the least likely to be fixed.

Grace was said before Najib turned up.

There were two groups of carollers serenading the crowd – one from Africa, the other a local outfit – but the guests were too caught up in their chatter and did not appear to be paying them any attention.

“They were overly fearful but there was nothing for them to be fearful about,” a source pointed out, dismissing Najib’s aides as too “paranoid”.