The CHC Story 2

I blogged about this when the news first broke 5 years ago. Back then I said it was still too early to comment since it was before the Court. Now the verdict is out and not surprisingly all of the defendants have been found guilty, it is time for me to add some more of my 2 cents worth.

A few years ago, at the invitation of a friend, I attended a sort of mega Church service at the Indoor Stadium. The highlight of the service was supposed to be Don Moen and a group with a weird name Delirious? (yes question mark inclusive).

The first person I recognised was Canon James Wong, who was a chaplain during my days in SAJC.  There was a guy with a Mohican hair style sitting next to him. Curious as to who he was, I asked my friend who told me that was Kong Hee. I was shocked! In my younger days when I was attending church services, the pastors that I seen and known were all very “normally” dressed not someone that looks like a punk that is seen more commonly in American movies. So it wasn’t a good first impression.  The bad impression continues when I sat through what I thought was a sermon on giving and blessing only to find out that it was just a prelude to the offering session. That got me a little disgusted although I did enjoyed the performance by Don Moen and Delirious?. That by the way is a  rock band singing Christian music.

Back home, I did some googling and come across this term “prosperity gospel” and that CHC was one of the few mega churches that we have here.  Then some friends shared with me their experience at these mega churches.  Naturally what they shared were not the nice things. After all, who shares nice things? Bad news sell.  Then came the Rony’s story. So the impression of the mega church with their prosperity gospel became worse. And when the story of CHC broke, I knew it was inevitable. What was surprising was not that it broke but the others had so far escaped the attention that CHC and to a certain extent FCBC got.

Anyway, the sad part of this whole story is that instead of drawing more people to Christ as what CHC wanted to do with the Crossover Project, the result instead is that it probably caused more people to draw away from Christ and tarnish the reputation of Christians so badly that it will take years for it to be repaired.

Are these mega pastors Messenger of God or the Devil in disguise?

VISION 2015 Show

I am not anti-LGBT although I am sure those people will disagree and I am also not pro Lawrence Khong as I am no fan of his hard headed policies but after all the hullaboo about the show from the LGBT people, it got me curious to see the show to see what all the fuss is about. So I guess in the end, the LGBT protests actually fail and worked the other way to push more people to watch the show.

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Lawrence Khong with Priscilla Khong in one of the scene. Photo credit http://vision.gateway-e.com/

I know Lawrence Khong is the pastor of one of the mega-church. I also know he is a magician and that seemingly opposing roles strike me as very conflicting. Still I went to the show expecting to see a magic show with a lot of Christianity symbolism and a storyline centering around Christianity. I actually also wondered whether they will kick off the show with a prayer!

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The nightmarish and almost demonic scene. Photo Credit vision.gateway-e.com/

To my utmost surprise, I was wrong on all count. Not only was there nothing Christian like about the show, it fact, it was quite creepy and dare I say, almost demonic especially the opening Act of part 2. There were no gentle hymns or Christian music. Instead the music were loud rocks, the type one associate more with punk music. And while the dancers were not very scantily clad, the dances were certainly very un-church like. Certainly I won’t recommend this show for young children.

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They made the car appeared and disappeared like it was a toy car! Photo credit vision.gateway-e.com/

But having said that, I am very impressed with the magic. I didn’t know Lawrence Khong and his daughter, Priscilla were that good. World class in fact and I totally enjoyed watching them performing their amazing illusions and tricks.

But still I wonder. How does he reconcile his role as a Christian pastor and a magician where in most Christian circle, practising magic is seen as dabbling with the occult and Satanism.  Maybe, just maybe I should make a trip down to FCBC to hear one of his sermon….

Its just a movie!

There is a new movie in town and there is a mini hooha surrounding it. The movie in question is Noah. The Christian are up in arms against it for depicting Noah as a swashbuckling hero. The Muslim in the neighbouring countries has gone one step better. They just ban the movie! 
I find all these chest beating about a movie amusing and yet at the same time irritating. Why are people so sensitive and read so much into a movie. To me, a movie is pure fiction and for entertainment only. I do not think any producer will want to weave a hidden message or retell a historical story without shouting the message out loud like in the movie, Passion of the Christ which was the last movie about a religious figures that claims to be true to its source.
In the current movie Noah, which I must confess I have not watch yet, very obviously from the blurb and what has been put in the trailers, it is not meant to be a faithful retelling of the story of Noah. So I don’t understand why everybody who is slightly religious, be they Christian, Jews or Muslim are making so much noise about it.  It just a movie for goodness sake. Just like Transformer, Harry Potter, X-Men, Bruce Almighty and the last movie about a modern day Noah, Evan Almighty.
If people can watch a movie and accept that pig can fly, cars can transform into robots, there is a parallel world where wizard lives with modern day mankind and God is a black guy, then why can’t they accept that the Noah in 2014 is not the Noah in the Bible? Just like the monk XuanZang in the 2013 Journey to the West movie is a totally fictitious character from the real monk of the Tang Dynasty.

I find it real sad that people read so much into an innocent movie – like the Golden Compass which was supposed to be anti-Christianity or anti-religion, the Da Vinci Code which offended the Catholic with its so called exposé on Jesus Christ remaining living “relatives”. Even the Teletubbies (gay) was not spared!

Seriously for those who really want to watch a real show about some religious guys, go watch a documentary and leave the rest of the world to watch our movies in peace.

Religion and Law

October is Pastor Appreciation Week or so I gathered from my friend in US. Unfortunately, here in Singapore, it will appear that October is pastor bashing week. Or rather, one pastor in particular who has single handledly in one move, wipe off whatever remaining goodwill towards Christianity that the non-Christian has left after the sad saga of the CHC and Lighthouse. 
By now everybody will have known of the challenge that is being mounted by Faith Community Baptist Church against the Ministry of Manpower and the Minister’s order to the church to compensate a pregnant employee for their termination of her from her job in the church. For those who are still living in dah dah land, here is the short brief of what happened so far.
There was this married man and this lady. Both worked for FCBC. They had an affair and the lady got pregnant. The man quit the church. She did not. She was asked by the church to forget the man and move on. She refused and after some heeing and hawing, she was fired from her job. One reason given was that she did not breached the implied rule of the church. Another reason was that she was working in the marriage department of the church and her state of affairs was a bad example for other married and to-be married couple. At that point in time, she was already 7 months pregnant. The church did not compensate her for the firing. The lady complained to MOM and after some “investigation”, the church was ordered to pay her slightly over $7,000.00 as compensation for wrongful dismissal. The church paid up but has now launched a court action to get a review of the decision by the MOM and quote “the Courts can give guidance on where we stand with reference to the constitutional rights of religious bodies in the management of their religious affairs, which we believe include the hiring and dismissal of staff, the moral standards expected of staff at a level that reflects the ethos and values of the organisation”

The sacking of the woman had already given Christianity a bad name. Where is the compassion, the forgiveness that is always being preached? But having said that, to be fair to the church, I think the church has every right to sack her. She has breached the “rule”. Sexual indiscretion is a major no no in many companies notwithstanding that it may not be spelled out in the HR manual. They have counselled her, given her a chance and a choice and she did not bite. So they rightfully terminated her.  But where they went wrong was the failure to compensate her for in lieu notice and in following labour law on termination of pregnant employee. The church argued that its rule book do not allow for compensation in the case of termination. That to me, is pure bullshit! The senior pastors or any other bosses in any organisation will surely have the discretion to waive this and pay out of compassion or pity or whatever reasons they can make up but they failed to do so. Where is thy compassion? 
Now having been slapped in the face by the government, the church like an indignant son who felt he has did not wrong is spoiling for a fight. The thrust of its argument is that the church has a constitutional rights to the management of their religious affairs etc. In simple words, it is saying that it has the right to behave as it deem fits within the rules of its own religious code.
And this is where I find the argument absurd. Let suppose that the Court agrees with the church’s argument and rules that the church has the power to enforce its own spiritual code of conduct over its members and employees and that its own law override the country’s law. So in this case, the employee sinned (committed adultery) and was fired. Case closed. 
I can imagine what’s going to happen next. The Jehovah Witness movement will now come forward and restate it case against its members serving NS. SThe Mormons will said it is their religious rights to practice polygamy. The Islamic movement will want to enforce their hudud laws against their members and the list will go on and on. Is this how we want it to pan out?
The FCBC has stirred a hornet nest that was already buzzing from the CHC crude attempt to finance the Crossover Funds. The rest of the Christian community don’t really need this type of adverse publicity. The mega church has grown too big for its boots and is becoming a social menace. Maybe the CHC case and this case is good in the long run if eventually the government steps in to see what really going on behind these million dollar enterprise. 

A Chinese Funeral 4

Typically, during a funeral, friends and business associates of the deceased and deceased’s families will give wreath, banner and of cash known as “pek kim” or white gold. The former are valued by businessman as the more their are on display, the more status and prestige is accorded to the deceased and family. The pek kim is to help in defraying the cost of the funeral which can runs into thousand of $$$.

On the day of the funeral, the elaborate altar is removed and replace by a long table laden with offerings.

There are food galore

Flower and fruit baskets. Each of these are “dedicated” by relatives of the deceased and each one either singly or in group will offer it to the deceased. Again, the purpose of these offerings is to ensure that the deceased has enough food to last the journey.

In most cases, at an auspicious time, the coffin will be “closed” if it has not been done so. During this process, everybody present at the funeral will need to turn away. Why? I think it is just consider bad luck – symbolically, to drive the nail into the coffin. Same thing when the coffin is being carried to the hearse.

Talking about hearse, in the past, the hearse was a very beautiful carriage decorated with colorful pictures.

Nowadays, it is a simple van.

In the past, the funeral procession was also an elaborate affair. The grander the more prestige accorded to the deceased. There was performance by Giant Dolls, stilt walkers, flower girls and band. Nowadays, it is rare to see these anymore. At most it is a band, a cymbal performance by a clan organisation and a scaled down procession.

A scaled down procession

A funeral band

Cymbals from a Clan organisation
The family has to walk behind the hearse. Where possible, the most immediate family has to place their hand on the hearse sort of to “accompany” the deceased for part of the journey. The eldest son carries a broom like stick with a paper lantern hanging from it. This is where the soul of the deceased is supposed to be in during the journey. He also has to carry the incense bowl with a single lighted incense stick. A

t every junction and bridge, he has to kneel and call out to the deceased to “cross the bridge” so that the deceased know where to go.

It is more common now for the body to be cremated instead of burial. As Singapore has only 3 crematoriums, due to the tight schedule, the final ritual is a short affair. A prayer and immediately thereafter the cremation. In the past, the family would have to mourn for up to 100 days but nowadays, most do not even mourn for even a day and they will ditch the “badge” immediately after the cremation. This means they no longer need to wear mourning colours thereafter. In fact, they will change into colorful clothes immediately to symbolise the change of status.

The eldest son will also carry the urn back home or to a temple where the deceased tablet and photo will be placed for up to 100 days and the daughter in law will have to continue with the daily process of bathing the photo. Of course, again it is now more common for this to be outsource to the temple where the monks will carry on with the rituals.

Those who attended the funeral will cleanse themselves with “red flower” water. This is a potpourri of flowers put in a pail of water. This is supposedly to get rid of any bad luck associated with attending the funeral.

And finally after all is over, there is a feast to thank friends and relatives and to wrap up the funeral proper.

And this conclude the final post on the Chinese funeral. Hopefully it has been informative enough for a glimpse of a Chinese funeral. For a more detailed information on Chinese funeral, read here.

A Chinese Funeral 3

Throughout the funeral wake, prayers are held for the deceased. In Buddhist funeral, Buddhist monks will conduct the prayers. For those who are members of Buddhist temples, the relatives may invite the Temple members to perform the prayers as well. These members are usually dr essed in black robes and led by lay monks instead of Buddhist monks. In addition to this, the relatives may also invite a religious organisation “Siang Tong” 善堂  to chant the final prayer on the eve of the funeral. The prayer is to pray for a smooth journey to the nether world. The priest and his group will sing prayers asking for the protection and blessing of the Gods, sing praises of the deceased and ask for guidance for the deceased. Even the address of the deceased is mentioned!

The Priest saying their Sing Song prayer

Relatives of the deceased participating in the ritual

Crossing the bridge. This symbolise the journey of the deceased and the sending off by the relatives. Note the “back pack” on the back of one of the mourner. This is something that has caught up with the time. It the past, the mourner simply carry it in their hand. The mourners throw money into a basin when they cross the bridge. The money are meant to serve as bribe to other spirits so that they do not block the journey of the deceased.

After the 2 hours long session is over, all the paper peripheral that were used in the rituals and other offerings are burnt. Almost standard item is a paper mansion for the deceased to stay in. 

Together with the mansion is a maid and a manservant. After all, with a house so big, definitely need somebody to take care right?

The old meet the new. A car and a trishaw – part of the luxury that the deceased will enjoy in Heaven
Each relative also offer personal treasure chest to the deceased. The chest are typically filled with some paper clothings and joss paper. If all these can really be converted to something that can be used in the next life, the deceased appears to be richer dead than alive.

All these are burnt in a big bonfire while the priest continues to chant.

While the offering are burning, the mourners will beat on the floor with a bamboo stick and at the same time calling out to the deceased to stay in the big house and collect the offering. The beating of the stick is to scare away other spirits who may want to “take advantage”.