Saturday, April 9, 2011

ST: Faith in tolerance

I thought I would always be able to avoid reproducing whole articles in my writings here. Now I see that I am wrong. I want this article to be here not because I have gone over to the writer's mom side but it reminded me of my trial at my father's demise.

Easily more than two decades ago, I told the Lord that I deeply admire Simeon and Anna who were given to know and see what the established church of the day completely missed. They were needed to help crucify the Christ later....I know I would be misunderstood here, but remember this blog is for me, and I will often not try to explain myself completely to others. (I think I shall be repeating this quite often)

This blog is mostly for adding hooks to my memories and serving as time/event place holders. Some things, put that many things, must never be written especially in blogs, which Google will immortalize in the global data depository even long after you are dead.

Now more than twenty years later, the Lord has more than answered my prayer. I think I understand how Paul felt in Romans 9. I have got Esther to thank for this. As I look back, I need to reconnect with her first before I am ready to face the challenge of my mortally ill dad. All these cannot be planned. The Lord fixed it. His compassion has allowed a little insight into his workings. The systematic theologian will never get it. Simeon and Anna weren't theologians.

Must the "Gentile Believers" succeed the "Jews" to be likewise cut off to make way for waves of "gentiles"?

Terence is right that the Lord understands, but that is only the beginning. We will always underestimate the power of the Cross. Too many people make the mistake thinking that they have figure out God but end up completely misrepresenting him, especially in the call to arms against other faiths. I can think of some preachers indulging in this foolishness.

Apr 9, 2011

Faith in tolerance

After 22 years, my devout Christian mum reconciled her faith with traditional Chinese beliefs


An inter-religious dialogue of sorts took place within my family recently.
For the first time in more than 20 years, my devout Christian mother stepped into a Chinese temple.
Not only that, she also took part in Taoist religious rites and made offerings to the deities at the temple in Macau. These were the same deities that she had previously dismissed as 'pagan idols'.
All this was to appease the angry spirits who, according to a fengshui master, my father had unintentionally offended when he toured there way back in November 2004.
This religious journey by my mother, made just a week before my father's death earlier this year, brings home to me how my mother has become more tolerant towards other faiths.
It is a state of affairs touched on only last month in a report in The Straits Times, in which Foreign Minister George Yeo said that Singapore may be a role model of racial and religious harmony, but the Government worries about potential conflicts daily. Maintaining harmony is 'a daily struggle' for Singapore, he said at the dialogue attended by close to 50 religious leaders from eight countries in Asia.
The inter-religious dialogue of sorts that took place within my family came about because shortly before my dad died of pancreatic cancer in February, he was exploring other 'options' in addition to the chemotherapy that was causing him so much pain and discomfort.
An aunt of mine had recommended her fengshui master friend to us and the fengshui master said my dad's condition would improve if he made a trip to the temple and perform the necessary rituals. As my dad was too weak to travel, my mum went instead.
In a way, my mum had come full circle. Years ago, our family was Taoist-cum-Buddhist before I led them all to the Christian faith. My conversion to Christianity started when I enrolled in Anglican High, a Protestant mission school.
During compulsory Bible classes in school, I learnt how Noah built his Ark and how Moses crossed the Red Sea. I was also taught that it was a sin to bow before other gods and to worship my ancestors.
As an impressionable teenager, I lapped it all up and back home, conflicts quickly flared up between me and my parents.
They simply couldn't figure out how I got myself involved with this strange 'ang moh' religion that seemed to be at odds with everything that Chinese culture and tradition stood for.
I have not been alone in turning my back on traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism. Once the island's most common faith, today 10.9 per cent of residents count themselves Taoists, according to Census 2010 figures released in January.
Resigned to the fact that I would not be burning any joss money for them when they die, my parents eventually decided to become Christians as well, starting with my mum, who was baptised together with me on Christmas Day, 1989.
Ironically, after her conversion, my mum became so zealous in her religious observances that she would turn down dinner invitations from non-Christian relatives for fear of eating food that had been offered to idols or ancestors.
Twenty-two years later, the same mother who once rid the house of Taoist idols with the fervour of Mao's Red Guards visited the Sea Goddess temple in Macau to make peace with the spirits my dad had offended. The trip failed to save my dad - he passed away barely a week after my mum returned from Macau.
However, I'm still glad she went because it showed that she has reconciled her faith with traditional Chinese beliefs.
My mum had reasoned that certain mysteries of the spiritual realm just cannot be fathomed by the lay Christian and that such spirits and deities had been in existence long before biblical times.
Also, my dad's condition was deteriorating rapidly and we all wanted to do whatever we could to help him get well. Desperate times do call for desperate measures.
'I'm sure the Lord would understand why I'm doing this,' my mum said.
I'm sure He would.
Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew caused a bit of a stir when he called on Muslims to be less strict in their Islamic observances - in his latest book Hard Truths To Keep Singapore Going - in order to integrate with other Singaporeans. Muslim or Christian, Buddhist or Taoist, I believe an overly strict observance of any religion is the root cause of much of the disharmony and unhappiness around the world today.
On the first day of the Chinese New Year this year, I lit a joss stick for my late grandfather, more than two decades after he passed away.
Like my mum, I no longer have any reservations about visiting Taoist shrines or offering joss sticks to dead relatives.
I still attend church regularly but in my household, we will serve a 'more inclusive' interpretation of Christianity.
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