Monday, May 04, 2009

A Call for Cool-Heads-Warm-Hearts

It has been a tumultuous week for many Christians in Singapore. The AWARE saga, while largely recognized as a body for women and women's affairs has heightened the interests of men, religious groups, non-government organizations as well as the government. Why is this so? Many point to the reason being the invasion of religion (in particular, Christianity) into a body that is meant to be secular. Some argue that it is a morality issue pertaining to different sexual themes taught in schools that originated from the AWARE platform. Others are fearful that if not checked, the AWARE saga may form a precedent for religious bodies to infiltrate other organizations as well. The Press practically had a field day, covering the details of the heated organization's EGM with such fervour that under watchful eyes of many interested readers, any word used, a phrase chosen or even the hinting of a small sentiment, can easily sway mass readers to the views of the reporters or the press organ.

Put it this way. We are all fallible people. Put anyone on the hotseat, and apply continuous pressure and verbal barrage. It then becomes not a question of whether that person will stumble or not. It is a question of WHEN the person will crack. The more experienced can last longer, but the novice can be easily swept away. I am fascinated on the one hand about the whole saga, where individuals and groups were forced to apologize or take sides. Yet, I am rather miffed by the way the emotions and all manner of anger are being fueled. This is further aggravated by the way the issue was covered. What makes this issue such a hot potato in the first place? Why can't the issue be resolved diplomatically behind open doors. I figure out that someone, or some people must have roped in the biggest influence of public opinion: The Press. It is curious to see the way the whole thing was played up, like a reality show on TV. Parties were shown to be bickering at all things. Emotions were stoked and tempers easily flare at the first sign of disagreement.

It is to this effect that we must learn to be discerning in our thinking, our speech behaviour and our external conduct. To this end, I would like to suggest that Christians learn to constantly adopt a stance of cool-heads-warm-hearts. When dealing with controversial issues or matters of great contention, one needs to reason it out rationally, think both logically and theologically. Be innocent as doves but wise as serpents is Jesus's teaching on how we are to live in this world. A cool-headed person is as wise as a serpent, carefully discerning the steps to take and the pitfalls to avoid. A warm-hearted person is as innocent as a dove, loving Christ as much as neighbour, retaining a posture of doing good not only to fellow Christians but to fellow people in society, regardless of race, language or religion. We cannot do it on our own strength, but can only depend on the Holy Spirit to empower, to guide and to humble.

I suppose some of us may struggle with the following question:
"What does it mean for us to integrate our faith and our various work or social responsibilities in the culture we live in?"

I admit that it is a tough question, especially after the AWARE team that is deemed a 'Christian team' have been given an 'embarrassing' no-confidence vote. Some people may even be left questioning whether the team headed by Josie Lau, have done the Christian church a disservice in their brand of faith-integration. Before non-Christians, perhaps some of us may simply shrug our shoulders and behave as if we 'disown' Josie Lau and team from the Church of our Saviour. We may even forget that brothers and sisters ought to stand together through thick and thin. Let me supply three filters to help us see the whole situation.
  1. HONOURABLE INTENTIONS: I applaud them for being honest to themselves and their convictions. I do not doubt that they have honourable intentions, and were somehow led to take over the AWARE organization to correct some of their programs. We can fault the method but we ought to respect whatever noble intent they have. (This does not mean I am taking sides at this time.)
  2. ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: An ethical problem? Many people, including Christians have expressed doubts over the way the Josie-team have taken over the leadership. It became not a legal question but an ethical concern. While it may be true that one can be faulted on the basis of a technicality, this does NOT give the 'technicality' a blanket offer to forever taint anybody's sense of worth or integrity. Every ethical stance, especially Christian behaviour must be laced with grace. While it might be true that one cannot do the right thing by using the wrong process, similarly, we cannot do the wrong thing, even though we have the right process. In other words, those who do the "wrong-thing-right-way" is as guilty as those who do the "right-thing-wrong-way." The arms of ethical considerations stretches 3 ways; It needs a honorable goal. It requires adherence to proper rules of execution. It needs a heart of virtue. All three elements must be present in any ethical matter.
  3. FAITH-INTEGRATION: Is Christian-Faith-Integration Negatively Impacted? That depends on what we mean by Christian-Faith-Integration. For me, it is not simply demanding conformity by sticking a label "THE BIBLE SAYS." It is an integration that starts with a cool head and warm heart. It begins with Christ. It is sustained in prayer. It is a loving confrontation that reflects a stereo attitude of listening to both sides intelligently, rationally, calmly and compassionately. Chances are, if we listen hard enough, there are more similarities than differences. Pity that the differences become played up, dividing people rather than uniting them. In this sense, whatever that has happened to the AWARE organization represents a LOSE-LOSE scenario. My answer to this third question is: "It depends." Who are we to determine that all halves of the game have been played? Are we the umpire holding the stop watch at the end of the finishing line? No! We are still on a journey of discovery and learning. Sometimes, the best progress one can ever make is by first falling down. Then one learns one additional way of how NOT to do it.
How do we practice Cool-Heads-Warm-Hearts (CHWH)?
Here, I like to close with some wisdom from two persons. Firstly, we can learn to practice CHWH through what John Stott describes as 'dual listening.'
We stand between the Word and the world with consequent obligation to listen to both. We listen to the Word to discover even more of the riches of Christ. We listen to the world in order to discern which of Christ’s riches are needed most and how to present them in their best light.” (The Contemporary Christian)
The second way is to let our fruits speak for themselves. The wisdom of the 12th Century Franciscan monk says it clearly:
Preach the gospel at all times -- if necessary, use words.” (St Francis of Assisi)
If Christians were to bear good fruit, practice dual-listening, speak out against the evils of society. Chances are, both Christians AND non-Christians will likely stand together for the common good. At the same time, always begin with a 50% discount to whatever you read in the papers or TV.



Anonymous said...

You fail to account for the sinister forces from the participation of the Christian Right Movement in this saga! It is a crime to propagate political agenda in the name of religion in Singapore!

Anonymous said...

Great read- thanks.

the ESS said...

Thank you anonymous for demonstrating KS' point.

andy said...

nobody monopolise truth, much less interpretations of the truth..otherwise pastor Derek Hong need not stand corrected - his interpretation of what is right clearly differ from Dr John Chew of NCCS.
I am not a christian, but it is always good to listen to the other side if you bother to hear other christian views, I recommend you connect Dr Gwee Li Sui's facebook.
I also recommend you read DPM Teo Chee Hian's exhortation ( "all sides should take away the right lessons" and "if you believe that what you are doing is right, well, live a good life, do good work and persuade people by how you work and live rather than pushing your ideas in a much more pushy way".

YAPdates said...

thank you for your thoughtful comments. i appreciate your time and effort to point me to Li Sui's, Teo Chee Hean's and for honestly sharing your views. Please accept my thanks.

with the many views expressed all over the Internet, it is a challenge to know which is right and which is wrong. each person has a certain worldview. A vegetarian does not eat meat because of a particular worldview. likewise, atheists have a worldview that denies the existence of God. a pluralistic society means there will be constant intersection of these views. disagreements can frequently happen. in practicing cool-head-warm-heart, i think you reason out well, and you mean well. indeed there are similarities in your short note to a few of my points.

In my note on 'dual listening,' I do not think I differ much from your statement of 'good to listen to the other side.'

Your use of Teo Chee Hean's quote exactly echoes a similar sentiment in my article. See the last quotation from the Franciscan St Francis of Assisi.

finally, i want to comment on what is truth, by asking the following questions.
- is truth based on popularity? a popularity-based contest? (ie the more people believe, then it must be true?)
- is truth based regardless of audience? what about telling the right thing but to the wrong person?
- is truth based on one's personal timing, rather than an attitude of care and concern for the other person?
- what about saying the right words but with a wrong attitude?
- is truth based on credentials?

What kind of truth is more meaningful? Those that condemns another, or those that sets one free? just like discipline. do we discipline a child so that the child obey out of fear? or do we discipline a child, letting the child know that love is the reason.

For both cases above, 'setting others free' and 'discipline in love' are core Christian standards. you can do christians a favor by holding them (including me) to these standards. You are welcome to join me to encourage Christians to practice the latter.


Andy said...

hi Kianseng
i agree with your starting point and intent..christians or not, it is important to start with charitable heart and not a condescending approach to so called love...
you may know a pastor friend of mine Yong Tai Tong..though i am not really close to him, but I can see or I believe he is not pushy, always ready to listen and help others..
I do not agree with you regards what you say about Josie's team but that is ok, people no need to be obsessed with others agreeing with their views unless they have a complex...but I agree with your warm heart approach about not disowning them and that genuinely charitable approach should also apply to AWARE old guards, LGBT and others in society..
you can read some of my views in my blog only if you are interested..
I am not sure of how credibe the following is - would be interested to know your views on Joel's army, Hillsong, NAR etc...

YAPdates said...

You are very fair with your comments. Thank you.

With regards to dogemperor, i think it contains lots of sensational stuff, written by someone who appears to have an axe to grind. Don't just read his steeplejacking posting. Check out the way he demonizes Sarah Palin, throws mud at Rick Warren, and lambasts Hilary Clinton. Are those fair comments?

if you want to converse more on the latter, send me an email. thanks.


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