Monday, March 30, 2009

Choosing the Brand of Faith

The recent media frenzies on New Creation Church in Singapore have caused my eyes sore and my ears all red. It's not the negative public reactions to the Church's development that bother me, instead what the overall Church does and is all about that annoy me.

I considered my self as an "okay" and regular Christian who don't intend to go in too deep and fall myself into the church nut clan. To some extent, I am impressed by and never have problems with other Christian fellows who are very devoted to God and go beyond their limitations to spread God's greatness, in good ways. But in principle, I never agree to and do not believe on Church being overly expanding, capital oriented, too advertised, too rich and awfully greedy. As a Christian fellow, I feel sad having to comment on such practices but I cannot help to keep myself buttoned up.

I was Christian by birth and so were all my siblings. Following our Mom's faith path, three of us were registered as Christians since were born and introduced to Sunday schools since toddlers. We were raised in a family where Confucianism and Christianity were equally practiced. We were exposed to Catholicism to a great extent for 12 years during our schooling days.

Unlike my younger siblings, cousins and close friends who found Jesus in fairly young age, during my growing up period, faith wise, I was always in limbo. It took me over 22 years of solid soul searching process to decide which article of faith I should follow and commit to. Committing here means no turning back at all, even at heart.

It clearly did not instantly happen to me to find the right one but this is something that I will hold on for a long time. Hence, I had to be sure. Some people needed almost all their years of their lives to find it, so I guess I am quite okay to realize this at such age.

Why Christian? Mom is Christian and most of Mom's family are Christian. I believed in Jesus, enjoyed how the congregations sing the Christian songs for worshiping and was comfortable attending Sunday service except the part where I had to lead prayers in public. I sucked.

Why Catholic? I was used to their doctrines and liturgy for too long. Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and few famous Bible verses were close to my heart. I have great respect to Catholic's liturgy and highly organized way in managing their institutions. I think it's cool all the way long but then, Catholic's rules of the game were simply way too liturgical for me to follow for the rest of my life.

Why Confucianism/Buddhism? Dad is a free thinker with a strong tendency towards Confucianism and Dad's family heavily practice Confucianism. I am used to the all the Chinese traditions and proud being a Chinese with family who still heavily practices these traditions. I have great respects in Chinese history and literature. I am a great believer of the fact that as Chinese who don't live in Mainland, we have to maintain our Chinese traditions to show our Chinese root. I deeply admire the Buddhism philosophies, simplicity teaching and the unworldliness living style that they practice.

Why did it take me over two decades to choose which brand of faith to devote to?

Christianity - Extreme Christian practices and devotees freaked me out. The aggressive recruitment efforts to reach non-believers were simply horrendous to me. Huge commercialization on some Christian churches and pastors with too much fortunes were indeed big turn offs to me. It made me think a lot - is Christian Church really all about wealth?

Catholicism - Catholic liturgy was too rigid for me. All was done strictly according to the book. All the pictures and statues of the holy persons inside the Catholic churches always gave me these weird goosebumps. I felt uneasy and very uncomfortable sitting in a chapel, not sure whether the place was just too quiet or it's because of the creepy atmosphere surrounding the church itself.

Confucianism/Buddhism - The rituals of praying and giving offerings to something hand-made by other humans are way beyond my logic. Some extreme vegetarians and vegans under this belief intimidated me.

After serious thinking, self-willed Bible learning and strong self-assurance, on Christmas Eve 2006 I decided to devote myself Christianity. I wanted to be a Christian but to the level which I am comfortable with.

What the Bible teaches made sense to me and I was comfortable with all its virtues. Even after devoting myself to Christianity, I am still very skeptical about choosing the church for Sunday service or following the services of big famous churches which draw thousands people each time they do their Sunday service. I have gone to almost all big churches' services but still prefer and stick to one which has less crowd, is not that materialistic in terms of both teaching and collection plus possesses this family-knit atmosphere. Those are what keep me going back to the same congregation every week.

Any religion is too sacred to be mixed with monetary issues. Growing church is not about huge surplus cash flow management or growing their Church bank account's numbers to over 8 or 9 digits. But some church leaders have managed to convert this spiritual phenomenons into millions dollar businesses.

All the buzz words about Church partnering with real estate powerhouse, constructing behemoth recession-proof church building which costs only God knows how many million dollar bills and Church Leader earning more than S$ 500,000 annually- they are simply disturbing and have caused both believers and non-believers to question the essence of Christianity which is not and never about money at all.

Why all this should happen?

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