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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rich Church Poor Church

In Poor Church, I watched a Christmas skit on their makeshift stage. A church goer next to me commented that it will be nice to have a real backstage where the actors can prepare themselves and emerge into each scene more seamlessly. I replied that it wouldn't really matter as this is a church and not a professional concert hall. Besides, the message conveyed through the skit was entertaining and clear - that we should celebrate Christmas with God in our hearts and not be overwhelmed by the frills of Christmas shopping and parties. Before the service, there was a simple buffet dinner. After that, we had a nice dessert buffet for everyone to get know each other better.

In Rich Church, we watched a Christmas musical on a collosal stage with props of an outlandish and stately American home complete with a winter fireplace; a huge back-up choir and live orchestra in the backstage, their silhouette focused by  cleverly positioned and synchronised lights and colours, visible through a translucent screen. The auditorium seats 3,000 odd of us with a professionally lit stage, pristine sound system and two large video screens magnifying the performance delivered by two camera cranes. It was an entertaining performance. The singing and entertainment were cleverly orchestrated with preachings in between and eventually culminating in a hard sell to convert non-believers. It was cleverly done by asking everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands if they so wish to be converted, to overcome their shyness. There was also peer pressure to ask believers to look at non-believers and say, "I will accompany you if you would step out to accept Jesus".

I am never a fan of hard sell of any product, religion included. Sadly, religion is a product and all religions are man-made without exceptions.

As the hard sell made its assault, I couldn't help but imagine how Jesus would have felt if he sees all these bright lights and sizzle displayed before him in the name of converting non-believers into believers. Couldn't it be done the same way as he did under the canopy of a tree in an open ground without any frills? Can we truly enlighten people about their spirituality inside by exploiting the crass materialism outside? Can we solve the problems of this material world that tempts us to stray away from God, with the same mind that had created them?

Big churches need big funds and these come from church goers. But should these funds be channeled to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, or to commercial outlets and glitzy auditoriums?

May be among the thousands recruited in Rich Church, some will see the Light and experience salvation. However I suspect that many will be led into many blind alleys and meanders. Poor Church is materially poor, but I find its congregation warmer and its size of a more human scale. It also does not hard sell, or sell at all. It treats its congregations and guests as seekers of the Christian faith.

Of course, being spiritual does not mean that one has to be poor. We need material to survive in this human journey. However, if we are overwhelmed by material and lose ourselves in the insanity of the material world, then we will be led further and further away from our heart and God. That is my discomfort with Rich Church. This is my opinion. I am not imposing this on anyone. Rich Church goers will continue to do what Rich Church goers do. Ultimately, whatever we do, whether we are conscious of them or not, they are on our journey towards self realisation and salvation.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Reading Books

I stopped reading books since I started having a smartphone. Then last month, while searching for my guide book to Guangzhou, I stumbled upon some fascinating books from my boxes. I had them for a long while, but haven't read them as they have been packed into boxes since I moved out of my old place.

Unexpectedly, merely seeing these books energised me. An instant lightness embraced my body as I recalled the bliss.

Smartphones, cyberspace, asynchronised telecommunications and constant multi-tasking fragment our attention. I believe that without technology and commerce, we all have an inherent natural flow that keep us in bliss. When this natural flow is too frequently interrupted it will break our intuition and tire us.

I am now back into reading books. The smartphone is still my pal and a useful one at that, but it is now carefully kept in check. I think it is the same that the soul should be firmly in charge of the mind. When the mind is overwhelmed by intense emotions, the soul becomes momentarily paralysed. :) While emotions flutter like leaves, the soul ought to remain sturdy like the trunk of the tree, unperturbed and in-charged.