[Updates 11 Feb 2010: Due to their incompetency, The Singapore Daily misrepresents my post.]
Rony Tan, the senior pastor of a mega-church Lighthouse Evangelism, is now busy salvaging himself, his career, his congregation and the religion he is representing from bad press. He has been preaching about Jesus saving all of us over the years, and now he is saving himself.
The video clip which has him and one of his congregation member ridiculing Buddhism is still around although Rony has petitioned to have it taken down. "I urge those who have posted those clips on the YouTube to remove them as well." (from the news column at http://www.lighthouse.org.sg/. Accessed 10 Feb 2010).
Rony was warned by the Internal Security Department for the remarks that he made. He was not arrested.
Four statements below are from Straits Times website.
Statement from Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng:
DEPUTY Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng told The Straits Times he was heartened that the religious leaders had met to resolve their differences.'What Pastor Rony Tan said and did at his evangelism sharing sessions was clearly offensive to Buddhists and Taoists,' he said. 'In fact, it has angered even Singaporeans who are not Buddhists and Taoists.''I am also heartened to learn that the Buddhist and Taoist leaders, while understandably upset with the incident, have accepted Pastor Tan's apology and have urged restraint on the part of their religious communities. This is also the right thing to do.'Mr Wong added that nobody should be allowed to exploit and escalate any issue to whip up emotions and tensions between ethnic and religious groups, and when problems arise, they should be resolved rationally and constructively.'Religious leaders especially, must lead and set the right example in this regard,' he said.
Statement from Pastor Rony Tan's family:
'We understand the gravity of the issue. We have taken steps to resolve the matter, and would like to put this behind us and focus on promoting religious harmony.'
Joint statement from Singapore Buddhist Federation and inter-Faith Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO):
'WE HOPE HE HAS LEARNT A LESSON.''Pastor Tan has apologised to us in person. We accept his apology, and hope he has learnt a lesson from this experience. Here on, we will stay in touch to work on promoting mutual understanding between us. We want to clear up any misunderstandings.'
Statement by the National Council of Churches of Singapore in response to comments by Pastor Rony Tan:
Some of Pastor Rony Tan’s comments were insensitive and offensive to followers of the Buddhist and Taoist faiths. We are glad he has made a public apology, and has promised that such insensitivity will never happen again.We support the statement made by the Ministry of Home Affairs to Pastor Tan that “he must not run down other religions, and must be mindful of the sensitivities of other religions.” In a guide on inter-religious relations issued to our member churches in 2008, the Council had advised Christians that as they carry out evangelism in a multi-religious society they are “not to denounce other religions” and that they “should always be respectful of the beliefs of others, careful not to create or sow ill-will.”The Council is committed to continue its efforts in promoting religious understanding and respect while we go about practising and sharing about our Christian faith. We trust that Christian groups that are not our members will also share our values.
What do all these tell us about Singapore's politics, society and religious community?
1) The State has authority over religious practice, personal opinion, and religious doctrine when it comes to social order and harmony. If you really think Buddhism or Christianity are nonsense, you may do so as long as no outrage is caused in the society. So it is okay to allow books that condemn or ridicule religions like those by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Dan Brown and Sam Harris to be sold at public bookstores since there is no disorder caused by them.
2) Religious leaders are submissive to the State to the extend of allowing the State to determine what can they say and what can't they say. This is due to the fact that local religious leaders are more concern over social order rather than their religious beliefs. If their religious belief informs them that other religions are nonsense, they have to either suppress that information or change it. For eg. Muslims who think that the concept of Trinity is nonsense have keep that to themselves and not allow to express it. If not, they will end up like Rony, who has to apologize for what he sincerely believes as true: Buddhism is nonsense. So they can sign their doctrinal statement but must not produce it to the public.
3) Social stability is the constant concern for everyone, from politicians to pastors. In this setting, truth must conform to this aphorism. Individuals are allowed to have their own opinion and belief as long as no conflict is caused. If an individual's opinion when expressed can cause conflict, then the person must not express it even if it can be expressed in a well-mannered and respectful way. So there is no such thing as "agree to disagree" in this context. All just have to agree outwardly although inwardly we don't agree at all.
4) Society are taught to be hypocritical given the above 3 observations. It is like putting on a smile even if you hate the person you are talking to. You are free to stab each others' back as long as not doing it in front. Stabbing from the back might cause death, but definitely no conflict because the victims do not know who stabbed him or her. So it is not surprising that people stab each others' back in offices, not to mention churches and temples. Conflict is worse than death.
5) Death has taken a whole new meaning. Death is rendered insignificant, and hence the dying person became insignificant. There is no dignity in death. Death is not a closure anymore. It is not the determining factor of how well one's life is lived. Conflict is the measure. You may commit suicide but not create conflict. A culture that makes suicide more tasteful and delightful as a way of escape. And when death changes its meaning, life changes its meaning. Life is not organic any longer. Life became mechanic. Life became meaningless as no more senses are needed to be made out of it. Life is lived mechanically: wake up, work, eat, shit, sleep and die. The quality and value of life became determined by the quality of the person's bed, office, food, toilet bowl, and coffins. So life's pursuit is to get the best quality bed, office, food, toilet bowl and coffins. Consumerism and individualism prevail. It is not determined by the organic relationship among human beings anymore. In fact organic aspect of life became peripheral.
6) In parallel, conflict has also taken a whole new meaning. Difference is not appreciated as much. Conformity is the norm. No disagreement, hence no conflict, hence no point having discourse or debates, hence no creativity. In the end, no need to communicate. Conflict became a worse sin than death. Death is more acceptable than conflict. You must not have conflict, but you can die. It's better to abort a child than having conflict. Again, a culture of suicide.
7) Communication took on new meaning. It is not meant to express oneself or one's own thought, but to command. No point to express oneself because all are conformed. So communication functions only as commandment, when we speak, we are not expressing ourselves but to command. Hence bureaucracy became a given. In order for us to open our mouth to communicate, we have to be on top of the hierarchy since communication is only commandment. Space for creativity is abandoned. Not only that there is no such thing as thinking out of conformity, but no such thing as thinking out of the box too.
8) In the end, thinking is not thinking anymore. Thinking is reduced to mere reminding and not conceiving or perceiving anymore. Human life is not governed by thoughts but by conformity. Not governed by rationality but by superstitious. When human mind can't think anymore, the society is dead. There is no more life. There are only conformity, commandment, suicidal, and the Gross Domestic Product index. Anything more than these is irrelevant. And religion is either nothing more than conformity, commandment, suicidal and GDP, or as an irrelevance. Rony has show us that it is the former. This is more clearly so when seen through the statement of the National Council of Churches of Singapore.
So why the society is unfriendly, consumerism-driven, individualistic with persisting ugly politic in offices and churches, and among circle of friends? Why the rise of abortion, suicidal and divorce rate even among Christians? Why a materialistic culture? Why today's children as well as working adults are so stressed up? Why do people rather stay in their office until late night than doing something else? Why so many hypocrites in the churches?
Simply because everyone, including pastors and churches, is worshiping this false god. And they dare to profess their faith in Jesus Christ. They dare to profess the Apostle's Creed. They dare to partake the holy communion. They are really daring when it comes to idolization.
Agree or disagree???