This is currently the hottest news in Singapore right now. It inspires lots of conversations, debates on what really happened and the consequence on it. I am contributing my portion in this article. Let me begin by stating clearly that I have no intention to speculate on what will happen to the affected pastor and his friends after the trial. This article is not about the court case but rather on how the response of the church members and the circulated YouTube sermons of the affected pastor can lead to positive result for Christianity as a whole.
Here are the few areas that I will explore on:
- Mindless drone syndrome.
- Asking for money without shame.
- Helplessness of Poverty Gospel
Mindless drone syndrome.
I have mentioned this phrase in many of my articles as well as my ebook “10 Lies Of Religious Christianity”. What I mean is the phenomena where individuals who have been trapped, are incapable of thinking for themselves. They think what they were told to think and believe what they were told to believe.
This sounds like the practice of evil cults but the truth is, many religious churches have been trying to blackmail their members into such drones through their doom and gloom sermons sprinkled with lots of relevant Bible verses. Phases like, “you will answer to God”, “God is not pleased” and “judgement day will come” are among the common tactics used by religious preachers to instil fear into the hearts of their members in hope that they will become obedient sheep (mindless drones) to the church leaders.
Of course, most Christians are too intelligent to fall for such tricks. Most Christians have developed a clear separation between faith and facts. They may go to church every Sunday and listen to the rubbish (sermons) preached but once they set their feet out, they were transformed back into human beings living in the real world. They do not participate in missions and crusades. They respect people who do not share their faith. They may give some money to their church but they will never sell their houses and give all the proceeds to their church. They are sane. Only a small minority in every church really believe in those threats and fell for it.
In this saga, the responses from the church members to the arrest and subsequent charges to their beloved pastor show that this church has achieve great success in doing what its competitors have been trying to do.
Those members are convinced beyond doubt that their pastor is completely innocent regardless of evidence. They are so full of faith that they will not even entertain the slightest “what-ifs”. Based on their comments, it seems that they are determined to fight beside their beloved pastor at all cost.
The question here is on whether their confidence is justified. Some of them tried to share with us the reason of their dedication. All of them have the same theme. They were once living rotten lives. They went to this church. The great pastor ministered to them, showed them the love of God and raised them up to who they are now.
However, none of them ever question on how relevant are such testimonies to the charges of falsifying accounts faced by their pastor. Just because an individual has been inspiring and loving, it has no relation on whether he intentionally or unintentionally put in wrong words in the accounts book.
Can anyone find a better example on the mindless drone syndrome?
So how does this exposure benefit Christianity as a whole? I am hoping that this incident will shock the preachers from the belief that you must be an obedient sheep (Christian term for mindless drone) to be a Christian. The Bible tells us that we were made in the image of God. If God can be an independent thinker, why can’t we? Why would God give us the ability to think independently and then created churches to blackmail us into behaving like mindless drones?
This is the time for churches to reform their practice of exalting mindless obedience to the celebration of independent thinking. We are living in the real world and the real world does not follow the Bible. God gives us functional brains because he wants us to use them. The best way to please God is to use the things he gives us. In case somebody might wonder, obeying the preacher without question does not require the use of brains.
It is alright to do things because it is the right thing to do. We don’t need to stick bible verses to justify our actions.
Asking for money without shame
This happens to be the reason I left my first church. The way those pastors used manipulative tricks to squeeze money from the congregation has shown me that these are men without shame.
In this saga, YouTube videos showing the pastor asking for money have been circulated and widely criticised. Many attributed it to the “false teachings of prosperity gospel”. However, they seem to have ignored the fact that “Poverty Gospel” churches also used dirty tricks to ask for money.
My first church belongs to the “Poverty Gospel” camp and the pastors are no less shameless in demanding money from their members. I can still remember the phrase used. “God has provided us the money. It is in your pockets.” Implying that the money in our pockets rightfully belong to the church.
How does this help Christianity as a whole? Perhaps preachers will develop a sense of shame of demanding money from their church members. They will need to understand that their members worked hard in their real jobs to earn their money. They need it to support their families, pay bills and set aside for contingencies. The money does not belong to the church. Preachers should learn to respect that.
If preachers are in need of money, they should either do better jobs, get it from their God or do some other real work to get it. Not using their sermons to demand it from their members.
Helplessness of Poverty Gospel
I have mentioned the term “Poverty Gospel” earlier. Let me give you the meaning now. I created this term based of the relative frame of reference. A observer from Fraction A accuses those from Fraction B of preaching the prosperity gospel. What does he call his “gospel”? He has no name for it because his gospel is the true gospel.
Now, let us shift the frame of reference to the observer from Fraction B.
If he follows the same pattern of thought, he too will call his gospel the true gospel. He will call those in Faction A something gospel.
Poverty Gospel is only a name for the something gospel.
Let me give you the characteristics of this gospel. The common feature is the fear of the promise of health, wealth and any other things that can be proven objectively. They prefer to be safe in things that cannot be proven objectively like the “spiritual” and “treasures in heaven”. This way, they will not face the risk of being wrong.
Within this fraction, there are 2 sub-fractions, the moderates and the fundamentalists.
The moderates do not really hate prosperity. They are just uncomfortable for church and prosperity to be mixed together. As long as prosperity is preached outside the church and with no reference to Bible verses, they are fine.
In contrast, the fundamentalists are totally opposed to Christians living wealthy lives. Any form of comfort and luxury is sin to them.
How does this affect them? For many years, Poverty Gospel churches have been losing members to their Prosperity competitors. Now that the City Harverst Church, (which is from the Prosperity Fraction) is suffering from negative news, it will be an opportunity for them to take advantage on this situation to grab back their market share.
Have they succeeded? My bet is they won’t. At best they can slow down the decline on membership. People may still leave and it is very unlikely for the Prosperity Fraction to cross over to the poverty side. Can you guess why?
Christians are real people living in the real world. They have their dreams and aspirations. They want to live happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. They want to have things and do things without being constrained by the lack of money. They are also not perverts, meaning they do not delight in suffering from sickness and poverty.
The prosperity fraction has been successful because they treat their believers as real people. So, if the poverty fraction is really serious in surviving in this competitive world, they will have to meet the needs of their members who are real people living in the real world. Hiding behind outdated and impractical doctrines will not help. Neither does the excuse of “serving God” help. You are preaching to people not God.
Therefore, it is my hope that the poverty fraction will start to reform themselves to make themselves relevant to the people whom they expect to give them money.