Most of you would have heard of Pastor Kong Hee and his statement about God’s apology, which setting off a wave of outrage and the subsequent retaliatory influx of people in defense of him.
I just watched the video, and came to the conclusion that
everyone is missing the point.
Pastor Kong’s speech (sermon?) might have made you slightly uncomfortable – you feel that something is fundamentally off about what he’s saying, but being lazy, we latch on to a convenient point of contention we then sensationalize and use for cyber-bashing.
In this case, the convenient point most have latched on to for criticism is that he claimed God apologized.
By doing so – by extrapolating that single statement for nitpicking – is EXACTLY what the anti-church camp often condemn churchgoers for: taking things (/the bible) out of context.
Essentially, they are bashing Pastor Kong Hee without knowing why they are bashing him (sounds familiar?)
This disturbs me because when I take a stand against or for anything, I need a sound reason. I want to think through and justify my resentment or love for everything, which sometimes can be tedious, confusing, but – in my opinion – necessary.
Pastor Kong’s ‘sermon’ made you vaguely affronted and uncomfortable because there are several fundamental problems rooted in the way he is running a megachurch.
These underlying issues are what we should be looking into and surfacing for discussion, not merely how God is apologizing etc etc.
And since the #godnehsaysorry movement has been mostly shoddy about ruminating and articulating what they really think, I’ll try to break down some of the things that should be brought up instead.
This is why Pastor Kong Hee’s speech wound you up:
1. Why is he so eagerly defending and justifying himself…
If it is Pastor Kong’s belief that God has chosen for him a path of suffering alone, I can respect that. But he has imposed upon a congregation this belief, and essentially voided what (he apparently thinks) God intends for him.
If he truly believes that God wants him to suffer, and to suffer alone, then what he should be doing is to humbly accept the public persecution and have enough faith to ride it out knowing that it would eventually end.
Instead, he is telling everyone that he is suffering, as a hero, chosen by God. He is glorifying himself. This is neither suffering, nor is it suffering alone. He has instead turned the tide of condemnation and harnessed it for stronger popular support.
Basically, this intense justification would not have taken place if he actually believes what he’s arguing for in the video.
2. …with it self-indulgently disguised as a sermon…
This is a prevalent problem with megachurches that really gets to me (and is one of the reasons why I left church).
A sermons’ main priority is to “talk on a religious or moral subject”. Its goal is to educate, to enrich the spiritual life of Christians through teachings. What is Pastor Kong’s message here?
Maaaybe that in instances of wrongful persecution, we should think of it as pre-ordained by God. If that were the lesson at all, it is a very self-indulgent one: it aims at soothing the self, instead of teaching you to live out God’s words.
To be a Christian is not just about having a religious balm for all your woes. It is about work, about servicing others, even if it leads to personal suffering that cannot be shared with others.
This is why I find Pastor Kong’s speech (I cannot, by semantical technicalities, call it a sermon) incredibly self-indulgent. Not only does he deprive the congregation of what should have been a religious or moral lesson, he imposes them with what can only be a a form of self-glorification and opportunistic justification.
3. …in such a contrived, rehearsed, and self-righteous manner?
Another gripe I have with megachurch sermons is that they reek of over-rehearsal and insincerity. In fear of over-generalizing, I shall just discuss Pastor Kong Hee’s speech in the video above.
Can anyone watch it and tell me it is not a performance? The gestures, the immaculate pacing, the contrived accent. The overdosage of self-references. I, I, I. God said to me, me, me. I am a sufferer, I am condemned, but I, I, I will persevere, I will take on this burden, etc, etc.
While I have dissected the fundamental issues with Pastor Kong Hee, the most pressing matter I want to push forward is this:
Everyone needs to step back and think more deeply about issues, by themselves, for themselves.
Guided not merely by your church, or by media sensations. Think more thoroughly about why exactly you have particular feelings about subjects. The problem is that we are stimulated by simple scandals but are reluctant to understand what we are persecuting.
This goes for BOTH anti- and for- camps.
We need more incisive arguments on why we are against Pastor Kong Hee (not just that he is deluded about God apologizing), and why we believe and follow our religious leaders even when they come under fire (instead of just re-bashing haters).
I’d love to hear arguments either for or against this!
I did a closer reading of what netizens had to say about the entire saga, hoping to find a post, or even just a comment, that regarded the larger issue instead of fixating on the apology issue, which is merely a manifestation of the overarching problem. The larger issue/problem being the structural leadership of a charismatic megachurch.
It was disappointing.
News reports focussed on the Sorry (although they are the media and their main aim is readership, so somewhat understandable although not admirable).
YouTube comments were painfully tacky attempts at wisecrack revolving around the Sorry (then again, it’s YouTube: watch and bitch is the routine.)
Other local forums involved equally intense debates… that were futile chasing of each other’s tails because um, it’s a non-issue to begin with. Did they even watch the entire video for context?
A miserable few alluded to general function of the church and his leadership. The miserable few did little to elaborate, or else their comments were mired in cringe-worthy shots at satiric humor (omg pls stop).
I call this the Stomp culture. We are a generation perversely hungry for news that expose another for very, very irrelevant and frivolous disgraces. Like reading newspapers on the floor of the mrt station and necking each other in clinics. I mean, whatever.
Can we want more? Can we BE more?
I am so sad and I wish someone would come and challenge me and tell me I’m wrong and why Pastor Kong Hee has done everything right and how megachurches are worthier than I thought so at least I know people out there are thinking along with their bitching.