I normally blog about scripture meanings and usages, but I want to blog something special for the upcoming New Year about our Christian culture.
A while back, I posted a story on Facebook about Chow Yuen Fat, the megastar from the Hong Kong movie industry who crossed over to star in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and The King and I. The story goes something like this. Chow has vowed to follow his Buddhist faith to give away 99% of his earnings to charities. I’ve become a fan of his charity work and simple lifestyle as of late even though he’s Buddhist. What I did not expect was the Christian moralizing that went on after I posted the compliment about Chow, of how he can sometimes make us Christians ashamed of ourselves. Here’re some of the responses.
1) Chow has the media following him around and uses media to boost his image.
2) Chow is Buddhist and is trying to boost his karma in his afterlife.
3) Whatever the media report must be exaggerated. Someone check with Chow.
4) There are other Christians who have done the same but the media do not report because (shockingly) the media are biased.
Such (misled) rhetoric runs along two lines of argument. First, it assumes to know Chow’s motive. Second, it blames the media for giving Chow a great image and Christians a bad one. The two lines are both nonsense. If I didn’t know better, I’d think Christians were misinterpreting the vine allegory in John 15 by bearing sour grapes.
Christians are arrogant when they claim that the followers of other religions are wrongly motivated. Having worked in ministry for more than two decades, I can tell you that I have countless examples of Christian leaders whom I know personally with bad motives. Here are the problems. First of all, we can’t judge 100% what’s in people’s minds, especially people we do not know personally. We’re not God. We can’t play God. Some Christians want to be God’s voice box all the time and it’s totally wrong. Second, we assume (wrongly) that Christians have purer motives than non-Christians. This is the result of having too light view of sins in the Christian. “I’m not perfect, just forgiven” remains a cheap bumper sticker that is devoid of meaning. The new sticker should say, “I’m not perfect, but you’re even more imperfect. I’m forgiven, you’re not nananah …” Well, the new sticker is just too long. Sadly, I’ve been cheated by as many (if not more) Christians as non-Christians.
Christians tend to look for a scapegoat for their bad press. News flash! The press doesn’t need to dirty our image. We do it quite well. If we have no dirt, the press has nothing to report. The press is not neutral. No, it is a business of trying to get readers. If it takes a sensational story to get readers, so be it. Over the years, Christians have given the press plenty to report. Readers flock to dirty laundry. I wish the good news we preach would be so newsworthy that the papers will find it appealing. On fourth point above, media bias is just an excuse. If there’re Christians doing enough of the same good deeds, why does the society not know about it? When Jesus talks about bearing fruits, he was not joking about some hidden and secret fruits. He was talking about real and visible good work that everyone would see and praise God for. The problem of that fourth excuse is that Christians do not take what Jesus said about bearing fruits seriously enough. They only bear sour grapes when non-Christians do good work. Sour grapes, I’m sure, was not what Jesus was talking about.
The last observation I make here after being a leader of the church for a while is this. Christians do not apply equal criteria on their own good works as they do the works of non-Christians. Imagine someone saying the above four points about Christians. I know some of my readers have already had a raised blood pressure from reading my critique. That just proves my point. Christians love to congratulate and even show off our good work everywhere, on Facebook or TV or internet in general. We also love to pet each other in the back in a holy manner and say, “Praise Jesus” without even stopping to ask about the four criteria. Why are we so hard on non-Christians? Is it because we’re also struggling with our own lack of good work? The above attitude is why non-Christians hate us, and rightly so.
What shall we say? Something simple, I suppose. Can we not just be happy that someone like Chow is doing good work and compliment him for it? Can Christians not be happy for the good work of all humankind? Can Christians now moralize over every little thing with a judgmental attitude that speaks loudly of double standard? I hope so.
In this New Year, I’m thrilled to find Christians getting caught (unintentionally of course) doing some fantastic deed in the name of Jesus. I especially point to the photo I posted above, first pointed out to me by friend Benson Tsang. Here, we find my friend, a minister in the church, caught red-handed by the Hong Kong newspaper practicing kindness for the homeless and the poor. I know my friend would be too embarrassed to advertise this news. She has never advertised this work, but here she is, caught doing what she thinks Christ wants her to do. Would we judge her motive? I don’t think we would apply the stringent criteria Christians do with non-Christians, especially when many of us know her personally. I know for a fact that yesterday, this group was helping homeless old ladies while braving a rainstorm (even when the news reporters are no longer around). This is Christianity in action! What acts of kindness will we be caught with this New Year? May your happy New Year be full of such kindness. Being caught doing something great is always better than the opposite.