a lot of rubbish on sale
by Zhou (Chew) Hong Jie
I walked into one of the branches of Mount Zion (Christian Books & Gifts Centre) for the first time last evening, in almost a decade. My wife and I were looking out for presents – yes, for the Winter Solstice – for a very early celebration with some close friends this evening. We decided on the early date as one family would be expecting their third child any time next month. All of us are waiting in bated breath.
It was a small enterprise, this evangelical christian bookshop, approximately the size of two average HDB rooms and situated in as prime an area as a local shopping centre. Mount Zion had been a very popular haunt in the 1990s and early noughties among charismatic and pentecostal christians. Although it has since been very careful in the selection of titles it put on display, there are still countless of rubbish stocked on its shelves for sale.
Rubbish which range from the books and sermon recordings of Joel Osteen to that of Kenneth Hagin and Charles Capps - both very popular but intellectually challenged US televangelists. Liberal and thinking christians largely ignore preachers like them, but even among evangelical scholars, the Osteen-Hagin menu is one recipe for theological disaster. As one would have it, the sale assistants were women in their 40s to 50s, probably with no theological training as well as being romantically-challenged.
There was virtually no decent literature around, with the exception of maybe the bibles located at a corner. But of course, we were not looking for books, and eventually settled for two ceramic cross-plaques which left us about SGD$50 poorer.
That is quite an accurate representation of the current charismatic christian scene in Singapore – Mount Zion that is – churches filled with average Singaporeans who are ever so willing to be instructed with pollyanna nonsense. Where are the decent preachers like Rowan Williams (the current Archbishop of Canterbury), the late Peter Gomes of Harvard Memorial Church or Alan Jones, the former Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco? Where are the leaders who can commit to religious pluralism, interfaith engagement and offer intellectually-stimulating rhetoric in 21st century Singapore?
I will not be surprised that the most Islamophobic of Singaporeans would come from this community, who often zealously believe that they have a corner on the truth and that no one except those who accept Jesus Christ as God and their “personal saviour” will enter paradise.
This translates as people like you and I, free thinker and atheist, jewish, muslim and buddhist, hindu and zoroastrian, taoist and sikh; ALL of us darn it – will GO TO HELL.
Literally. Burning in there for ever.
But I suppose if the great Buddha or the late Mahatma Gandi is in hell, or great thinkers like Confucius, Plato, Aristotle, Averroes are in hell…kiss my itchy arse – I will be in great company.