Saving the World Culture
Saving the world culture

 

 

Matt 11:4 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

"The pastor teaches that the sin of Sodom is not homosexuality; it is inhospitality. God judged them because they failed to take care of God's people! Remember the centurion who came to Jesus for the healing of his servant? Well, the pastor teaches that the servant was (gulp!) the centurions live-in boy lover! And the fact that Jesus enthusiastically healed die boy shows that He wanted the boy to continue his homosexual relationship with his master! Sick, isn't it?" Balance Is The Key Of Life By Kong Hee Harvest Times Oct to Nov 2001, on Cathedral of Hope Dallas MCC

Again referring to Christians who live unrighteous lives: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites … will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you …” (1 Cor 6:9-11). If a Christian is living in sexual immorality and you offer him your fellowship, not only do you profane God’s Word, you are excusing him from the responsibility to repent and forsake his sin. Pastor Kong Hee, Daily Devotion, Sexual Morality 26 Apr 2010

Some years ago, I was observing a group of CHC youngsters was talking about church life and suddenly their attention was turned to Bangladeshi workers in the train holding hands together and thinking that these workers were gay, the CHC members said out loud that they should bring them to church to let them hear of Pastor Kong preach about world culture! 

The Bangladeshi workers were not gay, for it was in their culture to hold hands. Being gay is not about culture or lifestyle choice, but sexual orientation. Perhaps CHC got it wrong about world culture.

World culture is about cheating, lying and stealing for the gain of power, wealth and fame. It is accentuated by strong power structures of the haves versus the have-nots.

We are all sinners one way or another and part of the system which is not perfect. Hence the motto in some emergent christianity is to redefine salvation as saving the world by making this place a better world to live in where love is the currency of how we relate to the other.

However, it is not the fault of the system, the world, or the world culture with her power structures, but the core and the root is within that we are all sinners needed salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ. We can't save the world or ourselves. We need a Saviour.

The bible sums up the world culture in 1 Tim 6:6-10. If we had remained contented and Godly with only the basics of food and clothing, we will not have fallen easily into temptation.

1 Tim 6:6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 

May 2010, Pastor Kong Hee was at the height of fame with the incredible success of the Asia Conference with more than 25,000 delegates from all around Asia and the world. The DNA of City Harvest Church - “loving God wholeheartedly and loving people fervently” (Matt. 22:37-40), by engaging in the world to change the world culture has spread.

Yet, the morning or monday after, in May 2010, the celebrations ended and the pastors were hauled in unceremoniously for investigations.

What was left as Pastor Kong's blog entry "reflections" in June 18, 2010, reflected was Faith, Family, and Friends, with memories of 20 years of church building.   

There are always two sides of the story in the City Harvest Church Cross Over. With proven revelation that direct support by City Harvest Church in terms on tens of millions were given to pop up Pastor Sun's career as a means of evangelism, there is the issue of the denial of any links in Kong Hee's blog entry  in  Sep 23, 2009 entitled "Wholesome Shallowness".

By Sep 23, 2009 when "Wholesome Shallowness" was written to defend Sun from the hostile criticism of conservative christians in Singapore, according to court documents, CHC had already transferred millions to Xtron between 2007 and 2008 apparently to cover the huge losses from album production.

In the cross-over to the US with videos such as China Wine, there was no testimony by Sun Ho at the end of the video to make it Christian!. Hence, the integrity was difficult to justify as a CHC outreach.

The US was a tough market to crack and unlike Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, was a center of progressive Christianity. However, Hollywood was also the key to world wide influence beyond the few Asian countries. 

Sun Ho was marketed as "SUN aka Geisha", the platinum and billboard charts dancing superstar. However, videos such as "China Wine" was doomed to fail because there was nothing chinese in the niche Jamaican setting where we can hardly understand the native Jamaican slang.  

The huge losses of the album production in Hollywood coupled by the strong criticism by conservative christians in Singapore made way for the very strong blog entry.

In Pastor Kong's blog entry, he equates being offended with "China Wine" with being offended at Jesus Himself at Jesus being with the common people and healing the sick, and raising people from the dead  (Mat 11:4).

Since Pastor Kong considers the messages on gays at the Cathedral of Hope Dallas MCC as "sick",  and implies that homosexuality is akin to sexual immorality, on the same measure of judgement, the "China Wine" video cannot but be considered sexually immoral. 

The strong sexual connotations meant that it had to be marketed as totally separate from the activities, support of the church with Sun Ho deemed as a Pop star doing her own performances aligned to the culture of hollywood.

 Hence, the strong explicit denial of any connection between City Harvest church and the pop career of Pastor Sun Ho :-

  • "Although Sun is married to me, she herself was never formally ordained as a minister. " - but we still called her Pastor Sun, and she now heads in the church pending the outcome of the court case.

  • "Today, she is known in the Far East as a bona fide singer, entertainer and humanitarian. From her royalties, Sun has built eight schools, two orphanages, two medical centers, one rehabilitation clinic, and two housing projects." - If she was so successful in her own right with royalties, then why need the tens of million injection from CHC.

  • "But the reality is that she is no longer a church staff or a gospel singer. She doesn’t work for any religious organization." - if there is no links to the church in terms of ministry, then why the tens of millions injection from CHC.

  • "But Sun is not a pastor. She is an entertainer. All her music videos were not produced by the church but by her secular music label, the company that she is working for." - If the video not produced by the church, then why divert millions to the company producing the secular label.

  • The “China Wine” music video was never meant for a church event. Neither was it ever intended to be an evangelism tool or a gospel video. - then why divert millions if it is not an extension of the ministry of the church for evangelism.

Although there are two sides of the story, the Cross Over argument seems shallow unless there is wholesome entertainment, with a Christian overtone and message which was evident prior during her foray into Malaysia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. It can be substantially secular, but with a Christian element.

In the US, and in China Wine, and the millions injected into her US venture, it will be difficult to substantiate the fruits of the ministry in terms of new churches or growth of attendance in the CHC related churches there. There was no Christian testimony at the end of the China Wine video.

Jesus crossed over from heaven unto earth, and as a result He associated with people whom the religious deemed as sinners. Yet Jesus preached the Good News of the coming Kingdom, the need for repentance, to turn to Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. The association was with the secular people, but the message was a Kingdom message of an eternal kingdom where Jesus was to be the bridge.

The world culture is impossible to save, and will pass away. Christ came to bring us out into another Kingdom not of this world.

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"Wholesome Shallowness" Kong Hee, Sep 23, 2009

In 2007, my wife Sun released a music video of the hit single, “China Wine,” the result of a creative collaboration with reggae wunderkind, Wyclef Jean. That video garnered a lot of attention on YouTube with more than two million hits over two dozen fan sites. It received rave reviews from industry insiders as well as youths who love dance pop the world over. Not surprisingly, the video also raised quite a few eyebrows within the religious fraternity who felt it was inappropriate for a Christian to be featured in a dance video

Although Sun is married to me, she herself was never formally ordained as a minister. She never felt gifted with a pulpit ministry. But ever since Sun was a child, she had participated in many singing contests and won quite a few of them. As a preacher’s wife, Sun functioned faithfully from behind-the-scenes as my helpmate, becoming an effective counselor and a singer in the church.

At the turn of the millennium, as I began formulating my doctrine on the Cultural Mandate, challenging my generation to come out of isolation and engage the marketplace, I urged Sun to help me embody that message. In 2002, she launched her new career in Taiwan as a pop singer. Since then, she has done very well with more than four million units sold, five multi-platinum records, and over 30 number one songs in five different countries. Today, she is known in the Far East as a bona fide singer, entertainer and humanitarian.

From her royalties, Sun has built eight schools, two orphanages, two medical centers, one rehabilitation clinic, and two housing projects. Through her connections, she has helped with the establishing and fund-raising of four other orphanages, two hospitals, two community services, and one charity foundation. For all these humanitarian achievements, Sun was awarded the Top Outstanding Young Person of the World in 2003, and became China’s Charity Ambassador of Children since 2004. In 2007, she sang the theme song for the Special Olympics at Shanghai. Last year, she sang the 2008 Olympic Anthem during the pre-game launch at Beijing. The unchurched throughout Asia loves Sun and views her as an exemplary model to the youths of society.

Yet, in spite of all her secular and creative achievements, many conservative pastors find it hard to accept Sun in any role outside of church ministry. But the reality is that she is no longer a church staff or a gospel singer. She doesn’t work for any religious organization.

As a professional artist, Sun has to take on many dramatic stage personas. This is what entertainers do. In the “China Wine” video, she happens to be acting in one such role. Fiction must be separated from fact. I think the struggle many pastors have is the difficulty to separate her association with me (as a pastor’ wife) and her career as a singer. I agree that if she is a “pastor” or “preacher,” perhaps the video would have been inappropriate. But Sun is not a pastor. She is an entertainer. All her music videos were not produced by the church but by her secular music label, the company that she is working for.

China Wine” is a music video about a girl who has to take up an extra job at a nightclub to make ends meet for her family. Some pastors immediately took offense at the club scene and sexy dancers around her. As for her costumes, she wore gym clothes which was not inappropriate for the set she had to act in. At the end of the music video, she caught her boyfriend cheating on her in the night club and confronted him in Mandarin. If you understand what she said, her words were neither crude nor profane at all. She basically shouted at the guy, “Hey, what are you doing with this mistress?” Unfortunately, the video translator subtitled that as “Hey, what are you doing with this b****?” That final b-word caused a further uproar among pastors, who were quick to condemn her for uttering profanities. A few of them wrote me angry emails calling Sun a “whore,” “hooker,” and other nastier, derogatory terms. Some said she was promoting free sex and immorality. But any intelligent, objective viewer would know that the whole drama is not about sex; if anything, it portrays the reality of a fallen secular world.

All these storms in a tea cup set me thinking of a bigger question: Are Christians living a sanitized life? Why have “Christian” productions been so ineffective in their reach to the unchurched, to the extent that even believers are not interested in their products?

.......

Like the Old Testament writings themselves, pop culture is the collective wisdom of our generation. Popular arts explore social injustice, songs of sorrow, and even tributes to women. Like the Book of Esther, they may not even mention the name of God. Like Ecclesiastes, they suggest that in this life, bad things do happen to good people. Or like the Song of Solomon, they may celebrate romance and sex. These songs and movies may not have a salvational purpose, but nonetheless, they offer us the essential comfort and wisdom for living. As such, pop culture represents a powerful means of communicating to us what the real world is like, and how to live in it.

We are all products of our personal theological persuasions and convictions. Pop culture affects the lifestyles of the masses. Venturing into the realm of secular culture is certainly not for the weak or the fainthearted. What Sun is seeking to do is to show us how to be a modern-day Daniel or Joseph to our contemporary Babylon and Egypt. Daniel took on Babylon’s language, education, fashion, name and persona, and yet he didn’t compromise his own value system. According to the New Bible Commentary, Joseph was thoroughly “Egyptianized,” and yet he lived a great life of purpose. Esther, the super celebrity, was also similar. Sun simply wants to emulate these heroes of faith.

Can you remember John the Baptist questioning the authenticity of Jesus’ ministry when he heard about the latter’s working style? Jesus had become widely known as a friend of sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes and drunkards. He was even seen going to parties and events that the Pharisees themselves wouldn’t set foot in. John the Baptist was concerned that Jesus was becoming worldly, immoral and compromising—a bad example to the disciples. Our Lord’s reply to him was simply this: “Look at My fruits. Look at how the gospel is preached. ‘And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me’” (Matt. 11:6). The Greek word for “offended” is scandalizo, which means “to trip up, stumble, or be enticed to sin.” I would say the same to those religious critics who may be offended by Sun.

The “China Wine” music video was never meant for a church event. Neither was it ever intended to be an evangelism tool or a gospel video. It is simply pop entertainment. People watching the video and regarding it as just that will never get offended or stumbled, which explains the millions of hits and thousands of good reviews on YouTube.

So to the religious and conservatives who have used nasty, derogatory and expletive terms to describe Sun, my parting shot are the words of Jesus Christ from Matthew 21:31, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.”

 

 

 

 

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