the new gospel cru
the new Gospel cru

 

1 Gal 1:15-17  But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.

The more liberal movement in Singapore (eg Yawning Bread) often have had broad swipes at the Christian Right now linking the recent insensitve comments of the Campus for Crusade in Singapore with Love Singapore and the movement of churches with NCCS and COOS Aware saga. They are too simplistic in their associations for Christianity in Singapore is not made up of the Christian Right versus Liberal Christianity. Instead, Christianity in Singapore have 4 main arms:-

a) Catholics

b) Evangelicals

c) Pentecostals/ independent Mega Churches

d) Para church (OMF, YWAM, YMCA, BS, CRU etc)

The first three groups form most of Christianity in Singapore each with its distinct theology and emphasis. This is unlike America where some of the historical mainline churches such as the United Methodist, and the Episcopal can be very liberal and inclusive. It is not a liberal versus conservative divide.

In Singapore, CRU is a para church organization doing their own thing. The closest link to any churches is through the East Asia School of theology  established by CRU in 1992. The liberals via the Catholics social outreaches have declined in the 80s/90s along with any strong campus mandate. In Singapore, we don't have much of a balance because we don't have any strong/popular alternative student christian movement with more "progressive" leanings in Singapore. That is the sad part.

I had once debated with the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ Bill Bright before (over email) in early 1990s as a young student. Hence, was quite surprised at the strong terms used by the zealous local CRU arm. Bill was much more ecumenical. Later, in 1996, he won the Templeton Prize for the Progress of religion. which is kind of a nobel prize for religion. CRU is not like CHC or NCC.

The term Crusades used by CRU are a reference to the mass tent evangelistic meetings in the US in the 50s and 60s. However Crusades does have a negative historical connotation hence their recent change of name to CRU.

Historically, the church and the state were one with its political and military consideration. When Rome became "Christian" in AD313, the heart of Christianity was lost to a political, military, and wealth/power factors.  Hence, the crusades are not really "Christian" but the Western Roman Catholic Churches attempt to conquer Jerusalem (for its own religious legitimacy) and later used against the Orthodox Church in the sacking of Constantianople.

In the year AD 637, the Arabs actually triggered the issue by conquering Jerusalem in the first place as Islam spread throughout Arabia often through military conquest, and  quickly built a giant mosque at the site where Jesus was to return at the Temple Mount. They were by most accounts benevolent until the Turks invaded in AD1076 plunging Jerusalem into a wider war and the crusades.

A thousand years later, they are still fighting albeit with different proxies. History is vague on what happened to the Templar Knights who had fought in the battles and later operated in the middle east controlling the vast money trade or the first banks and later destroyed as they became a threat to the Catholic church itself.

It's much easier to take religion in the extreme whether conservative or liberal insisting on religious laws, on punishment for breaking the laws, or alternative solely focussing on the social justice acts of Jesus. The core of evangelism of the good news message is also perverted by our attempt to control all the mountains of society - of power, wealth, business, etc, hence succumbing to Satan's offer for Jesus to have the world if only He would bow down to Satan. The kingdom of God is within our hearts because it is a matter of faith in Christ and not external of how much money or property we have in this earthly kingdom.

Evangelism is such a foul word to some that they equate it to doing social justice and helping the poor. To its liberal detractors like Yawning bread it is akin to religious extremism eg terrorist actions, insisting on harsh religious laws, strong punishment for breaking the laws. Such religious atmosphere actually existed amongsts the Jews in 1st century Jerusalem, and Jesus was offering a faith that so differs from the strict insistence on religious laws and works. Instead, it is by faith through grace in Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. Extremism is what we do for God, Grace is accepting what God has done for us without striving for it. Hence, the Gospel message of the good news that we need not be the legalistic extremist.

"Billy Graham, a famous evangelist, once prophesised Singapore to be the Antioch of Asia, a reference to the famous Christian city that was ravaged by the crusades.", Yawning Bread "Crusades are a conflict by another name", 18 Feb 2012.

 Antioch was a famous port city in the southern tip of Turkey, on the Syrian border. In the first 300 years of Christianity, the Gospel was preached by missionarries from Jerusalem and later this became a staging post to Asia Minor and Europe being a mixing pot for Jews and Gentiles. Hence, the Gospel spread to the Gentiles at Antioch who then took this message of grace to the Europe.

The role of Christian evangelism didn't result in this city being ravaged by "crusades" as implied and in fact this city prospered until the port was no longer usable a few hundred years hence causing its demise. An earth quake in AD526 finally doomed the port of the city. By then, Christianity was already firmly entrenched and accepted in Rome two hundred years earlier. Antioch was conquered by the Arabs in AD 637.

The staging point for the crusades starting in AD1095 was Constantianople as they gathered the "Christian" armies from all over Europe (a thousand years after Antioch was used as an evangelistic outposts) to reconquer the Holy Land ie in the opposite direction of the Gospel of Grace coming out of Antioch. They went back in the opposite direction through Asia minor and then Antioch in a savage battle in AD 1098. The Gospel of Grace had brought prosperity to Antioch whilst State based institutionalised religious legalism and wars brought destruction.

The Campus Crusade incident is just a red herring, for the prophecy by Billy Graham in the 70s have already been fulfilled in part with the ministries of City Harvest Church and New Creation church. Their influence go much beyond Singapore and their ministries Asia wide until they do not receive a salary from their respective churches. The teachings, the books, tapes, and sermons have gone around Asia birthing new churches and ministries. They have won the Gospel mandate.

The ministries of CHC and NCC are very different each with a different thread of the Gospel message to the nations. Is coming out of Singapore a third wave of Christianity involving in a different kind of Gospel emphasising Social justice, and God's love to the outcasts? It is easy to criticise and be unkind to Campus Crusade with its 25,000 missionaries, many of them living very simply with just enough of a subsistence wage (unlike some mega churches). Where are the missionaries of the more liberal and humane kind of Christianity?

There are many Gay Christians many whose calling to the nations have been derailed because they were gay. Many have even left the faith and church although still believing in Jesus Christ. I am reminded by Gal 1:15-17, where Paul didn't go Jerusalem to start his ministry and because of his background had to detour and find himself and renew his faith in the deserts of Arabia and then later be found in Damascus.   There is a new move of God for a new crusade, not armed with weapons but with Christ's love, compassion, inclusivity, and humanity giving dignity to those whom politics, capitalism, religion, and society have taken away. Where is your Antioch? Where is your evangelism? whether the Gospel message of Salvation or a message of social justice.

I like the Song standing up for Jesus, for it is so ironical that in the bible Jesus didn't lift up the sword even though they came to kill and crucify Him. The servant whose ear was cut off by Peter was healed by Jesus in a demonstration of extreme grace. He showed grace even to those who wanted to cause harm. Standing up for Jesus, is to proclaim God's message of love, grace and mercy, the message of Joy that reconciliation with God is found through Jesus Christ. He came to die and to rise again because there was no other way, no other path to heaven even of good works or just being people of faith beliefs. In 21st century Singapore, perhaps standing up for Jesus means standing up for peoples no one would stand up for.

Standing up for Christ is therefore not going out to kill, but sacrificing ourselves, our lives that others may be blessed. And whether we agree with Campus for Crusade and others such as OMF and YWAM, they have done a fantastic evangelistic work in their simple ways and faith for the last 40 years in over 1,100 colleges in the whole world. It is time we raised up our own Gospel banner that God has set us apart.

1 Gal 1:15-17  But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus.




 
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