Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Secularisation of the Church

The much anticipated Global Day of Prayer will soon be held in the National Stadium on 4th June 2006. Having been previously exposed to numerous Christian events on a national scale and the “hard-sell” publicity techniques that came along with them, I thought perhaps this would be different. After all, is it not the case that there are a number of noted evangelical churchmen and laity who have lent their names in support of it? Yet five minutes of surf time at dashed my hopes for some indications of perhaps a brighter future for evangelicalism in Singapore. The consumerist culture has made inroads despite the moral standing and spiritual maturity of its organizers. What do I mean? Here’re some characteristics I’ve observed.

1. Make the product sound big-time. “We believe this is God’s time for Singapore!”; “It is God’s time…In the history of Singapore, no group has taken on a National Stadium event in 3 months, but when it happens, we know it is God at work and glory be to Him.” The stakes are raised to an infinite level of course when the name of God is invoked to sanction an event with a certainty that is analogous to the divine decrees.

2. Estimate and provide for a large consumer base. Already millions of people around the world have participated in the event, so it is claimed. Promoters of this Singapore based event are hoping for at least 20, 000 to turn up. Surely the larger the number of participants, the weightier will be the event’s legitimacy, and the greater the opportunity cost.

3. Give some semblance of scientific credibility even if it is pseudo-scientific. E.g. the claim is made that in 1993 conversion growth rates more than quadrupled in comparison with the previous 3 years. What’s the explanation? There was massive, united prayer. Since the winding up of the AD 2000 movement, prayer has been decentralized. So conversion rates dropped. What are we to do now? The answer comes as no surprise: Global Day of Prayer. Anyone who’s done a fair amount of statistics will be horrified at claims of causality being made here. I’ve often wished that preachers would stick to their divine calling of preaching and leave the scientific matters to those who’re in the business. But no. In this age of consumerism, pseudo-scientific findings will do just fine to justify religious claims as long as it successfully markets the product.

4. Be sure to offer guarantees. It is claimed that God “will cause a groundswell that has never been before, because so much is at stake.”

5. Appeal to the conscience by employing the guilt tactic. “You really have no excuse to be anywhere else in Singapore but the National Stadium.”

Since numerous evangelical churches and leaders are behind this event, it is not unreasonable to take it as an index of evangelical spirituality in Singapore. What I see is an alarming secularization of our churches. I’ll certainly pray on 4th June 2006. But my prayers will be for God to have mercy on a national church whose evangelical moorings are being eroded by an ever insidious and diabolical influence.

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