Thursday, May 31, 2007

Statement on Lina Joy's Problem


Christian Federation of Malaysia Statement on Lina Joy's case
Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 07:24pm

The Christian Federation of Malaysia (CFM) is disturbed and saddened by the decision of the Federal Court in the Lina Joy’s case, where the Court has confirmed the National Registration Department’s right to insist on a certificate from the Syariah Court that she has apostatized, prior to registering her conversion in the identity card.

We reiterate that the NRD’s insistence on such a certificate being produced has curtailed the fundamental right of an individual to profess and express his or her religion as provided for in Article 11.

We have also noted with much concern that this decision reflects a growing trend of decisions in the courts where civil courts are abdicating their responsibility of providing legal redress to individuals who only seek to profess and live their religion according to their conscience.

As a result of this decision, it is now more pressing for the government and lawmakers to revisit the relevant legislation and to reinstate the jurisdiction of the Civil Courts so that equal protection of the right to choose and express one’s religion is accorded to all Malaysians, as enshrined in Article 11.

The CFM will continue to cooperate with the government and all Malaysians to uphold the Government’s vision of upholding the multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious character of our nation.

Bishop Paul Tan Chee Ing, SJ
Chairman and Executive Committee
Christian Federation of Malaysia

You may download the Judgments of Chief Justice Tun Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim and Justice Datuk Richard Malanjum by clicking here

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Understanding Shalom

The word “Shalom” is an interesting word. Shalom is translated as:
(1) to be in a covenant of peace, be at peace, (Qal) to be at peace, peaceful one (participle), (Pual) one in covenant of peace (participle), (Hiphil) to make peace with, to cause to be at peace,(Hophal) to live in peace;
(2) to be complete, be sound, (Qal) to be complete, be finished, be ended, to be sound, be uninjured, (Piel) to complete, finish, to make safe, to make whole or good, restore, make compensation, to make good, pay, to requite, recompense, reward, (Pual) to be performed, to be repaid, be requited, (Hiphil) to complete, perform, to make an end of.
LXX translate Hebrew shalom, 250 times with the Greek word, eirene. Luke uses the word shalom (eirene) to describe the early struggling Christian church (Acts 9:31).

Wolterstorff, a Christian educator writes, “Shalom means people living in right relationships with God, themselves, each other, and nature- and in taking delight in such relationships. Shalom involves finding meaning in our experiences and celebrating the actualizing of creation’s potentials. Shalom involves recognizing in ourselves that place where Gods’ goodness finds its answer in our gratitude. Shalom is an ethical community where all the members have a full and secure place in the community. As such, it embraces a “non-abandonment” view of the creation that involves redeeming it.”

Expanding on this, Norma Everist from Wartburg Theological seminary in Duduque, Iowa writes, “Shalom looks both backward and forward. It recalls the paradisiacal Garden of Eden, and anticipates the coming of the reign of God. Shalom is personal, and may apply to Godself or to an individual human being. Shalom is communal, meaning the right relationship between friends, neighbors, a community, nation, or even all the inhabited world (oikoumene).”

The concept of shalom as having passive and active components is interesting. Everist goes on to explain, “For humankind, shalom is both passive and active. God’s people are dependent on this gracious, promised gift. Jesus made shalom through the cross (Col.1:20; Eph.2:15-16). When Jesus healed and forgave people, he dismissed them by saying, “Go in shalom.” We are to “seek and pursue it.” (Ps.34:14b as quoted in 1 Pet. 3:11 ). We are to be at peace, pursue it, send it, and keep it (Rom.12;18; 1 Thess.5:13; 2 Cor. 13:11) Rom.14:19; 1 Cor. 16:11). Shalom is an active fruit of the spirit and a mark of the realm of God. It is about the matrix of peace, harmony, and wholeness and is both a gift and task for the very goal of our teaching and learning life together. Finally shalom in Christian community is an inclusive concept, signifying a place, a dwelling and a life where we can be different together (Eph.2:14-22).” Therefore the heart of the meaning is close to life itself.

Shalom is linked with truth and justice in the Hebrew Bible, especially by Jeremiah (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). Forgiveness, righteousness, justification, reconciliation, pardon, restoration, good news, and salvation-words which point to harmony in any relationship- are all part of the semantic domain of shalom. In Paul’s theology in the New Testament Bible, justification by faith gives shalom with God through Jesus Christ. Shalom is Jesus’ “parting gift” to his disciples (Jn. 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21, 26). Therefore it is in shalom that the process of spiritual formation proceeds.

I will suggest that it is our responsibility as Christian educators to bring followers of Jesus to a cognitive KNOWLEDGE of God, to an EXPERIENTIAL encounter with Him, to develop an INCARNATIONAL and MISSIONAL lifestyle, and to a place of BEING in a right relationship with God and other people so as to be in SHALOM.


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Christianity Today Book Awards 2007

Christianity Today's Book Awards 2007
together with the judges' comments


The Language of God: 'A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
Francis S. Collins (Free Press)
Our judges said:
"Faces head-on the most tactically challenging issues that keep people from Christian faith in our time with both clarity and charity. And by showing a Christian who loves creation, science, his neighbors, and his Lord, it presents a rare and welcome picture of mature Christian character."

Biblical Studies

Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony
Richard Bauckham (Eerdmans)
Our judges said:
"Wonderful. A dazzlingbook. It reads beautifully, grabs the reader with its fascinating detective work, and sets the scholarly discussion of the historical Jesus on a new (very old!) foundation: eyewitness reports as the basis of the biblical gospel. This is biblical scholarship of the highest order that can be read with enjoyment by the thoughtful layperson."

Christianity and Culture

The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World
Miroslav Volf (Eerdmans)
Our judges said:
"How should a Christian handle the memory of abuse? If it is forgotten, where is justice for the accuser? How is reconciliation possible when abuse involves communities and nations? Volf addresses these questions with a profound theological grasp of their implications both for the present and the future."

Christian Living

Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?
Philip Yancey (Zondervan)
Our judges said:
"Directness and liveliness of illustration and argument, theological substance, quality of biblical reflection, and readability that may make it accessible even to those coming to faith, Bible reading, or prayer for the first time."

The Church/ Pastoral Leadership

Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples
Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger (B&H Publishing)
Our judges said:
"This very practical book addresses a big gap in most evangelical churches: the lack of a functional process for actually making disciples (not just incorporating church attenders)."
Our coverage:


Dwelling Places
Vinita Hampton Wright (HarperSanFrancisco)
Our judges said:
"Literarily sophisticated and subtle. Characters and setting are extremely well developed. The nexus of family drama and large sociopolitical context is very rare. Faith plays a subtle but powerful role."


Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War
Harry S. Stout (Viking)
Our judges said:
"Likely to change people's minds about deeply important cultural views and memories. The Civil War, Stout argues, was not a just war in its inception or in its conduct."

Mission/Global Affairs

The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative
Christopher J. H. Wright (IVP Academic)
Our judges said:
"Completely fresh with new insights presented in a lucid and compelling way. This is an important work of scholarship that will likely give future generations a firm foundation for thinking theologically about the church's mission in the world. Likely to affect the way that biblical theology and exegesis are done in evangelical seminaries."


The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life
Robert E. Webber (Baker Books)
Our judges said:
"A brilliant and convincing exposition of the deficiencies of intellectualized, mysticized, and experientialized approaches to spirituality with a convincing, positive case for Christian spirituality as entering into the reality (divine embrace) of what Christ has accomplished for us on the Cross. The engagement with the rich history of spirituality, orthodox and otherwise, is outstanding."


The Shadow of the Antichrist: Nietzsche's Critique of Christianity
Stephen N. Williams (Baker Academic)
Our judges said:
"This book tackles a subject too often ignored by evangelical Christians. The role of Nietzsche in forming what we call modern culture is of foundational importance, and Williams expounds this for us in a clear and compelling way. Every pastor and Christian educator should read and ponder this book when addressing the concerns of modern society."

read more


Monday, May 28, 2007

Han Suyin, a lady doctor in Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Some information about Han Suyin by Dr. Wong Yin Onn, Johor Bahru;

THE greatest literary success in novelist Han Suyin's career is A Many Splendoured Thing, a book that was made into a film titled Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, starring Jennifer Jones and William Holden . This 1955 classic won four Academy awards for Best Picture, Best Song, Best Score and Best Costume. You may even know the lyrics to the song by the same name, sung by Nat King Cole.

She was born Elisabeth Chow Kuanghu (Zhou Guang-Hu) in 1917 in Henan, China, to Zhou Yuan Dong and Marguerite Denis, her Flemish-Belgian mother.

In 1933 she was admitted to Yanjing (Yenching) University (later part of Peking University). In 1935 she went to Brussels to study science. In 1938 she returned to China, working in an American Christian mission hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan, then went again to London in 1944 to study medicine, graduated MBBS in 1948 and went to Hong Kong to practice medicine in 1949 at the Queen Mary Hospital. Her husband, Tang, meanwhile, had died in action during the Chinese Civil War in 1947.

In the novel, Han described Hong Kong of 1949 and 1950 and how thousands of refugees escaping from the Communists swelled the population each week. She made the filth, despair, poverty and vice come tragically alive but all these were the backdrop for a passionate love affair. A Many-Splendoured Thing is frankly autobiographical. The novel described the love affair between the author and Ian Morrison, an Australian correspondent for The London Times. All Hong Kong knew about the love affair. They were inseparable, walking the streets of the city and the hills of the island at all hours, meeting openly at his hotel. They made no effort to keep the affair quiet. She was a well-known doctor, a Eurasian widow with a small daughter. He had a wife and children. The affair lasted several months and was suddenly interrupted by Morrison's front line death in Korea, when reporting on the Korean War. After his death, Han poured her grief into writing A Many Splendoured Thing and it seemed to bring a closure for her.

In 1952, she married Leon F. Comber, a British officer in the Malayan Special Branch, and went with him to Johore, where she worked in the Johore Bahru General Hospital, and later opened a clinic in Johore Bharu and Upper Pickering Street, Singapore.

In 1955, Han Suyin contributed efforts to the establishment of Nanyang University in Singapore. Specifically, she offered her services and served as physician to the institution, after having refused an offer to teach literature. Chinese writer Lin Yutang, first president of the university, had recruited her for the latter field, but she declined, indicating her desire "to make a new Asian literature, not teach Dickens".

She spent at least 10 years in Johor Baru, later working in an anti-tuberculosis clinic located above Universal Pharmacy, at 24 Jalan Ibrahim!Long before Guardian, Apex or Pharmacare existed, Universal Pharmacy was where JB folk went for pharmaceutical needs as it was well stocked with a wide range of imported merchandise on the ground floor. A broad wooden staircase led to the clinic upstairs where patients consulted Dr Elisabeth. Conversant in Hakka, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malay, French and English, she is well remembered by older generation Johoreans. She now lives in Lausanne, Switzerland, and maintains her name as Dr Elisabeth C.K. Comber.The building that Universal occupied has been demolished and is now a vacant lot opposite Johor Central Store. So the next time you pass Johor Baru's busy Jalan Ibrahim, check out that space next to the motorcycle service shop and picture what used to be Universal Pharmacy and the clinic upstairs where Dr Comber, GP, once worked.

Here are additional personal information by Dr. Tan Chow Wei of The People’s Dispensary, Johor Bahru.

Here are some of the less known facts about the great Han Suyin, even missed by the NST reporter (because he missed interviewing an expert in JB history):

She practised medicine in JB in the 50s where she opened her first clinic near the old Cathay cinema (where Johoreans go to savour the famous beef noodle). The clinic was known as Chow Dispensary (In those days, clinics or surgeries were known as dispensaries, the word polyclinic was not even born. So when you see a clinic such as The People's Dispensary, you instantly know that it is a "grandfather clinic"!). Han Suyin was then affectionally called "Dr.Chow". She later relocated her clinic to the up-stair of the 2-storey shop house above the Universal Pharmacy, still retaining the name "Chow Dispensary". It is just a stone's throw away from the oldest clinic in JB, The People's Dispensary, where Dr.Tan Chow Wei (who is also a Hakka) is proud to be associated with. She used to visit Dr.Yeoh Hon Shu, the founder of The People's Dispensary and more than 20 years her senior, (who incidentally, was the first GP in JB to have a post-graduate degree, MRGP.) By the way, next to The People's Dispensary, where the Chinese Association was (Now being converted to museum of Chinese history in JB), was the birth-place of Robert Kuok, the richest man in Malaysia.

Han Suyin's husband then, Leon Comber was a Malayan Special Branch Officer during the 1948 to 1960 'Emergency' period. (After many years in book publishing he is now a research associate at the Monash Asia Institute of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia).

“Han Suyin” is a pseudonym. What does it stand for? According to her daughter, Tang Yungmei, Han Suyin stands for “the clear voice of the Han people.” There has been some debate about the origin of Hakka people whether they belong to "Han" people or a minority from "Xiongnu". From most of the evidence gathered, it can be concluded that Hakkas are likely Han people rather than a derivative from the Xiongnu.
Han Suyin’s conclusion is:

"The word Hakka does not denote a racial group, for the Hakkas are Han People, Chinese People. It was a word applied to all displaced peasants, and only after the tenth century came to design a special group. Moving en masse these refugees from misery were 'people who sought a roof, hence called Guest People' which was more courteous than calling them displaced persons or refugees...”

"The Hakkas say they are the true people of Han, and that they have escaped degenerate habits brought by foreign rule. They are proud of their singularity” As the Guest People, especially among the overseas Chinese, where their clans are prosperous and strong.”

So we can see that Hakka people are the Han people, not belonging to a minority. That is one main reason why Han Suyin chose “Han” as her surname.

She used to say: "I am a Hakka, my roots are in China.”

In December 2001, Tang Yungmei visited her mother Han Suyin. Later Tang Yungmei told me " Even at the age of 86, my mother knows clearly what has happened to China and what is happening."

Her other name Chow Kuanghu (Zhou Guanghu), "Chow" of course is her family name. "Kuang" is her generation name, which was a typical traditional Chinese custom that all the brothers, sisters and cousins in a family must take a same character in their given names.

Han Suyin's passport name is Dr. Elisabeth C.K. Comber. And it is also written on the door of her apartment in Switzerland. "Comber” is the family name of her English second husband, she apparently preserved. "C.K." holds for her Chinese name Chow Kuanghu. She puts her English name and Chinese name together with a tendency to show that she is a Eurasian.

Han Suyin is a very productive and prominent contemporary novelist. Most of her writing is in English some is in French and Chinese. Her works mainly fall into four categories: autobiography and fictions biography and sociological essays.

Han Suyin has long been based in Lausanne, Switzerland. She said then that she owned neither a television nor a radio but that she read five newspapers per day. At various times, she has maintained homes in Beijing and New York. She remains WHO consultant on China Affairs.


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When The Rubber Hits the Road

How to be a Christian in a Wicked World
Text: Psalm 37: 1-9

It is possible to live a Christian life by the power of the Holy Spirit in trusting, delighting, committing, and be patient in the Lord in a wicked and evil world.

Text: Psalm 37: 1-9

PS 37:1 Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;

PS 37:2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

PS 37:3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

PS 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

PS 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

PS 37:6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

PS 37:7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

PS 37:8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret--it leads only to evil.

PS 37:9 For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

All fans of Formula One racing will know that winning a race is the combination of the driver, the maintenance team and the design of the car. Even though the driver seems to get all the glory, it all goes back to the design of the car. Nowadays car designs are very dependent on computer modeling- the aerodynamics, the cooling system, the capacity of the engine, the air-fuel mix, and the weight of the car. However, no matter how el designed is the car, it will prove itself only when you get it on the road and drive. Hence when the rubber/tire hits the road. This is the same with our Christian life. No matter how much we memorized and study the Bible, how much we pray, and how much fellowship we have with our church, the test of our Christian living is in the world.

Psalm 37 has an acrostic structure. It begins each stanza with the Hebrew alphabet. This helps the students in memorizing the psalm. This psalm is considered part of the wisdom literature, like the book of Proverbs. Its purpose is not so much to teach theology, but rather practical living. It is a psalm about how to live. And this is particularly relevant to us today as we seek to live a Christian life in a world turned upside down.

How do you live in a world where the evil seems to triumph and the good seems insignificant? Is it possible to live a Christian life in a wicked world? When the tire hits the road, can our Christian principles hold?

PS 37:1 Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;

PS 37:2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.

There is the natural temptation to be upset and envious at the success of evil people, especially when living a moral life creates hardship. We look around and we see people whom we know to lie, steal, and cheat driving around in luxuries continental cars and live in large mansions. And they seem to get away with it. We know of evil persons who cause untold suffering and death of millions of people like Pol Pot of Cambodia and Mao Ze Dong of China dying of old age! The normal axiom is that the “good die young.” Why should the good die young? Shouldn’t the good live longer? Where is the justice in that?

Prov. 24:19 -20
PR 24:19 Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of the wicked,
PR 24:20 for the evil man has no future hope,
and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.

But their success is superficial and not to be envied, for having no deep roots, they shrivel up as soon as testing comes along.

So how do we then live in this unjust world? Do we throw away our principles and jump in the in the murk? And if we want to live a Christian life, is there any way we can do that without failing? I believe that the psalmist had given us the answer in this section of this great wisdom psalm. The audience of this psalm also lives in times like us. Times where evil people are in control, where cheating and stealing are common, where injustices are common, and where it is difficult to live according to Godly principles, especially in the business world.

(1) Trust in the Lord (v.3)
PS 37:3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Evil people tend to trust in their wealth, power, or connections. The righteous shall trust in the Lord.

Prov. 3: 5-6
PR 3:5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
PR 3:6 in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Trusting in the Lord is very important. That is the basis of our belief. If you do not trust in the Lord, there is no point in talking about living a Christian life. One of the greatest examples of trust is the flying trapeze in a circus act. In the act, they will launch themselves into thin air and trust their friend or partner in the other trapeze will catch them in time. That’s absolute trust. This is especially so when they are doing it without net. There is no room for mistake, or a bad hair day. One mistake and they fall plunging into the hard ground below. I always look at trust in the Lord that way. Are we willing to launch ourselves into the air without a safety net below, trusting God to be there to catch our outstretched hands? That is trust.

(2) Delight in the Lord (v.4)
PS 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Evil people tends to live for themselves and fulfill their basest desire, the righteous shall delight in the presence of the Lord.

Together with trust is joy. Trusting the Lord will give us joy. Joy is different from happiness. If you give me a million dollars or a big house, I will be happy. However that happiness is transient. It disappears when the income tax man come to audit me or the land office demand payment of the quit rent. Joy, however persists in spite of circumstances. We can have joy in the most perverse of situations. This joy comes as a delight in the Lord. What is the purpose of our existence? Why are we here? We are here because God loves us. And we are here because God wants us to be his partners or co-creators for the redemption of this creation.

Prov. 8:30-31
PR 8:30 Then I was the craftsman at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
PR 8:31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.

(3) Commit to the Lord (v.5,6)
PS 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

The act of trust and commitment acts like trigger, releasing God’s capacity to act. Commitment is a conscious decision. Like Peter Parker in Spider-man 2, life is a choice. He has received awesome powers- the strength of ten men, the ability to climb walls, shoot webs from his wrists, and swing from buildings to buildings. However, he has to choose to continue to be Spiderman, or to be a normal person by not using his powers. He wants to live a normal life and marry his sweetheart, Mary Jane. . Aunt May Parker said, "I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dream." Peter decides to become that hero. He has made his choice and commitment.

Prov. 16:3
PR 16:3 Commit to the LORD whatever you do,
and your plans will succeed.
PR 16:4 The LORD works out everything for his own ends--
even the wicked for a day of disaster.

PS 37:6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

The conviction in v.6 is that the setbacks are only temporary, like clouds obscuring the sun. Eventually God will move the clouds away and true light will appear.

(4) Be Still before the Lord (v.7-9)
PS 37:7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.

PS 37:8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;
do not fret--it leads only to evil.
PS 37:9 For evil men will be cut off,
but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

This verse advocate patience, not achieved by observing the instant-success schemes of this world, but by learning to wait on God’s appropriate timing.

The type of anger highlighted here is ‘anger against God’. This anger arises from the experience of trouble in the world where the evil people are evidently trouble-free, and the consequences of human experiences seem grossly unfair. Again, patience is encouraged because this type of anger is futile, because it will only bring grief to them. And also the evil will eventually cut off (as the Canaanites before them) and the faithful shall inherit the land (as their predecessor did).

PR 16:32 Better a patient man than a warrior,
a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.

Can we learn to look at the world through the Lord’s eyes? Can we look at the world through the Lord’s timing. Even though evil flourish, it will be only for a while. In God’s own timing (which may be different from ours), justice will be done.

Conclusion: How to be Christian in a Wicked World
We can be Christians in a wicked world by
• Trusting the Lord
• Delighting in the Lord
• Commitment to the Lord
• Be patient in the Lord
This is not easy but can be done. That is because we have the Holy Spirit to help us.

Today is Pentecost Sunday (27 May 2007). About two thousand years ago, on a day like today, the Holy Spirit came like flames of fire and fill all Christians, empowering them to be witnesses and to live as Christians in wicked world.
Acts 2:1-4
AC 2:1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

It is possible to live a Christian life by the power of the Holy Spirit in trusting, delighting, committing, and be patient in the Lord in a wicked and evil world.

soli deo gloria

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

My Monthly Book Hunting Quest

Friday afternoon is my favourite time of the week because I do not have clinic. If I am not on call, I am totally free from the hospital. I use this time to have lunch with friends or people I am mentoring.

However, once a month, I will drive over the causeway to Singapore for my monthly book hunting quest. I enjoyed book browsing and shopping very much. I look forward to discovering treasures among the shelves and the stacks. I do have a shopping list in mind but most of the books bought are chance discoveries.

I will always start off at SKS books Warehouse at 315 Outram Road #09-03, Tan Boon Liat Building, Singapore. This is the largest Christian bookshop in Singapore and its almost 3,000 square feet are filled all all genres of Christian books. I always get a very good selections there.

Next I head off to Absolute Comics at Bugis Junction. I can usually find a good selection of comics titles here and also a good selection of figurines and action figures.

The next stop will be Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City on Orchard Road. Here too is an excellent selection of books. The religions, psychology, and philosophy sections are well stocked. I usually have a coffee break before and then dinner after Kino.

My last stop will be Borders at Whitlock Place at the junction of Orchard and Scotts Road. The reason is that Borders closes at 11.30pm on Friday. Hence I will miss the traffic jam at the causeway when I start home after Borders close. I find that Borders have a better selection of literature and science fiction books. Unfortunately, its religions section is shrinking.

I usually have no problem getting across custom at the causeway except to answer the usual incredious questions from the custom officers.
"Are these books?"
"How much did you spend?"
"Do you actually read them"

This book hunting quest is one of my favorite activities of the month.


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Thursday, May 24, 2007

An "Egoistic" Spirituality

An “I, Me, Myself” Spirituality

What is the Focus of Spiritual Life? Scot McKnight asks in an article in The Christian Century, September 7, 2004, p. 22-24. In this article, he defines discipleship as “refers to a Christian who is radically committed to obeying Jesus Christ, one who studies Jesus’ teachings and puts them into practice.” It is this radical commitment that defines discipleship. However, to develop radical commitment, one has to develop or commit to spiritual disciplines. McKnight thinks that this is not enough.

He encourages us to look beyond discipleship to a spiritual formation of love. This process of spiritual formation of love is based on combining the Shema (Deu.6:4-9) and Lev. 19:18. What comes out is “loving God and loving others” (Mk. 12: 28-31). McKnight calls this the Jesus Creed, and identifies it as the focus of the spiritual life.

There is however an interesting paragraph McKnight writes while delineating the limits of discipleship;

Just as the barnacle of legalism can grow onto the (spiritual) disciplines, so also can the barnacle of individualistic pietism. Individual piety is a noble good that produces other goods like sanity and tranquillity. But it can also lead to an egoistic spirituality that assigns God the task of serving me – of making me a better person, of making the world clear to me, of swooping down to earth just for me. People who fall into this error can be identified by what social scientists call “attribution theory,” a cognitive game in which Christian claim to understand why everything in the course of human events is occurring and what meaning specific events – like getting a flat tire or losing one’s job - have in their lives. That is, “God made my tire flat so I would hear a specific song on the radio so I could use those words in a personal relationship with someone else who needs to hear just those words on this particular day.

I wonder how many of us suffer from this type of “egoistic spirituality”. I know I do all the time. If I am to believe that God is interested in all aspects of my life, why should I not believe that he will use all and every circumstances or opportunities? I do not believe in coincidence. There is no coincidence to God the Creator. Every coincidence is a deliberate line of code in the chaos theory in the system which is the created order.

However I do not believe God does it only for me. I believe he does it for his greater plan of which I am a part. If I am in need of a new heart and suddenly a compatible donor heart became available because its owner had an accident, I will thank and praise God. However, I do not believe that God will cause the accident so that I will get a new heart. That will be indeed an “egoistic spirituality”.

What do you think?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Gospel According to Spiderman

The Road to Forgiveness

The much anticipated movie, Spider-Man 3 hit the big screen on May 2007. The movie opens with Spiderman being the toast of the town. He is a hero to New York which just cannot see enough of him. There are video clips on the streets, photos in the papers, balloon and action figures. In the first fifteen minutes, he saves Gwen Stacey and later in a huge ceremony, is given the key to the city.

Uncle Ben Parker said to Peter Parker/Spiderman in Spider-Man 1, "You've been given a gift Peter, with great power, comes great responsibility." Unfortunately Uncle Ben did not advise his nephew about power that corrupts and lead to pride.

In Spider-Man 2, we saw how Peter struggled whether he wants to use his power or not. He has to make a choice between continuing to be Spiderman or to live a normal life. Aunt May Parker said, "I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble. And finally gets us to die with pride. Even though sometimes we have to be steady and give up the thing we want most, even our dream." Peter decides to become that hero.

In Spider-Man 3, we begin to see a dark side of being a hero. All the adoration has gone to his head. Peter was becoming self-centred and proud. Even when his sweetheart, Mary Jane Watson was trying to explain how bad she was feeling after a bad performance review in the paper about her debut, Peter cannot see from any perspective except his own. This was made worse when Captain Stacey revealed to Aunt May and Peter that the real killer of Uncle Ben is Flint Marko.

Things came to a crisis when Peter was infected by Venom, an alien symbiote that brings out the worst aggression in its host. Spider-Man entered the dark side literally- his colour changed from blue and red to black. The extra power given by the alien to Spiderman was like a drug; exhilarating and intoxicating. He became more aggressive and violent. Peter/Venom, when out of costume was a different character; spiteful, proud, revengeful, and murderous. He used Gwen to humiliate Mary Jane and hammered the Sandman/Flint Marko into mud, thinking he has killed him. He mockingly yelled, “If you want forgiveness, get religion!”

Aunt May was horrified when Peter told her that Spiderman has killed Flint. She said, "Uncle Ben wouldn't want us living with revenge in our hearts, it's like a poison. It can take you over and turn us into something ugly." It was that thought that brought Peter to his senses.

In a poignant moment, Peter/Spiderman/Venom realised that he had became who he always fought- a villain, an anti-hero. The scene was a dark, rainy, and stormy night. The darkness of the night was broken by flashes of lightning. In the background was the spire of a church and on the top of the spire is a cross (symbolism abound in this movie!). Peter/Spiderman/Venom crawled into the belfry of the church and Peter tried to tear the dark costume from his body. It is with only the ringing of the church bells that Peter was able to tear off Venom and was cleansed clean. Thus was the redemption of Peter Parker in a church.

The road to redemption is the road to forgiveness. Aunt May started it by saying, “First, you have to do the hardest thing. You have to forgive yourself.” Spiderman was beaten almost into a pulp by the Sandman and Venom/Brock in the final confrontation. Sandman/Marko turned out to be a misunderstood thief who accidentally shot Uncle Ben. Flint Marko said. "I'm not asking for your forgiveness. I just want you to understand." Understanding the evil that resides in all of us, Peter Parker hesitantly said, "I forgive you."

It was friendship and forgiveness that brought New Goblin/Harry Osborn to the rescue of Mary Jane and Spiderman. Harry sacrificed himself when he jumped between Venom and Spiderman, allowing Venom to impale him with his own sled. Forgiveness involves sacrifice, confession and reconciliation:

Peter Parker/Spiderman: "I never should have hurt you. And said those things."
Harry Osborn/New Goblin: "None of that matters, Peter. You're my friend."
Peter Parker: "Best friend."

It was a long road and Peter Parker finally came to realise the stuff heroes are made of- the ability to forgive others. Real heroes are not those who have the power, or the might, or the strength to beat up others. Real heroes are those who can forgive others who did them harm. They are those who reject the road to revenge and choose instead the road to reconciliation.

Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu chose the road of forgiveness and reconciliation in post apartheid South Africa instead of vengeance. Elisabeth Elliot tasted the bitter fruit of losing her young husband to the Huaorani natives, walked the road of forgiveness that led her through the “Gates of Splendour.” It is not an easy road to walk. The road to forgiveness is full of thorns, suffering, pain, and loss. Jesus also chose the road of forgiveness and reconciliation. God incarnate, Jesus Christ, hung naked, humiliated and broken on a cross and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk 24:34)

The movie Spider-Man 3 ended with Peter Parker voice over “We are the result of the choices we make, even the hard ones”

Reflection Questions
1. Why is it so hard for us to forgive someone who has hurt us?
2. How do we get rid of our need for revenge? Why do you think our need for revenge will injure our spiritual, emotional, and physical lives?
3. Picture in your mind someone who has hurt you badly and you are struggling to forgive. Pray for that person. Pray for yourself.

Lord God, help us to forgive one another. It is so hard to forgive, so easy to hate and yearn for revenge. Dear Holy Spirit, please work in our spirits so that we learn to forgive, to reconcile, and to love. Dear Jesus, thank you for your supreme work on the cross that brought us the Father’s forgiveness and reconciliation. Amen

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

ECPA Book Awards Finalist 2007

The Evangelical Christian Publisher Association (ECPA) Christian Book Awards: 2007 Finalists

Archaeological Study Bible
NIVFamily Foundations Study Bible
NKJVNew Women’s Devotional Bible
NIVThe English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament
TNIV Study Bible

Bible Reference and Study
Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament WordsPreachingProverbsPsalms, Volume 1
The IVP Atlas of Bible History

Children and Youth
A Young Woman’s Walk with God
Heaven for Kids
Sexy Girls
Technical Virgin
Your Special Gift

Christian Life
Captured by Grace
Finding God Beyond Harvard
Just Walk Across the Room
Prayer: Does It Make a Difference?
The Papa Prayer
What Jesus Demands from the World

Ever AfterMagdalene
The Nativity Story: A Novelization
When Crickets Cry
When the Heart Cries

Inspiration and Gift
Battlefields and Blessings
Pearls of Great Price
Praying: Finding Our Way Through Duty to Delight
The Nativity Story
Through the Bible, Through the Year

What are your choices?


Prayer for the Day

May the love of the Lord Jesus
draw us to himself;
May the power of the Lord Jesus
strengthen us in his service;
May the joy of the Lord Jesus
fill our souls.

May the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
be among you and remain with you always.

William Temple


New Breed of Evangelicals

The Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., has encouraged fellow evangelicals to work to eradicate AIDS in Africa.

Emphasis Shifts for New Breed of Evangelicals
Published: May 21, 2007
The evangelical Christian movement, which has been pivotal in reshaping the country’s political landscape since the 1980s, has shifted in potentially momentous ways in recent years, broadening its agenda and exposing new fissures.

The death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell last week highlighted the fact that many of the movement’s fiery old guard who helped lead conservative Christians into the embrace of the Republican Party are aging and slowly receding from the scene. In their stead, a new generation of leaders who have mostly avoided the openly partisan and confrontational approach of their forebears have become increasingly influential.

Typified by megachurch pastors like the Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., and the Rev. Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church outside Chicago, the new breed of evangelical leaders — often to the dismay of those who came before them — are more likely to speak out about more liberal causes like
AIDS, Darfur, poverty and global warming than controversial social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.

But the conservative legacy of the religious right persists, and abortion continues to be a defining issue, even a litmus test, for most evangelicals, including younger ones, according to interviews and survey data.

“The abortion issue is going to continue to be a unifying factor among evangelicals and Catholics,” said the Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, who is often held up as an example of the new model of conservative Christian leaders. “That’s not going to go away.”...

Mr. Warren, 53, who wrote the spiritual best seller “The Purpose-Driven Life,” has dedicated much of the past few years to mobilizing evangelicals to eradicate AIDS in Africa. Even so, he remains theologically and socially quite conservative. He tempers the sharper edges of his beliefs with a laid-back style (his usual Sunday best is a Hawaiian shirt). Although he does not speak from the pulpit about politics, he sent a letter before the 2004 presidential election to pastors in a vast network who draw advice from him, urging them to weigh heavily “nonnegotiable” issues like abortion, stem cell research and same-sex marriage from a biblical perspective.

Mr. Warren, along with Mr. Hybels, 55, and several dozen other evangelical leaders, signed a call to action last year on climate change. The initiative brought together more mainstream conservative Christian leaders with prominent liberal evangelicals, such as the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners and the Rev. Ronald J. Sider of Evangelicals for Social Action, who have long championed progressive causes. Notably absent from the list of signatories were several old lions of the Christian right, some of whom were openly critical of the effort: Mr. Falwell; Mr. Robertson, 77; and Mr. Dobson, 71, founder of Focus on the Family...

In a separate survey in 2004, John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, however, placed evangelicals into three camps — traditionalist, centrist and modernist — based on the how rigidly they adhered to their beliefs and their willingness to adapt them to a changing world. The traditionalists are evangelicals who are usually labeled as the Christian right, while the centrists might be represented by the newer breed of evangelical leaders, who remain socially and theologically quite conservative but have mostly sought to avoid politics. The two camps are roughly the same size, each representing 40 to 50 percent of the total.

Experts agree, though, that the centrist camp is growing. Estimates of the number of evangelicals nationwide vary, depending on how they are counted and how the term is defined, but Mr. Green put it at 26.3 percent of Americans....

There are other signs of attitude changes among younger evangelicals. Recent surveys conducted by the Barna Group show that younger “born again” Christians are more accepting of homosexuality than older ones and are less resistant to affording gays equal rights. But on abortion, they remain almost as conservative as their parents — more fodder for both political parties to weigh as they consider the future.

read full article

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Celebrate the Little Things


Chinese Perception of God as Punisher-Rewarder

Ting Kuang-hsun (Traditional Chinese: 丁光訓; Simplified Chinese: 丁光训; Hanyu Pinyin: Dīng Guāngxùn) (born 20 September 1915), is a former Anglican Bishop in mainland China, who is now Chairperson emeritus of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement and President emeritus of the China Christian Council, the government-approved Protestant church in China. He was an Anglican Bishop in the 1940s and 1950s; as he has not disclaimed his ordination, he is still technically a bishop, although the Anglican Church no longer exists as an institution in China; along with all recognized denominations, it was merged into the Three-Self Patriotic Movement in the 1950s. (read more )

Bishop K.H. Ting presented a paper "One Chinese Christian's View of God" which was published in CTC Bulletin, Vol.XII, No.2-Vol.XIII, No:1 & 2, July 1994-Sept 1995

We talk of love as an attribute of God too, but his love seems to be very arbitrary and enjoyed by only a few who are specially selected, or who please God in special ways. To the others, God is essentially a punisher-rewarder, a being hard to please. Hence, fear of God's displeasure is the mark of much that goes under the name of Christianity.

I was brought up in a Christianity very much like that. We went to church every Sunday to curry God's favor. If there was an illness within the family, it was God's punishment for some hidden sin. When I went to be a theological student to prepare myself for the ministry of the church, the common notion in the family and in church circles was that such an act of dedication would win God's pleasure and bring health and well being to myself and my family.

Today, as I move about the Chinese church at its grassroots, I find that this is still the level of spirituality many are at. In some villages, as many as half of the Christians became Christians when there was illness on the part of some family members who supposedly got healed when Christians came to pray and drive out the evil spirits. Many Christians at the grassroots enjoy "testimony meetings" in which anyone can speak. At such meetings a common pattern emerges: some misfortune happens to a person, he or she searches for his or her sin or sins; after identifying the sin or sins and confessing to God and much praying, God moves away the misfortune. On the other hand, misfortune lingers and intensifies for those who are hard-hearted and do not repent, culminating in unending suffering and death in the family.

Holding on to this image of God is accompanied by a spirituality of acquisition and utilitarianism. We give God praises and honor and get in return, health, wealth, protection from catastrophe in this life and eternal bliss in heaven. It is highly ironic that, while Christ was laughed at for his ability to save others but not himself, so many of his followers are only too eager to save themselves by getting on the church as Noah's Ark without a faith that concerns itself with the welfare of the people outside.

This is strong comment by a Chinese church leader and I am sure it resonate with many of our experiences and spirituality. How do we perceive God? Do we see him as a punisher-rewarder?

Those who come from a Chinese background of Confucianism will recognise the aspect of working to get rewards. Did this background also colours the Chinese Christians' perception of God?

For centuries, in China, the father is regarded as a disciplinarian and all his children works hard to win his approval. Ting notes, "In fact, the proper Chinese way to refer to one's own father in polite conversation is the "severe one in my family"..." Again, would this have an effect if, as is frequently done, to take analogy of the Chinese human father to characterise God. Would then the Chinese Christians' spirituality be one of always trying to please God and to win his approval?


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Sunday, May 20, 2007

I've Been Tagged for My Weirdness

"People who are tagged should write a blogpost of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says 'you are tagged' in their comments and tell them to read your blog."

I gotta tagged by Weird Al so I gotta say 6 weird things about myself. I thought to myself, “All this time I thought I was normal and the rest of the world is weird.” You must remember I am an old man in the winter of my life and these ‘weirdness’ or 'normalness'has been going on for a long time.

(1) I read comics in the bathtub.
Yeap, I think that is the best place to read it. With the bathtub full of warm water, of course. What do you think I am? I am still a great fan of Batman, Spiderman, Daredevil, The Mighty Thor, Wonder Woman, Superman, Wolverine, and Green Lantern. I started reading and collecting them when comics first appeared so you know how old I am. My mother told me to read comics so that I can improve my English. She doesn’t understand a word of English and thinks comics is an educational magazine. God bless you, Mum.

(2) I am a Trekkie, nowadays called Trekker.
I am a great fan of Star Trek. I have the complete collection of Star Trek movies and television series, initially on video tape, then on LD, CD, and now on DVD. Man, I have to pay royalties for each episodes 4 times! I also have almost every novels and comics published on Star Trek which comes up to about a 1000 items. Star Trek saved my sanity once and I shall never forget it. On fine day, I shall write a book, The Gospel according to Star Trek.

(3) I love making models of space ships and batmobiles.
The top of my bookshelves are full of plastic model spaceships. I have collected and made most of the science fiction spaceships. One thing I love about painting spaceships as the spaceships do not exist so you can paint it anyway you wants. Anyone has a problem with that? Recently I have also turned to making batmobile. This is a photo of my latest, a Romulan Scorpion light fighter from the Star Trek Movie, Nemesis.

(4) I love computer gaming, especially when I am winning.
My reaction time may not be as fast as I used to be and I cannot remember all the keystrokes but I save a lot. Computer gaming keeps me wake at night. I love real time strategy games but do not mind a shooter or two. One day, when I grow up, I wanna get a playstation.

(5) I collect Batman action figures.
With the different stories and variation in the Dark Knight, I started collecting Batman action figures. They are still in their display boxes. No, I do not play with them. If I want to, I usually read a comic, watch the movies and animated series on DVDs.

(6) I am doing a PhD as a hobby.
Yes, I know. People not only think me weird but also crazy. “Why are you doing a PhD for at your age? You do not need it.” “For fun” I will reply, “For Permanent head Damage (PhD).” Why can’t we study for the love of it? That’s weird.

And thus I tag

Good luck guys, I want to know your weirdness


Saturday, May 19, 2007

Comparing Spiritual Formation and Discipleship

Dallas Willard defines “spiritual formation in Christ is the process whereby the innermost being of the individual (the heart, will or spirit) takes on the quality or character of Jesus himself.” (p.53 italics author’s) and “discipleship is a life of learning from Jesus Christ how to live in the Kingdom of God now, as he himself did.” (p. 62). Here, Willard, distinguishes clearly that while there are certain overlap between discipleship and spiritual formation; spiritual formation is a more holistic term (process of character formation) while discipleship (how to live in the Kingdom of God) forms a subset of it.

Willard gave two reasons why spiritual formation is becoming a popular term. First, discipleship
is a term that had pretty well lost its meaning because of the way it has been misused. Discipleship on the theological right has come to mean preparation for soul winning, under the direction of parachurch, efforts that had discipleship farmed out to them because the local church really wasn’t doing it. On the left, discipleship had come to mean some form of social activity or social service, from serving soup lines to political protest to …whatever. The term “discipleship” has currently been ruined so far as any solid psychological and biblical content is concerned. (p. 53)

The other reason Willard gave for the increasing use of the term spiritual formation is that denominational and traditional differences are not to taken as seriously now as it was in the past and a new term is needed to describe our commitment to God. Spiritual formation is considered a suitable acceptable term.

Willard, D. (2006). The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus's Essential Teachings on Discipleship. New York, HarperCollins Publisher.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Does Your Newborn Need Rotavirus Vaccine?

I shall be chairing a round-table discussion on rotavirus vaccines tomorrow so I have been doing some reading and thinking.

Of the nearly 11 million deaths that occur annually among children under five years of age, diarrheal disease is the second leading cause. The most common cause of severe gastroenteritis worldwide, rotavirus accounts for 29 to 45 percent of nearly 2 million deaths attributed to diarrheal disease. An estimated 600,000 children die from rotavirus each year, and more than 2 million are hospitalized due to the severe dehydration caused by rotavirus infection.
The disease burden of rotavirus falls starkly and disproportionately on children in developing countries, where adequate and timely medical care is often out of reach: more than 80 percent of rotavirus deaths occur in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

For more information on rotavirus infection read My child has rotavirus infection.

Two live, oral, attenuated vaccines against rotavirus infection (Rotarix®, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline; and RotaTeq®, manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc.) were licensed by the European Medicines Agency and the US Food and Drug Administration, respectively, in 2006. Clinical trials in Europe, Latin America, and the US have demonstrated that these vaccines are safe and highly efficacious at preventing rotavirus-associated severe gastroenteritis. A number of countries, including some developing countries, have licensed these vaccines, and they are beginning to be introduced in routine immunization programs in some settings.

On February 22, 2007, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) convened the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) to review post-marketing safety surveillance data on RotaTeq®, the rotavirus vaccine by Merck and Co., Inc. Because of a suspected association between intussusception (a blockage of the intestine) and an earlier rotavirus vaccine (RotaShield®) that was withdrawn from the US market in 1999, the CDC is monitoring this new vaccine with particular care.

Since the vaccine’s introduction in February 2006 through February 14, 2007, the rate of reports of intussusception following RotaTeq® vaccination recorded through the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System did not exceed expected background rates in the absence of vaccination. Also, active surveillance being conducted in a population of insured children has not identified any reports of intussusception within 30 days of more than 28,000 administered doses of RotaTeq®. Upon review of this information, the committee expressed no safety concerns regarding use of RotaTeq® and stood by its initial recommendation for routine administration to all US infants at ages 2, 4, and 6 months.

To date, both vaccines have been primarily studied in middle- and high-income countries. But historically, oral vaccines have been shown to perform differently in different regions of the world. The global health community recognizes the need to carry out additional studies of the safety and efficacy of these vaccines in developing countries of Africa and Asia, where the burden of disease is very high.

April 2, 2007 marks the first infant enrolled for RotaTeq® efficacy and safety trial in Asia. Investigators at the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research in Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) marked a milestone last week with enrollment of the first child in a clinical trial to determine the safety and efficacy of RotaTeq® for use in the region. The trial, supported by PATH and Merck & Co., Inc., is an important step toward rotavirus vaccine introduction in the developing world, where the burden of disease is greatest.

PATH’s Rotavirus Vaccine Program is working in partnership with Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, respectively, to evaluate the use of their rotavirus vaccines in impoverished populations in developing countries. In addition to the trial in Bangladesh, enrollment will begin later this year for studies of RotaTeq® in Mali, Ghana, Kenya, and Vietnam. Studies of GSK’s Rotarix® vaccine are ongoing in South Africa and Malawi. Results from these trials will be critical in enabling global and national policymakers to make evidence-based decisions about the introduction of rotavirus vaccines.

Justin Gillis writes in Washington Post
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A08

Every healthy newborn in the United States should receive a new vaccine designed to protect against an intestinal germ called rotavirus, a federal advisory panel decided yesterday as it set aside theoretical concerns about the vaccine's safety.

The decision means that pediatricians are likely to recommend three doses of the oral vaccine for nearly every child at age 2 months, 4 months and 6 months, beginning almost immediately. The vaccine won approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 3, and some doctors have received supplies of it.

A few questions I shall be raising

(1) No doubt it will be good for all Malaysian children to receive the 3 doses of the Rotavirus vaccine. The first dose must be given at 2 month. After 6 months, it is no longer effective. However it will only be the rich who can afford it. The Ministry of Health have not included it into their immunisation schedule. Even the rich will feel the pinch as there is also a 4-dose regime of pneumococcal vaccine to be given at the same time. Each dose of pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccine is about RM 300.00 per dose. Hence we are talking about an addition RM 2,100 for vaccination for a newborn baby!

(2) So far the vaccine has been “safe.” However we are dealing with the intestinal bacteria and immunity of a 2 month old baby. We are introducing “live” attenuated (weakened) viruses. Can anyone predict any long term long term effect?

(3) Most of the children will be exposed and be immune to rotavirus by 3 years old. Only a small percentage of these children will suffer severe diarrhea. The majority will suffer mild to moderate diarrhea. Are parents willing to take the risk?

(4)The children who are most at risk are in developing countries and the urban/rural poor in developed countries. We do not have any evidence so far that the vaccine as effective in a developing country as it is in developed countries. Are we targeting the wrong population?

Any other questions you want to raise?

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Former Bishop Calls for Greater Respect for Homosexuals in Singapore

Transcript of Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao's address at the Public Dialogue on Christian Perspectives on Homosexuality and Pastoral Care organised by Safehaven on May 10, 2007 in Singapore.

Known to be the most outspoken gay-affirming pastor in Singapore, Rev Dr Yap Kim Hao currently serves in a voluntary capacity in the Free Community Church ( which counts many gays and lesbians as members. He has been a pastor of the Methodist churches in Malaysia and Singapore and served as its first Asian Bishop in 1968-73. He resigned from that position to become the General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia in 1973-85. It was there that he was directly involved in social justice issues and ministry to the oppressed and marginalised in the Asian region. He holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from Boston University and was honoured by them with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1988. In addition to his ministry with FCC, Rev Dr Yap continues to serve on the Council of the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) in Singapore and is committed to the promotion of inter-faith dialogue and understanding.

Let me at the outset indicate the rationale for my perspective on homosexuality.I can do no better than to quote from an official statement of The United Methodist Church in the United States that considers homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teachings and I am a Methodist. Yet it is this same Church that recognizes its "limited understanding of this complex gift and encourages the medical, theological, and social science disciplines to combine in a determined effort to understand human sexuality more completely. We call the Church to take the leadership role in bringing together these disciplines to address this most complex issue."

My approach is therefore a multi-disciplinary one.

Firstly, I will raise some general observations about the teaching of the Bible itself.I quote a former colleague of mine when I was teaching at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Victor Paul Furnish, a distinguished Professor of New Testament who wrote: "Homosexuality is not a prominent Biblical concern. The earliest ethical codes of the Hebrews makes no mention of homosexual behavior. There is nothing about it in the Ten Commandments. The four Gospels record no saying of Jesus on the subject. The texts that are discussed are few and far between and not even all of these are pertinent."

But what do we see in many Churches in different parts of the world today? Homosexuality has become a major issue, much more serious than doctrine or church order. It is projected to split the Episcopal Church in the United States as well as the world-wide Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury who is personally gay-affirming, has to recognize the current teaching of the Anglican Communion which is against homosexuality.

As Christians refer to this common source of the Bible, those who are anti-gay are quick to say that the Bible says so and then close the Book. And the controversial issue of homosexuality is no longer discussed. The teaching of the Bible leads to the teaching of the Church which then becomes official, and obedience is demanded. The different perspectives arise from the differing interpretation of the words of the Bible and the teachings of the Church and its pronouncements change as we gain more knowledge and insights.

My view is that the different books of the Bible are time bound, historically related, culturally conditioned and contextually based. They are related to the time and place of the recorded events. They reflect the society and the culture at the time the books of the Bible were written. The revelation of God is mediated and translated by inspired human beings who are not infallible. We have to account for the relevancy of the teaching to our contemporary context.The various books of the Bible are the products of writers who claim to have received the revelation from God, and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put it in writing. Their different interpretations resulted in the changing official teaching of the Church and the varying perspectives of Biblical scholars and theologians. This process continues and we have today come together to share our different perspectives and though we differ, we are expected to respect our differences.The teaching of the Church must necessarily be continuously changing.

Take for instance human relationships, we have moved from the predominantly patriarchal to more equality between men and women. In reference to health we are attributing disease not to spirit possession but to bacteria and viruses. In terms of geography even the flat earth has been rounded into a spherical one. Our world-view is ever changing.With this as background, the Biblical view of sexual relationships is that heterosexuals who engage in same-sex acts are sinful. The Biblical writers regard all men as heterosexual and in condemning same-sex acts, they see it as men exchanging their male role to that of an inferior role of women. At that time, they were not able to distinguish between those whom we now identify as homosexual, from the heterosexual. Their view was that of heterosexuals engaging in same-sex sexual acts.

The Biblical texts that explicitly talk about same-sex acts are few in number. The brief references are related to laws of purity, holiness, temple rituals and to the Greco-Roman culture and pagan worship. There were temple prostitutes, male prostitution and pederasty (mentoring and sex with young call-boys). Jesus did not deal with same-sex relations in His teaching although he had much to say about sex, love, marriage and divorce. Homosexuality in terms of sexual orientation and long-term committed relationships as we understand them today was not discussed and not even a term used at that time.

It was much later that the term "homosexual" was used. Homosexuality as a term was introduced in 1869. It first appeared in newer translations of the Bible – Revised Standard Version in 1946 and in New International Version in 1978. Homosexuality is not originally a Biblical word.Other terms like 'heterosexual,' 'bisexual,' and 'transgendered' presuppose an understanding of human sexuality that was possible only with modern psychology and sociological analysis. The ancient writers were operating without the faintest idea of what we have learned to call 'sexual orientation'.

Let us look more closely at some of the Biblical records related to sexuality and how they show varying perspectives.The law of Moses allowed for man to divorce his wife on account of some "indecency" in her. (Deuteronomy 24:1); Jesus categorically forbids it and will not man "put asunder" those united in marriage. (Mark 10:1-12); Jesus was also said to have sanctioned divorce on the condition of "unchastity." (Matthew 9:9). Yet many Christians, in clear violation of a command of Jesus are divorced and for other reasons.Divorced people are allowed baptism, church membership, communion, ordination and re-marriage but this has not always been the case for homosexuals.

What makes the one so much greater a sin than the other, especially considering the fact that Jesus never even mentioned homosexuality but explicitly condemned divorce? Yet we ordain divorcees. Why not homosexuals?

Take the issue of sex itself. It began with sex only for procreation which the early Christian theologians agree. When it serves to satisfy lust it is regarded as venial sin. Augustine in the fifth century said that we should mature as early as possible to the point when we can dispense with sexual intercourse.

However, the Old Testament regarded celibacy as abnormal and we are to be fruitful and multiply. And 1 Timothy 4:1-3 calls compulsory celibacy a heresy. Yet the Catholic Church has made celibacy mandatory for priests and nuns. Some Christian anti-gay demand celibacy of homosexuals, whether they have a vocation for celibacy or not. Some anti-gay people condone sexual orientation but condemn homosexual acts. Some gay and lesbians like heterosexuals have chosen to live a life of single blessedness.Leviticus 21 discussed how priests need to be morally, and even physically unblemished and must meet the requirements of the purity laws at that time. Today most of these purity laws are being ignored.

Far from being a Book full of bad news for gays and lesbians, I believe the Bible is indeed full of good news of God's love for all of creation - gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and straight alike. The Bible has no clear and consistent sex ethic and only knows a love ethic, which is constantly being brought to bear on whatever sexual mores, moral codes or church teachings are dominant in any given country, culture, or period. There is also the emphasis on grace rather than on law.

The medical sciences today acknowledge homosexuality as a sexual orientation, not a medical, psychological or psychiatric condition that can be changed therapeutically.It is on record that the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders in 1973. In 1975 it then released a public statement that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. In 1994, two decades later, the APA categorically said, "... homosexuality is neither a mental illness nor a moral depravity. It is the way a portion of the population expresses human love and sexuality".

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and other major groups of medical, educational, and counseling professionals have concluded that there exists, as yet, no scientific basis for the contention that so-called reparative, reorientation, or conversion therapies can successfully change a person's orientation from homosexual to heterosexual. The prevailing view among therapists is that gay and lesbian patients should be helped to improve their self-esteem and to overcome the continuing stigmatization of homosexuality in many societies. However reparative therapies are being endorsed by the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, which represents a minority of psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other practitioners, and by some religions.

Recently MM Lee Kuan Yew was widely quoted on this issue: "If in fact it is true, and I have asked doctors this, that you are genetically born a homosexual -- because that's the nature of the genetic random transmission of genes -- you can't help it," he said in remarks published by The Straits Times."So why should we criminalize it?" Lee asked."But there is such a strong inhibition, in all societies -- Christianity, Islam, even the Hindu (and) Chinese societies. And we are now confronted with a persisting aberration. But is it an aberration? It's a genetic variation."

Homosexuality is not an aberration, tendency, or inclination. It is a genetic or biological variation. It is an orientation.We must admit that we do not know for certain the causes of homosexuality. This concluding statement in an article of causes best summarizes the situation:"Perhaps there is no one answer, that sexual orientation, whether homosexual or heterosexual; gay, straight, lesbian, or bisexual, all are a cause of a complex interaction between environmental, cognitive, and anatomical factors, shaping the individual at an early age."

Given this medical perspective on homosexuality how do I minister to GLBT people? Within the larger framework of my understanding of the love of God for all of God's people and my reading of Christian ethics relating to justice and concern for the marginalized and minorities, I can only affirm and accept the GLBT community and render my service to them in whatever way that is helpful.

From my perspective, homosexuality is within the purpose of God in creation. There is a continuum of sexual relationships from heterosexualilty to homosexuality. God has made it possible for each individual to be unique and different and I affirm the diversity in God's creation. Homosexuality is a given and not a choice.

In my experience of pastoral care to the gay community, I feel their pain and agony when they first became aware of their attraction to people of the same sex. Their experience is that it is not a phase that will go away. In the solitariness of their closets they struggle and pray. Most gay people know from painful personal experience that their homosexual inclination is definitely not a deliberate choice. Who would in their right mind choose to be gay when they know they will be relegated to a despised minority. On the contrary, they choose to wear masks and pretend to be straight. Yet opponents of gay rights choose to disregard these personal experiences and continue to portray homosexuality as a sinful choice that should be criminalised.

We are aware that the gay community has the responsibility to change the perception that the gay lifestyle is hedonistic and promiscuous. The straights have the problem of pursuing a hedonistic and promiscuous lifestyle as well. The distinctive difference rests on having sexual intercourse with the same or opposite sex.

As I come alongside them, I sense their silent pain, I see their falling tears, I hear their aching hearts. Today I feel their rising hope for they are receiving affirmation, recovering dignity and restoring pride to be gay.They are hearing and believing what Victor Paul Furnish said: "It accords with the most fundamental witness of Scripture that one's sexuality is to be received as a good gift of God. Moreover, this gift is to be expressed in ways that manifest the grace of God - for there is not variance in the reality of God's love, which graces and claims us, whatever the particularities of our own time and place. As for sexual relationships, God's love can find clear expression only where the partners are fully committed and faithful to one another."

Homosexuality is therefore a gift from God to be accepted. It is not a result of human sin or the fallen nature because of Adam. We all have, by the grace of God, to live out the purposes of God, straight or gay, for we are all created by God.

Other panelists are Dr Tan Kim Huat, Chen Su Lan Professor of New Testament at Trinity Theological College; Anthony Yeo, Clinical Director of Counselling And Care Centre; and Edmund Smith, Pastor of Real Love (ex-gay) Ministry which operates in Singapore and Malaysia.

Watch the video of the conference here

What do you think?


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