Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Singapore River Nosh Marathon, Drama-mama-ness and Christian Hypocrites

The actors and I were headed for post-gig grub, sheesha and dissection at Arab Street when the front-seat passenger, still in drama queen mode, yelped, "OMG! O...M...G...You have a Bible in your cardoor pocket. What does this mean? What does this mean, huh? Are you...no how can it be...are you...Christian?" And an interesting discussion ensued on the dirty woven mat along the five-foot way.

Epicurious - Beef SaladEpicurious - Leek and potato soup with shredded chicken
Relating this incident to the participants of a nosh marathon along the Singapore River (though ruining the effect later by singing Rupee's Tempted 2 Touch), it occured to me how much work the Spirit must have done that even though the outward appearance had merely seemed to have gone somewhat east, west and south-ward, there was a new person under the hood with a new way of thinking and new values. But still, quite a way to go to the image of Christ.

Laurent's Café & Chocolate Bar
Later, at the last stop at Laurent's Café & Chocolate Bar, we were talking about Kee Thuan Chye's The Swordfish, then the Concubine that'd played at 2008's OCBC Singapore Theatre Festival.

Being late for The Swordfish, Then The Concubine = Front row seats for telly in Drama Centre foyer
Because we'd gotten there late, we'd been ushered into front row seats to the telly in the foyer. (Later, an unfortunate answerer of the call of nature found himself locked out as well and had to share the front row.) Nice apologetic ladies brought us brochures and urged us to get to the free wine before everyone swarmed out. The later half of the play was fairly entertaining: a tilted stage that gave the audience a good eyeful of the action, the gamelan orchestra, the fairly hilarious Singapura idol that demonstrated the celebration of mediocrity, the sound effects for the helicopter bearing the escaping tuanku to cowardly Malaccan exile and the little bit at the end when, when someone reached into a bag of rice and pulled out only dirt. So perhaps myths were true after all.

Entertaining as it was, there is something about Malaysian and Singaporean plays that bears the dreary small-town small-mindedness I've always associated with PoCo work, as if writers had wallowed so long in angsty post-colonialism that they are now unable to raise their eyes from the mud pool. But that's probably a personal preference.

The Swordfish, Then The Concubine - Gala Opening Buffet
As the W!ld Rice crew scooped the carbo-fest of mac and cheese and fried rice into cute chinese takeaway boxes, we waited for the Broth canapes to make their rounds and spoke of those unresolved issues of yesteryear: the Christian play and the Christian work of fiction. For those of us who used to write to exorcise the fiery demons of extreme emotion, what impetus is there to write now that there is a calm stability in mind and heart , and what passion is there to write about anything else except that which consumes us, that is, the Christian truth. Yet as lovers of truth, how can we bear to see the truth adapted or in some way compromised by the imprecise media that is make-believe or fiction? If one really tried, I suppose, one would end up with something like C.S. Lewis' Narnia series, a pale weeping simulacra of the truth and a poor contribution to the advancement of the genre. (Someone suggested doing a biblical theology on themes. Might be an idea.)

But what does one do with Christians who delight in their own brand of fiction, who speak the right doctrine with such moving humility but whose very essence is self-serving self-aggrandisation, who worm their way onto pedestals of power in church groups, who delight in gossiping under the veneer of helping or praying for the subject of such gossip, who use their God-given gifts for self-worship? Or, as better described by the puritan Thomas Brooks in A Cabinet of Jewels (for these things are not new):
There is never an hypocrite in the world that makes God, or Christ, or holiness, or his doing or receiving good in his station, relation, or generation his grand end, his highest end, his ultimate end of living in the world. Pleasures, profits, and honors are the hypocrite's all, [which] he aims at in this world. They are his trinity, which he adores and serves and sacrificeth himself unto (1 John 2:16). An hypocrite's ends are corrupt and selfish. God may possibly be at the higher end of his work, but self is at the further end; for he that was never truly cast out of himself, can have no higher end than himself. An hypocrite is all for his own glory: he acts for himself and from himself. "So I may have the profit, the credit, the glory, the applause, come of God's glory what will!" This is the language of an unsound heart.

An hypocrite will seem to be very godly when he can make a gain of godliness. He will seem to be very holy when holiness is the way to outward greatness and happiness. But his religious wickedness will double-damn the hypocrite at last. Self-ends are the operative ingredients in all an hypocrite does….When hypocrites take up religion, it is only to serve their own turns, to bring about their own carnal ends. They serve not the Lord, but their own bellies (Romans 16:18; Philippians 3:19)….An hypocrite always makes himself the end of all his service; but let such hypocrites know, that though their profession be never so glorious and their duties never so abundant, yet their ends being selfish and carnal, all their pretensions and performances are but beautiful abominations in the sight of God.

It is a right and good thing to feel revulsion for such things and to seek to set them right. Yet, this disgust and our social action must be overseen by our understanding of God:
  • if God is God overall, do we think that God is blind to these things done in secret?
  • if God is just, do we think that God will not bother to judge such things?
  • if God has spoken of a Last Day, do we actually think that this world is all there is so that justice and justification must happen now as if there were not a Judgement to come?
And if we do think these things, do we not ourselves dishonour God? And are we not ourselves hypocrites?

The rationale in Romans 14:10b - 12, I think, works in this sort of situation as well because it is afterall a truth statement:
For we will all stand before the judgement seat of God; for it is written,
As I live, says the Lord, every
knee shall how to me,
and every tongue shall
confess to God.
So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
and also
...never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written,"Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." (Romans 12:19)
In fact,
To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:20 - 21)
This is our rational, reasonable, spiritual (and rather painful) act of worship (Romans 12:1b).


(Sometimes, being fed is quite conducive to thinking the right things.

60 Robertson Quay
#01-02 The Quayside
Singapore 238252
Tel: +65 67347720
Not fancy or complicated. Decent grub: unwilted salad leaves, tasty leek and potato soup with chicken shreds and cheesy garlic bread on the side. But not the sort of place to return to, unless the doggies need a bit of a stretch.

Brewerkz - FruitBrewz and Bistro Burger
30 Merchant Road
#01-05/06 Riverside Point
Singapore 058282
Tel: +65 6438 7438
Micro-brewed beers and bistro burgers. Not refined nosh but what's not to like? I love you blue cheese, sautéed mushroom, grilled onions and juicy patty. But not you, pouncey FruitBrewz. You make me feel like I've walked into a Hell Angels' dive wearing a flowery shirt.

Laurent's Café & Chocolate Bar
The Pier at Robertson Quay
80 Mohammad Sultan Road #01-11
Telephone: +65 6235 9007
Laurent Bernard uses Amedei couveture apparently, which as far as I know is only sold retail in Singapore at Couduroy Candy. But the hot chocolate was not the main source of warmth for the cockles of the heart. A whole night of listening to the stories of various lives, of ordinary people - people one wouldn't think of going to for an exegesis of a passage or a goodly discussions on the finer points of doctrine or glib entertainment - living their quiet lives being changed from being lovers of self to lovers of God and of other people, who make the hard decisions that would get them secretly laughed at even by other Christians, but who cannot help but be beacons of light in the world, because there is no other way to explain such rational foolishness but their love for, and faith and hope, in God. Living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God (Romans 12:1). To the glory of God. Good stuff.

21 Duxton Hill
Singapore 089604
Tel: +65 6323 3353)



At August 14, 2008 11:48 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

case in pt ---> effortless jo


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