Leaving the church

This 清明 my sister, who is in her enthusiastic church-going years, requested to not hold joss sticks.

She did it quietly and politely, and no one objected to it. I remembered myself in her. Years ago, still a church-go-er, i went through the motions anyway, if not with an uncomfortably intense dose of guilt from having to pay respects the ‘superstitious way’. At that point i thought of myself as not pious enough, not strong enough to ‘resist’ and stand up to my faith.

Past my egocentric years, and with increasing disillusion with certain church practices (/certain church’s practices?), i now think differently.

Back then, in church, i was given a checklist of things we should not be doing. Under the section of “superstitious and cult activities”, incense burning, joss sticks holding, etc, were all ‘strongly discouraged’. As if they determined your faith, your beliefs, and your love for God.

Now, with age, i see these as completely disparate variables. I find certain rules laid out as misguided and over-indulgent of Christianity. The only reason, ironically, why i still identify as a Christian is that i cannot bring myself to not believe in God. A God that is very similar to the one conceived by the Christian faith, and many of the fundamental principles it is based on.

But so many of the interpretations, the practices, the rules, and the structure of the church i just cannot.

Once, a cradle Christian told me she envied my relatively agnostic family. She said it made my road to faith more difficult, giving me the opportunity to strengthen my faith through wanting to be a Christian despite objections to it. (LOL?)

The thing is, i never faced much ‘objection’ from my family. The only complaint they made was that it took away half my Sunday which could be spent lazing around with them eating chee cheong fun and watching Doraemon. And even if they were to ‘object’, i doubt it would have truly difficult for me. Because rebellion is part of being a teenager. Rebellion is, in some sense, the easiest obstacle i could face.

With age i’m beginning to understand a more complex conflict between religions and theisms, and one of the most striking insights i’ve made is that there is no ‘good’ Christian side and the antagonistic non-religious side we so often presume (or maybe just in my Convent school environment).

Back to the joss stick issue.

The God i believe does not see the arbitrary, even aesthetic – but fully harmless – act of holding joss sticks as problematic. It is a form of respect; of consideration for my grandma – to give her a symbolic peace of mind knowing that her husband has received some ‘love’ from his grandchildren.

The God of my personal faith would have applauded it as an act of filial piety. The God i know doesn’t give a shit about holding two sticks for a couple of minutes for a greater cause. If you are a Christian thinking: since you are not following what the church wants us to do, why do you even see yourself as a Christian, then ok – i am not a Christian.

I would rather stand by the God i believe in, who propounds most fundamentally love for others, doing good out of this love, and not doing harm to others – and not be considered a ‘real’ Christian, than adopt practices i don’t believe in just to reduce cognitive dissonance of being a stranded believer of God without shelter from a ‘legitimate’ religious institution.

And this is where my divergent views from the church (of course not all churches la, just the ones i’ve observed/gone to) come into play.

In my early years i loved church, because it taught so beautifully about love and good. Later on these teachings became less of a feature, instead there was a huge emphasis on things that were trivial and irrelevant to my faith: not holding joss sticks, speaking in tongues, being slain, adhering to a bunch of rules that didn’t make me feel any more closer to God.

I didn’t like that my belief in God was being obscured by more peripheral church activities and principles that seemed far removed from faith. Everything was very church-centered, not God-centered (despite it being propagated as so).

So after a few church-hopping attempts, i finally resigned to the fact that my faith in its mature (or at least most current) state cannot be reconciled with an instituted church. The furthest i can go are ad-hoc Catholic masses, which i do still love – stemming from both my IJ girl background and how (imo) it is more rooted to the fundamentals of God/love/faith.

I won’t give a solidified position of my religious beliefs now. I think beliefs evolve and grow, and should be allowed to – even if it is in the direction of non-belief (as many believers fear).

I don’t want my faith to be borne of confirmation bias.

I want to continuously question my faith and all my beliefs – not just religious ones. If i still believe (as i now do, after years of doubts), then good. If i don’t, at least i know i’m not deceiving myself.

Neither do i want my faith to be a socialized, which i feel the church provides. Of course, the church has its plusses: it offers a group that supports and sustains your faith. I do like to share about my faith, but there comes a point of saturation where, instead, my beliefs are shaped by what i think others want it to be. I try to avoid that.

Right now i’m not sure what i really am. I’d say a Christian, but only conforming in the most basic sense. Or maybe i’m non-religious, just someone who is theistic, and believes in a God that may be any one (or none) of the ones conceptualized by any existing religions.

I’d like, of course, to find a place that teaches me what i want to know relevant to my beliefs, without too strongly exerting an influence that may either oppress or warp the route of my faith. But as of now i’ve been mostly disappointed.

 

 

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135 thoughts on “Leaving the church

  1. I like the way you interpreted God, despite the churches you have been to suggesting otherwise. After all, Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship. May your next church, if ever, speak the truth clearly.

  2. Check out the Baha’i Faith

    http://www.bahai.org/

    A lot of what you were saying about your view of God is very much in line with the teachings of Baha’u’llah – the founder of the Baha’i faith.

    Best wishes,

    Joseph (saw my friend post this on FB)

  3. Thank you for your frank opinion. Just a thought – is God, God because you conceived of a notion of Him? Or is He God simply because He exists regardless of what you prefer to think of Him?

    I think it is problematic when you hold on the former because it is, essentially, a human/me-centric mode of thinking which accepts God only when who He is, what He demands is in line with your preferences. But what is the value of such a God,where is the power of such a God when He is susceptible to your desires?

    1. i understand where you’re coming from, but why do you presume that the church’s conception of God is free from a human/me-centric mode of thinking? Because it is the majority/normative Christian voice?

      I believe that the church is, as much as an individual, susceptible to the ‘desires’ of the church as a whole (which after all consists of many individual humans).

      Come to think of it, why are we legitimizing the religious influence wielded by churches, if it is as much prone to human weaknesses? Isn’t it more dangerous, given that the church has enough power to effect more societal harm/damage (than an individual) if it were to misinterpret the bible?

      Where is the value of such a God, where His power is susceptible not merely to the desire of me as a single lousy human, but of many many many lousy human beings? Unless you’re suggesting that simply being in a church makes one a more superior human being, less susceptible to wrongful ‘desires’ and religious preferences. Then, um.

      What i’m trying to say is: don’t heuristically give all churches full credit unless it’s due.

      On the other hand, i have thought about whether my God is just a convenient creation of my own preferences. To some extent it is, but i try to align Him as one who preaches fundamentally love and doing good, nothing else. So far i don’t see how i can go wrong with such simple and (i hope) obviously right/safe principles. So.

      1. Hello. Same guy here as the one who wrote the post below. Just a quick point:

        God isn’t confined to our minds; our concepts of reasonableness. God isn’t confined to the Church’s concept of reasonableness. God is defined in the Bible! Going to church doesn’t make us Christians. Nor even reading the Bible. It’s that personal relationship.

      2. Hear hear. The Church is made of people, and the Church’s conception of God is a group of people’s conception of God, one that has shifted throughout the ages.

      3. Y’know. Holding joss sticks and such should not be regarded as superstitious. It is merely the practice of honouring one’s parents/deceased loved ones and should not be looked down upon. This idea that such rites of respect should be avoided and scorned is a blatant disrespect for others who do these things out of love. This is not an idea that is part of the Christian faith ( at least in the Catholic church.) As long as one does not partake in the worship of something/someone other than God, such a practice is not wrong.

        If you truly feel as you do about these practices, I would like to invite you to explore the Catholic faith. I am not a theologian, so I cannot give a substantially in-depth answer to these conflicts that you have experienced but I assure you that we do have those answers you seek with regards to learning more about God.

        If you are interested, you can drop me an email, I’ll do my best to direct you to better sources :)

        God bless <3

  4. How to reply? I see a lot of misunderstandings, yet I hope not to sound uppity.

    There is a reason why joss sticks are disallowed explicitly in the Bible (it is not an institutional rule from the church but rather a theological rule as set down by God). The rule against idolatry is an internal rule set down by God, and the definition of idolatry from this internal rule therefore follows an internal definition as defined in the Bible. There’s a problem here in that our heritage defines it as filial piety but mixes ancestral remembrance with other forms of taoist symbolism (tian gong, praying to the dead, throwing the yes/no wooden things), i.e. idolatry. There are spiritual significances behind this rule (that create very real, tangible, consequences) that the Church is unable to tell you about until you have grown as a Christian from drinking milk to eating meat.

    Remember that God doesn’t belong in our mind. He is who he is. There are things that initially seems unreasonable to us (in our limited minds) and it’s only later on as we grow that he reveals things to us. The disconnect behind the institutional rules and the reasons behind these rules obviously creates unhappiness and dissatisfaction, but the reasons do exist. The alternative is that you could ask someone more senior in the faith and if you bug him/her enough, maybe he’ll explain, but you probably wouldn’t believe him/her until you have personally experienced it anyways.

    1. Similar to your point above on “Going to church doesn’t make us Christians. Nor even reading the Bible. It’s that personal relationship.”–holding 2 joss sticks doesn’t give the person holding them the “spiritual significance” the Bible/church/you is/are concerned about.

      In any case to me you don’t sound uppity, you are just plain unconvincing, uninformative and unconstructive. I did not learn anything new from your comment. You are basically saying ‘there are reasons but well I’m not gna say what they are cos you won’t buy it anyways’.

    2. Hello,

      I come in peace I pretty much a freethinker and likes to explore the difference between different religious teachings.

      I’m rather interested in why aren’t joss sticks allowed, can you quote where the information comes from? From what I have read so far its said to something to do demonic practices.

      Here comes the question does holding a bible in your arms make you anymore christian than you are? Then does holding joss sticks makes you any more demonic then you are?

      And its quite convenient when you said “the Church is unable to tell you about until you have grown as a Christian from drinking milk to eating meat.” is there any difference in a universal truth to someone who “drinks milk or eat meat” ? Can you tell us more about what it is?

      PS “Yes/No wooden thing is call “杯” if I’m not wrong.

    3. Hello.
      Yes indeed the act of holding joss sticks is associated with other forms of taoist symbolism.
      But as for me I prefer to see it this way.
      When my grandma was alive, i never once worshipped her.
      Now that she is gone, would i somehow suddenly worship her? Certainly not.
      Thus that rules out committing idolatry.

      And let’s look at the after effects of paying respect via joss sticks.
      Firstly, would the recipient of you paying respect to receive your act of honor? (As Christians, we do not believe so)
      Next, am I holding the joss sticks then for myself to pay respect to her? Nope, i am not doing it for myself.
      Then who am i doing it for?
      Yes, the people around me, friends and relatives who are around.

      Would the non-christians for one moment be thinking along the lines of –
      “Woah, he’s such a true blue christian.”
      OR
      “So this is what the church teaches, that you can’t even hold joss sticks anymore to honor your grandmother.”
      Would this behavior then be a good testimony of Christians to others?

      Romans 14:16
      Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.

      Do correct me for this is only my own opinion.
      Cheers guys.

      1. Perhaps because you’re a Christian, and your faith is most salient to you, you’d see the world in a Christian-centric way.

        But when I refuse to hold the joss sticks, people around me would neither think I’m a good Christian or what the church teaches. Instead, remember that other people have their own beliefs. They are likely to think of it in terms of why their own conception of respect cannot be carried out by me.

        On the other hand, what an act symbolizes is entirely dependent on the individual itself. If I hold the joss sticks not as a sign of idolatry, but merely love and respect, I don’t see anything wrong in it.

        “Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil.”

        I LOVE THIS QUOTE because it strengthens my belief that I SHOULD participate in joss sticks holding. Because I know it is good. If it is spoken of as evil, but I see no reason in why it is so, I’d not let even the church sway my decision.

        Again, this comes back to my belief that the church does not necessarily reflect what God wants us to do all the time. The God of my belief tells me it is not evil. The church tells me it is. Now who do I listen to?

    4. If you are so convinced that belief is ultimately determined by personal experience, then why is it you still give in to your urge to stuff your personal convictions about scriptural interpretations down another’s throat?

      What benefit could there possibly be in that? This is not a bible college. If experience is the main determinant, your stand is merely superfluous and possibly wicked, is it not?

      Either way, I am quite certain that making your point is a loveless act.

      1. She is expressing her feelings and not stuffing it down anyone’s throat. It’s generally the religious people trying to convert others that engage in stuffing.

  5. Arguing with Christians is like arguing with tape recorders, so don’t mind any of the people here who’re trying to convince you otherwise: you’re the master of your own faith.

      1. My interpretation of Christianity is that it is a religion that preaches love above all. However, more often than not, I see followers judging others and spreading bad vibes. (You did not do this and this, therefore you are not a Christian)

        And especially with the older generations of Christians, the religion is almost like a blind faith to them. They thank God for good things, and deem bad stuff comes for moment of faithlessness. One of my auntie’s cell leader spread the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama is the famed Beast. But when I showed an article countering the argument, my auntie chose to believe the leader against the Internet. Such acts of ignorance really question the basis of their faith.

        I know all this are anecdotal points that are not helpful. But generally speaking, since the days when I went to Sunday School and PHS, I realise Christianity isnt really about God anymore. It’s more of donating money, compulsory attendance for cell meetings and sunday prayers, contributions to church activities. Though they use His name for those activities, is it really so?

  6. A god that is devoid of the cross is no christian God. The God of the bible treats the church as the blood bought assembly of people who placed their hope and trust in Jesus Christ

  7. To you, to Christ followers definitely holding joss stick bears no significance. But to those who are around you, those you hold joss stick with, to them it signify something that is not the truth of God. So when you hold joss stick, it’s spread a message that Christ truth conform to their truth, their truth such as the dead are ghost, the dead feed on the smoke of the joss stick. Therefore a Christian should not hold a joss stick. If not you need to make known to everyone looking at you that this act of holding joss stick meant nothing to you. And is it God’s word that holding joss stick show a form of respect to your grandma. There are many things we can’t do as christian, but these things we can’t do came from God’s words in the bible! not one sentence but stories after stories. So yes Christian is not about the do and don’ts , hence we need to study the bible and know the exact will of God then act according to God will. Instead of doing the do and not doing the don’ts .

    1. I agree with Anon (April 16). Basically, by refusing to hold the joss stick Christians are not necessarily intending to disrespect the traditions of the family. However, such Chinese traditions are deeply rooted in superstitions that in turn stem from idol worship to other entities and beliefs that Christians do not subscribe to (e.g. appeasing the dead, the concept of an afterlife that does not exist in the Bible, the adherence to rituals and ceremonies which work towards the previous two). Also, nowadays, it is easy to dismiss superstitions as mere cultural practices and beliefs, but they actually do have spiritual effects on a supernatural world that is just as real as the physical world. (It does sound ‘ scoff-able’: supernatural? Spirits? No way! Not in this modern day and age! But if religion, if one must call it that, is completely to do with the spiritual realm, then to say that one has a religion while denying the spiritual side of it altogether seems counter-intuitive.)

      So, holding the joss stick not only signifies to others that one, even though a Christian, is conforming to beliefs that one does not even invest in (which therefore makes it hypocritical for the Christian), but also opens the Christian to attack from ungodly forces.

      I know there will be people who laugh at what I’ve said, but I’m putting myself out here like that because 1.) I have experienced things that cannot be explained rationally in a natural world and 2.) as a fellow youngster I really really don’t want you to turn away from Christianity just because of these common misunderstandings.

      Concerning the notion that God is defined by human belief: that is a religious thing to say. And I also want to warn people that this is more towards my own beliefs, so you’ll probably disagree (and violently). It can’t be denied that there are people who see religion as a form of human invention to make ourselves feel better about their existence in this hard world. And it is true. There are religions which I believe function as means of escapism. But Christianity is not a religion. Christianity is actually a relationship between the individual and God, through Christ. You’ve read the Bible and know the stories; you know the reason why Christ came down and died on the cross for us; you know that the only reason he did such an irrational thing was because of love. And if Christianity is a relationship, then the God we believe in is a person we can talk to, albeit a higher form of person. Notice the jump in between my point on escapism and my assertion that Christianity is a relationship. It sounds like religious noise: I believe it because i believe it. But that jump is based on faith and there is no rational explanation of faith. Ultimately, the only way you can find out if that faith is worth it depends on you. You can ask pastors, you can talk to elders, you can discuss with your friends, but at the end of the day Christianity is really just the journey between you and God, and no one will ever understand what you go through while on it. For all who are curious, let me tell you this: you won’t know until you try. No point attacking Christians, because despite the best intentions there are sometimes there are just no words to explain the indescribable. Thus the frustration that many non-believers face when they try to rationalise Christians.

      I’ve wandered a bit, but the previous point actually brings me nicely to the answer to the second point. You’ve been basing your understanding of Christianity on people, not God. It’s like basing your understanding of the national constitution on politicians, not the document itself. Now I don’t mean to knock politicians and the church, they are both essential to the jobs that they do and consist of good and bad people as do every other job on earth, but don’t you see that human error very often fails one’s true intention? Defining God according to human ideas and behaviour does not make sense, because that’s just saying that we’re essentially worshipping ourselves, rather than an independent, wholly personal entity capable of thinking, communicating, feeling, and all the capabilities He has given us. Simply put, if God is a human construct, what is the whole point?

      I’m not going to apologise for this really long answer, because honestly, I’ve typed this all out just for you. I’ve been in several dark places before, sure I’ve met fellow Christians who treated me like dirt, and I’ve tried to run from God as hard as I could, but at the end of the day I’m always brought back to Him by sheer dint of inexplicable circumstances. I refuse to let the failings of others define what I truly believe in.

      I don’t make it a habit to type out paragraphs like this, but there comes a point in time when I just don’t want to see Christians deny their faith and let go of it all anymore. Author, what you had was precious, but it takes work, time, and a lot of patience to build it up and start to understand it. And if I sounded petulant or uppity in any way, please be assured that I don’t mean to sound like that in any way. I have nothing but the best regards towards you, and trying to be as frank as I can on this tiny phone screen.

      All the best, sister.

      1. Hello, thanks for sharing. There is one point you make that i fully agree with: that Christianity is the relationship between God and individual. This has always been my conviction, and if you read my post closely enough you’d realize that it is the only reason why i still identify as a Christian. Because i have personally experienced God’s grace and cannot pull myself away from my relationship with God.

        So i’m not ‘attacking Christians’, as you would say, but rather i find myself outside most church’s definition of a ‘Christian’ because i cannot reconcile many of the church’s ways and practices with my personal belief in God.

        Also, i’ve not based my understanding of Christianity on people than God. In fact i’ve been doing the complete opposite. Christianity, as an religious institution, consists of a group of people – prone to human errors. Christianity as i see it, and as you have described, consists of my relationship with God. For me, this form of Christianity lies independent of church-going and church practices.

        “Defining God according to human ideas and behavior does not make sense” I do agree with that, but also would like to point out that being humans, it is inevitable that we interpret God to some point with our biases and ideas. I believe that a single individual commits such an error, as can a whole church.

        I appreciate that you took the time to reply, and i’m glad you are strong in your faith. But perhaps you have misinterpreted many of my points according to how you perceive non-Christians. I believe in a God wholeheartedly, but according to some Christians (i.e. see Anonymous above), i am by definition not one. So you see the dilemma here is not that i’m defiantly being non-Christian, just that my beliefs are not definitionally legitimized as Christian.

      2. Is it really fair to label something as a superstition just because it is different from what you do? Just because it did not come from your faith?

        You mentioned that holding joss sticks signifies to others that one is conforming to beliefs that one does not invest in, and then you say that Christianity is the relationship between you and god. So does it matter what significance is being shown to others then?

      3. I too agree with both you and anon (april 16). Christianity is based on our relationship with Jesus, after all that is what He came to do which is to restore our connection with Him as our creator.

        Don’t be confused by ‘the Christian religion’, Author, because when churches (not all la, just some) tell you what you can/cannot do to ‘get to heaven’ or to ‘get saved’, they don’t get what it is all about. It’s by grace that you have been saved, not by your own works — we cannot by all means reach God’s goodness by our good deeds, it simply won’t measure up to God’s super-high standards; He’s the Holiest, after all.

        So, ‘doing good’ comes out of our gratefulness of His grace and the realization of His relentless love for us; not to gain salvation or to ‘go by the rules’. Jesus Himself broke rules, if you have noticed, but for purposes above the rules themselves.

        As you may have experienced, a relationship with Jesus is far more than what to do and what not to do. When you get to know Him, eventually you’d start to want to know Him even more, you’d find that you start seeing things differently, doing things differently, and have that peace in your heart coming from knowing that He loves you so so so so so much that He died for you :)

        I felt the urge to share when reading this, because I don’t want you to lose that relationship with Jesus. I’m truly sorry that you are disappointed in how Christianity is realized in some churches. I really wish that you’d continue to build that relationship with Him, based on the truth of His never-ending love for you.

        He says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” I really hope that you continue to seek Him. (a reliable source: the Bible :D )

        I’ll have you in my prayer (you don’t know how much I am moved to comment on a blog post, I usually am not active commenting in blog posts or whatever social media there is :p)

        Jesus loves you, much more than you ever understand. and happy good friday :)

        God bless you <3

  8. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart. This touched me deeply because simply, you took the words out of my mouth (or, so perfectly shaped the ones drifting evasively in my mind).

    What follows after “Are you a Christian?” “Yes.” is almost always “Which church do you attend?”. I understand the association, but that doesn’t make it any less sticky to answer. Maybe I’ll find a witty comeback soon.

    A dear friend once told me that my love for God is like a child’s love. Nothing more than a quiet strength, a smile, and a large dose of faith. No rhyme, no reason. Just a wholehearted, unconditional love. And I found I like that description. Children love, and trust, because. It’s purity at its best.

    Somehow, perhaps, a child’s love is not enough. It has to mature. There needs to be questions – not doubts, though they could surface – and a commitment to that love. In a relationship with God, that could mean reading the bible to know Him better, praising Him with brothers and sisters in Christ, doing what He wants us to do (I’m referring to, perhaps, some rituals or lifestyles) because showing love is as important as loving itself. We need to love someone the way they need to be loved, and God is as good that someone as any other.

    But, for now, I am content with the first vital step of loving as a child would. Many have not taken or acknowledged this step. Hopefully I will ripen my relationship with Him someday. I am also content in doing all the good I do, from the little things to the large – loving and understanding the people around me, encouraging others, spreading smiles. That is, in my opinion, the most important way to love Him back. Going to church every week is not a license to behave badly towards others for six days a week.

    On a final note, I do believe I feel a connection to what you have said also because I think we are similar. IJ girl and all :0) I believe you could also be studying psychology, or are at least familiar or highly interested in it. Just a sudden reflection, since your article so compelled me to reply such a huge chunk of what I haven’t shared with anyone else, in the middle of the night, while I’m hungry and sleepy.

    God bless <3

  9. Hi rictusempra (Erisa?),

    I’d like to give you a better understanding of what a church is through the article available at this link: http://oldfaith.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/what-is-a-church/
    This will give you the function and purpose of a church.

    I myself also hold joss sticks because firstly it is contrary to the word of God to participate in ancestor worship, c.f. Exodus 20:3-5a. Secondly, it painfully reminds me that my grandmother is in hell, and I will never get to see her in heaven. I will always tear up thinking of this truth. Not holding the joss sticks is also a testimony to my unbelieving family and relatives that I, as a Christian, am called out of this world to shine for Christ, to honour and glorify God.

    For what it is worth, I will say that I can fully empathise with you. From what I’m reading here, the fact that you still consider yourself a Christian, and are unable to disbelieve that there is a God clearly shows that God is working in your heart asking you to come back to Him. Don’t stifle and drown out that voice.

    You’re welcome to attend the Good Friday service at my church in Bukit Batok Crescent this Friday at 1pm. Do let me know if you would like to come.

    Then again, I know all too well that feeling of discomfort and inertia.

  10. A few years ago, I would have said you were very brave for pursuing this train of thought. That was before I got confirmed as a Catholic (and also left the church immediately after) – I think what you see as “religion” is quite different from the actual dogmatic definition of religion as per the belief in a fixed non-construct God, i.e. one who exists avant la lettre, as it were.

    I went through similar struggles myself, having had to do the typical CNY thing with joss sticks and dead ancestors in my Buddist extended family. If you look at scripture closely (and the related accoutrements especially in Catholicism), there is a lot that is simply impractical in a multicultural society like Singapore, where religion is far from monolithic and no one belief system holds anything like a majority.

    In my honest opinion, since you’ve come this far with withdrawing from any organised church, you’re far better off withdrawing all the way since you’ll be seen as an apostate of the original sect anyway, and I would describe you as a non-specific theist. You’ve already got the good sense to distance yourself from what you perceive as your church’s focus gone awry,

  11. I’ve been through a somewhat similar thinking process, having been raised in a somewhat very catholic family. You just have to remind yourself that God and the bible are the divine aspect to religion and that although the Pope is guardian of Christendom and the Church is supposed to take care and guide believers, they are but a human aspect and thus negligible when it comes to identifying and living your faith.

    Also, here is one of my favourite quotes, one which has deeply impacted the way I approached belief and religion:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    So, if anyonewould try to discredit you or press you with questions because you are not following the Church, you can always remember those wise words.

  12. Hello,

    Found the whole conversation interesting.

    Still a believer of Jesus, but I understand the distance from the church too. From a sociological point of view and personal experiences, I have also grown wary of the church too. It would take me awhile to come back, but I am probably on the way haha.

    For all that we think God to be, whether Christian or otherwise, most religions agree that God is love. How He loves is interpreted differently, just like how parents raise their children in various ways.

    I guess regardless of belief, James mentions that good religion is to help the widows and orphans, while remaining hidden from the world. Good deeds, while not amounting to salvation, are more representative of His Love than beliefs themselves. Even without agenda, good works meet the needs of people, which are way more practical in making the world a better place than disputes over belief, like the case of the Good Samaritan.

    Paul mentions not to eat meat in the presence of a brother who does not feel comfortable consuming meat. In other words, exercise freedom with love.

    There are many other things the disciples and prophets spoke of that ultimately revolved around the theme of love. Even the laws were established to expressed the heart of God, which is also love.

    I believe in the moral standard of God’s holiness that doesn’t change with time. Then again, society, knowledge, thinking and spirituality has evolved so rapidly over the past few decades. I believe God in His awesomeness would have foreseen these changes and made provision for the variety of values and beliefs brought about by post modern thought. My personal belief in this provision is Jesus Christ, through the cross.

    And if people do not believe in the Christ, I trust that God in His big love for people would pursue them through whatever spirituality each individual would choose to engage in. This is not to undermine the sacrifice of Christ, neither is it implying other religions are less worthy or wrong. Rather, it reflects on how great a love God would pursue His children with, that He would reach us by all means and ways we try to reach back to Him with our imperfections. I doubt we will ever be able to comprehend His love, given our long painful human history. I choose to believe that, He is that big hearted and open minded, only because He is love, and He loves us. I guess the author feels this about God too, that He is this open minded, great and loving, regardless of what religion an individual may subscribe to.

    On a less personal note, I guess that is why some would feel the distance between church and themselves increasing because the church no longer reflects such love in a practical sense, but instead emphasises on what is right and wrong. Without taking time out to actually understand and love people, culture and society like Jesus did, the church appears rigid and hypocritical, concerning themselves over similar matters like joss sticks as mentioned above, not being sensitive to or respecting the context and the human sensibilities involved. Jesus ate with the sinners, prostitues, gamblers, tax collectors, the worst people in that time. When He saw Matthew, He didn’t even mention about the tax he was collecting. Just ate at his house. Similarly I doubt He went in guns ablazing on all the guys he ate with. He also knew what was right and wrong, being the Son. Still, He just loved them, and treated them as humans. He probably knew when He died, they would have the power to lead great lives over sin in future. Even without that guarantee, He loved. Unconditionally. If He can, shouldn’t we too?

    The church probably forgot about the way Jesus loved people, and instead becomes an institution promoting moral elitism, compromising on love at its most basic nature, all the while being blind and deaf to the national or global issues that actually matter. The church becomes so concerned on its self preservation via the right standing before God, that God and His love and will for the people is forgotten, which is ironic, which is probably why the author left. After all, we rather join the non Christian organisation getting fresh water to thirsty Africans everyday than an institution spending al their time debating on what is more godly ya?

    I guess that is what the joss stick issue really meant to her, and to the few of us who left the church peacefully. That being said, there are always good church’s around, we just haven’t decided on them yet.

  13. i find myself in a similar situation. after being in church for a few years and learning the rules, as well as the dos and don’ts, i find them superficial to a large extent and that the God Jesus brings to us to be beyond these ‘rituals’. there are parables that clearly shows that God is looking for a person to do good and love his neighbours, His children rather than sticking to the old dogma and ritualistic laws of the old testaments. i get that there are dangers in the spiritual world with certain rituals and practices, and they are very real, i faced some very dangerous opposition the week i was to be baptised. having faith in what you do or don’t is as good as not having faith in God and the love he showed us through Jesus. No doubt there are things we need to stop doing, or start doing, to ‘sin no more’, but to think that just because we act a certain way, we are damned to hell is not the God that i read in the new testaments.
    sometimes, we lose the church to find God in a more personal ways. church does it’s own good works, and as we are, can be better.

  14. Religion is imperfect, because humans are imperfect. A church is just a building, the Church is a body. More specifically Christ’s body, Christ’s bride, whom He used His own blood to redeem. Sadly church organizations we see today operates more like a business and the only reason people are still in churches like these is because Christ called upon us to fellowship, for the a body can only function when all parts are intact.

    Attending church doesn’t make one a Christian, likewise reading Bibles or even getting baptized. Knowing Christ doesn’t suffice, the devil knows Christ too, perhaps more than what we can ever know.

    Maybe you are right in your opinions. No you are right. A church that hinders growth and serve people more than God is not a church worth to be in. But do note there might be some rules that are man made, joss sticks ain’t one of them. What is the purpose of lighting joss sticks during a ceremony do you know? Read 1 Corinthians 8.

    没有行动的信心是死的。

  15. holding joss sticks wont change anything/do anything for the dead. because they are dead. formalities. no harm in not doing so, redundant to do so. doesn’t matter if you’re christian or not.

    1. correct – about it not doing anything for the dead.

      but what about the living? i may not believe in the significance of such a formality, but i do believe in pleasing my family members – and it does. it’s a simple, symbolic act of respect.

      or should i tell my loved one, who has spent every day this year after the death of her husband lovingly preparing his afterlife offerings and food that whatever she’s doing is meaningless and changes nothing?

      i’m sure deep down she knows this too. it’s a psychological gesture. in fact i think me NOT doing it sets forth more harm than if i do by potentially hurting feelings.

      1. Thank you for such an insightful post!

        I think this is what sets you apart from a typical Christian. Thoughtfulness and selflessness. I don’t mean that “typical Christians” are not thoughtful and selfless, but the idea of the church community and “God’s words” actually brought family members apart, speaking from experience. I have once heard this phrase: “Brothers and sisters under Christ are more important than anyone else.” So according to this phrase, it seemed that non-Christian family members of a Christian are less important than church friends (of course this is not the case for all, but those that have this mentality know it themselves).

        I feel that your concern for your loved ones is well-justified for everything that you do. My take is that it is an obligation to respect our loved ones because without them, we wouldn’t be here, but religion is always a choice. Like you mentioned, Christianity is the relationship between us and God, therefore we should follow where our heart takes us because that’s where God is leading us. Life is too short to allow religious establishments to impose rules on us that make us question our morality. Everyone has their own take on religion so don’t get affected by negative comments :)

      2. its the heart and intention that matters dear :) if your intention is a form of respect and if lets say you are a believer and one strong in faith knowing who your God is, this gesture you wish to perform out of respect is fine. but if you know who your God is and yet you pray to other gods, that’s wrong.

  16. Hello, this is a long standing issue in the Church that has gone on since the Western missionaries travelled to the East to evangelise (especially in Ancient China).

    The Jesuits understood and respected the traditions of the Chinese people, and Matteo Ricci (who gave us hanyu pinyin) decided that it was okay to venerate pictures of Confucius and burn joss sticks for ancestors, but only if these were intended as marks of respect and piety rather than idolatry and worship. In venerating (honouring) the dead, prayers should be directed to Jesus only.

    I would say that it is okay, if you bear in mind the spirit of what you are doing with God first and foremost in your heart.

    Source: Steenbrink, K.. (2007) Catholics in Indonesia, 1808-1942 Ch 2, pp72-74

  17. This is an interesting post. How then do you define God? Is how you define or identify God different from the Church or the Bible? Curious to know where the differences are why you are inable to reconcile them.

    1. *unable. God. Check your spelling at least. And her whole post answered your question. Read it again slowly and carefully with a dictionary in hand.

  18. What’s up friend.

    Although the joss sticks thing doesn’t really apply to me, I’d like to use this comment thread to sort of mini-share my feelings about this because I like talking about religious stuff and for some reason I felt this was a good place to do so.

    Me – Raised as a Christian, attended Sunday school, apparently a backslider because I don’t go to church regularly (not for the past year), currently refer to myself as a Christian.

    I like the Bible, I really do. I’m pretty argumentative and I love watching people squirm when I tell them that they misquote the Bible, it’s great. That’s not exactly the purpose of the Bible but frankly, I like doing it anyway.

    Starting from the ground up, I believe that Jesus died for my sins. I believe that He is part of the Holy Trinity and hence, believe that Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost are one and three at the same time. Because of that, I like to label myself as a Christian. But because of that label, I’m supposed to believe everything in the Bible as the one true word.

    Now that’s hard.

    Exodus 20:3 is probably the passage that people quote to use against the joss stick thing. Something about not having other gods other than the Christian God. I can live with that I guess. But the implications of that passage is pretty far-reaching.

    Because of the fact that this passage is part of the Ten Commandments, I’m supposed to believe that by believing in other gods, I would die (spiritually). Harsh. Such is God.

    I’m also supposed to believe that relatives who hold joss sticks or believe in Taoism and other religions would die (spiritually). Even more harsh. So if hypothetically, my grandmother was to believe in ancestral worship and make weekly trips to the temple down at Bugis, she’d burn in hell for eternity after she passes. Now that sucks.

    Not that heaven is that great as well. Since young, I’ve been painted this amazing picture of heaven – everyone’s happy all the time and everyone praises God 24/7 (no concept of time in heaven probably but just putting it in human context). This probably goes back to the ‘what is happiness, if there isn’t sadness; isn’t happiness just the lack of sadness’ line of thinking. I’d also probably want to do other things in heaven other than praising God maybe.

    Life as a true-blue, by every definition of the word, Christian, is extremely tough. I’m probably not that. I don’t believe that my hypothetical grandma would burn for eternity after she passes on, I refuse to. So I make up my own version of Christianity. One with more love and stuff (still some optimism left in me). Where people who’ve passed on get to choose at the gates. Where holding joss sticks and stuff wouldn’t anger God that badly (Romans 14:21 says no because it causes people around to stumble). I’d like to think Jesus gets my reasons for doing things and he sees that I’m pretty alright.

    I’d still label myself as a Christian though, for reasons I’d prefer to keep private.

    In any case, my point is that I feel you should believe what you want to believe. I think it should be fine. As such, I think I agree with your post. Also, I think I blasphemed a bit. Sorry about that.

    1. Everyone should read this. From an atheist’s point of view, please stop telling us that we will not go to heaven just because we do not subscribe to your notion of god. Frankly, I don’t care whether I go to heaven or hell because I simply don’t believe in your religion, or any other religions. Many of us see Christians as being delusional because you guys seem to attribute everything in life to god. To us, that’s ridiculous as we are the master of our own fate. If praying to god cures cancer, everyone would be doing so.

      I apologise if I sound harsh but that’s a part of my pent-up frustration from dealing with Christians. Follow what your heart believes in and that’s the religion you should follow.

  19. You may have already noticed it but you it will become more obvious in if you search deeper; that where you belong is actually closer than what you think. Attend an apologetic, there your faith can become more firmly rooted in the one true God and will be refined not by man.

  20. I come in peace.
    Completely understand what you are feeling. I personally went through some of that.
    Just wanna say,
    Live base on your own conviction. Don’t let what others say or do define your faith.
    It is not about them, it is about you and God and no one else.
    But do understand that church goers, Christians are humans and humans make mistakes.
    If Christians doesn’t make mistakes, then they wouldn’t need to be Christians anymore.

    I do believe that there is a place (church) where you can learn what you really want to know, a place which will help you grow instead of imposing all the do’s and dont’s and judging you because you violated some “laws”.
    So don’t give up looking. When you do find a place that you find fit in (a place that is align with your thoughts), it will be worth it.

    Am glad that you have personal experience of God’s grace. Hold on to that.

    Cheers!~

  21. Hi there,

    Just wanted to say that I read your post and I would like to thank you for being so honest with how you think and feel – it can often be a very daunting experience to be a lone voice in, for lack of a better expression, a flock. It resonated a lot as I’m also Christian, but have had very deep doubts and questions in the past few years, precisely about the same questions you brought up. Also, what you said about church/church institutions (I’m making a distinction here between that ‘mystical’ body of Christ whose common denominator is a fundamental belief in Christ, and the church as an organisation), resonated. Was born a Catholic, became, I would say, agnostic for a few years, but came back. But I had a very hurtful experience after coming back, due to someone I was close being completely taken in in another group by the aspects you mentioned – the signs, the dogmas, the social dimension, etc – and you start asking yourself where does religion, Christianity in our case, stop being a carrier of that one eternal, objective truth, and where does it begin being what we *want* to believe? We’ve remade so many things in the image of man, his desires, and predilections, and I would say something that strikes as close to the heart as religion is even more open to such remaking.

    That said, I’ve found some semblance of answers, I think, and could point you towards some resources: Aquinas, Karen Armstrong, Thomas Merton, and from a point of view you could perhaps appreciate, The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James (psychology!), Rowan Williams, Kreeft & Tacelli, Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, Karl Rahner, even Dawkins and Hitchens – I do not think that their criticisms of the essentially human, and thus flawed, institutions of religion are totally without basis. In fact, if I sense some of myself in what they criticise, I think that’s a point of reflection.

    In any case, if you would like some lighter, bed-time reading, I would really suggest God of Surprises by Gerard Hughes – he speaks about exactly what you pointed to: the ineffable nature of God. What he talks about crosses any dogmatic or confessional boundaries as a result of (passionate) denominational differences, and really speaks solely about the fundamentals of belief, and one’s relationship with God. I think your personal experience of God underlines that. For all the dogmas we have, if they do not, and will not help us love our God AND our neighbour – then they cannot be true. And if the Bible is truly the Word of God, I think it would be arrogant for anyone to claim they understand it fully and preach it. One looks at a textbook and does not expect to understand, or even remember most of the nuances and details in it – it boggles my mind why anyone should think, then, that this can be the case with regards to something that’s supposed to be the entire, objective truth, which touches all points of the human condition. However, I think this quote hints at at least some part of that truth:

    “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and I found all three.”

    And the most beautiful part is, that it’s entirely consistent and coherent with the Great Commandment Christ gave.

    Thank you again for your honest sharing. God bless you (:

  22. Having studied in a Catholic school myself during my secondary school days, Catholicism has rubbed off of me in certain ways. I pray to God every single night and try to do good, but I don’t attend mass often nor do I forbid myself from holding joss sticks because I feel that God is everywhere and God is understanding. So this article resonates very well with me. Of course, when people ask me what religion I am, I’ll just say I’m a free thinker. If they probe further, I’m not ashamed to say that I believe in God — just in a different way that many others do.

  23. I refer to the quote above:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    Holding joss sticks is a form of respect to your grandmother and filial piety. While I do understand your intentions, Pardon me if i misunderstood from what you originally meant, but from what I gathered, you are saying that if burning joss sticks is an act of piety, why shouldn’t God accept this and let you have some free will, since it is not anything bad?

    Now, understand what free will is:

    As C S Lewis argued we cannot be free unless we have the ability to go wrong as well as right.

    Refering to what you said:
    The God of my personal faith would have applauded it as an act of filial piety. The God i know doesn’t give a shit about holding two sticks for a couple of minutes for a greater cause. If you are a Christian thinking: since you are not following what the church wants us to do, why do you even see yourself as a Christian, then ok – i am not a Christian.

    I would rather stand by the God i believe in, who propounds most fundamentally love for others, doing good out of this love, and not doing harm to others – and not be considered a ‘real’ Christian, than adopt practices i don’t believe in just to reduce cognitive dissonance of being a stranded believer of God without shelter from a ‘legitimate’ religious institution.

    And if the church believes you are not a christian because you don’t follow what they wanted you to do, whether they come imposing their will in god’s name or doing god’s will – either way; i believe any christians in the matter – are allowed free will – and we only are free when we have the ability to go wrong as well as right.

    It is not a matter of who’s right or wrong but rather acknowledging that free will is given by god, and totally in the control of god.

    To make it simpler to understand, It could be to make you realise/learn something – that is what parents do sometimes – Simply nagging or punishment doesn’t work, they just need to learn by themselves. By doing that, you realise that parents are still in control, because by letting their children make their own choices, they learn.

    And you are not wrong to say this:

    With age i’m beginning to understand a more complex conflict between religions and theisms, and one of the most striking insights i’ve made is that there is no ‘good’ Christian side and the antagonistic non-religious side we so often presume (or maybe just in my Convent school environment).

    We freely choose what we want, and yet, those choices are completely determined by our internal desires. We freely make decisions, but at the same time, we must choose what we most strongly desire at the moment to be able to make any choice at all. This is why charactor and thinking changes as one ages.

    We are after all made of flesh, our life journey consists of free will – but controlled free will just like all parents would do for their children. What God intends of you, I have no idea.

    In case you get me wrong, I do not have the intention of condemning you as being a christian holding joss sticks. You have a pure heart, and filial piety is definately one of the virtues of character building.

    Rather, all things happen for a reason, in father’s control. It should’nt be left to fellow church goers to criticize because you are never accountable to any cell leader, church leader. You are accountable to god. Rather, acknowledge that everyone needs to grow, albeit in different ways.

  24. I am a Catholic, and I’ve never had any qualms about such practices. People have forgotten about Venerable Pope Pius XII’s letter clarifying Chinese rites.

  25. I agree with your stand on joss sticks as a form of respect and filial piety to your grandparent. thank you for your post. if you’re really interested to know more about the catholic faith without being forced into believing in a certain way, I invite you to attend the RCIA programme at any catholic parish in singapore. you will get to know what we believe, why we celebrate mass and the many other things we do.. and still have the freedom to choose not to be a baptised catholic if you wish not to do so at the end of it :) its entirely your choice and regardless of how many people do not believe in the same faith as we do, we love them for who they are. love the sinner, not the sin.

    ill pray for your discernment:) have a good day!

  26. Just some questions, why do you believe in your version of god? or why do you need to believe in god in the first place? because for me, i find the notion of god redundant in today’s world no matter which religion the god/gods come from. thank you:) and have a good day

    1. Hi, that’s a good question. :-) I don’t ‘need’ to believe, but as i’ve mentioned before i cannot not believe. Just as how atheists cannot conceive of the world being governed by a higher power, i cannot conceive of a world that operates SOLELY on physical laws. And even if it is, i cannot extricate myself from the belief of a God who influences these laws.

      I guess it’s innate? There are studies that some people are inherently born with the greater tendency to believe, and others not to. Whatever it is, it’s a very fundamental belief, and not easy to verify – and therefore difficult to change. Personally, although it’s hard for me to justify it, i have also experienced God in my own ways. Yeap.

      Why do i believe in my version of God is harder to answer, but i guess to some extent, everyone believes in their ‘own’ version of God. Human perception is too prone to subjectivity, that no matter how much we try to impose a unified version of God, every individual inevitably interprets it in their own way. At least that’s how i see it.

      1. an atheist sharing

        its very human for people to believe that someone must be pulling the strings behind.. someone must be making all these happen. but the world, the universe existed way way way way before humans or even the first life form appeared. how did we even have the thought that we can explain whats going on with our puny human brain?

        to understand all these we have to do really intense research and study, and be really smart. average people like us wonder where we come from and how the world came about. you have to first understand that these are questions with really complicated answers that are way beyond us. However, “God created the world and everything we see now” seems pretty easy to get and most people will be like “ohh so that’s why this is this and that is that” and afterwards it becomes really hard to get rid of that idea. (thats also when more doubts surface)

        so when you ask yourself the question “how can there not be a god?”, you actually cant figure it out in your head and try to explain things with your reasoning and logic. cus humans don’t know shet about anything! we have to ask the rocks, the earth, the stars, the planets, the air, the rays and waves etc. from there we get pieces of information and we try to form up theories from the facts we gathered. and all these helps us get closer to everything we wanna know. we simply cannot be like “there’s no god?! cant be then how did something come from nothing?!” its actually quite arrogant that some religious people can think like this.. its natural that people cannot not believe in a god. almost every christian i come across will reply with “then how is everything created?” or any other ways you can ask that question. i think you have to stop thinking like a human to answer that, and start thinking like stars, black matter and higs bosson etc.. lol

        so i ask this now.
        if you have to trouble yourself with all these issues, what’s the point of you still sticking to it?
        you can already tell right from wrong, good from bad and have a very clear moral direction. I think you have already achieved what most religions set out to accomplish. you don’t wanna end this relationship with god? but why? you can live by your own values and beliefs, you can do whatever you want and answer only to your integrity and there’s no need to trouble yourself with customs and practices. so long as you are happy with yourself, i dont see a reason to still cling onto it. if you cannot imagine a world without god then just dont think about it at all. live life like there’s no god. cus if you have done good while you’re alive, im sure you will still go to heaven and all. (if your god is reasonable and just as you said)

      2. hi bryan.

        first of all, i take issue with your heuristic assumption that religious is a means to plug gaps in logical competence. i know Christians and other theists who ‘do really intense research and study’, while maintaining their faith.

        it is presumptuous to see religious beliefs and scientific truth as contradictory without thorough understanding of both facets on your own part. personally, i am able to reconcile both.

        my own belief does not stem from my lack of ‘asking the rocks, the earth, the stars’. also, i don’t think it is possible for me to ‘stop thinking like a human’, because i am one. that said, i have thought – as a human – about issues about ‘things like stars, black matter, and higs bosson’.

        Although i think what you were trying to refer to is the HIGGS BOSON. also, do you actually know what that is?

        my own belief in God is both innate, and also because science cannot explain adequately for me all conscious experience in the world. because the world, to me, is much more than just the stars, rocks, earth, black matter, and particles.

        about your advice to ‘just dont think about it’. personally, i feel that someone who actively questions but reveals ignorance is much more admirable than someone who is passive about their environment. the atheist in your conception seems to be someone who disavows religion not after deliberate consideration of WHY they don’t believe (which i fully admire), but someone who is too passive to understand life.

        there are smart theists and not so smart ones, just as there are smart atheists and not so smart ones. your dichotomous understanding of human nature does not account for its complexity.

        I’d like to suggest that before making sweeping statements, you should be sure of the statements you’re making. Maybe you can start by reading the article: The Higgs Boson, the Rationality of Nature, and the Logos of God. It’s a good read and provides you with the proper spelling of Higs Bosson.

        i welcome challenges to my opinions, but i prefer them well-informed.

        thanks.

  27. I hope you still read the Bible even after leaving your churches. Everyone has their ways of defining what a “Christian” means. You said you do not identify yourself as a Christian because you don’t fit in how the church perceives or defines what or how Christians should be. Don’t you have your own version of what makes you a Christian as well? Why should you say you’re no longer a Christian?

    Truth be told, there are still many many churches that still don’t understand the Bible. Each of us takes the Bible as how we see it to be. That is why we have different denominations in Christianity. But the most important thing is we Christian believe the Bible (old testament and new testament) as the word of God. We call ourselves Christians because we believe and follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. It is that simple.

    I believe you have been misguided by the churches that you have gone to. You shouldn’t rely on church elders or pastors to define who God is and what He wants from you. You should read the Bible and talk to him in prayers asking who He is and what He wants.

    If you don’t accept the Bible as God’s word, then I think those people and churches that you have gone to are misguiding you. Whenever I listen to my pastors or church elders preach, I merely take what they say as a reference or guidance, I will not trust everything they say. I will return home and use it to further my understanding about the Bible and God. Everything must be based on the Bible and Bible alone. Nothing else.

    You said you had experienced God’s grace. But I am not sure why you haven’t made an effort to deepen your relationship with God in the Bible? Perhaps you don’t trust that the God that gave you the grace came from the Bible at all? Then I believe you should continue seeking for the God that gave you the grace.

    I encourage you to earnestly and wholeheartedly seek for that God that showed you love and grace.

  28. Through her journey in Christianity, the ideals taught to her by the church has probably moulded her life for the better initially as she started to learn how to express for her love for God, and nurture her relationship with God. And, over time, it seems that the church is starting to pressurise her with its expectations of what it means to be a ‘true’ or ‘idealistic’ Christian.

    Some of these idea are great for her initial development as a Christian, but when they become too idealistic, it all goes downhill for her.

    I am happy that she has realised that the moral compass that this is based on is so flawed.

    She does not get any ‘points’ for being an idealist in this way. If she is uncomfortable with it, how would she be happy or fulfilled or feel loved by God? Her life would not become dictated by the positive motivations of faith, but by the pain of fear. She should not feel oppressed by the church’s expectations. She simply has to do her best in her role as a follower of God. Not THE best. HER best.

    It’s good that she has left the church. The structures in there have become shackles to her.

    The people pushing for these ‘idealistic’ Christian image should understand that everyone is human. Everyone is just but a man. We are all flesh and blood. We are not machines of God. We are His creation and He has made each and everyone of us special. And He has given us an important gift that separates us from machines – compassion: the ability to forgive others, the ability to forgive ourselves.

    If the thought behind following these ideals is fear and pressure and terror, then we are truly not appreciating this gift that God is giving us. (Having said that, pushing ourselves beyond our limits make us better and more skilled in an area. We can do it for some time, but we cannot sustain it forever.)

    And all this bickering over the definition of WHAT she is now in the comments section: is she more Catholic, is she less Christian, is she bla bla bla bla. It is not important to her. It is not relevant to her. Because definitions are idealistic.

    What is more important for her now, is to understand where she is along her journey to better her relationship with God.

    And from the way I see it, she is on the right track: not because Christian society dictates it to be the right track, but because it fits her the most.

  29. God is actually a loving God, a Christian loving, righteous God. But today, it is the behaviour of man in churches that have make believers or others wrongly depict the image of Father, wrongly depict the image of Jesus Christ.

    God didn’t say that you cannot offer joss sticks as a christian, God encourages us to be filial in the bible, it’s PEOPLE IN CHURCH who feels this practice is a “betrayal to christ” , and it is how the behaviour of man wrongly depict the image of christ.

    Praying in tongues- Bible did mention something related to tongue. My church prays in tongue too, but I don’t. Again, people in church uphold the wrong/different image of christ. I feel that praying in tongue is a gift, not something that could be learnt. I don’t have the gift, I pray in understanding.

    Christian is not a religion, it is a relationship with God, that requires effort. Not easy I would say.The cross is the cross that Jesus Christ died for our sins, but also a cross which condemns. As a teen, I do understand that it is tough being a christian, pressured to go church every week, this cannot that cannot? But I carry on this relationship with God, because I believe that God is a righteous God.

    It is tough. People are not the correct ones. Only the bible is correct, only God is correct.

    I understand why people are leaving church nowadays, but I hope they still maintain the relationship with God.

  30. Hello Erisa!

    I hope not to bore you, but I would like to share some of my little thoughts ;)

    I must warn you that am a christian who can never deny JESUS CHRIST because HE is too real in my life. But note I am a skeptic, a critic, my teacher once called me a devil’s advocate, and one who tested and cunningly analyzed every experience (both my own and others’ I asked) to see if GOD was real or not. ;P

    I feel that GOD is someone you must FIND. Because if HE exists, you will have to find out who HE is, not try to form an image from what has touched you, and what you want HIM to be. But trust me, HE is better than you would imagine.

    Anyway regarding joss sticks, my own PERSONAL opinion is I dont like to do it, out of respect to GOD. Why so conservative and obedient? I am very rebellious like you too, and everything I do must have a reason. (I have many times talked back and questioned church leaders why they do certain things, and many times they cannot answer me.)

    My reason is because GOD hates idol-worship. If you were a father, or mother, would you like your kids to call other people dad or mum? Same thing with GOD. And incense was instructed to be made by GOD for HIM alone. Don’t know if you have heard, but incense in the bible symbolises prayers of the saints/people. For me, its not that GOD is unreasonable, but perhaps HE takes issue with us praying to anyone else but HIM, the only true GOD and FATHER who made us. Like how you’d feel if your child just called a stranger mum. Just my own opinion.

    For me, GOD has shown me many things (I’d like to think so, or else take it that I came to realize after many extremely coincidental experiences) regarding what HE is doing (and what being HIS followers, Christians should be).

    I would say the most important is ‘eternal life’. Eternal life is not just heaven, immortality, or some zen state. To me it is wisdom higher than any other I have seen. Eternal life encompasses love (one of the things many find precious), real and selfless love, righteousness, good things. A wisdom which when it is expressed in a person, they are able to be at peace, joy and rest forever.

    Like i mean u see shows which immortals kill each other. Even if you are immortal but have not the wisdom of eternal life, in the end they kill and plot and get sad or find no meaning, and eventually everything ends and dies. GOD wants for every christian this wisdom of eternal life. He will teach us (like by HIS Spirit), but all HE asks is that we repent and have a willing heart to follow. (Because HE gives us free will)

    GOD wants HIS Kingdom most of all. To dwell among men, created in HIS image, like sons and daughters, all with HIS glory (full of grace and love) and wisdom. I believe the world was made where adults have sons and daughters so that we can understand GOD’s similar desire in a way. The world is symbolic, all things are for our teaching, preparation for the eternal Kingdom.

    Just to share, I am a christian without a church too now. Stuff happened at my old church. Disagreements turned ugly, and so I am finding somewhere new. Not that I hope to find anywhere perfect. Judging using my little bit of humble knowledge I gained in my endless pursuits of doctrines and making a wholistic unified sense of the whole world around me together with what the bible states, my opinion is that no church really fully follows the bible in a way I can be satisfied with. Because there is bound to be stuff they do which is bound by tradition and sometimes not exactly right.

    For me, being highly rebellious, I am also very very open (because I hate people judging me, and laying their stereotypes and ‘norms’ on me). Whichever church I go to, I make friends, do as much as I can for the people there, and share my views and thoughts with them. Just like I am doing now. All I hope is that perhaps just 1 person’s interest would be piqued by my comments, questions or skepticism, and that they would seek GOD themselves and find out more for themselves.

    In the end, I ask you, what purpose does your believing serve? (I.e. what difference is there for you to believe or not to believe?)

    You cannot not-believe, like me. But my hope is in the Kingdom, in eternal life, and this world is just a lesson to prepare me. You denounce the church; I have no faith in church instituitions too, but I constantly share my views and beliefs with others.
    But how would you wish to go on? Is religion, or a belief, something to just make you morally better? Make the world nicer and all? Help people? Because I sincerely believe that this world will end, and I live as a pilgrim. And so for what purpose do you live? I ask this to all my friends. Because if there’s none or its vague, why bother with all the toil and problems in this world?

    In all sincerity I just give my opinions, just another humble (maybe boring) perspective for you to consider.

    Jason.

  31. Hi rictusempra! Just sharing with you about the issues of ancestral veneration in the Catholic Church. The Church does not prohibit its member from offering incense, food or flower as part of venerating our ancestors. In contrary, the Church takes great effort to ensure that such ancient practices, carried out for time immemorial and socially significant in our eastern culture, will remain very much relevant and encouraged. If you want to know more details about this, you can read a directive from the Archdiocese of Singapore here: http://www.catholic.org.sg/liturgy/bulletins/7%20-%20Ancestors%20Veneration.htm

    It pains me that you struggled with such uncertainties about our faith and decided to let go rather than making effort to better understand the context and true facts of the matter. Much of the finer points of our faith continue to be misunderstood, even by its own member, for the lack of perseverance to inquire actively and learn from credible sources such as priests or even religious group gatherings.

    I wish you all the best in your journey of faith discovery and remember that the Catholic Church is always open whenever you decide to return home.

  32. You are divergent, miss. Just kidding. :P
    I’m a Buddhist and will always remain so. My dad’s side, his brother, sister-in-law and mother converted to Christianity and renounced all their Taoist statues, apparently convinced by the church that such idols are demonic. I respect all religions but I have no stomach for certain cults in certain religions who seek to denounce other religions, proclaiming theirs to be the “one and only”. These are trouble makers who slice through the religious harmony in Singapore and short of being armed, they are no different from the jihadist movement in the Middle East. I support you because I’m certain no God proclaims themselves as the “one and only”, because if they were so power and status hungry, how’d they get up there in the first place? Instead, they preach that you do the right thing, amongst which, that you respect and honour your family. Such “rules” were set by misguided men who walked down the wrong path while in search of their God.

  33. Hi Erisa,

    Firstly, I’m not Christian. Neither am I Muslim, nor am I inclined to these religions. I come from a more Hindu/ Buddhist background, and have done a lot of comparative religion readings a long time ago. I’m not religious and do not feel the need to specify an affiliation to any institutionalized religion, or partake in the religious ceremonies thereof.

    I feel that institutionalized religions are all man-made. Both you and I identify to a “more spiritual than religious” kind of people. I also disagree with the literal interpretation of scriptures. A Taoist text says that scriptures are mainly signposts to the Truth, not the Truth itself. You still have to walk in the direction pointed by those signposts and discover the Truth yourself.

    From my understanding, a Christian (all denominations) is technically someone who professes the beliefs stated in the Nicene Creed. http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/nicene.htm

    From your comments above, I take it that you no longer believe that Jesus was crucified, died for your sins, then rose again, then ascended to heaven, and would return one day. In that case, you are not a Christian by that definition.

    A friend recommended this excellent debate (available on Youtube) to me where Deedat points out that nowhere in the Bible does Jesus himself explicitly says that he is God or that he should be worshipped. Watch the long debate to see how he excellently responds to Biblical verses thrown at him by his opponent, by discussing the contexts surrounding those verses. http://youtu.be/GrD9N2dSmYk

    So, we can say that according to Deedat’s arguments, Jesus himself did not believe the parts of the Nicene Creed that relates to Jesus. So, you can breath a sigh of relief there.

    But what attracted you to Christianity in the first place? It was God’s love and goodness that was displayed by Jesus, wasn’t it? In John 8, the people wanted to stone a woman for adultery because that was their interpretation of God’s law and also their self-righteousness, but Jesus replied, “Let the sinless man cast the first stone” and forgave her.

    Today, those who tell you that holding a joss stick as a sign of respect to your dearly departed is wrong, are no different from those people who were eager to stone the woman in the time of Jesus.

    In Mark 7, Jesus says it is not what one puts into one’s mouth, but rather what comes out of one’s mouth that defiles him. Here he tells you to keep your heart and mind clean, as being more important than what kind of food you eat (or what kind of joss stick you hold). And in Mark 2, Jesus says that Sabbath was made for man, not man for Sabbath. In other words, we should not follow religious laws or ceremonies blindly. Instead, we should understand the true spirit behind them.

    Again, the people who want to tell you exactly what to believe or exactly what to do or not to do, are those who want to follow their own interpretation of religion and religious laws and impose it on others. This same people are likely to say that someone like Gandhi or Buddha would be condemned to hell for not professing the beliefs of the Nicene Creed.

    But you are different. You are spiritual, seek the Love of God, understand that a good heart is important, and seek the true spirit behind the religions, rejecting the man-made portions of it. And I’m sure that you feel that Gandhi and Buddha are more deserving of heaven than Nicene Creed believers who are quick to cast the stone.

    And if that’s what Jesus really taught, then you can actually consider yourself a Christian in this sense. Again, you can breath a sigh of relief.

  34. Christianity is cultural imperialism, pure and simple. Spread by the sword, and enforced through gunpowder and disease.

    One of the tools the power- and resource-hungry Europeans used to spread their influence worldwide, to cultures they regard as lesser and to peoples they barely considered human.

  35. Hello! (:

    Let me perhaps share my two-cents worth and my humble thoughts regarding what you’ve shared with the rest of us.

    In our tiny island Singapore, many Christians (if not brought up in a Christian family) will probably share a similar circumstance as yours, seeing that most of us come from Chinese backgrounds. As you’ve shared, one of the struggles would be in determining whether the cultural practices we used to participate in would come in conflict with what the Bible says, and how to reconcile the differences, if any. With regards to incense sticks (or joss sticks), I think it’s quite evident from the numerous responses that there’s a wide range of opinions on this matter, but perhaps let me share my own views regarding why I don’t encourage participation in it.

    At the risk of dwelling too much into history, the use of incense sticks have been prevalent in many religions: by priests from Ancient Egypt, to Babylonian oracles, to various rites in Hinduism, Taoism, and of course Buddhism. Even Judaism has a history of incense use, as indicated in various verses like Exodus 30:8 and Exodus 30:34 (which dictates how incense should be burnt in the presence of God), and it’s something that Roman-Catholics continue to practice even till today.

    That said, the common motif is that the burning of incense is used for prayer or worship to a god (or gods). It must also be noted that the root of the word “Joss” is derived from the Latin word deus, meaning ‘god’. Coming from this understanding, it is reasonable to see why it should be discouraged, since the Bible instructs us to worship only the Lord God (Exodus 20:4-5, Matthew 4:10). This goes beyond what you’ve said as “following what the church wants us to do”, because it is what God commands us to do in the Bible. Regardless of whether you call it showing respect for your departed ones, or saintly veneration (in the case of Catholicism), the fundamental truth is that the action IS a form of worship, despite how we might it see it today.

    Having said this, I do concede that there are other Christians who take an opposing view on this. Since God knows our motives (Proverbs 21:2), one could argue that it will not compromise on your faith, especially if one is very clear about where they stand in their faith and relationship with God. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 helps to shed light on this issue as well, and even suggests that “nothing is unclean in itself”. But the same verses also point us to be watchful when doing such things, and that brings us to my second reason!

    Another reason why I would discourage participation in it is because of the mixed signals it sends to others. To you, the act of holding joss sticks is “arbitrary, even aesthetic – but fully harmless”. Can the same be said of everyone beside you? To those fellow believers who are not as firm in their faith, they may construe your use of incense as an approval of idolatrous practices, and if that’s the case, it’s better to not do it (Romans 14:21, 1 Corinthians 10:32-33). To the non-believers around you, will they understand that yours is an act of veneration? Or will the more traditional members interpret your actions as praying to your deceased loved ones, as in Taoism? Unless you can make it clear to everyone present about your intentions, I’d be more than a little hesitant in offering joss sticks, and prefer to err on the side of caution.

    Now perhaps to touch lightly on your other minor points:

    Sometimes in our bid to be holy and to keep away from sinning, the Church falls into the trap of legalism, setting down rules when the Bible doesn’t clearly state so. In light of this, I encourage you to go back to Scripture and ascertain for yourself if this is really what Scripture claims. Reading Bible commentaries alongside your devotions would also be helpful (: Try to go for a diverse range of commentaries and pray for guidance and discernment when reading the Bible. You’re right in saying that “adhering to a bunch of rules” doesn’t make you feel closer to God, because our journey of faith is not about how many rules you can follow, but how close you can grow in intimacy with Him. Sure we stumble and fall along the way, but that’s part of the learning process as we undergo sanctification.

    It’s disheartening to have a fellow brother or sister look your way with judgmental eyes, especially since Romans 14:13 calls us NOT to do so. Yet I beseech you not to generalize the Church as one that judges others for the perceived wrongs they’ve done. Whether someone has genuinely done something wrong or not, we’re not to react with judgment, but to react with love and to guide them back to the correct path. But I guess even as Christians, we’re still sinners, and the way we react to others tend not to reflect Christ’s love. Hopefully one day they’ll be able to look beyond their righteous pride and to react with love instead (:

    Just to address the speaking in tongues and being slain by the Spirit, these aren’t necessary but tend to be over-emphasized upon by Charismatic and Pentecostal Churches (which coincidentally enough tend to be the mega churches). You don’t have to go through one or the other to be assured of your salvation, and if you don’t feel comfortable with the way it’s being preached, I encourage you to try other denominational churches like Presbyterian, Methodist etc, to see if you feel more comfortable there. Also, try not to be too antagonistic if you think that a church is strongly exerting an influence that may warp the route of your faith. For sanctification to happen, we need to put aside our old self, and this requires us to re-examine the motives and intentions behind the things we do (Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3). This definitely involves changing on our part.

    So in summary, to end off my super long post (thanks for bearing with me all the way), while I’ve shared my personal reasons for not doing so, I wouldn’t dare to impose and say that this is definitely the correct way to do things. I encourage you to read the verses and come to your own conclusions about them, and most of all, to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). No one can say what’s right and what’s wrong for sure except God, and only He will know whether it’s truly considered a sin or not. But God knows our hearts, and Jesus died for our sins, so regardless of whether we’re right or wrong, we can still stand before God without fear of judgment.

    Take care and God bless! (:

    1. Scrolling through the replies, I’m troubled by the fact that nobody is looking into the Bible to see what it says, until I saw this post. And quite coincidentally (or rather, by God’s timing?), my church and bible study group has been discussing this same topic recently! So I’d like to throw in my two cents too.

      The Bible doesn’t really explicitly tell us whether or not we can hold joss sticks in the Chinese context, but I think the closest thing can be found in 1 Corinthians 8 (http://biblehub.com/niv/1_corinthians/8.htm) where Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about eating food sacrificed to idols. Corinth, by the way, was pretty similar to Singapore – it was a major trading port which meant all sorts of people from different backgrounds were there. So anyway in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul gives the believers this advice (and I use The Message version because it’s so much clearer in ‘modern’ language haha):

      “7 In strict logic, then, nothing happened to the meat when it was offered up to an idol. It’s just like any other meat. I know that, and you know that. But knowing isn’t everything. If it becomes everything, some people end up as know-it-alls who treat others as know-nothings. Real knowledge isn’t that insensitive.
      We need to be sensitive to the fact that we’re not all at the same level of understanding in this. Some of you have spent your entire lives eating “idol meat,” and are sure that there’s something bad in the meat that then becomes something bad inside of you. An imagination and conscience shaped under those conditions isn’t going to change overnight.
      8-9 But fortunately God doesn’t grade us on our diet. We’re neither commended when we clean our plate nor reprimanded when we just can’t stomach it. But God does care when you use your freedom carelessly in a way that leads a fellow believer still vulnerable to those old associations to be thrown off track.
      10 For instance, say you flaunt your freedom by going to a banquet thrown in honor of idols, where the main course is meat sacrificed to idols. Isn’t there great danger if someone still struggling over this issue, someone who looks up to you as knowledgeable and mature, sees you go into that banquet? The danger is that he will become terribly confused—maybe even to the point of getting mixed up himself in what his conscience tells him is wrong.
      11-13 Christ gave up his life for that person. Wouldn’t you at least be willing to give up going to dinner for him—because, as you say, it doesn’t really make any difference? But it does make a difference if you hurt your friend terribly, risking his eternal ruin! When you hurt your friend, you hurt Christ. A free meal here and there isn’t worth it at the cost of even one of these “weak ones.” So, never go to these idol-tainted meals if there’s any chance it will trip up one of your brothers or sisters.”

      While this still doesn’t explicitly tell us whether it’s a “yes” or “no” when it comes to idol-related practices, I think it’s not so much the actions that matter than it is the way it impacts the people around us. If your actions become a stumbling block to people around you – both believers and non-believers alike – then don’t do it.

      Although Paul addresses the believers in this passage, I believe it can apply to non-believers too. As believers, we’re called to be living testimonies to those around us, and sometimes, choosing to not conform can be a testimony too. I know Christian friends who decline holding joss sticks, and their families were quietly okay with it. And this decision to live differently has made an impression with these non-Christian family members, who – years later – have come to known Christ as their Saviour too.

      It’s not necessarily true for everyone in every context (most families might see it as unfilial), but I think the most important thing is to think about how our decisions wrt to idol-related practices will influence the people around us, both believers and non-believers alike. But even more importantly is to seek God’s will and to ask for His wisdom in these things. Different people have different situations, but God knows exactly what your situation is. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

      The Bible isn’t explicit on many things, but it’s explicit in the things that matter the most. God will guide us through difficult situations that we don’t know the answers to, and He wants us to “seek His will in all [we] do”.

      I know I’ve gone abit off-topic and not address the core issue of the “church” (well Paul does address it in 1 Corinthians too but this is a very long post already :/), but I hope this has helped! And reminded us to go back to the Truth of the Bible in this post-modern world. :)

  36. Thank you for writing this. It’s essentially what I feel towards religion and I would not have been able to put it this eloquently into words.

  37. Hi Erisa, this book titled “A Biblical Approach to Chinese Traditions and Beliefs” by Daniel Tong might help. From what I have learnt, being a Christian is about trusting in Jesus – that’s sufficient. It’s about learning and knowing about him. Why don’t you tell him how you feel and hear what he has to say? Since he has called you, he will not leave you in the lurch; surely he is faithful!

  38. It really resonated with me when you talked about the need to challenge all your beliefs, regardless of whether it is religious or not. Even though it may be easier succumbing to societal norms or peer pressure, it is important that we have the courage to make our own decisions.

    That said, breathe and let it go! This will be a never ending discussion.

  39. The more you question your beliefs and the religion you currently hold, the more you’ll realize the hypocrisy and irony behind the beliefs and “values” it expounds. I personally think it’s best to question everything and come to your own conclusions; don’t let people decide what you should believe.

    What’s the benefit of conforming to peer pressure/familial pressure? Of course it’s the feeling that you belong somewhere and are accepted. But you’ll feel uneasy, uncomfortable and frustrated if you keep going down that path. In the end, there’s no shame in being a deist (someone who just believes in a god without conforming to any one religion – which would make one a theist).

    I’m an agnostic atheist (i.e. I don’t believe in any religion/god but I believe there isn’t a way to know or prove the existence of one – no, ‘agnostic’ and ‘atheist’ are not mutually exclusive lol).

    There’s just no good reason to believe in a god. It’s pretty narcissistic to think, “oh, I got straight As, or my dog got better from his illness, it must be god’s doing!”, while millions and billions of people out there are suffering because they believe in the ‘wrong god’. Religion is a good thing if it gives people comfort and hope, but not at the expense of infringing on others rights (e.g. the whole issue about homosexuality). It’s fine to believe what you believe, but don’t go telling other people what they believe is wrong.

    If everyone just kept their religious beliefs to themselves, the world would be a better place! Who are Christians (or any other religion for the matter) to tell you that you shouldn’t use joss sticks, or go to a chinese temple, or watch the movie “Noah”. Really?? People are intelligent enough (hopefully) to come to their own conclusions.

    Sorry for the super long ramble; I’m just a uni student who’s been questioning religion since JC. My motto: live and let live and believe what you want to believe, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

    Good luck on your quest for answers! (:

  40. Hi Erisa, that’s some well-written prose right there!

    Your post is going viral, and to future readers who’ll like to respond to Erisa’s post, I’ll like to point out one thing: the joss stick is NOT the main point! No! Bu Shi! Batsu! Nein!

    The author’s using joss sticks as an opening to her own thoughts about her maturing (or changing, depending on which side you stand on) conceptualization of her personal “God”. Here’s a list of what she’s NOT talking about with that Qing Ming example:

    a. Joss sticks ALONE made her change her conceptualization of God. NOPE. It’s one of many factors that contributed to her personal paradigm shift
    b. Joss sticks good, churches bad. NAY.
    c. Joss sticks —> [Insert variable here] —–> [Some sort of outcome that completely decimates the legitimacy of the Church]. NoOoOoOo.

    I understand that a big part of the “argument” here is Erisa’s perception of what the joss stick represents – a form of respect for the dearly departed, and to show the living that you’re giving that form of respect to those who have passed on.

    But y’all seriously need to chill – she’s writing an opinion piece about how she currently views her personal God. She wrote it with her own assumptions, and those assumptions are not backed up by empirical data and evidence AT ALL. She’s not writing to convince, she’s writing to consolidate her thoughts so fair. She’ll get a C if she were to submit this essay for grading simply because it’s an opinion piece, not an argumentative essay.

    Piling historical background about joss sticks as evidence for your own arguments against the author’s points is a great lead-up to a strong argument (yup, talking about you, dom), but that’s like using a wrecking ball to destroy an innocent sandcastle. The post depicts her beliefs about God, but they are not necessarily backed up by anything other than “I just think that way” – which makes it an opinion piece, not an argument.

    And here’s my opinion of this: I think it’s great that readers are posting their own thoughts about this, but things start to go off-tangent when you zoom into “joss sticks”, and try to prove the author otherwise using evidence to show how she has erred in her joss stick example. Sandcastles are things you build for fun, not to house soldiers in preparation for a major battle. So chill out, yo.

    With that, I’ll like to give my own thoughts about the post.

    It’s funny how I went from the other side towards your current position – especially when I’m also a psychology student (“cognitive dissonance” gave you away). I started out a stauch atheist who just couldn’t reconcile the fact that there’s something bigger out there that gives a shit about out tiny, tiny lives. It just doesn’t make sense to me – plus some of the door-to-door Christianity salesmen (gross generalization, I’m not sure which branch of the major Abrahamic religions they belong to) that tried to convert me smell funny.

    The conceited me then scoffed at the idea of a personal god – but after a B- essay about religion being ” the opium of the masses” (that essay was horribly one-sided, I deserved the grade), I realized that what I’m really against is the idea of the church rather than the existence of God itself. The fact that I was present when one of the mega churches did a breakdown of donations by demographics and berated the the worst performing group solidified my stand. Churches felt like a corporation rather than a place where believers come together to celebrate their belief for the omni x 3 god.

    Plus the Abrahamic religions are monotheistic by nature. I no longer think that its impossible for there to be a God, but I find it a little overbearing to dictate that everyone else is wrong. There’s so many different beliefs in the world, so how can anyone say for certain that they’re right?

    God isn’t a complete logical implausibility, and while I agree that there might be a god out there, beard and white robes and all hiding amongst one of the many clouds, accepting it as a major part of my life is another matter altogether.

    The draw of accepting God into our lives, I feel, is the comfort that it gives us. Seriously, if I know that I have this level 9999999 being covering my ass all the time, I’m going to feel pretty comforted. The bad things that happen to us isn’t a result of randomness, but because this old dude has a plan for you – it removes the anxiety of an uncertain future from our lives. Life doesn’t suck because someone has a plan for you.

    But I just can’t make the step towards accepting a personal god in my life. I guess that’s because I’m not really looking for that comfort in my life; my beliefs of making it through life with my own bare hands probably has a… well, hand in that.

    It’s great that I’m able to read more of these posts and better understand that there’s actually a large variance in how Christians conceive of their personal God. Thank you for this – keep posting, yo!

    1. Hi. First of all: THANK YOU!!! Joss sticks – NOT the main point. Not sure why everyone latched on to it.

      I pretty much agree with everything you’ve just said, so this reply is just a cyber-fist-bump.

      Also, Psych Student +1 :-)

      1. Hi there! (:

        Thanks for sharing! I’m sorry if you’ve seen what I’ve written as something that’s meant to completely tear her argument down. I’m only trying to point that while such actions do not “determine your faith, your beliefs, and your love for God”, there are perfectly logical and well-substantiated reasons on why the church discourages them, even if the church does not go into detail about them.

        I also chose to flesh my points out fully, not because it’s the crux of your article, but so that it enlightens the other readers who may be wondering why the church discourages such practices. The unfortunate truth remains that the opinion piece is circulating on social media not because of how she views God, but rather how the points seem to substantiate a stand that joss sticks and Christianity go perfectly hand-in-hand, and non-Christians use that opportunity to lambaste the rest of us for being ridiculous when we refuse to offer joss sticks. So my rather lengthy piece wasn’t meant to be critical of what she wrote, but just to address this issue, especially for future readers!

  41. I feel the same way as you, so I’ve stopped going to church 5 years ago. I still believe in God, believe in Someone Divine. I do wonder sometimes if I’ve self-created this God in my perspective but I feel more at ease than I was years ago. I’m not sure if it makes me look un-religious because I don’t associate myself with any religion now. But now I know, I’m not the only one feeling this way. Thanks! I’ve been keeping this thought in my heart for years because there is no one I could relate to. Until this. Take care!

  42. Do what you think is right for yourself. All traditional religions are fundamentally good. They preach wonderful values for a better world. This is especially true in the golden rule taught by almost all religions, do onto others what you would like others to do unto you. But when it comes to rituals and actions, do what you think is meaningful to you, not what others want you to do out of blind faith, for we can never be for certain what’s the ultimate truth. Nothing is stopping one from looking around and studying other religions and to create your own by subscribing to those values and teachings which you find meaning to.

  43. Well after all the discussions above, what matters is what your own beliefs are. There’s no right or wrong until the day you really see god. There’s no answer to the truth, there’s only what you think.

  44. Hi! Let me start by saying that as a brother in Christ, I understand your problems of finding a God-centred church. It’s a very real issue and there should be a discussion about about it.

    But what troubles me is this sentence that you wrote: “The God i know doesn’t give a shit about holding two sticks for a couple of minutes for a greater cause”

    If I might draw your attention to the 10 commandments, the last I checked, I believe that one of the commandments God gave to Moses was not to bow to/worship any graven image. The act of holding joss sticks is in fact, bowing to/worshipping a graven image.

    So yes, He gives a shit. After all, our God is a jealous God, isn’t He? :)

  45. Try to look into Bhuddism? It emphasises more on the way of living instead of forcing you to adhere to certain practices.

  46. Personally I feel that religion and tradition should come hand in hand. Take for example, in South Korea, majority of them are Christians but they still pray to their ancestors with joss sticks and also celebrate a lot of very traditional korean holidays. Nevertheless, great article!

  47. Hi,

    I really like your post- it’s very personal and heartfelt. I also think that it’s admirable to be a “quiet” Christian like you, being able to hold a personal relationship with the God you believe in, without the need of affirmation from established religious institutions, or through rituals and actions. Although i’m not a Christian, I feel that’s what a religions is for: a personal belief of a divinity.

    I hope other Christians respect your views on the very same religion you guys believe in and also give due regard to your personal relationship with God.

    P.S. I know this isn’t about joss stick, but to clear up some misconception you guys might have-

    1. taoism is vastly different from buddhism; many singaporeans mix them up and the older generation belief in a combination
    2. in buddhism, there are no “ghosts”; in taoism, there might be “ghosts” but i don’t think they “Feed on the smoke”
    3. in buddhism at least, burning incense/joss stick and putting flowers in front of the altar of the deceased/ the statue of buddha isn’t a cult practice. It is not a form of worship; it is, instead, a form of respect and admiration for that person (incl buddha). Buddhists do not regard buddha as a god, but as a teacher of buddhist wisdom (think of it as anyone getting flowers when visiting a loved one’s grave)
    4. Since, in different religions (as one of the comments above mentioned the use of incense even in catholic churches), the use of joss stick have such different symbolisms, it is therefore, reasonably speaking, really what you make of it. If you are a Christian and you do hold the joss stick out of nothing but mere respect for your late grandparents/ relatives, then it is what it is. :)

  48. Well about your point on being a theist, do look up on this man, Christopher Hitchens. He gives very good arguments on why he’s an anti-theist. And that’s how I lost my beliefs.

  49. Dear author, I wonder if you’re open to dialogue further on this via email? No worries, if you’re not comfortable with that. I would just like to find out more about how your experiences shaped your beliefs, and hopefully respectfully offer some perspective on my part, too. I’m not sure a public platform such as this is most conducive :) Do let me know, thanks!

  50. Your thoughts are courageous and the best indicator of a clear and thinking mind.

    However, your thoughts are dangerous.

    You are slighting the Church’s teachings and questioning it’s relevancy, without which the entire economic model which it runs on (selling gospel) would crumble.

    Note here I’m not referring to the Lord’s teachings, but the Church’s. The Lord’s teachings are free of charge, for the good of humanity, the Church is an organization, and like every organization, it needs money to run.

    Priests and pastors and churches would go out job should everyone be as enlightened as you, much like how schools and universities would close if people could better educate themselves.

    You’re effectively promoting free-thinking. The Lord will never oppose to this, but I will not say the same of the Church.

    1. I used to go to a Catholic church where the priests and parish were very open about this sort of thing, and the church did fine. If anything, wouldn’t giving the edge-cases like Erisa peace of mind about it make them feel more welcome there? I’m not defending the church by any means, but your point felt a little haphazard.

  51. Thank you for investing time into this post, you write beautifully. As a cradle Christian, and now Catholic, living in an increasingly secular environment, I share the same views as you when it comes to religious “practices” and “restrictions”. I don’t want to say much except that I read this entire thread of comments and you’re an extremely intelligent young lady with the balls and chops to make a point and defend it well.

    Kudos!

  52. I refer to your statement- “The only reason, ironically, why i still identify as a Christian is that i cannot bring myself to not believe in God.”

    And to this, I hope you can think why you “cannot bring yourself to not believe in God.”

    Search for this answer. Ask questions on WHY NOT. What about God you HAVE to believe? Is it because of fear? Or what? Ask yourself this.

    And you’ll realize that all the reasons you will give to HAVE to believe in God, is really, just but your own belief. Many conditions are put together for you to believe in this God- say the Bible, your IJ roots etc. This shows, that your belief is just but, a conditioned phenomena.

    And as such, I ask sincerely from you- to seek the truth.

    You may want to try Buddhism. Afterall, what the Buddha taught, which is the Dharma, is applicable to everyday life. You don’t have to conform.

    As we always say- Ehipassiko, which means “Come and see for yourself.”

    All the best to you(:

  53. I was once an explorer, refusing to be integral to any church or religion. I embraced my Buddhist upbringing, my converted Christian faith and at the same time, a deep held respect and reverence to Islam.

    On hindsight, I abandoned religion in search of a personal spirituality. While I find all the various experiences highly enriching, I also find myself slowing becoming self-centric. I would look for models and practices that gel with my worldview, that I like, that I have no problems with. If something is not right by me in a particular religious or spiritual group, I will leave it for another.

    I come to realise that there is no one religion or group that can fit me, and what I’m missing out is the aspect of community living because I was non-commital, unwilling to stick it out despite my disagreement.

    I made a conscious decision to just be part of a church and stick with it, be part of its life and it’s people. Though there may be ideologies that I don’t quite approve, I suspend my own thoughts and sought to understand rather than to be understood. It has been the most humbling also empowering environment for me so far.

    I’m not sure how much of me is in you, but I could say that we need to be spiritual without being religious and committed without being obliged. Perhaps our journeys are different, but I hope maybe a my own path could serve as some kind of guide to yours. :)

  54. As you have said above, you have also echoed what was in the bible. That people can have all the doctrines, rules, can speak etc laid out, speak in tongues and wtv it is, but have not love, it is all pointless, they are just not doing what God has commanded which is to love Him first and then to love our neighbour as ourselves. The whole point of the gospel is a love revolution, and sadly many people have missed the point of that, as you have said it’s become more “me centred ” than God-centred. And challenging your faith is good(: it helps you to grow and gain new revelations about God. We all do struggle but that’s what teaches us about our own faith each time. His ways are higher than our ways so we may not always understand everything, but sometimes we just get a fraction of what we’re looking for bit by bit. I hope you will be led to a better place that grows you instead of stumbles you. (: God Bless and all the best <3

  55. I believe the book ‘Mister God, This Is Anna’ would be a very good read to take the perspective of a Christian that believes in a personal God.

  56. hey weiq,

    this is an incredibly heartfelt post, thanks for writing (: you are correct, joss sticks are not the main point. it is rather sad to see the numerous self-professed Christians latch on to it. these individuals have simply misinterpreted the action of offering prayers and respect, ontologically relating the act to notions of idolatry. (perhaps telling of how (blindly) they worship?) in the process, they have missed out on a key point – that similar actions can stem from vastly differing intents, that offering joss sticks =/= idol worship. i am a Christian, and i have no issues whatsoever with offering incense, prayers and joss sticks to my deceased elders, because like you said, it is a simple but very symbolic act of respect to those who have gone on and not dumdumdum idol worship. their myopic and singular worldview is nauseating.

    faith is above all a nebulous concept, never static, forever changing and very fluid. do as your heart wills and god bless (:

  57. Hello :)

    I get where you’re coming from but as a Christian i do feel the need to say some things here. I do understand your stand that offering joss sticks to your deceased family members is a form of respect and filial piety. As a Christian who has family members that are Taoist, actively doing all of these rituals every Qing Ming, my Christian family and myself quietly and politely excuse ourselves from such activities. Why? It’s not that we don’t respect our deceased love ones. Quite the contrary, if not we wouldn’t even turn up in the first place. But it is because the rituals that are carried out have their origins stemmed in the Taoist and Buddist faith, and as Christians, we feel that we should not get involved in any other forms of religious activities of other religions. I agree, the act of offering joss sticks is not idol worship, it’s just that it has its roots in other forms of religions :)

    God bless :)

  58. Hey, thanks for this article! Great that you question all these things, because blindly following everything is not a good thing. Anyway, I can fully empathise with you as I once struggled with these issues too, and I’d like to share something which one of my church leaders told me:

    A lot of times, we are told we need to do stuff without knowing why (or worse still, we’re given the wrong reason). For stuff like what you referred to in your post, the reason is actually very simple, which 1 Corinthians 8 sums up very nicely:

    “1 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.[a]

    4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

    7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

    9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. 12 When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”

    See verses 8 and 9 — that’s the reason why we are encouraged not to take part in these practices. If you feel offering joss sticks is a form of respect to your elders, by all means, go ahead, because you’re right, under the new covenant (and not the old law) God doesn’t see that as a problem. The problem only arises if you stumble others, whether intentionally or not. And if you can avoid sinning, wouldn’t you want to do so? All the best girl, keep questioning everything (:

  59. Hi rictusempraa :)
    I believe that Christianity is more of having an intimate relationship with God and receiving his abundance of grace, rather than following the do’s and dont’s of the law.
    John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ
    Anytime you decide to go back to church again, there is one church that I would strongly recommend, which is New Creation Church. Give it a shot :)

    Have a blessed week ahead!

  60. You will find all your answers if you attend New Creation Church in singapore by Joseph Prince. His sermons answer to most of your questions and doubts.

  61. Would God, a supreme being, be so petty (or so free) to care about His people holding joss sticks or not? Surely he’s not so shallow and foolish (like some humans) to jump to conclusions merely by 1 simple action? Rather than blindly see it as a betrayal act to Christianity, why not see it as a gesture of basic respect and piety to a deceased family member.. which is also what Christianity encourages? Stop putting your own words or beliefs into His mouth! (Not a Christian but someone who respects God.)

  62. You have all the answers. You don’t have to go to church if you don’t want to. That doesn’t change your standing with God. I think the fundamentals of Christianity for myself lies in the very actions and focus in Jesus himself, everything else is secondary. I left New Creation Church a while ago, been there myself for 10 years. Went to various ministries and churches and different denominations and discovered Christ afresh for myself. I think that journey is necessary for some of us to grow in our faith. I discovered as well, that humans have a tendency to fall back into rituals and superstition even in Christianity. Is it because of the fact it’s comforting to the human psyche? Or perhaps it falls back to a familiar routine? Regardless, let’s not focus on the outward action, but the inward belief we have.

  63. Yup I think New Creation Church could be worth a few visits? I feel it’s one of those churches that really emphasizes a relationship with God and so far seems very God-centred? In fact you mentioned you have experienced the grace of God before and I think you should be able to find it again there?

    Anyways I think just like holding a bible does not make you a Christian, so holding a joss stick does not make you “demonic” or what not. In fact I think what is more important is what you truly believe, what are your true intentions behinds your actions etc. What are your purest intentions behind the wdv you are doing that is more impt? Some things are quite clear cut wrong like murder, rape. But I feel many others are muddled gray areas where it depends on the situation and context to discern what is right and wrong. Of course, it would be best if we allow God to have t wisdom to discern properly too heh~

    And I agree that it very sad when a church overemphasizes on so many rules and regulations instead of a God-centred focused. Well then again we all are still imperfect humans learning and fumbling through life~

    Thank God for his grace to guide us back whenever we fail~

  64. First of all, do you believe in the Bibical concept of heaven & hell? We get salvation through believing in Jesus Christ, not by good deeds to “buy” our way through heaven. If one goes to heaven, he/ she does not need any money, cars, house, ipads, food, etc. If one is not in heaven, no amount of joss sticks, joss paper, fancy paper products (from clothes to cars to massage chairs, etc) will help.
    During tomb sweeping, being the only Christian in the family, I provided the logistic – driving, preparing the necessary stuff for prayers. At the cemetery & columnbarium, I do not burn any joss stick or joss paper, but I tidy up the grave & tablets. I bow instead of kneel. I could offer flowers too.
    Be fillal & show love to parents when they are still ALIVE is more important.

    1. First of all as I’ve reiterated quite a few times, I don’t subscribe to the belief that burning incense or the likes does anything for the already deceased.

      As you’ve said, be filial and show love to parents when they are alive. This was the main reason why I did it although it was conceptually an empty act to me. It wasn’t so much an act of respect for the dead (since there are many other ways of showing respect, like you’ve pointed out), but as a sign of respect for my grandmother.

      Because I know by doing so gives her a peace of mind that her husband has been respected – I cannot and will not attempt to change her beliefs, even if I deem them superstitious or conflictual with mine. Everyone has the right to subscribe to what they believe in. And I believe first and foremost in respecting my grandma, insofar as it doesn’t have obvious repercussions to my faith (and it didn’t).

      Neither have I thought of “buying” my way into Heaven. You seem to be thinking about karma, where one does good for the sake of receiving good. While sometimes, yes of course my motives to doing good does stem from expectations of reciprocity (inevitable human nature), I try my best to do good out of love as God preaches, and this love is derived from the love I receive from God.

      So yes. A lot of Christians (gathering from the comments) are able to view God in a less dogmatic way, and they are focussed on God’s love than more arbitrary rules. That reassured me and I do wish more can be like them.

  65. A sincere, honest, non-conformist article.

    I have some questions to ask. Take them as you want – rhetorical and/or feeling you should give an answer. But please be as honest as you were when you wrote this article. If you doubt even 10% of that, then please, in case you want to reply, inform about it. But even if you doubt, search the reason of why these doubts.

    1. Is this article born of awareness and concern of what others think about you?

    2. Did you ever read the whole Bible? Not reading in a sense of a lecture but rather in a sense of understanding who is God, who are we and implications of both – Gods character and our individual character? And then compare these two concepts between them?

    3. When talking about matters of faith should we describe them JUST in terms of a cult, religion or any kind of system that people build and rely on? Is there a any comprehensive framework we can rely on in order talk about it and find the angles of what we think of?

    4. Do you think Christianity is a radical religion?

  66. Hi Erisa,

    I came across your post at The Real Singapore (not sure if you had consented to having it published there), and I emphatize with the tumultous journey of a 1st-generation Christian, for which I am one myself.

    I once read a comment on another post concerning joss sticks: “Hold 2 sticks for a few seconds can send you to hell meh!” And that certainly cleared my mind a lot, for my ultimate spiritual allegiance rests with Jesus C. and The Father, and nothing has changed.

    Though I too grapple with the joss stick issue, I need to be also watchful that by our actions of holding the joss stick, we do not stumble other people/relatives who had long held us as an example of Christianity, otherwise they will think in a lackadaisical manner that “it is all right to hold joss sticks anyway”. If such a scenario is likely to happen, I’ll not hold sticks to maintain my position.

    Another example found in the bible is that Christians can eat food offered to the gods, because food is after all food, and offering to the gods has no spiritual impact on the food. But if eating the food in front of others will caused them to stumble into thinking that “it’s all right to eat anyway” and they will continue to practice food offering in the future, it will be difficult in the future to bring them to your cause in Christianity if you tell them it is not right to practice food offering, and then they will bring up the past and ask you why you eat the food.

    Yet another example: I once advised a teen at church to go ahead with his mum to pray at Chinese temple on CNY day 1. He was kind of worried and concerned. I told him to send up all his prayers to the Lord for thanksgiving. It was certainly not an easy moment for me to imagine stepping in his shoes.

    So in incidents like these, we need to look a few steps ahead and figure out if our actions will keep the peace or stumble non-Christians, or left them angry etc. but it is the truth that we can do things otherwise with a clear conscience that we can find freedom in the Lord.

    This comment is getting long oredi. Allow me to strictly continue further with Christian references.

    Concerning the idea of joss sticks, we have to go back to the sacrificial rituals found in the Old Testament. It has been told to me that most Chinese praying customs evolved from OT Jewish rituals, which may be true to an extent. Why JC is called the “Lamb of God” is because the sacrifice of lamb offerings is foretelling the sinless one who will be ultimately sacrificed once and for all for mankind’s sins. Man just keeps falling short of perfection such that no number of lambs is enough to keep God happy. What is sacrifice? It is the idea of taking an object of value and offering it up in order to appease some sort of supposed greater power. And this has been repeated until today. When Paul entered Athens, he saw altars devoted to any number of gods, Greeks and non-Greeks. The Greeks even had an altar with the inscription, “TO AN UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23) to make sure they covered themselves well.

    Let me come to your statement, “I won’t give a solidified position of my religious beliefs now. I think beliefs evolve and grow, and should be allowed to – even if it is in the direction of non-belief (as many believers fear).” By referencing Acts 17:23, we can gather that most people have their own ideas of how God is like, perhaps to you Christianity is another one of many definitions. According to Bible, God is eternal (Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17), all-powerful (Jeremiah 32:17; Colossians 1:17), infinite in understanding (Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:28), perfectly holy like no other (Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel 2:2), the only God (Psalm 86:8–10), incapable of lying (Titus 1:2), Creator of the whole universe (Genesis 1:1; John 1:3), and Savior (Titus 2:13), so his set of characteristics is quite specific. From here on I say I don’t have the time and energy to make comparisons of gods in various religions. Up to you to make significant decisions knowing Him better and more specifically.

    Even more interesting is the idea that Man is born with the idea of God’s presence “locked in” his heart and intellect, which means even if a person does not directly acknowledge or identify with God, he can see evidence in the form of His creations, the natural world and the universe (Romans 1:19-20) so we are literally “without excuse”. The joke about atheists is despite them saying “I don’t believe in God”, they still mention Him.

    JC is the one unique element that separates Christianity from other religions, so in order to fully understand Christianity, one must study about The Son as fully as possible.

    Have you heard of Bible Study Fellowship? This is like an in-depth Bible study group with some pretty deep and detailed notes. The group operates more like a classroom than CG/DG. You can locate a class/schedule here: https://www.bsfinternational.org/locate-a-class1 or ask around.

    If you rather prefer to stay at home to study some Internet resources, you can try:

    1) http://guzik.biblecommenter.com

    2) http://www.ucg.org/good-news-magazine

    I hope this reply is not too bias, but I write this also for myself and thought I can use your post as case study heh. Thanks for reading.

  67. I recoil with a sense of horror, almost when I read you were given a holiness checklist. It feels as pointless as the web articles that proudly proclaim in their title, “Ten ways to know if you are cheating on your boyfriend!” Yes, you will know after they list them, but then, you already know in your heart if you do, because, well, you decided to.

    The point being, if God loves you, and you love God, then the basis of any action would be, “what would deepen and grow this relationship”, rather than “what can I get away with?” or even “if I do X, will God love me less or more?”, or even worse, “what will others think?”

    Hope that helps.

    Blessings,
    WS

    P.S. We fail, others fail, the Church fails, His Love never fails.

  68. Hi there! I suspect that I know what you might be going through and how you have come to certain conclusions. I hope that you do not read this comment in a tone that is trying to demean you, or in any way insinuate that your choice of position is wrong.

    Actually, what I would like to offer is an hour of my time to share what God has placed in my heart to speak with believers. I don’t say this in the manner of “I know better than you” or “I need to correct your thinking”, but rather that I believe I have a presentation of a revelation of Christ that will pleasantly surprise you and not disappoint or warp your route of faith. If you would allow me the chance to share with you.

    If you’d like to take up me offer, just drop me a sms/whatsapp at 97484395 (Joash Chee) and we can arrange for a time to meet. I would very much like to hear more about your thoughts too as they help crystalise in my mind why certain themes are constantly being highlighted in my mind, regarding fellow christians being uncomfortable with church (in how churches are commonly operating, these days… and I say this not as an accusation, but an observation that should require change from churches)

    Blessings!

  69. Love all the chat about religion and ideology. LOVE it!

    While I have much to say on the topic, I think it has been overdone and I for one agree with the writer.
    God is love and He judges the heart of men. not the mere actions and traditions.
    Jesus came as an revolutionary, counter- religion saviour…. hmmm
    Makes me wonder why so many people are still caught up with all the ‘acts’ and lose sight of the Heart of God.

    I believe your heart is right. But in the pursuit of God, We still cannot neglect the word and having like minded souls to walk along side you and spurring you on in your journey, If anything, I’d encourage the writer to continue with these ‘necessities’
    1) Read your bible
    2) find a community of faith, one that challenges ideas and notions of christianity and live ‘LOUD’ for their faith
    these are in line with what God has called us to do and there is sound reason for them.

    Your post has touched many people’s lives. You are one that walks the talk. :) Thank you!
    Christians need to start doing that; not simply hide behind desks and type but LIVE for their beliefs.
    Jia you in your spiritual journey gal!

  70. I grew up in Burma and had a Buddhist Mom and a Christian Dad. In Burma, there is a tradition in which a person, pays respect or homage to a person of higher standing (including Buddhist monks, elders, teachers and Buddha), by kneeling before them and paying obeisance with joined hands, and bowing. Once my mom converted Christianity, my family as a whole no longer observe this practice, mainly because the church frowns on an act which can be seen as worship of living idols.

    I thought it silly then and I think it silly now. And yet, so conditioned by our church dogma, we no longer take part in what is essentially a cultural practice. When I see other performing the same act, I feel terrible and wish that this act could still be carried out as a purely secular form of showing respect and love.

    To sum up, I appreciate what you wrote and am very glad to know that I was not alone in feeling this way. I do apologise on behalf of those who think that you are “wrong” and are trying, in what I feel is a fairly condescending manner (no doubt to them full of love and grace). to bring you into the light.

  71. Thank you for posting this. People will make things difficult for you but many will agree with you – your words resonate. It was brave of you to be so honest, especially in the small, small world that is our Singapore.

  72. People like you make up a really small minority in any church. similar to this comment section, is the people in the church. who can or mostly can’t relate to your perspectives or simply, can’t infer from your post at all; those whom are stuck forever in the same paradigm, that same approach, using it on every single individual, thinking it will go through to anyone and everyone. though many share the same views like you and even more rooted in, most of them do nothing about it, some simply leave and most, turn away from god. thank you for intriguing their minds and paradigms, i hope you go deeper and search further, rooting yourself on a sustainable ground, because a decline is apparent and hopefully near. A bold statement would be: that the church would cease to exist in the near future, similar to democracy, or any ideology that inevitable comes and goes.

    All in all, i hope you find the creator in all entirety, the love that is given to us and embrace the intrinsic ability to love!

  73. whoa you convinced me to date a christian who hold the same belief like you. <– anyone to introduce who hold similar adamant beliefs like you do?
    But these days its harder for someone who is not brainlessly following these "rules" by churches. resulting in staunched and stunned beliefs.
    KUDOS!!

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