Some mega churches affect students adversely
"I READ with deep interest the article, 'Drawing the line between Caesar and God' (ST, Aug 2). The objection of one of the large independent churches in Singapore to complying with provisions in the draft code of governance for charities would logically provoke concern about its financial transparency. This is especially so as these are 'rich' churches, judging by their well-equipped premises and set-up. These circumstances bring to light another concern. Some of these 'mega churches' have relentless recruitment activities in many schools and junior colleges. My friends and I have loved ones whose lives and attitude have changed after they joined these churches. They lose interest in schoolwork to the point of academic failure. Family time is curtailed drastically, and they stop attending family functions. Parental objections are ignored, family squabbles ensue and family harmony is disrupted. It's heartbreaking. It is like we have lost our children. I write this not to impugn any religion, but to warn against the abuse of religion. Having had such traumatic experiences, I cannot remain silent. I hope this letter will serve as a warning to parents regarding such youth activities that may destroy their personal lives and family harmony."
Dr Lee Bee Wah
I found this on pubed's blog. Thank God for ping.sg, really. I couldn't care less last time, and now I can actually feel disconnected from the world if I don't get to read the ping.sg feed.
NOW, let me be clear that I mean Dr Lee no personal disdain or... snubbery, or whatever the word may be. I understand how she (I'm assuming she's a she, I'm terribly sorry if she's a he) feels from an, for lack of a better word, outsiders' perspective, and will be discussing the issues she has raised. However, I must also raise the flag that the tone of the letter, while not angry or fiery in any way, can very easily evoke emotions and specifically fear. My concern is that this would in turn lead to parents unreasonably restricting their children from freedom of religion. This problem is already unsettlingly prevalent in Singapore, and doesn't need to be worsened any further. Since Dr Lee is well aware of the fact that such a letter could raise discontent, she should check and re-check her letter to be very very sure that it has minimal or no possibility of invoking unexpected repercussions such as these. I believe that that's the least any intellectual Singaporean should do, given our unique stance on multicultural coexistence.
Now, on to the issues she raised. The following answers apply to all parents going through the same problem, so don't think that I'm directing my words at her person alone.
The "large independent church" who objected to "complying with provisions in the draft code of governance for charities" is my church by the way, New Creation. No harm in saying this since it was published in the papers anyway, and our church even said their little piece at service the next day. I, quite obviously, agree with my church, but well I'm no financial analyst nor law maker, so I shall refrain from commenting on that.
Some of these 'mega churches' have relentless recruitment activities in many schools and junior colleges.
I'm appalled at this. But only if they go to secular institutions. If you complain that a church goes to Saint Something School to "recruit", I lose hope in all philosophical doctors. But secular institutions, I cannot agree. I have always believed that religion and religious institutions of ANY SORT are there for people to go to them to seek solace and refuge. They don't have to come to you and smile and take you by the hand to drag you to their place. As far as I know I'm not aware of New Creation doing this. Probably good, because if they did and I knew they did I would probably be biased towards them.
My friends and I have loved ones whose lives and attitude have changed after they joined these churches. They lose interest in schoolwork to the point of academic failure. Family time is curtailed drastically, and they stop attending family functions. Parental objections are ignored, family squabbles ensue and family harmony is disrupted. It's heartbreaking. It is like we have lost our children.
This is disheartening. Really sad. Church is supposed to instill family love and, well, good values, right? Although I wonder exactly how much of this result is the kid's fault, how much the church's fault, and to what extent the church influenced the child wrongly.
The problems as described above may be the kids' over-enthusiasm for church. A good majority of church members feel the desire to serve after being in a church for some time, myself included. So I know from personal experience that depending on the ministry you choose to be in, a huge amount of time can be spent at church. For these kids, they are just getting their priorities wrong, just like going out too much with other friends or spending too much time on the computer (bordering on guilty here) or gaming consoles.
To affect academics however, I don't quite get. Firstly, they should know, and it is the parents' job first and foremost to establish this, that their education is of utmost importance. Two, God didn't bring them to church to abandon studies, he brought them back to glorify Him by speaking of His grace and mercy in their studies. Do what you KNOW in your heart is your rightful part, and let God do His rightful part. Studies, career, relationships, health. It applies everywhere. And if any church ever has the audacity to say "Screw studies, love God", that church should be taught a hard lesson in Jesus' name. God can quench your thirst by making a well appear next to you, supernaturally drawing the bucket and tipping the water into your mouth, but if you don't swallow the water, you'll still die of thirst anyway. Just maybe with a cleaner face from all the water that ran over it.
Same with family. Kids old enough to participate in church activities should be old enough to know their priorities and limits, and if they don't they should be taught so by their parents pronto. In fact, churches should also stress this fact. My ministry leader is quick to dismiss us with her full blessing if we have academic or family-related matters to attend to. And that's the way it should be. If you have tried every form of talking to your child about how you feel with his over-involvement in church (that includes talking to him nicely and patiently, by the way), and he or she is still resistant, then well you just did not teach your child correctly. That is not to say you have failed as a parent. You simply made a mistake, as all humans do. In fact, I go so far as to say it simply slipped your mind. Being a parent involves educating your child about the million and one ways of the world, and thank God if you remembered to teach him everything, but it's only natural if you happened to miss a few here and there. Here's a suggestion. It's not 100% morally right, but do some espionage and find out your child's leader at church, any leader, and alert the leader to this problem that you have. If the leader says it's none of my business, at least have the faith that God will either change the leader or bring your child to another church where it matters to leaders what happens to their sheep out of church, and not just in church.
My friends, if you know any peers going through the same problems as Dr Lee, or if you know that you are in any position to reach these troubled parents, I hope what I have taken the pains to write will help them or you in some way. And if you are the child of this situation, look into your heart. Look straight to the Holy Spirit and question the heck out of Him. He loves you and He will not smite you with cancer or acne just because you have a few questions. Ask ask and ask Him where your place in His kingdom is, and make very sure you are at peace where you are. I don't care how deeply rooted you are in your church and it's activities. If you KNOW right at the bottom of your heart and deep in your mind that you are not comfortable where you are, get out. Uproot yourself and get out of there. Ask God to lead you to where you belong, where you will be guided and nurtured to rise as one of the many bright stars of God's kingdom, and shine for Him. Church is not about going where your friends are. Church is not even following your parents blindly. Church is the incubator where you are kept blazing and on fire, week after week, for God. And where you are ultimately destined to be in this world is between you and God alone. No one else can interfere. Not the devil, not family, not church. And no one else should.