13 June 2008

Growing Up - Religion, The Introduction

Sorry, folks... been busy lately doing someone else's job... but that's life.

In my previous post some time ago, I mentioned that I'll talk more about growing up in Singapore or should I say, MY growing up in Singapore. (Noticed how egoistic am I? :p)

Anyway, as I was on my way home just now, thoughts about my religion, or rather, my journey into discovering religion came into my mind. So, I will blog about it here.

I was born into a typical Chinese family and religious inclination is a mixture of Taoism and Buddhism... just like any typical Chinese family in Singapore. I had no idea what is Taoism or Buddhism. I just followed what my parents, and grandparents, did. We worship the Goddess of Mercy (which is in line of Buddhism), Tian Gong, Guan Gong, Tu Di Gong and our ancestors (the latter are more in line with Taoism). Nevermind if you do not know these deities but just to let you have a brief introduction to the polytheistic nature of traditional Chinese faith in contrast to the monotheistic nature of other religion such as Christianity.

Like I said before, I merely followed what my elders did and went through the religious rites without knowing what we were actually doing. It was until about the age of 10 when I started to be more explorative and involved in understanding religion and it was actually Christianity where I started off.

It all started when I would "sneak" into the church right beside the HDB flat where I used to stay. Theplayground in the church compound is particularly attractive :p. Furthermore, churches are typically peaceful. Occasionally, I would attempt to go as far as into the building itself and sit in the Sanctuary (where mass service is held) and contemplate. It was on one such incident when Pastor Yap caught sight of me and extended his invitation to the Saturday children session with promises of singing, games, story-telling and friends. The songs, games, stories and friends certainly appealed to me and before long, I attended the Saturday sessions regularly.

It was obvious that all the songs and stories were related to the Christian faith and it was through those where I started to understand Christianity more. Before long, I was baptized through prayer and the Saturday service was no longer just about fun. Don't be mistaken - the singing, story-telling etc still went on but I went to church for reasons more than just fun. I was slowly discovering another aspect of myself, i.e. my perceptions towards the world beyond mortal affairs. Furthermore, I discovered certain potential in me when I was occasionally tasked as the song/prayer leader and even a team leader once, during a church camp. Well, actually it wasn't something great as other kids did get their chance but my point is we were given opportunities to take lead at one time or another. From the bible, parables and sermons, I begin to see more into the adult world... the real world.

However, my going to the church wasn't warmly received in my family. My dad was openly skeptical about Christianity with me. My mom was skeptical too but she's more reserved on her opinion. In any case, my parents had never forbid or restrict me from going to church.

On one occasion, I got an earful from dad when I say grace at the dinner table, thanking God for providing food for us. My dad had a poor grasp of English but he certainly knew what I said. "What did Jesus do to provide food for you?!?! I worked so hard to feed the family and you thanked Jesus instead of me, your father!" Well, both my parents were workers with little education and they certainly worked very hard to feed this family of six. I can understand his unhappiness. Since then, I made my prayer in my heart. If I'm still a Christian now and if my dad is still around, having dinner with us, perhaps I'll amend my prayers to "Thank you Lord, for giving us a father who worked so hard to feed us, and for giving us a mother who can cook so well (my mom can really cook)". But my dad is no longer around and I'm not a Christian now - I'm what they call a Backslider.

There are several reasons why I backslided. The initial reason was that when I went into secondary school, the ECA took its toll on me. Saturday was full day ECA for me, not the typical half day. That left Sunday for me to attend church but Sunday is the only day when I have full day for my family. Following my missing church, a few upsetting incident happened with the members of that church which made me lose faith. One of it was that a couple of the church members went to my home, supposedly to enquire why I missed church. I was in school for my ECA, as usual, and my mom attended to them. My mom didn't know that I seldom attend church service then and explained that she didn't stop me from going.

Sensing that they were unable to get anymore answers from her, they turned their attention to the deities and ancestor tablet place on the altar and remarked that my mom was worshiping idols (in Mandarin, the word is rock). THAT upsetted my mom and she retorted that she respected their rights to they religion and respected her son's choice in religion and told them not to make such insulting remark on her choice of religion. If we had knew about the Seditions Act then, those two fellas could have ended up in jail. My mom didn't tell me about that encounter immediately then when I returned from school... still respecting my choice. There were other incidents with some Christians, personally experienced by myself and finally made me gave up Christianity totally.

Before anyone say I am against Christianity and attempting to spread not-so-nice messages, let me add that another person (Lay Hoon's the name) who got baptized with me, had a totally different experience. Her life had certainly changed for the better. She had certainly found hope in Christianity (and I have no idea how is she doing now since I stopped going to church). My experiences with some were not pleasant but that was mine experiences. I was almost against Christianity at one point of my life. Thank goodness, a sound minded Christian friend once told me, man can fail you because it is human to err but God will not - do not judge a religion base on the actions of man. With those words, I'm managed to keep an open mind about Christianity and any other religion.

If there's a church nearby with its doors wide open, perhaps I'll sneak into Sanctuary and contemplate once more. :p