With over two billion followers, Christianity is the largest religious group in the world. Closer to home, 18.3 per cent of Singaporeans are Christian. That’s nearly 221,000 people.
Visit various Singapore Churches on any given Sunday and you’ll be astounded by the variety of religious expressions taking place. You’ll find for example, members of one Church belting out devotional songs to pop tunes accompanied by a live band. Meanwhile, at another church a more solemn, ritual-based ceremony seems to take place- led by a stately priest in dignified robes.
What’s the difference? Don’t they follow the same religion?
Likewise, you might find yourself wondering why one Christian friend keeps inviting you to church but another never does. How is it that one Christian from another can have a very different view regarding the same religious belief system?
There are five main sects, or branches, within Christianity: Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant. While all of them follow the same holy book-The Bible, the interpretations of the text and how they structure their religious life and worship does vary.
Even within each sect, there’s a wide variety of how Christians go about their lives. How diverse! But with diversity, it’s only natural for those on the outside to feel a little confused: So, what’s Christianity, really?
Over time, the questions compound in our heads when Christians make headlines around the world every now and then. Some you may be familiar with; when the Pope delivers a speech or makes a papal trip to another country. Overseas, a Christian group throws its support behind a political candidate, but Christians of another sect strongly opposes.
Huh, what? Shouldn’t they all believe and support the same thing or at least, share similar viewpoints?
ASK ME ANYTHING- A SAFE OPEN SPACE, NO QUESTIONS ARE TOO OFFENSIVE
These are all very valid questions, and that’s what the Ask Me Anything session is for – to have them answered.
It’s a safe open space out of the public eye, so participants can feel free to ask the questions they were afraid to ask even their close friends out of respect or out of fear of offending them.
The scope of the questions is not defined to any single area.
It could be theological in nature: What is the difference between the Old Testament and the New? What is the Christian view of death and the afterlife? How do you explain the Holy Trinity? Is the Bible the literal word of God, or divinely inspired and written by someone else? Who decides what the Bible means?
Questions could be observations based: Why does your Catholic friend avoid meat and seafood on certain days? Why go to church on Sundays and not Saturday for example? How come some Sunday services are so extravagant and others more conservative?
Some even personal: If only Christians can go to heaven, will I end up in hell? Is that true? Is that why my Christian friend is trying to convert me? Does he think I am a sinner?
Or they can be political: What comes first, God or Singapore? If God, then how does a Christian Singaporean navigate his or her faith and loyalty to Singapore? How to manage one’s faith while negotiating public spaces in a secular country like Singapore?
I HAVE QUESTIONS – WHERE DO I SIGN UP?
The session is scheduled for the 3rd of March 2018 and is divided into two parts. In one part, there will be a Christian Priest to address your queries. The other part will be small group discussions, facilitated by a professional.
Don’t worry if your questions seem offensive, just be polite and ask away!
The whole point of the Ask Me Anything open-dialogues is to have our deepest queries answered, honestly. In fact, one of the facilitators from an earlier session this year said that he tried his “best to provoke participants” so that they open up with their honest questions.
It’s “what makes us agitated” that hint at the deeper concerns people may have but are too cautious to ask in public, the facilitator added. Chatham house rules apply. That is, no one can quote you outside the room without your express permission.
Open conversations that unearth- and address- uncomfortable questions is what bring us closer together as a community. Even better when such questions are addressed to someone who actually knows what he or she is talking about- like a Christian pastor in this case.