Friday, June 29, 2012
Megachurches rise because meritocracies are inadequate.
I don't want to talk about City Harvest or Kong Hee. The law would take care of him if he is found guilty.
Instead, I want to share some ideas about religious organizations and Singapore society.
a) A religion is a great complement to a meritocracy !
Religions are great institutions in a meritocracy.
Worshippers tithe part of their income, in effect, raising their own taxes. In return, disadvantaged fellows get some help and everyone gets to participate in activities which improve their well-being.
A megachurch, in effect, becomes a microcosm for self-selected citizens to choose a Socialist lifestyle without interfering in politics. In badly-run regimes, religions may be even more well organized than the government, so it's actually more worthwhile to support religion than the state. Case in point, you don't see a lot of megachurches flourish in socialist Europe, especially in Germany where Christians actually pay religious taxes.
b) It's not about the Gospel of Prosperity. It's about coping with failure, inadequacy and mediocrity.
If you accept this point, megachurch go-ers probably do not go to their church to be rich. They go there for fellowship, trading their financial currency for spiritual currency and well-being. Meritocracies are harsh, failures are attributed to the individual. In meritocracies, people need to come together to build socialist bubbles to not lose their sanity.
People convert because they are vulnerable and hurt. The family and state refuses to spend resources to provide any form of consolation. People generally don't intellectualize themselves to pick up a faith, you're either born to it, or suffered so much you turn to them for help.
Besides, it does'nt make sense for money-mad people to give up their salaries just because someone says so. And having written three books with the word Prosperity in it, I have yet to encounter a single worshipper. It can't be just about money.
Now if you agree with me, there may be consequence for all of us here in Singapore.
First, there will always be groups like our megachurches in Singapore while we make our beds with meritocracy, pragmatism and capitalism. CHC is only a hint of more to come. Hundreds more "entrepastors" will be waiting for their turn. Some will preach Christianity, others will appeal to the Buddhists, many will go MLM or Internet Marketing.
Second, this socialist bubble is vital to keep status quo for strong right winged governments.
We can do well if we take three steps :
- Governance function for an organization must consist only of people of different faiths. This ensures that entity cannot trade spiritual currency with the people who do the governance. It also leverages on our multi-religious society. Churches should be scrutinized by Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims. Temples should be audited by Christians. Mutual respect with prudent governance.
- Forbid religious bodies from taking on donations from anyone below 21. Faith is no child's play. Forbidding donations will cause religious leaders from preying on young impressionable minds.
- Do not allow a church or following to exceed 10,000 in size. This is pragmatic, by keeping organizations small, we will prevent a situation where organizations use political force to swing opinion. WE got luck CHC has only a Cultural Mandate. One day, an organization will grow a Political Mandate instead.