Contagious crackpottery

I know I’ve been quiet for a while. I’ve been incubating big news. I wasn’t even intending on posting anything today, but this just came to my attention, and wow, I had to say something about it. Because I’m legitimately scared.

So, this actually happened in Singapore.

It’s from a sermon called The Ultimate Deception, preached by Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church, more famously affiliated with the anti-gay ‘Wear White’ movement. In its entirety, the thing can be found here. Although I wouldn’t recommend it.

Disclaimer: I am in no way anti-religious or anti-Christian, and in writing this, I seek to offer not a criticism of Christianity but rather to question one man’s interpretation and practice of it under that name. While Mr Khong has full freedom under the laws of Singapore to practice whatever religion he likes and preach whatever religion people will pay him to, I question whether his teachings are at their heart any sort of Christianity at all. He claims that his sermon is an extension of the Gospel, but my olfactory sensors are detecting a very familiar whiff of bovine excrement.
So, in short, while I thoroughly endorse Mr Khong’s right to practice whatever religion he likes (he may even one day choose to practice the one he preaches), I’m critical of his inclusion of teachings, purported to be Christian, which are clearly founded in conspiracy theory and moral-hysteria campaigns.

First: points of contention, sourced and attributed
I’m going to be listing his points of argument, and then linking them to several articles I think that everyone encountering this could read. If you’re up-to-date on your crackpot conspiracy theory, you might be able to give them a miss, but otherwise, interesting reading otherwise. You may notice some parentheses indicating “protocols”; more on that later.

This first part is going to be messy. I’m basically taking points in the order in which he mentions them. It’s tough going but I promise parts Second, Third, and Fourth will be easier.

  • the New World Order (Protocol #11)
    • which the American-evangelical-trained pastor claims not to be America or Europe (because of course not), but nominates “Russia”, or “even China” — while at the same time claiming that nobody could predict which world power would be responsible for the NWO
      • I can’t believe Cold War hysteria is being preached from the pulpit in 21st century Singapore
  • the Red Scare (Protocol #3: “we support communism”)
    • blames “Cultural Marxism” for everything, because it will destroy the Western world. Why the West is so pivotal to God’s plan is never explained.
      • putting a fresh twist on the tired old “cleric of a Middle Eastern religion promoting Caucasian supremacy” model by being an Asian doing it in Southeast Asia
      • I’m quite glad that he doesn’t misrepresent his erudition on this matter, claiming that he’s done “some research” and “a little reading”. Caveat auditor if I’ve ever heard it, folks.
  • finance is a lie! (Protocol #6: “… establish… reservoirs of colossal riches, upon which… large fortunes… will depend to such an extent that they will go to the bottom together with the credit of the States on the day after the political smash …” and Protocol #21: “loans and credit”)
    • because anything I don’t understand is bad!
    • I’m just waiting for the point when he calls for a return to the gold standard before checking off all the “Amerocentric conspiracy theory crackpot” items on our list
  • the Mark of the Beast is an extension of oppressive government policy” theory (Protocol #15: “The principal guarantee of stability of rule is… the aureole of power… as shall carry on its face the emblems of inviolability… from the choice of God“)
    • although here he rails against not implantable RFID chips, but rather, ‘socialism’, as the Mark of the Beast without which one cannot transact stuff. Huh. So… is this an abstract kind of mark, or just an easily-erasable one?

      Not as catchy as '666', but obviously that's because I'm not an expert on spiritual warfare

      Not as catchy as ‘666’, but obviously that’s because I’m not an expert on spiritual warfare

  • equivocates opposition to capitalism with opposition to “Judo-Christianity (sic)”, and implies that this is the same thing as evil
    • toppling Judo-Christianity ain’t gonna work, I hear Jesus has a wicked ne-waza game
  • refers to a book in which certain methods are set down purporting to be a handbook to overthrowing the West
    • I’m disappointing that Khong’s erudition fails him at this point and he doesn’t recognise the nth iteration of the Protocols of the Elders of Zionexcept flipped-turn upside-down in a refreshing display of creativity
      • for everyone who’s not as big an Eco fan as I am, the Protocols (linked here, for your reference) are an oft-fabricated pseudohistorical document used as part of a larger false-flag operation intended to discredit a particular group. Want to eradicate Group X? Draft an odious manifesto and attribute it to them. Medieval Facebook-hacking Timeline-spamming, basically.
      • you may notice that some of his points I have labelled (Protocol #). I invite you to refer to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and compare Khong’s claims to the methods attributed to the shadowy cabal
  • homophobia, sexual irrectitude, moral decay! (Protocol #5: “To multiply…passions… that it will be impossible for anyone to know where he is in the resulting chaos“)
  • disillusionment with religion is a sign of the end times! (Protocol #4; #14)
  • weakening of family values is a sign of the end times! (from Protocols: “we shall destroy… the importance of the family“)

In the uncropped sermon, he also makes oblique reference to Gnostic mythology, including framing the Devil as a demiurge (of course, he never uses the actual terminology, probably ignorant either of its existence or, more likely, its pronunciation) “the second heaven that he (presumably, the Devil) operates on”. Which demonstrates more literacy than I’d been previously willing to accord Khong, surprisingly.

Second: let me break it down for you
So… basically, Khong indiscriminately tosses into the cauldron

  • American exceptionalism,
  • Evangelical conspiracy theory,
  • Cold War scares, and
  • 19th century anti-Semitic false-flag fanfiction,

in order to distil from this thick and glutinous mash a sort of eau de la folie, the pestilent vapours of which he waves under the noses of his audience, and exhorts them to lap up his Kool-Aid. By doing so, he hopes to invoke:

  1. moral hysteria and panic
  2. self-righteousness and indignation
  3. a well-meaning but ill-informed determination to fight evil and reform society, via
  4. vehement social activism, and presumably
  5. a loosening of purse-strings.

Third: commentary, criticism
This scares me for several reasons. I mean, the scare-mongering itself is hardly new, and, while a cause for concern, not intrinsically frightening. Pandering to the base passions of the mob are a tried-and-tested way to achieve influence and relevance, and you don’t get much baser passions than fear and tribalism.

I’m scared because he has a platform. I’m scared because he has an audience. I’m scared because his teachings, as long as they are styled ‘religious’ in nature, can easily slip beneath the notice of others.

What’s really scary is how so many of his teachings tie-in with a conservative right-wing American political message, which appears to be gaining traction in Singapore due to its built-in appeal to moral panic, fear of change, and intolerance. I’m particularly concerned about the extent to which this message imports and imbibes parochial American concerns and seeks to import them wholesale into a different cultural context.

I’m reminded of stuff like how, when the controversial Jesus Camp was conducted in Singapore, children were exhorted to pray that God would “use the children of America to change the United States” (paraphrase mine), which is a very odd thing to ask Singaporean children to pray for specifically.

I don’t want to go all Samuel Huntingdon on everyone, but it looks like neo-fundamentalism of all stripes (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, even Buddhist) is shaping up to be one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. Perhaps this is a wide-scale backlash against globalisation, or something; conservative communities reacting against liberalisation and civil rights, perhaps.

Singapore, in its incipiently-volatile state, needs an injection of foreign parochialism and conspiracy theory like a Korean on a 72-hour Starcraft bender needs another can of Red Bull. Dominionism (the belief that all forms of authority must be under Christian control) is bad enough as part of the American political landscape, but it’s becoming part of the local colour here as well. City Harvest Church’s happily ill-fated Crossover Project and Mr Khong’s peculiar magic shows are all attempts in this vein to “reclaim” for Christianity parts of secular society.

just as the razor reclaims the recesses of the armpit from the harrowing of hoary hirsuteness

Four: What’s to be done?

It’s a tough question to answer, especially for another Christian. I don’t deny the Great Commission: I do believe that Christians are called to bring to others the Good News. Though there must be a better way of doing it than taking over the radio and turning every station into Pastor Dour’s Power Hour, or chanting about CHINAWINECHINAWINECHINAWINE. Or branding yourself a crusader for family values and railing exclusively against homosexuality, while neglecting that it’s in fact easier to get an abortion in Singapore than in many places in “the progressive West”, or in fact neglecting how stagnating wages and some of the most punishing work hours in the world represent a much greater threat to family cohesion than homosexuality ever could.

The Good News seems to me to consist of a varied and complex moral message that requires one to take the entirety of both revealed scripture and thousands of years of philosophy and apply all that to everyday living in a manner that cleaves to first principles.

Christ laid down those principles when asked which the greatest commandment was, responding not only “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”, but also “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

And all the while we struggle with this we ought to also struggle against people who interpret this message on our behalf, especially if they appear to be doing so in a manner inconsistent with Christlike attitudes but consistent with their own personal prejudices, keeping in mind  the admonitions against false prophets, and also the words of 1 John 4:20: “ If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?”

For it is said of false prophets that by their fruit you shall know them. How does it come to be that a Gospel of love becomes an instrument of fear and hatred? The embolism after the Lord’s prayer reminds us to pray for protection from anxiety; how does fear-mongering at the pulpit serve this goal?

The Good News ought to consist of more than “God hates fags” or Mr Khong’s acid-flashback to Red Dawn. I suppose it’s unforgivably bourgeois of me to insist that evangelism should be tasteful, consistent, and erudite. It’s a failing, I’ll admit.

Not as big a failing as this, though.


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