2011年10月30日 星期日

True or false prophesy (Micah 3:5-12)

Unlike many Southeast Asian countries, there is no serious corruption in Hong Kong. Among 174 countries, Hong Kong is ranked 13 by International Transparency in 2010. This is something that we should be proud of and endeavour to maintain. Thus, Micah 3:5-12 is relatively alien from our experience, for ‘no judge would ask for bribe, no priest would ask for price and no prophet would ask for silver’ (3:11). If so, what is the meaning of the text for us? Apart from the issue of bribery, the peace prophets are condemned, for they proclaim God is with them, and evil would not come upon them (3:11). In fact, what the peace prophets have said is not completely wrong, because Micah speaks these words (3:5-12) probably around 711 or 701 BC, and Jerusalem continues as it is for another hundred years (the destruction of Jerusalem was in 587 BC). Ironically, Micah is the ‘false’ prophet, for his prophecy is never realized both in his life and his contemporaries. In modern word, Micah is a terrorist, for he creates public anxiety. However, what the experience of Micah tells us is a true prophesy is not just depended upon its fulfillment, but whether the content of the prophesy is about truth. In other words, it is not the fulfillment makes the prophesy true, but it is the truth that makes prophesy true.

In Micah prophesy, truth is more than to let what true and false as what they are, but also it is against any distortion of the upright (3:9-10). Politics is commonly understood as a matter of balance of power, and therefore, compromise is the norm in politics. In politics, it is procedural justice that matters, not truth. This is why it is lawful that Hong Kong does not have universal suffrage although we are mature enough. In the case of whether the overseas domestic helper has the right of abode in Hong Kong, the government has the right to appeal to the Court of Appeal, and even if it is lose, the government still has the right to request the National People’s Congress to interpret the Basic Law. We do not know what the final decision will be, but the right of abode of the overseas domestic workers is basically about equality more than a matter of the correct interpretation of law. We ask why the expatriates working as teachers, bankers and doctors have the right of abode, but not the overseas domestic workers. Is it job discrimination? I am aware of the possible consequence of the right of abode granted to the overseas domestic workers, but we law can violate truth.

Truth is to uncover the sacrifice and violence behind the prosperity and peace. Micah condemns ‘the one building Zion with blood and Jerusalem with perversity’ (3:10). The Gini-coefficient figure in Hong Kong is 0.53 in 2006 which means the great unequal distribution of wealth. In fact, we have more than a million people living in poverty even though the government refuses to make a poverty line. We are pleased that the minimum wage is applied to Hong Kong finally. However, this is not enough, for the economic injustice is found elsewhere. A recent case of 795阿信屋 has reflected the problem clearly. According to the report, 795阿信屋 sells a can of coke below the suggested price, but this irritates the Coke. As a result, the Coke decides not to supply its products to 795阿信屋. The report continues to say that the decision of the Coke is under the pressure from some big customers, for their income may be affected due to 795阿信屋. I do not know how true the report is, but there are a lot of similar cases. For instance, some providers are pressurized to reduce their price by some big customers. If they do not submit to the request, their products would not be placed in a good display. This is what they call上架費. What these big customers are doing is not for the benefits of the consumers, but rather they are big enough to control the market. Since law on the combat against monopoly in Hong Kong is still under discussion, both consumers and small businesses continue under economic violence. Economic sphere is not simply about the mechanism of demand and supply, but is under the power in what Hong Kong is called 地產霸權.

In 3:8, Micah says, ‘I am filled with power, with the spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.’ What is the voice and action of the church in all these issues? I am sorry to say that our message of eschatology is more inclined to either a form of escapism or a personal conversion, no address to injustice. Some of the churches may speak up against homosexuality and gambling, but they become silence to the issue of the right of abode of overseas domestic workers and economic injustice. Is the latter too political? Is the latter too complicated? Is the latter not the business of the church? Perhaps, it is not the church apolitical, but too political so that the church knows what to address and what not to address.

Today is the election of Christian representatives in the committee of the election of the chief executive of Hong Kong. Some consider that this is the opportunity for the church to practice social responsibility, but some consider that this is basically injustice, for Christians should not have extra privilege in this matter. I do not have an answer for you in this matter. Perhaps, this is the right time for the church to rethink its role in the light of Micah.

2011年10月24日 星期一


12月將有一個兩岸四地的生命教育研討會, 主題是後現代和全球化下的生命教育. 作為演講者之一, 不想講眾人可預期的內容. 幾經辛勞, 想了又想, 我終於定下題目為 '從邊陲視域做生命教育'.

邊陲不只是一個自然演變的趨勢, 更是一個在權力關係下形成的結果. 生命教育的出現與發展反映不同社會的遭遇和籌劃者的意識形態. 其中令人關注的, 生命教育是否已成為一種合理控制的方法和工具理性, 滿足社會對學生的期望和維護社會現狀. 本論文嘗試從邊陲視域, 運用後現代思維和參與全球化, 反思生命教育的前路.從邊陲視域做生命教育的特性是敍事性, 關係性和經驗性.

2011年10月23日 星期日

The greatest commandment

According to the practice at the time of Jesus, the Mosaic Law consisted of 365 negative commands and 248 positive for a total of 613 commands. These may be divided into three parts or sections, namely, the moral, the social, and the ceremonial. Roughly speaking, the moral law is the Ten Commandments that governs the moral life of the Israelites in relation to God and humans (Ex 20: 1-17). The social law governs the social, political and economic life of Israel (Ex 21:1-23:13). Finally, the ceremonial law guides and provides for Israel in her worship, sacrifices and rituals (Ex 25-31; Lev.) At that time there is an ongoing debate on the issue of which commandment in the law is the greatest. Some would consider one particular law of the ceremonial law, and the other would say one particular law of the social law. This debate is not just an intellectual exchange, but rather this develops different camps, and they were antagonistic with one another. This is something like the conflict between Pharisees and Sadducees. This is why the author uses the word ‘test’ to describe the question of a lawyer to Jesus. It is a test, because he wants to trap Jesus into the existing conflict, and discredits Jesus’ status. Jesus knows the trap very well, for this is not new to him. No matter what the intention of the questioner is, Jesus provides an answer in order to help them to know the nature of the law. Jesus said,

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

These two commandments are not just a result of weighting, but are the hangers of all the laws. In other words, every law has to subject to these two commandments. These two commandments not only give shape to all other laws, but also demand the one to do the commandments in love. These two commandments seem very natural to us, but the religious leaders at that time are covered by their prejudice, and as a result, they endeavour to define what love for God and love for humans are, and fail to let love flow.

The first feature of these two commandments is not a kind of prescription with great details, but rather they provide us a fundamental value in which we have to think what they are concretely meant in our context. For instance, some would consider the practice of tithing is the Christian response to the first commandment, but we have to ask whether we are doing in the spirit of love of God. Likewise, are those who would not be able to tithe that they do not love God? Love of God is always an existential question more than a matter of obeying law. Another example is that some would consider many current Christian senior officers of the government do not love God, for what they are doing is not in compliance with ‘to do justice, have mercy and walk humbly with God.’ We have to ask why justice is reduced to a particular form, and why there is only one form of expression of the love of God. I would say that we can and have to criticize the failures of the government, but we have to reflect deeply whether we also abuse the name of God in our criticism. The first commandment invites us to think and repent, not to argue for one particular form of expression of the commandment. We may have some good examples showing what love for God is, but love for God is more than a list of dos. We have to be careful of falling back into the debate of the Pharisees at the time of Jesus.

The second feature of these two commandments is the distinction between love for God and love for humans. On the one hand, it is absolutely right that we can’t say that we love God without showing the love to neighbor. Christians largely would not have problem with it. On the other hand, the love for neighbor is not equivalent to the love for God. Besides, love for God is the prior. First, it is true that there are a lot of good people (Christians and non-Christians) who do good thing and are nice, but this is not the same as love for God, for love for God is a personal relation rather than an ideology. Second, the priority of love for God should not be understood as against humans, because the love of God revealed in Jesus’ life has reflected that he died for us. In fact, the priority of love for God is fully reflected in Matthew’s work. For instance, we are told to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness first (6:33); we can be Jesus’ disciples only if we love him more than our parents and children (10:32).

The question of what the greatest commandment is is the concern of the religious leaders at the time of Jesus. Perhaps, similar question would also be raised in different walks of our life. For instance, what is the greatest commandment in a business? What is the greatest commandment in education? What is the greatest commandment in family? What is the greatest commandment in shopping? Do you think that the commandment of love for God and humans make sense of it? I do not have an answer for you, but you have to respond.