2012年2月20日 星期一

Identity and Sabbath (Mk 2;23-29)

Circumcision and Sabbath are the two most obvious features of Jewish identity. This is particularly important when Jewish nation no longer exists at the time of Jesus. This explains why the Pharisees take Sabbath very serious. Violation of Sabbath is not just simply disobedience to law, but an act of de-Jewish identity. We as the people of Hong Kong have the similar experience as Jews. In mid 1980s, Deng Xiaopeng affimred the people of Hong Kong of that after 1997, both dancing and racing would be kept on (馬照跑,舞照跳). The issue is not whether both dancing and racing are good to be kept, but they aymbolize the identity of being Hongkongese, that is, one country two systems. Therefore, any attempt to denounce it is an act of de-Hong Kong identity. In this context, Jesus’ violation of Sabbath is not just an argument of how Sabbath is righly interpreted, but how Jewish identity is understood. If so, what is Jewish identity?

In this passage, Jesus considers that first, the Jewish identity is not primarily about Jewish, but about being considerate. Jesus uses the story of David to argue that being considerate is more important than observing the law, and respecting the law has to subject to the love of people. In other words, Jewish identity is formed by its hospitality and gracious to the need more than meeting the requirements of the rituals. This is hardly to be appreciated, for at that time, the Pharisees are used to define identity by boundary, such as, Jews and gentiles. As a result, Jewish identity becomes a kind of chauvinism. Jesus here is not against the Jewish identity, but attempts to expand the meaning of Jewish identity from the political consideration to the concern of the need of the people.

Second, the Jewish identity lies on the relationship between God and Jews, not between Sabbath and Jews. It is God who makes the covenant with the Jewish community, and makes them become the people of God. The covenant with God is expressed in Torah, but the Torah is not God himself. Torah is a symbol pointing to and even participating into God’s covenant with the Jewish community, but it is not the one who makes the covenant. The failure of the Pharisees is not their unfaithful to Torah, but rather they turn the finite into infinite, the law into God himself. Jesus’ saying of that ‘the son of man is the lord of the Sabbath’ is not about his own authority, for this is against the concept of hidden Messiah in Mark’s Gospel, but is a reminder to them what their identity lies on.

In Jesus’ eye, Jewish identity is more than an ethnic issue. Rather it is derived from the belief in God who is the God of Jews and gentiles, the God of law and gospel. Jesus challenges the over-riding of Jewish national identity against their religious identity represented by love and inclusion. Can such a religious identity be integrated with the national identity in real life? When I studied in Denmark in 1986, I had heard a story about the Danes in solidarity with the Jewish community during the occupation of Hitler. The Jews in Denmark were requested to wear a yellow ribbon in their arms in order to be differentiated from the Danes. Surprisingly, the king of Denmark appealed to his people to wear a yellow ribbon also. The Danes took the King’s appeal positively at the risk of their lives, for their act would be considered as against Hitler. However, I have to tell you that this is not a true story. It is not found in history, but it is the myth that the Danes believe, that is, a sense of solidarity with people who are in danger. The myth is more powerful than the fact, for the values and ideal reflected in the myth shapes our lives. In the case of the Danes, the Danes is not just a national identity, but also their inclusiveness and solidarity.

Recently, we the people of Hong Kong are in a crisis of identity. Many people from China mainland come to Hong Kong to give birth in order to get Hong Kong residency, and this threatens both their lives and our medical system. Drivers of China mainland may be allowed to drive in Hong Kong for leisure, and this may affect both our road safety and air quality. Our shops and shopping malls have been converted to serve the people from mainland China, and the people of Hong Kong are marginalized from the city life. Since the Hong Kong economy is more dependent upon China mainland and Hong Kong has gradually lost all its advantages, all these make us lose our confidence and feel unsecure. The Hong Kong identity is getting diluted and unclear. In order to maintain our identity, some discriminate people from China mainland, project them as uncivilized and even condemn them as 蝗虫.

We are reminded by Jesus that the Hong Kong identity is not preserved by discrimination and exclusion. Rather our identity is maintained by our commitment to inclusion, hospitality and respect. We lose our identity, not because there are more people coming from China mainland, but because we are becoming more excusive, mean and arrogant. This does not mean that we should allow the Chinese pregnant women abusing the Hong Kong medical system, for instance. We should do what we can in law and in act to prevent the abuse, but not discrimination. We Christian should not allow our Hongkong identity over-riding our Christian identity. These two identities are not in opposition to one another, but they are not necessarily equivalence. We are remind that we are called to the ministry of reconciliation. Where there is hatred, we sow love. Where there is conflict, we sow peace. Where there is distrust, we sow hope.

2012年2月16日 星期四

Religion in China

Just finish a paper on religion in China. This is my first time to write something on Buddhism, and I learn a lot from it.

Topic: Religion in China as Political Religion, Apolitical Religion and/or Religious Politics: A Case Study of Humanistic Buddhism

Abstract: Unlike the engaged Buddhism in south and southeast Asia, the development of Buddhism in China and Chinese speaking societies has a different face. Socially engaged Buddhism in China and Chinese speaking societies is called humanistic Buddhism under the influence of Master Taixu and Yinshun. In short, it is involved in programs of poverty alleviation, relief and education, but rare in political activism and human right agitation, except Master Xingyun of Foguangsha in Taiwan. Apart from the differences between Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism, this paper considers that both the political environment and the Chinese culture play an important role to shape the social form of Buddhism in China. In comparison with other religions in China, Buddhism has been rapidly developed. Research questions are: How is Buddhism understood and shaped in Chinese culture and politics? In what way is humanistic Buddhism incorporated into the ideology of harmonious society of the Chinese Communist government? How does humanistic Buddhism reconstruct its identity? This paper argues that humanistic Buddhism is one of the models that the Chinese government would like religion to be, but paradoxically, the policy of accommodation to the ideology of harmonious society helps the modernization of humanistic Buddhism. Nevertheless, it is unrealistically expecting that humanistic Buddhism in China can play a role in the rebellion against the overbearing states, for instance, but its role in creation and accumulation of social capital is one way or another an important resource for a humane society which is reflected in reports on humanistic Buddhism in local communities.

2012年2月11日 星期六

醒一 D (路16:1-13)





第三,「人在最小的事上忠心,在大事上也忠心;在最小的事上不義,在大事上也不義。」或許,只有很少人還未向政府申請六千元。大部份人不但已經用完六千元,甚至用多了六千元。雖是如此,但我們可以考慮透過減少其他開支,贖回某部份現金,實踐在數百元這最小事上的忠心,即將這數百元捐贈,建立有情世界。預苦期將到, 讓我們藉這日子, 為那些在苦難中的人, 吃少一餐, 用省回來的金錢與他們結交朋友.


2012年2月5日 星期日

Curing and healing (Mk 1:29-39)

Being cured is what the sick hope for. The gospels have constantly portrayed Jesus as the one who not only cured the sick, but also cared the sick. This is the story of today scripture. First, Jesus cured Simon’s mother-in-law on Sabbath. Second, Jesus cured many who were sick with various diseases. There is no story in the gospels that Jesus was not able to cure or the sick did not receive Jesus’ curing when they came to Jesus. Nevertheless, this is not the experience of many who are sick today. Many of them are disappointed no matter whether you are Christian or not. How do we understand this dilemma, that is, the story of the gospels and the story of real life?

If Jesus cures the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law and people with various diseases, why are our beloved and we not being cured? Is this something related to our lack of faith? I don’t think so, because it is the need of those who are sick that Jesus responds to, not their faith makes them being cured. Is this something related to Jesus’ autonomy? This may be so, but we don’t understand how the compassionate God can close his eyes to the sick. How is the dilemma to be answered? Till now, I am satisfied with one possible justification, that is, the gospels do not report the full story. The authors records selectively, and those who are not cured haven’t been recorded. In order to convince others to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, it is understandable why the authors write selectively.

Donald Senior makes a distinction between healing and curing. Curing is fundamentally a biological concern with particular reference to physical recovery, but healing has a deeper and wider meaning. Apart from the concern of physical recovery, healing includes spiritual recovery as well as the manifestation of justice. He concludes, ‘Not all the people in the gospels are cured, but everyone is invited to be healed.’ Senior is right that curing is different from healing. Healing can be taken place even though there is no curing, and curing requires healing. A man has not been cured, but he is healed, for he comes to realize what he should pursue, what the most important in his life is and be harmonious with his body. Ironically, curing does not necessarily bring us healing, for a member of triad is cured, but he can continue to destroy relationship with others. I am not saying that curing is less important than healing. Healing is not opposite to curing, but they are different. Sometimes, they are united, but sometimes they are not. This explains why Jesus both cures and preaches the gospel so that the sick are taken care.

For those you are cured, we give thanks for you, for this is God’s gracious upon you. For those you are not cured yet, we pray for you, for healing would take be taken place in different ways in your life. Today the Old Testament reading comforts us that

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isa 40:28-31)

Both the faint and powerless are strengthend, not necessarily in the sense of having power, but in the sense of being empowered. In empowerment, the sick are still the sick, but the sick would not be further 'sickened'. He is able to create, to laugh and to chat.

2012年2月4日 星期六