This Friday’s news is about Madonna…again, and her concert tonight is getting all the publicity thanks to the media drawing out the opposing views about her.
In an article "Agreeing to disagree in matters of religion" by Lim Yan Liang, he asked for understanding on both sides of the divide. He quoted MP Alex Yam who wrote in his FB, "Just like any parent or older sibling, even if it makes him unpopular or seem naggy, he must state what he feels is needed in the context of faith that Catholic need to follow. And, like any elder, hopes the flock listens."
He also quoted a Professor (theologian Graham Ward) who has this to say about religion: "All religions have the potential to become ideologies that brook no tolerance of complexity and other perspectives, indoctrinating their members into the purity of their own practices and belief systems, and in this way radicalizing them."
Lesson? Who are we kidding? The concert will go on. It will definitely be a blast. The fans and super-fans will soak up the electrifying atmosphere - whether it is sacrilegious or not, sexually aggressive or not.
It will be a concert worth going for for those who are attending. And there is nothing the Catholic Archbishop, the prelate council or the humble Pope can do about it.
Some churches may organize vigils tonight and prayer sessions against it, but I doubt there will be any divine intervention in the likes of the 10 plagues of Egypt.
Come to think about it, positive defiance (on both sides) is actually not all bad. Think along the lines of Schumpeter's creative destruction for businesses and the economy and transposed that boundary-redefining spirit to society at large.
It is said that the only thing bad about a society is her lack of oppositional consciousness, diversity, the courage to stand for what one believes in, tolerance and acceptance across all segments, and a sense of understanding that transcends race, language and religion. And the Madonna controversy has smoked out many views for and against that has deepened our understanding of culture, its values and society as a whole. In the end, it is the ones who are open-minded that benefit most.
However, and this has to be said, every good thing or belief suffers the curse of the Midas' touch. A sweep of the human history will easily vindicate this. When a belief - whether religious or non-religious - takes on a voracious self-righteous attitude and craves to leave every nook and cranny of the society untouched, it turns into an insidious dogma with dire social consequences. The misguided intention to turn everything gold in turns turns everything deadly cold.
So, what is the overriding lesson here? To live and let live? To let it be?
I see two scenarios played out here and I will juxtaposition the two additional news last Friday morning to make my point. I believe they represent some form of extremism. One is about a death and the other about an inspiration. One turns out deadly and the other amusing.
At one end is a man, 37, who was fatally stabbed at a Hougang coffee shop by a 50-year-old shop assistant. The unfortunate incident started with this words from the younger man to the older man: "What are you staring at?" This can be extrapolated to some part of society where homophobia writs large (and this is equally applicable to other parts of society where LGBTs readily show their intolerance for Christians who are standing by their beliefs).
The other news is about a super-fan of Madonna. Abdul Rahman loves Madonna to pieces and she literally changed his life. His adoration for her peaked beyond normal fanfare devotion. He even adopted her lyrics as his life mantras. He said: "Like her song, Express yourself, she says if you don't express what you feel or if you don't say what you want, then you're not going to get it."
Rahman wanted more than anything to meet Madonna face to face. He said, "Every fan would love to meet and take pictures with her, to know her, to touch her - but it's not easy, so I won't hope for that. To see her live is enough. To even have her wink at me is enough." Herein ends the two unusual news and the start of my commentary.
I think we can have a society that is triggered off by a stare or a society that is enamored by a wink. One is obviously destructive and the other can be seen as harmless.
In the end, the controversial queen of pop is somehow right you know, that is, we should all express ourselves in the same way the Archbishop had expressed his views (like a father sharing with his children with some parental authority) and the way I write my views on this platform.
They are not perfect views. They do not boast of finding a cure-all for everything. Sometimes, the view may hint of being somewhat pretentiously panacea-ish. Bottom-line? I believe no one has a perfect fit of an answer to society’s ill and no one should even try to market his ideology as the fount of all authority. History has shown that disaster's middle name is "I am always right."
But I do believe in enlarging one's circle of influence and I take my lead from Jesus - not so much as a savior (for those religiously sensitive) but as a leader who just know how to touch lives for good, and forever.
His is not a Midas' touch but a miraculous one. Encounters with him were always intimate, empowering and transforming. His secret I guess is to express himself - so to speak. And he did it all by giving of himself completely. I believe with all my heart that his sacrifice made all the difference. That's how all great men of history changed history. That’s how Jesus changed the world – not with words alone, but through love and action. Cheerz.