Sunday, 24 April 2016

Kong Hee and the collective comfort zone.

I can’t start writing this post without first book-marking it with two extracts at the opposite poles of each other. Here are the extracts with a brief background.

You can find this post in Kong Hee’s recent Facebook. It is about his trip to Japan. He wrote: “From 29 March to 6 April 2016, Sun and I went to Japan and ministered to many churches at 4 different cities Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Osaka and Kyoto. We have a deep love for Japan and for our beautiful Japanese brothers and sisters-in-Christ. Their hearts are so hungry for the Lord Jesus and His Church…We can hear the sound of revival in our hearts, and sense that the harvest is definitely ripening. “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land” (Song 2:11-12). Japan, Jesus loves you and we love you too! Thank you for receiving us with such open hearts! Jesus says, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23)””

At about the same time, the foreign ministry's policy adviser, Mr Kausikan has this to say about Kong Hee’s evangelistic trip to Japan: "To my Japanese friends: this disgraceful compatriot of mine has been convicted of a criminal offence and is now free only because he is appealing his jail sentence. His conviction was for misuse of church funds. Do not be deceived." This personal post has in fact gone viral.

End of extracts. Here comes my commentary, chariot-led by this question.

I really don’t know whether we should let bygones be bygones or are we living in a culture of judgment, criticism and/or condemnation?” 

But first, here are the undisputed facts: Kong Hee was convicted and sentenced to 8 years. He was charged with misusing church funds under the cover of deception, manipulation and fraud. He and his other leaders have appealed, which will be heard in September this year. He is also the co-founder and senior pastor of a local mega-church, City Harvest Church. His wife is the other senior pastor. 

Both husband-and-wife team have been busy lately ministering to masses locally and around the Asian region with the most recent trip to Japan. 

Now, I can’t deny that Kong Hee has touched many lives with the gospel. If you see the videos he had posted on Facebook, it showed churches in Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan all being ministered to by his preaching and presence. There were even testimonies of healings, overcoming and personal victory in their lives.

All these can’t be bad for the Kingdom of God right? And no matter how you spin the wheel of misfortune and deception, they are what the gospel has been talking about, that is, ministering to the lost, feeding the poor, helping the downtrodden, encouraging the weak, inspiring the masses, and giving of yourself in humble service to the people hungry for God. They all form an integral part of the Great Commission that Jesus had anointed and empowered his disciples for.

And in his Facebook post, Kong Hee swooned with these words: "We have a deep love for Japan and for our beautiful Japanese brothers and sisters-in-Christ. Their hearts are so hungry for the Lord Jesus and His Church. They are believing that God is opening up heaven and pouring out His Holy Spirit afresh upon this generation." 

Here, one can’t deny that Kong Hee is doing God’s work and is doing it with sheer commitment and passion. What’s more, recently a lawyer from East Malaysia was healed of serious pain in his leg and he was amazed at Kong Hee’s disposition - he said that he saw “a man who was totally immersed in the joy of the Lord. He seemed to be the happiest person in the auditorium.So, is Kong Hee for real? Is he the real thing?

At this point, even if Kong Hee’s critics were quick to suspect his motive, accusing him of being hypocritical and trying to whitewash his records in a desperate attempt to garner support and sympathy, can an objective bystander then find his “tainted evangelism” (so to speak) partly defensible based on Philippians 1:15-18? The verse reads: “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” No doubt Kong Hee has ministered to many lives, but is there just one life that he may have missed - his own?

Mm…food for thought?

So, let’s return to the question I posed earlier: “Should we let bygones be bygones or are we living in a culture of judgment, criticism and/or condemnation?

Well, to be honest, our society would come to a standstill if we kept all judgments to ourselves and bury the hatchet regardless of the conduct/response of the convicted offender. The matter is of course more complicated than that and it should rightly be so.

You see, Christians are called to stand up for what is right, to pursue justice, to embrace repentance, to offer forgiveness, to accept godly advice and to keep each other accountable. And even if Kong Hee were to succeed in his appeal this September on whatever ground or on some technicality, he cannot escape the moral failings in his leadership. I am sure even his most ardent fan cannot defend the indefensible without appearing disingenuous. (But of course, I may sadly be proven wrong by the tenacity of groupiness).

In my view, he is still accountable for misleading the masses by claiming with a straight-face that he has “a genuine belief in his wife’s prospect of success for the US Crossover.” Even Serina Wee had “readily conceded that Sun Ho’s Asian Crossover albums all made losses and Xtron had thus incurred  substantial accumulated net losses.” I guess for a leader, there is a very thin line between blissful ignorance and willful blindness. 

Further, the subterfuge continued with Kong Hee’s questionable leadership in trying to withhold important information from his lawyers and auditors about his controlling stakes and role in both Xtron and CHC. (And I am not even talking about the sexually suggestive China Wine video).

On the whole of the evidence, the Judge found that “the Crossover became a comprehensive logic for justifying their beliefs and actions, and for doing whatever was expedient for its advancement. The pervasive mindset seemed to be one of short-term expediency; the use of means involving dubious methods was worth the risk to them if there was some hope of longer-term gain.” And all this clearly fits the profile of a cunning schemer with ulterior motive.

So, it is surely still-waters-run-deep for his leadership and the real issue on a moral leadership level goes beyond merely hammering a gavel and pronouncing one’s guilty or innocent. I presume Christian leaders are called to a higher standard of thought, conduct and example?

As such, appeal or no appeal, Kong Hee cannot possibly exculpate himself for the moral gaps in his leadership – good intentions notwithstanding. And more so, as a Christian leader, he is called to give a proper and full account. Therefore, what is expected from a Church leader like Kong Hee is not “short-term expediency” for “longer term gains” but long-term self-sacrifice for the sake of his beloved Church and his loving Savior. And whatever the distances he travels to spread the world, albeit admirable in some ways (motive notwithstanding), he would still have to return home one day to confront himself.

However, thus far, he has shown neither a broken heart nor a contrite spirit for what he had done. On the contrary, he had deflected all blame, pushed it exclusively to his finance/investment manager, played the “it-wasn’t-me” card, projected the martyr image in the likes of Apostle Paul, apologized to the congregation only to give the impression that they (and himself) are enduring this trial for God and with God’s approving nod, conveniently ordained his wife (who may well be the primal motivation for all that the Judge considered as expedient to advance the Crossover project), and took this time to go on a regional tour to preach the word instead of coming humbly before God to examine his own heart. I guess based on Philippians 1:15, it’s all the same even in the name of self-interest expediency as long as Christ’s name is preached, right? Or not?

Alas, if I have any explanation at all for the overwhelming support he is receiving from his Church, it may not be a God-endorsing one. In other words, it may not be an explanation where he has God’s seal of approval. It is on the contrary a secular one. 

And here, I recall the 2008 recession where Ben Bernanke borrowed the phrase “too big to fail” as a justification to save the big corporate players who were the main culprits for the financial debacle. He explained it as a situation where “the size, complexity, interconnectedness, and critical functions are such that, should the firm go unexpectedly into liquidation, the rest of the financial system and the economy would face severe adverse consequences.” 

And Mr Bernanke went on to say that “the Governments provide support for too-big-to-fail firms in a crisis not out of favoritism or particular concern for the management, owners, or creditors of the firm, but because they recognize that the consequences for the broader economy of allowing a disorderly failure greatly outweigh the costs of avoiding the failure in some way.”  

In the context of Kong Hee’s moral complicity and leadership duplicity, the overwhelming support he is receiving may just be a case of “too good to fail”. The Church therefore cannot imagine any alternative leadership except the husband-and-wife team. The status quo is just too good to let go without throwing the Church into a tailspin of uncertainty and leadership crisis. It is this “adverse consequences” that the Church as a whole is desirous of avoiding in return for overlooking, downplaying or rationalizing the leadership flaws.

Kong Hee and Sun Ho have therefore positioned themselves  to be increasingly indispensable and they and CHC have become indistinguishable. So, the “too good to fail” factor would be placed under threat if they are taken out of the equation. 

As such, the situation has become a case of shooting the arrow at the wall first before drawing the bull’s eye around it. Seen in this light, the justification for the perpetuation of their leadership is based on working backwards by throwing up conscience-soothing reasons for their stay. This way, their pastoral tenure in CHC is for life with no need to reconsider at any given moment whether it is the right thing to do or it is what God had intended in the first place after his conviction. The default position is thus about how to justify their continued leadership.

In the end, it takes moral courage to step up to the plate and call a spade a spade. Alas, this will not happen anytime in the near future, even if Kong Hee fails in his appeal and serves his time without ever coming to terms with his ethical lapses, because in the eyes of the Church, his leadership over the years is just “too good to fail”. 

And if this explanation is credible and true, then the collective comfort zone of the Church has sadly taken precedence over the effective Will of the Father. Cheerz.

The tale of two bows.

This is a tale of two bows. The first one happened a few months ago (25 October) when Kong Hee bowed in multiple directions to his congregation.
Then, just last week, at the Star Awards, actress Rui En also bowed to a packed crowd. She said, "Regarding the recent incident - it's still under investigation, so before the full report is out, I hope you can all forgive me. I'm unable to answer the media at this point, but I hope to apologize for whatever inconveniences this has caused...I am very sorry."
It is reported that "at the end of her speech, she moved away from the microphone and gave a deep bow. That's Rui En's apology and bow.
Now comes Kong Hee.
He took the microphone, spoke in tongues, told the congregation to collect their gifts from the Church, that is, free CDs, and said:
"You have suffered much over the past few years because of your commitment to City Harvest Church. And your commitment to me. I am so sorry for all the pain and the turmoil you have had to endure under my leadership, under my watch. You have had to answer questions, and criticisms from family, from friends, from colleagues.
Pastor is so very sorry. So so sorry. That you have to endure through all these under my leadership."
Then, he continued his message to the Church and ended with this: "City Harvest, I love you. I really, really do love you. Always have and always will."
This is where he bowed, four long, deep and meditative bows. He bowed to the left, center, right and returned to the center again.
Lesson? I guess an apology is an apology is an apology. It has to be inward-focused. It has to point to a wrongdoing. It has to be one that accepts full responsibility for that wrongdoing. It is also about accountability. It is about personal integrity to do right. It is most importantly about change, making amends, repentance, and moving forward.
Yesterday, Rui En admitted, "This is an important moment in my career but I also face a difficult obstacle. To be a good actress, I not only have to act well, but I also have to put on my best self to the public. Because I have a straightforward personality, I show all my emotions on my face, so sometimes that causes misunderstandings. I still wonder every day if I'm suited for entertainment industry."
Here, I find that public celebrity/figure, whether in the entertainment industry or the mega-churches, share this same "difficult obstacle". And in this context, it comes in three parts:

1) Reconciling one's private self with public self. For Rui En, this is difficult because she literally wears her heart or emotions in her sleeves. She is straightforward. There is therefore a gap between the person she is and the person she is expected to project to all. And the wider the gap, the harder the obstacle.
But of course, the expectation in the entertainment industry is different from the religious institutions. It is only natural. No matter how human they are, pastors are supposed to set the example. Their misstep is sadly always met with this reaction, "But he's a pastor what!" With celebrities, the norm is to shake one's head and mutter, "Expected lah."

2) The issue of authenticity. I feel that all public personalities are role models in one way or another. Barring artists in the likes of Charlie Sheen (whose idea of a role model is to follow your heart), celebrity are like earthly heroes whom the fans look up to.
For pastors, the higher expectation comes with its higher calling. This is what the believer needs to believe as they view the church leadership as the emissary or ambassador of their Creator.
That is their un-admitted hope even if they claim to be following God and not his anointed human leaders. It is sadly a dependency syndrome where they can feel better about themselves (and it is less exhausting too) to know that they can look to or rely on a better example (than themselves) every time they don't meet the mark.
Seen in this light, morality is about following a supposedly brighter light to lead one's way and not so much about developing one's own light by going to the source.
For this reasons, pastors are held up to a standard that sometimes seems unrealistic to me and the vicious feedback cycle is that some pastors will endeavor to meet it unfailingly, without exception - or so help me god!
This brings me to my last point, coming back full circle to the bows and apologies.


3) The calculated apology. I know it has been six months and the appeal is still pending till September. But there is just something unnerving about Kong Hee's apology and his all-surround bows.
Honestly, I would rather he spare his congregation the "apology" and wait for such time when he is prepared to really apologize. It is therefore better to say nothing at all than to apologize with one hand and using the other hand to deflect all blame or worse, finger-point. (Surely, dragging his church through 142 days of trial with allegations of deceit and dishonesty proven beyond reasonable doubt, not to mention the name of Christ - even if the main charges were dismissed on appeal - would at least hint to some failings in leadership right? The right and honorable thing to do then - apart from an apology - is to step down, and definitely not to tighten even further the couple's grip on power with an allegedly new anointed pastoral leadership from on high).
And telling his congregation that he is sorry that they have to suffer pain, turmoil and criticisms under his leadership and no more is as clear an apology as a father telling his child to do as he says and not as he does.
A role model is one who is exemplary in both speech and deeds, and not just in speech. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is sadly a calculated apology. And to think that it comes from a man who is supposed to embody most, if not all, of the qualities of his crucified Savior is deeply disheartening.
So kudos to Rui En, for having the moral courage to do what is right. Cheerz.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

What to write about?

This morning I woke up and thought to myself, “What am I going to write about?” Seriously, what should be foremost in my heart? For I do not wish to invent anything pretentious. I do not want to write for vanity or self promotion. I desire to write about matters that matter. I want to leave a mark, a lasting impression with my words. I want to write so that I could learn too.

So, I stared at my computer screen and I thought it stared back at me. It was waiting for me to pour out my heart. It was waiting for some revelation to fill the page. The computer screen was all ready to receive my first seed of thought. I too was eager to write about something meaningful, something enduring.

If you have been reading my blog and Facebook, you will note that I write about various subjects. Religion. Politics. Mega-churches. Politicians. Corruption. Issues of the heart. Pain and suffering. Disappointment. Hope. Faith. Life as a whole. And so on.

Everything seems to interest me. Everything fermenting or fomenting on the world stage intrigues me. Everything about hypocrisy, duplicity, deceit and human folly on a grand and personal scale winds me up.

I have been critical about everything, everybody and mostly yours truly. When it comes to my mistakes, my foibles, I seldom held back the self-flagellation. I believe that I am aware of my own weaknesses. I believe that I see more of the faults in me than others. So, no subject about my flaws, life in general, love and relationships are off limits.

But I am stalling here. I am wasting your time having read so far without providing you with any concrete direction. At the very least, I owe it to you my readers to come clean about what I want to write about this morning. I owe it to you to be forthright. And now, I still haven't thought of the subject before it's time for me to pack up to leave for Church in one hour's time. I am admittedly (and quite pathetically) struggling to rein in and come to terms with my thoughts. I am chasing the wind.

Then, right at this moment, some events in the past struck me. It is a recollection of the most ordinary moments in my life. I am writing them as I am recalling them here. They are nothing grand or portentous like some political revolutions brewing somewhere, some corruption exposed, or some religious revelation moving hearts and minds. No siree. These personal recollections are all too mundane at first sight to stir up anything of any significance.

They are in fact recollections about the time I was walking with my 10-year-old daughter to school. I do this ritual every morning. My mind is directed to our most pedestrian conversation together in the early hours of the morning. I recall her trying her darnest to share a joke with me and I am trying my darnest to find the punch-line. It is one humor needle in an all muddled haystack.

Then, the image of her face smiling at me in a nondescript coffee shop pop into my cerebral screen and the same got written into my computer that you are now reading. Too mundane for capturing any attention I guess.

I also thought about my son, 14 years old. I thought about us running together; he is fast. I thought about him when I sent him off and saw him struggling with his school bag as he disappeared into the crowded bus. Nothing earth shaking right?

Quite unconsciously, another recollection comes in unsolicited and my fingers are busy banging away on the keyboard. The image is about a room, my room. And it is all quiet, pin-drop. My view zooms in onto my 5-year-old daughter, sleeping. She is a picture of unshakeable peace. I guess mothers with young kids know exactly what I am talking (or writing) about.

Words cannot fully capture the moment when your baby sleeps. All that restless, and seemingly endless energy just converges into a singularity of phenomenal tranquility. For that frozen moment, you feel one with your child and all your anxiety gets suck back into a distant blurry blot.

Then, right at this moment, the image of my wife emerges. I recall the time I proposed to her. I was on Sentosa bridge, on one knee, and with a modest personalized silver ring, hardly visible when worn, I asked her to marry me. Her answer still echoes in the chambers of my heart. The elation could still be felt.

That is all I could think and write about this morning and I apologize if I have bored you my readers with the most ordinary moments of my past. I wanted to write something profound, purposeful and provocative even. But I am at a loss for subjects that measures up.

All I could muster is some personal recollection about the simple joys of life. I guess when you think about it, when all the dust finally settles, it is home that your heart is eager to return to. In all your busyness, in all the work issues that consume you, it is home that you can never let go. Ultimately, it is home that your heart has never really left.

And if there is anything worth writing about, I guess for me it would be the one subject that starts and ends with where my heart has always been - home. I therefore wish that you my readers will always hold on to that same unshakeable anchor that keeps you afloat amidst the torrents that seek to draw and entice you away. And that anchor is and has always been... your family. Cheerz.

Objectify or Elevate.

The news today is worrying. It’s about more teenage boys paying for sex. 300 heterosexual boys aged between 16 to 19 were surveyed and 2 out of 5 of them have paid for sex. The median age is 16. They have a median number of 4.5 sexual partners, including girlfriends and casual friends they slept with. And 42% were diagnosed with an STI.

Professor Wong who led the study said, “The boys say their friends dare or urge them to go to a sex worker to initiate them into manhood.”

The report further quoted Prof Wong stating that, “while the findings cannot be generalised to represent the population of teens who are sexually active, she said they do suggest that it has become more common recently for teenage boys to pay for sex.”

What caught my attention was the words of a doctor, “I find that teens’ attitudes towards sex these days are a lot more blasé. Some are even having sex with casual friends whom they are not in a relationship with. It's like meeting up to have sex these days is almost as casual as meeting up for a game of tennis.”

Lesson? Just one. Doctors and social workers put the blame on easy access to pornography as one of the leading causes. Others blamed it on not having a girlfriend and peer pressure. Still others claimed that it is the hyper-sexualized culture or a sensory-arousal environment.

For me, I suspect online pornography and our liberal sexual culture are the main culprit. They are the breeding ground for indulging in one's sexual fantasies in the privacy of one's own room or handphone.

Nowadays, online sexual vices are everywhere There is no restriction because no public office is able to control it. And scarily, the seduction is so great that even husbands are engaging in virtual sex as a form of release. They would rather satisfy their own cravings than to fulfill the mutual needs and pleasures with their marital partners. Nurtured intimacy that lasts a lifetime is just too much work for them.

Online pornography has therefore made mind sex come alive and it has overtaken sex within marriage as an alternative to guilt-laden adulterous liaisons. The latter is just too inconvenient and humiliating. With online pornography, one designs a virtual harem of mind-boggling variety to pick and choose from at a click of a key. And a marriage of one can seldom match it in plain masturbatory pleasure.

Most unfortunately, pornography has raised a generation of young men who enter into a marriage not knowing how to satisfy their partner. All they are obsessed with is how they want to be sexually satisfied. Alas, they somehow demand their poor partner to embody all the self-centered perversions they had grown up with from online sex. The trend here is therefore more disturbing than it looks.

So, let me be old fashioned. Some values I sincerely believe are timeless. Two of them of relevance here are modesty and self-respect. And it applies to both sides of the gender.

Let me be clear, I am not putting the blame on dressing for girls here. But I am putting the blame on a shallow culture that promotes the superficial over substance, external beauty over inner beauty, and appearances over character. And the words of one of the judges for a beauty contest who once said that inner beauty is the excuse ugly people use to make themselves feel better about themselves is exactly my point.

In my view, teenage girls nowadays are losing grip with that self-respecting virtue called modesty. If I have a definition for modesty, it would be this: Drawing your sense of self-worth not from what you wear, or the appearance you put on for others to see, but from doing what is right, and allowing the beauty of it to shine through. And trust me, a good character is enduringly beautiful while what you put on to physically accentuate whatever you wish to accentuate is but transient and seasonal. It may even be self-degrading.

Teenage girls will do well to keep in mind these words from an author: “So-called sexual freedom is really just proclaiming oneself to be available for free, and therefore without value. To “choose” such freedom is tantamount to saying that one is worth nothing.” (Prof. Sarah E. Hinlicky)

Now comes the teenage boys. I too have a word for them. I have two actually: objectify or elevate. I urge them to see beyond the cleavages, curves and crudeness. Stop objectifying what is superficial and start elevating what is enduring and timeless. 
They should know that behind every woman whom they fantasize (or want to have sex with) is a face, a life, a struggle, a pain, a virtue, a hope, a dream, a potential and a narrative.

They are no different from your sister, your mother or your daughter who wants exactly what you want - to be loved, to be respected, and to be treasured. They are real human beings with emotions and aspirations and not an object to be used and abused with your unmoored thoughts, impersonal cash and ruthless cravings.

Need I remind you that the object of your sexual fantasy is the daughter, wife and mother of another. They are of deep meaning to them. And by objectifying, you are stripping them of the meaning they embody and turning them into lifeless sexual mannequins just to quench your sexual pangs.

More relevantly, you do not treat them mechanically, but relationally. It is definitely not an obsessive ritual of erection, insertion and ejaculation so as to satiate your intemperate lust. They are not empty buckets to be filled, but lives that seeks fulfillment and growth. It is not about exploitation, but dedication, devotion and protection for a lifetime of mutual growth, encouragement and joy. You see, lust is eventually empty, but love, sacrificial love, is deeply fulfilling. Choose therefore the infinitely better option by considering the road less traveled, and undoubtedly much more rewarding.

K Hepburn once said, "Nature is what we are put in this world to rise above." So guys, rise above it. Rise above the booby and booty, and look straight into their heart, soul and intelligence. And what you find, will not only surprise you, but touch, inspire and empower you.

So, guys, if you want true freedom, listen to and digest these words by Edmund Burke as I end: “Men are qualified for freedom in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their own appetites. Society cannot exists unless a controlling power on will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there is without. It is ordained in the external constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free.” Cheerz.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Eye in the Sky.

A friend recommended, and I went to watch it this weekend. Eye in the Sky was the movie. It is about a drone, a girl and a few suicide bombers. I will spare you the details, but it was a clever movie. Suspenseful. Exciting. Stimulating. It made me think. I made me wonder.

No spoilers here, but the plot is simple. You control a drone capable of firing a missile from the sky. You have been surveying a house in Nairobi of suspected terrorists. You confirm in real time that they are arming two suicide bombers in the house. You have only minutes to react, that is, to pull the trigger. You need to “prosecute the target” before the suicide bombers disperse in two cars to detonate the explosives in a crowded area, killing an estimate of 80 innocent people. That much is expected of a Hollywood plot.

But here’s the catch, here’s what makes for a good 1-hour-and-40-minutes drama: there’s a 9-year-old girl. She is thrown into the factual matrix. She is innocent. She is the daughter of the house owner. She is selling bread nearby. She is collateral damage. She is the casualty that stands between the trigger-drone and the target-bombers.

What do you do? Do you fire at the target and hope for a miracle? Do you save the girl by not firing and risk the suicide bombers killing many? Is one life worth more than 80? Or should you wait…wait for a more felicitous situation to emerge within the actionable window of opportunity so that the result after pulling the trigger would give some assurance that the girl's fatality will be kept the lowest - say less than 50%? So what do you do?

If there is a common theme running through the movie, it is really about being able to sleep with a mediated conscience at night. And the conscience varies between different people played in the movie, that is, there’s a colonel (Helen Mirren) who had followed the suicide terrorists for 5 long years and she is going for blood, the General (the late Alan Rickman) who had to deal with the ministers on both sides of the Atlantic right up to the British prime minister, and the ground crew pilot (Aaron Paul) who was tasked to fire the missile from a drone hovering in the sky and just can't do it.

For this movie, the scriptwriter and the director did a commendable job keeping the audience on the edge of their seats with this simple plot: the little girl’s life for possibly 80 other civilians. And to give them credit, throughout the movie, you never felt that the plot was exaggerated, contrived or pretentious. Every moment leading to the next was intense, authentic and believable. Some parts literally captured your imagination as a humanitarian, as a parent with a young child, as a soldier who bears the scars of war, as an idealist who has a certain fixed mindset about what the world should be or ought to be, and as a pragmatist who just want to get the job done, go home and get ready for next mission.

You see, everyone wants to do right in their own eyes. The military wants to eliminate the threat immediately and regardless – girl or no girl. The politicians want to limit the bad publicity and preserve their image. The activists want to stick to their fuzzy ideals and principles at all costs. And the men on the ground just want to keep their sanity as they are the ones doing the killing.

The chain of orders and authority saw much hesitation, reservation, indecision, vacillation, cowardice, filibustering, and pretending. No one wants blood in their hands and the chain of command went all the way up to the Prime Minister. Even the latter was at a lost for words and direction. He too fumbled. Do we just kill all, including the girl, and blame it on the terrorists? Do we allow the terrorists to kill 80 in a, say, shopping mall and then use that as a propaganda springboard for more political funds and support to wipe out the terrorists' groundswell to kingdom come? Or do we just sit by the fence, push the responsibility higher up the chain of command, and wash our hands like Pontius Pilate did?

Well, you will just have to watch the movie till the end for the final unraveling. And trust me, you’ll not be disappointed. It’s going to start you thinking, churning deep. At the same time, you will not be harboring any delusion about how darn hard it is to play god when you have the power for that faintest of moments to experience a foretaste of omnipotence, that is, when an innocent life hangs precariously on the effortless articulation of one’s lips. Kill or no kill.

For me, I left the cinema wondering: What would Jesus do? And I am not being specious, pretentious or flippant here. Honestly, in a fallen, imperfect world, how would God deal with a situation like the one portrayed in the movie and the millions of situations that avail themselves on a daily basis that are no different from the drone attack, if not worse?

Would God pull the trigger and wipe out all and sundry, and submit a casualty report later with a Job-like explanatory note that reads, “Because I am God”? Is He even required to file a report? Who is He accountable to in the first place, except Himself? I mean, who is more qualified than Him to do what is best for all, for all eternity? Isn’t it only us the mere mortals who are implicated and struggling here?

And whether we like it or not, there is just no simple answer to the exasperating perplexity of what we call the human drama that plays out everyday in this world. It’s the Gordian knot of human dilemma that we either accept and move on with a touch of amnesia, or allow it to torment us indefinitely to our grave.

Let me end with another movie a few years ago. It’s about a homosexual genius who killed himself because the world he had served wholeheartedly was more interested in his morality than his sacrifice. His name is Alan Turing and the movie? The Imitation Game. Alan was an cryptanalyst extraordinaire and one of the founding fathers of modern day computing.

With a dedicated team, he managed to crack the so-called unbreakable codes of the German’s WWII Enigma machine. By cracking it, the Allied forces would know every battlefield moves of the Nazi enemy. Finally, they would have the upper hand, the vantage point.

In the movie, one intense dialogue captured the moment of flawed human omnipotence for me (very similar to the drone attack in Eye in the Sky). It happened when Alan’s team first cracked the code and was mapping out the enemy’s next plan of attack. One of the team noted that the German U-boats were going to ambush a British passenger convoy with at least five hundred civilians on board. The logical thing to do then was to warn the convoy and rally up a counterstrike to save the convoy.

But Alan said, “Let the U-boats sink the convoy.” The other cryptanalysts in the room were stunned, speechless. They could not believe those words.

To add to the human drama, one of the cryptanalyst’s brother was in the convoy heading towards certain destruction. Peter then begged Alan Turing to warn the convoy as there was still time to save his brother, but Alan would not budge, “We can’t do what feels good but we have to do what is logical.”

He explained that they should continue to lie to the Nazi war machine when they expect to be lied to.  In other words, Alan had to perpetuate the deceit and not arouse the enemy’s suspicion by saving the convoy. He said, “Our job is not to save one passenger convoy but to win the war.” Broken and furious, Peter confronted Alan, “Who decides whether a person lives or dies?

Alan whispered, “I guess we do.

It was a painful decision for Alan and the rest of the team but their tactical restraint and the many that followed hastened the end of the war. Some historians estimated that if not for Alan and his team, the war “would have continued for at least another two years, and two million more lives would have been lost.” Mm...the trade-off equation here is 500 for 2 million?

I guess some sacrifices may just be unavoidable and God may have exercised the same tactical restraint not just at Calvary, but with regards to the many natural and man-made atrocities that happened before and after that day when he allowed his son to be sacrificed for a purpose that is beyond what we can ever conceive. I know this is cold comfort to many, but hopefully, someday, it will be comfort enough, even surpassing, when all is revealed. Cheerz.

The God Question.

The God question will not go away and Morgan Freeman is making sure of it. He is doing a documentary 6-part series which will premiere on National Geographic. It is entitled: The Story of God. For this documentary, he traveled to major religious sites like Jerusalem's wailing wall, India's Bodhi tree, the Egyptian pyramids and the Mayan temples of Guatemala to look for answers.

He said it was a no-brainer to host and produce the series. He elaborated: "It's a growing, long term curiosity about life in general. What it is? Why it is? Why are we here? Questions like that sort of drive me around sometimes, and then we got the opportunity to explore questions of life, creation, religion and God."

Lesson? I guess we are all indeed incurably religious. Even the militant atheists have to admit that being anti-God doesn't mean being completely empty of the God question. There is always that lingering doubt, that unsolicited provocation, that emotional nudge to put a tiny dent into any dedicated effort to denounce the divine.

You can say that God imbues the meaning of and for life in both groups of people: the religious and the non-religious. The first group very much explains itself. For the second group, his influence is somewhat more subtle and indirect. While the incredulity of some fanatic believers often put many atheists off, the earnesty of the search for meaning captured in Freeman's "why is it" will always captivate even the most estranged and irreverent of hearts.

In fact, I sincerely believe it is a premature response to the God question to answer it by saying that if we unlock the "hows" of all things, the "whys" will be unraveled. This is the same as saying that if we know how a toaster work, we will also know why someone is hungry. Or by extension, if we study the readings in the heart rate monitor, we will know the cause of death (not just a beat-less heart) or the reason for living.

This reminds me of a story about a clumsy teenage house burglar. He created a racket while ransacking a house and woke the owner up. The owner with a rifle pointed at him and asked, "Why are you here?" And the reply was this: "Oh, I actually missed the first bus. So I stole a bicycle and rode all the way here. Then, I climbed up the window, unlocked it and started with the room inside. I then progressed to the other rooms and well, I knocked over a few things. Too dark I guess." You can see the disconnect here. Somehow, the how just doesn't unravel the why.

Needless to say, the owner was not interested in the how. He wanted to know why. He wanted to know more about the burglar's motive, his background even (at such young age). He doesn't want to know how he got into his house, but why he stole in the first place. I trust the why questions are always deeper and wider in scope and depth.

In the end, whether we admit it or not, the world and life itself are far more multifaceted, sophisticated and profound and it goes beyond merely knowing how things work. And if we restrict ourselves to only the "hows" of things, or assume a one-dimensional, one-way causation from the "hows" to the "whys", we are looking at life as a whole from the bottom of the summit of experiential discovery and thereby missing out on the vantage point at the top. Cheerz.