Ibrahim Mat Zin, the shaman king of the world, kept me thinking this weekend.
His words lingered with me even after he admitted this week that the coconuts and bamboo pole were all an elaborate scam. He said this about the bamboo sticks, "I couldn't see anything inside. I was told to shake the sticks. I took the coconuts as if they were bombs. I didn't know what I did was wrong...All of it was drama."
The part that caused me to reflect deeply was when he explained that bomohs are no different from faith healers of other religion, such as Christian evangelists.
As a Christian, I find no basis for him to make that kind of statement. It was a low blow – even for him.
Now, this is not about me being biased due to my own beliefs. But, comparing a bomoh to a Christian evangelist is too much of a stretch right? Surely a Christian evangelist differs both in form and substance from a bomoh.
(And for the purpose of this post, I am taking Christian evangelists to mean those megachurch leaders who are able “to articulate Christianity in a very contemporary manner” (Terence Chong, senior fellow at the Institute of SEA Studies) by blending “market-friendly ideologies associated with individualism and self-empowerment” and “selective Christian theologies to emphasize positive living and blessings, while deflecting overtly negative Christian doctrines such as suffering, judgment, sacrifice, hell or death from sin” (Jeaney Yip, lecturer of University of Sydney Business School)).
As such, I shouldn't even dignify that baseless accusation with a reply here. Anyway, Ibrahim Mat Zin has already admitted to being a fraud and that should be the end of it. For you don't hear such admission from megachurch prosperity preachers locally or abroad like Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Sun Ho or Joseph Prince.
For this reason, his words, or comparison, shouldn't even be taken to mean anything but a desperate attempt to cast aspersions on otherwise adored cause célèbre-like megachurch prosperity preachers.
If I would to take Sun Ho as an example, although I disagree with her brand of evangelism via worldly immersion, I cannot say in good conscience that Sun Ho misleads her members with bamboo-like vision of the crossover project involving china wine and mr. bill, right?
According to her, she did it for the Church. Her pure intention exculpate her? She even said that she pleaded with God to ask for how long she would have to bear with the exposure of immodest flesh and the gyration of loose hips in order to bring about the conversion of broken hearts.
Then comes Benny Hinn. Where do we start with him? Some call him a false prophet. Others support him as God's chosen one. Either way, Benny Hinn has his fair share of controversies from his untold wealth to his failed prophecies, and from his erroneous teachings to his vainglorious stage antics.
Is he and Sun Ho then “shamanistic” in their charismatic leadership with one sprouting self-serving revelation and the other indulging in a fantastical concept of soul-saving with worldly tactics as a decoy respectively?
Moving down the list we have two beloved prosperity preachers leading megachurches here and abroad, and recently appearing on American tv, excitedly exchanging exuberant visions and dreams about a generous God with a care-bear-like heart.
Joel Osteen and Joseph Prince have almost singlehandedly redefined God for the whole Christendom to much shock or awe - depending on whether you are a critic or a fan. Notwithstanding the controversies they have spun, JO's gospel of self-help and JP's gospel of radical grace have taken the believers' world by storm. And they have been handsomely rewarded with money, membership and international stardom over the years.
Their individual net worth and amassed material possessions speak intimately of a God who rewards his devotees when they believe big and give even bigger to the respective ministries. Alas, there is surely no spiritual law against a Christian leader living extravagantly by the ordinary-man-in-the-street standard on the back of the people’s heartily donated cash right?
And while the self-proclaimed shaman king cannot boast that he attracts tens of thousands under one roof, famous preachers like JO, JP and Benny Hinn effortlessly command such adulating masses on any given Sunday service without the need to resort to strange rituals involving coconut bombs and bamboo telescopes.
Their magnetic charisma on stage woos and swoons the crowd with promises of prosperity, divine favors and protection all year round as long as they hitch their faith to God's opulent bandwagon of wealth, longevity and successes. Nothing is therefore impossible for their God.
So, we are back to the discredited Charlatan, the shaman king. We now know as a fact that he is a fake (by his own admission). His outlandish claims that he can save Malaysia from a North Korea invasion with coconut and bamboo cannons and that the passengers of the ill-fated flight (MH370) are currently residing in a parallel realm and will return in 25 years are incredible tales that only a deluded mind can so irresponsibly concoct.
And when we align the spiritual claims made by Christian evangelists like JO, JP, Benny Hinn and Sun Ho and those made by the infamous Raja Bomoh, we know by sheer logic and instinct that the two categories are nowhere alike (as Ibrahim Mat Zin would have us believe). You can’t possibly compare apple with pineapple, especially if the latter is rotten, right?
In other words, nowhere is the Crossover project with millions invested to elevate one in the most sordid manner conceivable in order to save souls standing in the same league with some shamanistic rituals involving coconuts and bamboos sticks.
Equally applicable here is JP's radical grace, which has effectively dispensed with post-altar-call repentance altogether and retired the Holy Spirit's role of convicting one of sins, or towards holy grief. In fact, he once told a crowd of 1,200 when clad in white leather jacket and jeans that God will reward them with houses, cars. Jobs, pay raises and holidays in a fundraising drive. I wonder whether there is any follow up on that?
And needless to say, JO's claim that every bible-believing churchgoer is bound for prosperity, good health and material success (or your money back) is another testament to prevailing reality that no bomoh's claim can ever hope to rival or come close in verifiable truth.
So, herein ends my weekend reflection about the rubbished comparison made by the reality-defying medicine man (Ibrahim Mat Zin) who was recently charged in the Syariah Court and had pleaded guilty to charges of insulting Islam or causing people to have a negative perception of the religion.
Let me fittingly end with the words of the decommissioned Rajah Bomoh before he was indicted. On why he wore suits, and travelled in style, he said: "We have to look smart in public. I am the king of shamans, we must protect the image of bomohs. That's why I come in BMW and Mercedes with a driver."
Well, incidentally, some of these megachurch prosperity preachers come in suits and ties too, and in branded cars - some even in private jets or travel first class, because as Kenneth Copeland once said, it is impossible for God to talk to him while travelling in coach.
I guess image is equally important to these rich and famous Christian evangelists too. And that may just be the only similarity they share with the dethroned shaman king. Other than that, the rest of his coconut and bamboo acts are simply ritualized nonsense. Cheerz.