You & Your Family

The sound of silence, the blandness of salt

Jun 2012    

A MISSIONARY WHO HAD RETURNED from the mission field was sharing with me some of the things he had observed, having lived abroad for some time. One was how accustomed we urbanites have grown to the noise around us that we do not notice it at all.

It was only when he lived in the wilderness and could not hear any man-made sound that he became aware of the noise that surrounds us. So silent were his surroundings that he described it as being almost “deafening”.

His description resonates with some conversations I have been having with my wife lately. As folks in our fifties, we sometimes find ourselves struggling to keep pace with life. ings seem to move faster around us. e pace of work has increased in our virtual and instantly connected global world.

What would have been accepted as a timely response through a well-crafted snail mail is now seen as taking too much time. You would probably be harassed by the sender with the message being re-sent to you or another message trying to confirm if you are still alive.

Not only has the pace of work changed, so too has its volume. In a 24/7 world, where work is not a respecter of personal life and family time, we are also expected to multi-task. Job expansion usually means doing more for the same wage or even less. e threat of losing our job to a younger, brighter, more ambitious worker effectively muzzles any complaints we may have.

Another change I notice is a constant shift in values. Loyalty to the employer just “does not cut the mustard” anymore. Merely doing your work and meeting the goals and expectations set last year is just not enough. We are admonished to exceed our customers’ expectations and perform above targets set.

This reminds me of a little speech I gave when I helped kick off a training workshop for managers. It was the first programme that I took charge of when I made a brief foray into the corporate world. I encouraged participants to acquire skills that would enable them to increase their productivity and help them go beyond their 100-per cent output. After I took my seat, and had perhaps come to my senses, I was surprised at the nonsense that I had just said. I could not place my hand on my heart and say that I personally believed what I said, although I think that the speech met with my management’s approval.

This brings me to the crux of what I am concerned with. When immersed in an environment, we can sometimes absorb its values and patterns of behaviour, almost as if by some osmotic pressure.

Values such as seeing relationships as a means to an end can lead us to use people as another resource for our benefit. When we place more importance on the form and not the substance of our behaviour, we may strive to become only pleasers of man and not care about our accountability before God. Sometimes we see banks and even countries focusing on short-term benefits and ignoring longer-term responsibilities, thereby paving the way to financial ruin.

When we as Christians espouse these same ideas and values, we lose our distinctiveness as believers. Our distinctiveness exists to draw people’s attention to God, not to appear to be unique or queer. Our distinctiveness exists to remind others of the good that we can do and also to preserve the good that still exists within all of us. is preservative quality is likened to that of being like salt.

The Bible reminds us that we are to be the salt of the world in Matthew 5:13. When we become bland and lose our saltiness, we become worthless and are only fit to be thrown away and trodden under foot. Perhaps, if each of us can present the face of Christ wherever we may be, we make this world a more humane place to live in.

Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.

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‘Don’t ignore pop culture’

A NEW INTEREST IN THEOLOGY AND POP CULTURE is springing up in many parts of the world. How then should the church respond to the opportunities and challenges of pop culture?

This and other related questions were put to the attendees at a public talk at ACS (International) on May 11 by British theologian-astrophysicist, the Rev Dr Professor David Wilkinson. He said that while some would argue that Western culture was becoming increasingly secular, within the area of pop culture – movies, television and music – questions of God were being explored in entertaining and serious ways.

Speaking on “Pop Culture and Religion”, he said pop culture is powerful, both in its influence and its ability to explore fundamental questions about what it means to be human, the nature of the world and the nature of God.

While on average those under the age of 16 watch 18 hours of television a week in the UK, those over the age of 65 watch 37 hours a week. “Pop culture is not a just a young person’s thing. A global consumer culture is intimately linked to pop culture which has a global appeal and penetration of virtually all social groups.”

So, he advised, take time to understand pop culture – and take pop culture seriously.

He said that part of the task of Christian theology is to build bridges with culture in a way that demonstrates its relevance to the big questions of life. ose questions of hope, good and evil, transcendence and redemption are being explored in music, film, literature and television, offering the opportunity for dialogue with the Christian tradition.

“The question is whether we want to be part of that conversation.”

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