photo from here.
This week brings the happy news of conversion of Taiwanese starlet Jay Chou, known to western audience for his role in The Green Hornet. Actually, he has been converted for a little while. The reason why he made the news is because he was giving testimony for Jesus Fashion, a ministry of the New Life Church pastored by Abraham Huin Taiwan.
Putting aside the controversial ministry of Jesus Fashion for a minute, I want to focus on using yet another celebrity for testimony. Quite different from Jeremy Lin and Tim Tebow whose Christian celebrity culture has already received adequate attention in a different blog, Jay Chou is a brand-new Christian.
Not only did Chou convert, he also wrote songs for Jesus Fashion and gave his testimony in public. There are two problems associated with these moves. First, songwriters for Christian music are not only responsible for how good the music sound. I can hear you now, my reader, thinking in your head, “The songs by Chou do sound pretty good.” (I actually saw this comment in a Facebook forum somewhere). If we’re after only sound, we should just kill off all the words and focus on the sound. Sadly, reality is, the words of the songs come to us from our Judeo-Christian roots in the WORDS of the Psalms. What does this mean? It means that unless Jay Chou has studied carefully enough about Christian theology and church doctrines, he could well write up songs that sound good but teach heresies. Why are we leaving song writing in the hands of celebrities who are young in the faith? Is this not risking the greater good of the church for temporary feel-good factor?
The second problem is his testimony. Ah, you may say, “I’m just glad he’s converted.” Yes, I’m glad too. Now Jay Chou is ONE OF US. Hurrah! Just because you’re converted, it doesn’t automatically qualify you to get up on stage and share whatever you wish. Now, I’m not saying that Jay Chou’s testimony is unorthodox or shameful. No, far from it. I’m never unhappy about ANY convert sharing his experience. This is the problem however when this story is so public and widely spread. In fact, two more problems surface.
One, the metanarrative plot of most testimony goes something like this. I believed in Jesus. Everything became okay. I was a horrible person, but now with the help of Jesus, I’m much better. Is Christianity really about prosperity? I’m probably being a little unfair to compare Chou to Jeremy Lin simply because Lin also gave a testimony of far more sophistication, not only of his success but also struggles while being a Christian. The difference is Lin had already walked the path for a while, with a strong track record. Chou’s experience is untested. You say, “Come on. Give the poor lad a break. He’s ONLY sharing his experience. Are you being a bit judgmental?” This leads to our second problem about his testimony (or any testimony of any newly converted celebrity that evangelicals are so fond of using).
Our second problem is hermeneutical. You say, “Wow, hermeneutical? Really? We’re only talking about a story.” Every person INTERPRETS his experience. All stories (including the ones in the Bible) are interpreted by the teller and author. I’m sure some interpretations are more accurate than others. What paradigm does Chou have to interpret his experience? Not much. How do we know he’s a good witness? We do not because he has such a limited paradigm to interpret his conversion experience. I know I sound unnecessarily (to some) harsh here. Is it possible for him to misinterpret his experience? Most definitely!
I like to compare our Christian walk to playing sports. I know it’s an incomplete comparison, but I know Paul used it himself often. When playing group sports, no matter how talented I am, I need to develop “game sense.” This necessary game sense involves experience and input from other players and coaches, not just my own experience. It involves both failures and successes. I need to play under many circumstances and run into many referees to understand mentally and physically how this sport actually works. Chou has no such paradigm.
What we need, ultimately, as Christians is to develop scriptural reasoning and that comes from reading scripture and studying how to read before we can develop a more accurate interpretation not just of the text but of our lives. Chou has not had the time to develop it.
Why do I put this blog here instead of my other scripture and culture blog? I do so because I want to appeal to fellow ministers who read this blog for ministry. As ministers, we are always tempted to use the quickest and most effective way to grow our church and generate statistics. As a result, we train our congregation to be the same way. When we start doing that, we lose sight of why we’re really here. Jay Chou, just like any other new convert, needs time, privacy, protection and mentoring (i.e. discipleship). He does NOT need the limelight. By putting him into the limelight too soon before he’s ready, we’re doing him and the church a disservice. Those who put him there are unwise because they violate the very core of Christianity in terms of “making disciples.” They are (intentionally or otherwise) using Chou. We ministers of all people are often the most guilty because we USE people. People are not tools. They should not be USED. They need to be nurtured the way babies are nurtured. IF we continue to USE people, we dehumanize Christianity to the degree of a utilitarian institution while rendering Jesus’ last commission useless. Conversion becomes another vehicle of usability for growing church size. This blasphemy must not happen.