Three things routinely drop into the mailboxes in my crumbling apartment block: utilities bills, ads for plumbers and special offers from pizza places. So imagine the excitement among residents when a garish leaflet with a lion on it appears among the usual dross to brighten up our day.
It is inviting us to a Jesus Loves HK Church Parade. This features a Chinese New Year Sweet Offering, and a Prayer Blessing for 18 Districts of Hong Kong and 7 Mountains. The mingling of Christianity with Chinese New Year is no big deal: it worked with pagan Yule and Easter. And I can see why they went with a lion – the monkey just wouldn’t look right. What jumps out is the menorah, or Jewish candlestick.
Intrigued, I check out the website and find a picture of an altar featuring not just a menorah, but a Star of David, a flag looking a bit like that of Israel, and a piece of cloth looking slightly like a tallit, or Jewish prayer shawl – though it references the Book of Acts, which is New Testament and thus non-Jewish. (Poking around other sites, I find that some Christians have claimed the menorah for Jesus. These guys are so lucky the Jews don’t freak out about ‘cultural appropriation’.)
Elsewhere, the site has references to a ‘9th Heaven’, which sounds Taoist, plus pictures of the predictable happy-creepy pastors. There’s also a course in Speed-Reading the Bible – how to zip through it without having to pause for all that ‘reflecting’ stuff, in keeping with Hong Kong’s fast pace of life. And ‘hands-on training on harp and bowl’. More poking around shows that this is an actual thing of some sort, coming unsurprisingly from the Book of Revelation, which is where Biblical literalism goes Hollywood.
The big entertainment recently for those who follow religious debates has been at the US Christian Wheaton College, which might fire a professor for claiming that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Impartial onlookers might vaguely assume that all the monotheistic faiths go back to Abraham, and all the quibbling over prophets and pork aside, it’s just the same one invisible guy in the sky reading your mind.
Wishy-washy Catholics and others might like to think along those lines. But the no-nonsense hard-nosed Evangelical Christians and their fundamentalist Muslim counterparts agree that the Christian god – being three-in-one father/son/spirit – cannot be the Muslim one, who is plain and simply single and indivisible. (Is it possible to be both if you are omnipotent? One for the logic fans.)
It should follow that the god of the Jews is also not that of the Christians, but for various reasons it seems to be impolite or impolitic to point this out. Are the Hong Kong faithful behind the Jesus Loves HK Parade among the (mainly US) groups that see themselves as Christian Zionists, or have some other problem trying to triangulate Old Testament references to Israel and modern US foreign policy? There is only so much browsing of fundamentalist websites I can handle, so I can investigate no further.
I do note from the leaflet that their design company is called Meshach Creation, named for one of three Old Testament men put to death for refusing to worship a false idol – reminiscent, we may think, of Hong Kong’s missing five book publishers and so many other victims of the Chinese Communist Party. And I get the impression that, like many fresh converts to an alien faith, Hong Kong evangelical/charismatic/etc Christians are especially into the imagery, even if they are unaware of how, say, the Star of David fits in (or doesn’t) with a crucifix.
Before we mock … The government’s rather blasphemous ‘Bless Hong Kong’ initiative in early 2014 was followed by a year of political and social turmoil and rocketing housing prices. The forthcoming Jesus Loves HK/Year of the Monkey Parade can only be more successful.