For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.(2 Corinthians 10:3–4 NIV)
A few weeks ago I received the following message:
I wonder why Singapore is allowing this band to perform here.
There is a Swedish Death Metal Band called ‘Watain’ which calls upon the spirit of death and suicide amongst the young. They are coming to Singapore for the first time on March 7th at Ebenex Live Space. There are many youths who are into demonic worship and occultic practices who are waiting to go for it.
Please pray that:
– They must cancel this concert. If we as believers of Christ don’t arise to pray and put a stop to this, the devil will start claiming our children.
– Protect our children from the clutches of Satan through their music and drug peddling that may go on in this concert. Ask God to put a stop to this.
We must stand together to pray in one accord. Lets arise and pray and pray against this event from happening.
2 more days only.
Our prayer must be intense.
As you may know, on 7th March, the Infocomm Media Development Authority of Singapore cancelled the concert. Many Christians rejoiced. Their prayers had been answered. Their representations to the authorities had been taken seriously. Personally, I have never heard of the band. As an old uncle my only exposure to anything resembling Black Metal was listening to some Black Sabbath numbers in my younger days. They sound positively tame by today’s standards. But I had some questions over how the matter was handled.
- First, why the panic? Isn’t our God big enough to handle the situation no matter what happens? I remember a talk by Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, at an interreligious dialogue where he asked: If one’s god is all powerful, why do you need to defend him by bombing people, including maiming and killing innocents? Isn’t your god big enough to defend his own name? As followers of Christ we will never condone violence and there are times when we need to pray and to act. But do we act out of faith and trust or out of fear?
- Second, why are we sensitised to obvious manifestations of evil but are seemingly oblivious to more subtle and more pervasive expressions of evil? Everyone can see that a Death Metal Band is evil. But what about the many messages that promote greed and materialism that shout at us from a thousand ads? Isn’t selling our souls to mammon a more likely surrender to evil than listening to an obscure band? Why isn’t anyone more concerned about the suffocating spirit of mammon that our young are exposed to all the time?
- Thirdly, shouldn’t believers be championing free speech? Shouldn’t we be defending a generous public square where all are free to hold on to their beliefs and to express them? I am not saying there shouldn’t be limits, and that is always hard to nail down. But a freedom that allows one to say that Jesus is Satan is also one that allows another to say that Jesus is Lord. If we pressure Caesar to act on behalf of the church, a day may come when Caesar may act against the church. Say enough people complain to the government that in public evangelistic rallies, the message is that those who do not know Jesus will go to hell. They find that offensive and, for the sake of public order, want the government to ban public evangelistic rallies. How?
- Fourth, if our concern to shut down the concert was not a parochial concern for the church but a patriotic concern for racial and religious harmony in Singapore, will we speak up as urgently when there are attacks on Hinduism? Or Islam? Or atheism?
- Finally, what are the weapons of our warfare? I keep going back to the time of the early church when, for a time, we were thought to be an obscure Jewish sect and, for the longest time, the church did not have any access to any political or military power. We were persecuted and sidelined by mainstream society. Yet not only did the church survive, they eventually won over the countries in the Roman empire. Their “weapons” included:
- Powerful, persevering, trusting prayer;
- Sacrificial love, for each other and for the broken in society;
- An uncompromising holiness in their ethics;
- The faithful sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ; and
- An inclusive good news that welcomed all elements in society: rich and poor, men and women, Jews and Gentiles — all were welcomed.
I suspect the above is hard to do. It is more tempting to go for the quick fix. If we are concerned about our children being influenced by evil, what are we doing to disciple them and to model Christlikeness to them? To what degree are we championing artists with high artistic standards who are also fuelled by Kingdom values? (I appreciate the work of U2 and the early P.O.D.)
The truth is, in the internet age we can’t block our young from being exposed to all sorts of things. (I suspect that by blocking the concert by Watain, many more of our young people checked them out online.) We need to pray for them. We need to model a real and attractive life in Christ. We need to spend time with them understanding their world and their questions, and to gently share biblical answers. We need to point them to art that is beautiful and true, so they have alternatives when they choose their heroes.
But doing all this is hard work and it calls into question our own spirituality. A knee-jerk pressurising of the government to ban a concert seems so much easier to do, even with the best of intentions.