Since I started blogging, it’s not an uncommon experience for me nowadays to meet people whom I have only corresponded by email or interacted through blog comments. Joshua Woo is one who has made this list .
So, it’s interesting to see myself afresh through his eyes. Who is Sivin Kit? Who are we? Who were we in 2002? Who are we now in 2010? Who are we to our family? our church? our nation? our friends? our enemies? .. How have we changed? How have we remained the same? Once a while (not too much), it’s good to have a fresh take.
It was fun to meet Joshua, and he was so kind to pen down his thoughts on two encounters which I had the privilege to be one of them. He writes well and it’s not just because of the subject matter. So who is Sivin Kit to you? I’m still so tickled with the “leading Protestant pastor” bit. ROFL. Because, I’m so aware how fragile and ordinary I am.
One of the "leading Protestant pastor[s] in Kuala Lumpur," Sivin Kit, and I barely know one another though we know each other’s existence since the Agora days. At that time (late 2005 / early 2006) I was active in the Agora network and initially was suspicious of Sivin due to his connection with the Emergent movement. But who was to blame as I was worshiping Norman Geisler in those days? Then many events occurred that I gradually becoming more open to postmodern ideology. One of the events was when I attempted to woo a Roman Catholic girl.
My affection to her restrained me from condemning Roman Catholicism. (All Geisler worshipers have the tendencyto do so.) She introduced a lot of things to me that I was not aware of. There was a point in time when I was partially considering chanting the
blasphemous"Rome sweet home" mantra. Steven Sim knew about it and commented that, "Then both of you can meet in h.e.l.l." (LOL) Those were the days when we were still very much stuck to the er…….. Fundamentals.
Anyway, last Sunday, I finally met up and conversed with Sivin. I went to look for him at his church, currently situated at the Lutheran Center.
I was surprised that his church was filled with young parents: A lot of young adults with babies. Actually I saw Sivin on 19 June 2007, when I attended a peaceful virgil at Dataran Merdeka for Revathi’s case. But we didn’t speak to each other at that time.
Sivin invited me for dinner in that evening. He reached my place to pick me up in his blue old Proton Wira. The car instantaneously betrayed the fact that this guy is not into ‘health & wealth’ gospel (which, by the way, is a good thing). We arrived at a nice eatery, sat on table number 56. And coincidentally, the bill was RM56. We spent about 3 hours conversing over many matters. I told him about my negative impression of one of his personal friend,Vinoth Ramachandra. In turn, Sivin shared about Vinoth’s critique on his thesis for his Th.M. Sivin has a bubbly and outspoken persona. I, on the other hand, usually appear more quiet than one expected.
We talked about the way to theologize. Sivin mentioned about his "in-between" approach. When I heard Sivin uttered the term "in-between," I thought of William Desmond‘s in-between metaphysic. Anyway, Sivin mentioned about the inadequacy of theologizing on an arm-chair. He said that one’s theology is constructed differently when one has participated in public demonstrations and had been chased by the police. Sivin went through all that. I agreed in silent. If not, I wouldn’t have traveled all the way from Singapore to KL for a virgil alone. It was from such participation that one identifies with the subject one was contemplating. It is as if one wiped with one’s own hands the tears of Revathi.
Hence by "in-between" Sivin meant the space between the academy on one side and the daily struggles of fellow humans on the other side.
I also told Sivin that I used to have a negative view of him last time due to his connection with the Emergent movement. Hearing that, he demanded me to ask for absolution. I stubbornly rejected that by appealing to my innocence. Of course, humor was in the air.
I asked Sivin to give me three characteristics of a good public theologian. He gave like a dozen. I didn’t write them down. So it is better not elaborate here in case I misrepresent him. It’s better for him to share for himself. The one thing I remember vividly is his concern for a holistic approach to life. He mingles around with Christian and non-Christian people who fight for social justice. And what he finds unfortunate is that there are those within both groups who dichotomize their public life from their lives in their home. Sivin wishes that those who fight for just treatment in the society can also treat their family members with equal zeal.
The other thing that we have in common is our distrust of academic grades as the indicator of one’s intelligence. Sivin told me about someone who was previously one of the top students at Trinity Theological College, who now is somewhat disconnected. I agreed with him and brought up John Sung as another example. Sung’s average score in his theological studies at Union Theological Seminary was above 90. Yet he was warded into the Bloomingdale Hospital to receive psychopathic treatment.