Despite this, church involvement in both social movements and the political system are already a reality. Newspaper reports suggest Yan Fok Church, which according to the Chinese Christian news service, Gospel Herald, has more than 10,000 members, exerted influence on its members to vote for Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, a conservative Christian, during the 2008 and 2012 LegCo elections.
And Kong Fok Church’s Ng caused controversy when some Christians objected to his teaching that Christians should obey those in power because the rule and order of the government are affirmed by God. The church has 700 members, including former Secretary for Justice Wong Yan-lung and a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress, Maria Tam Wai-chu.
However, Priscilla Leung, who has publicly opposed consultation on an anti-gay discrimination bill, plays down any fears about the undue influence of religion on politics. “Religion may affect my values or attitude at work rather than my political stance,” she says. “Religion is religion. Religion cannot directly influence all my political decisions.
“As a non-believer, one should participate in politics as a civil citizen; as a religious believer, one should speak up when politics is related to the core values of your faith,” she adds.
Chan Yut-wah, a pastor and former member of the board of the Society for Truth and Light ran in the 2012 LegCo Election as an independent candidate with the stated aim of bringing a voice of faith into the Legislative Council. Chan says his candidacy, though ultimately unsuccessful, sets an example for other Christians. “The separation of state and religion does not mean the two cannot cooperate,” Chan says. “With interaction and cooperation, the church can contribute a lot to the country.”
As Christians continue to participate in both social movements and establishment politics in Hong Kong, the divisions between them may become more apparent. But it is not always easy to distinguish between the different factions and many Christians choose not to label themselves at all.
DJ and social activist “Fast Beat” Tam Tak-chi, a member of Narrow Church, points out that one can be politically or socially progressive but morally conservative, and vice versa, so it is hard to label a Christian in reality. “Progressive Christian – like progressive social workers and progressive doctors – that is what I like to call myself,” he says.
So is there really a culture war in Hong Kong’s Christian community?
“We would not use war to describe the struggle between the two factions,” Professor Kwan Kai-man at Hong Kong Baptist University says. “There are no attacks and nobody is bearing a war mindset. We bear and listen to different opinions peacefully.”
Others see it differently, and believe it is a matter of time before the differences will come to a head again. As B. Tsang, who witnessed the counter rally against the Inclusive Love Praying Concert puts it: “It [cultural war] has only just begun.”
Edited by Astina Ng