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Singapore bishop urges Anglicans not to attend Madonna concert

The Rt. Rev. Rennis Ponniah issues biblical exhortation on Anglican attendance at the 28 Feb 2016 Rebel Heart Tour concert in Singapore.

The Bishop of Singapore has issued a biblical exhortation, urging Anglicans to examine their consciences and decide whether it was proper for them to attend Sunday’s Madonna concert.

In a pastoral letter to his diocese, the Rt. Rev. Rennis Ponniah said he was not calling for a boycott of the concert, nor were Christians seeking to impose “our views on others,” but was asking Christians to think through whether participation in the Rebel Heart tour was a moral good. He believed it was not.

The Rebel Heart Tour is the tenth worldwide concert tour by American singer Madonna (57), following the release last year of her thirteenth studio album, Rebel Heart. The first show began on 9 Sept 2015 in Montreal and will conclude on 20 March 2016 in Sydney. The content of the 82 concerts has changed slightly from venue to venue, with Asian audiences being offered less religiously themed material.

Bishop Ponniah wrote: “In taking a position on the Madonna concert, the Church can be cast as being moralistic or arrogantly prescriptive for everybody else. That is not our intention or motivation. The Church is not simply anti-this or anti-that. Rather, we have a God-given role to bear witness to the values that make for life… values that undergird peoples’ choices.”

Life was “about choices,” he said, “choices made by a society, a family and an individual. This is true also for Madonna. The spirit of Christians and of the Church is not to condemn but to invite, admonish and encourage one another, both as fellow-believers and fellow human beings, to make the right decisions for man’s well-being and for the glory of God.”

The difficulties attendance and participation in a Madonna concert had for Christians was threefold, he said.

“As Christians, we are to avoid everything that darkens and defiles our hearts and minds, and that ultimately breaks our fellowship or close communion with God and even with each other. What language, values and images will one expose oneself to at the Madonna concert? What impact will it leave on the attendee’s heart and imagination?”

“Secondly, the choice is framed for Christians in terms of love for God the Father as against love for ‘the worl’. By ‘the world’ is meant the world organised and opposed to God’s intentions and God’s ways for man … We are to exercise our choices in a way that decisively shows that our love for God is greater than our love for what “the world” craves for.”

“Thirdly, our choices and the conduct that follows affects the witness of Christians before a watching world. How will non-Christians understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the lifestyle it calls us to if Christians find ‘no problem’ with attending such a concert? The power of the Cross sets us free to ‘flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with all those who call on the Lord from a pure heart’. (2 Timothy 2:22; cf Romans 12:1-2). Will attending the concert convey a Christian’s commitment to the beautiful and holy life Christ Jesus has redeemed us for?”

Bishop Ponniah said he joined his Roman Catholic counterpart, Archbishop William Goh in making a biblical exhortation asking Christians to “make their choice on whether to attend the concert with ‘an informed conscience’.”

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