"I'm sorry I have to say it but you look like you're sadYour smile is gone; I've noticed it badThe cure is if you let in just a little more loveI promise you this, a little's enough"
A Little's Enough (2006) by Angels & Airwaves
I knew two boys in Primary School, both named Chiew. They were best friends and I would later go to the same high school with the pair. They were also the first two Protestant Christians I have ever encountered in my life. For the ease of narration, I shall call one of them Chiew One and the other Chiew Two, and while I never learned very much about what Christians actually believe in back in those days of yore, my interactions with the two of them was what kindled an interest in me for this offshoot cult of Judaism which, at the risk of understating it, got massively out of hand.
When I was either fourteen or fifteen, the Chiews invited me to some kind of a nighttime Christian meet held on the quad of another high school - and since that high school was within biking distance from where I live, I went. At that point in time, the only thing I knew about Christianity was that it's all about some beardy chap called Jesus who was born of a virgin. That was it. I did not even know Christians believe that the man died for the sins of humanity and then came back to life! I attended because the Chiews were performing and I wanted to go show my support. Also, I wanted to meet girls because I was a teenager.
Chiew One played God and from what I could tell, he was refereeing a kung fu showdown between Jesus and Satan (who was portrayed by some Indian guy dressed in all black and that's totally not racist). My memory is a bit fuzzy here but Chiew Two was either the messiah or an extra in the Devil's posse. I did remember that the referee was totally playing favourites and gave Jesus an extra life when his white-clad ass got got handed to him by Satan and his crew. And since I knew next to nothing about the Christian mythos and did not understand the context of the skit, it felt a bit wrong to me when everyone cheered at Jesus' eventual victory after the referee's unfair intervention in reviving Jesus. Err, guys? The whole fight was rigged!
After the bit and many others I have now completely forgotten, Chiew Two approached me at the end of the night and asked me what I thought about the show. I do not remember what I said but I do remember shamelessly asking him if he would give me a Bible. Maybe I wanted to know more about Jesus and Satan. Or maybe I wanted to see if there was really kung fu in the Bible - I don't know.
"Promise me you would take good care of this," he told me as he placed a Gideon Bible with golden covers into my hands. "Do not deface it. Do not tear it or burn it or throw it away."
I tried to read it but the first few pages of Genesis was so blah that I put it away for years before opening it again. But I kept my promise to my friend who made a gift of his faith to me - I never mistreated the book.
Chiew Two would leave in the middle of high school to study in Singapore as an ASEAN scholar while the more intelligent Chiew One (who had always beaten his same-named pal in class ranking) stayed on. With his bestie gone, I became Chiew One's new best friend, and we stayed that way until one day, I let slip to a whole lot of people that he wore hand-me-down undies from his elder brother because I was a moron and a bad friend. We never quite recovered from that, he and I. Now, there is not a lot I can recall about him but I do remember that he became the president of the Christian Fellowship in my school. One day, while we were sitting in class, he said this to me,
"Mary was as virgin as my mother."
Yes, the president of the Christian Fellowship in my school was secretly a blasphemer, and possibly a closeted unbeliever but I did not think very much about it at the time. Three years later after I enrolled in med school, I started reading the Bible in earnest - the very same one that Chiew Two gave me. I had brought it with me to India with me and it came in handy when I began to question my own faith in Buddhism, and wanted to explore what other religions have to offer. I finished reading the Old Testament, feeling uncomfortable with a lot of things it said and what they mean, and I was reading the New Testament, thinking how incongruous it was compared to the older books when his words echoed to me from that classroom, ringing out as clear as the day he said it,
"Mary was as virgin as my mother."
And just like that, I realised a very simple and useful truth: I don't have to believe. And that had made all the difference in my life.
P.S. I still have that gold-covered Gideon Bible.
Changed his mind,
k0k s3n w4i