Editorial: The Christian church’s “Flora Expo Syndrome”
Translated by Lydia Ma
As Taiwanese people celebrated Moon Festival this week, those living in southern Taiwan had to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of yet another typhoon that resulted in severe flooding in Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Pingtung areas. In recent years, every typhoon has become a reminder of the severe consequences accompanying climate change.
Sensing this global trend, activities that raise awareness of environmental protection have sprung acrossTaiwan. However, policymakers in Taiwan’s capital, Taipei City, seem oblivious to the importance of environmental protection and have proven their point through meager funding allocated to such events.
Overall, our national leaders seem to have more important things on their minds – such as the Taipei International Flora Exposition set to begin at the end of the year. In fact, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-pin just increased the budget for this exhibition from NT$5 billion to NT$12 billion and it’s been reported the increase bypassed city council altogether. Hau’s lavish spending over this expo at the expense of more important matters has already drawn criticism and complaint far and wide.
In the frenzy of getting ready for this international exhibit, its impact on Taipei’s local environment and ecology has been shrugged off along with the rights of residents who live near the venue when the latter were forced to evacuate the area to make way for a temporary new building. Frankly, the city could’ve worked with residents to promote local culture and ecology instead of shooing them away to make way for this international event.
There are more effective and economical ways for Taipei to win international acclaim. If Mayor Hau had only spent a fraction of the money he spent on this expo to push through some legislations promoting the environment, such as limiting the use of plastic bags or promoting programs that encourage Taipei residents to volunteer in local cleanups, he would’ve transformed Taipei into a world-class enviro-friendly city in no time and garnered international acclaim with a lot less money, hassle, criticism, and unsustainable policies. As it stands right now, his prospects for re-election are hanging in the balance after bungling many details related to this exhibition, including lack of financial transparency and gains that are too short-term to satisfy.
In the same manner, how can we forget the income disparity between the rich and the poor in Taiwan? It is yet another symptom of the “Flora Expo Syndrome”. According to reports, the budget allotted for this exposition is many times more than the budget of entire townships or cities in southern Taiwan, many of them still struggling in the aftermath of this Typhoon Fanapi.
However, Taipei city government is not alone in exhibiting this “Flora Expo Syndrome”. Our churches demonstrate they suffer from it too when they are too “far-sighted” to see the needs of those nearby, when there’s lack of financial transparency, or when there’s excessive and arbitrary admiration for foreign megachurch pastors and their church grown strategies.
Every church has its own unique qualities and gifts given by God. It’s a shame many good ministries begun by churches are cut short or abandoned when churches decide to emulate models they’ve heard some megachurch pastor advocate that worked for him or her. We find that these models wind up being non-sustainable when they can’t be lived out or adapted to fit Taiwan’s unique culture and people.
Likewise, as we try to wrap our minds around the 8.22–fold difference in disposable income between the richest and poorest in Taiwan – the widest gap to date, we can’t help but notice a similar phenomenon within and between our churches. How wealthy churches can assist cash-strapped churches has become an important issue for churches to ponder seriously.
As Christians and Taiwanese society are reminded of this “Flora Expo Syndrome” in their pews and their cities in the upcoming months, let’s not forget that Jesus once said, “Not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these lilies in the field.” Let’s keep in mind that a lot of things of this earth that glitter and shine, may amount to less than a flower’s worth in Jesus’ eyes.