This painting is inspired by Hang Ma street in the old quarter of Hanoi. Hang Ma Street, just 100m from Dong Xuan market, was once called Rue du Cuivre by the French. Residing here were tradesmen who made votive objects for the various religious festivals around the year. Over the past 2 centuries, Hang Ma Street has transformed from the place to go to to purchase votive objects to a bustling tourist attraction for both locals and foreigners. The street is always transforming, depending on the seasons and festivals of the time.
During Christmas 2022, Jacqueline and I brought a Singaporean friend to see the lights along Hang Ma Street. It was spectacular. But what struck me was not the drizzling lights and the attractive ornaments. I was mesmerised by the architecture of the century old buildings. My thoughts began to toss between the two ideas “foundations” and “always transforming”. The foundations of the buildings do not change but the facade of the buildings changes with the seasons.
I wonder how these 2 conflicting thoughts can hold true in my Christian journey. Our world is going through sweeping changes. Christian theology has gone through major reforms. One author I read somewhere said something like this: “our theology needs to be always reforming.” Youth For Christ’s motor rings at the back of my mind “Geared to the Times, Anchored to the Rock”.
Quickly, my thoughts raced to the idea of “deconstruction” & “reconstruction” of faith. An article on the Misso Alliance posits that:
“Deconstruction is more than just changing our beliefs. It’s the experience of being able to notice and name our paradigm for faith and question whether it is still sufficient for our lives.”
My heart is confused and begging for a clearer road map. Deconstruction sounds so much like conformation. But were not most reformers, like Martin Luther and John Calvin, considered heretics during their times. Today, we consider them as heroes of our faith.
How do I respond when my paradigm for faith is challenged? What does it mean to be geared to the times but anchored to the Rock? Am I being too dogmatic and becoming a bigot? Or am I truly transforming and arousing critics for conforming?
Perhaps, I can only cling to what Paul of Tarsus wrote in a letter to the people of Philippi saying “being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”.