Category: Current Affairs,Deep Thoughts,Singapore Affairs,Social Issues
I feel that the church should not attempt to influence government policies unless such policies removes their rights to be Christians. Just as I wouldn’t stand for any government controlling the religious freedom of people, so as long as those religious practices does not affect the rest of the population. Doesn’t that sound fair? Isn’t that how a democracy suppose to work?
A couple of years back, a group of Christian ladies decided to take over a not for profit organization for women support – the AWARE scandal. It was disgusting how they used underhanded methods to over take a social service agency for their own agenda. Yucks. Then a couple of weeks back, Pastor Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church posted a Facebook comment on his support for the criminalization of homosexuals.
Background on Pastor Khong and 377a:
It really troubles me when other Christians replied to his call to “battle” homosexuality, and they chorus after him “Yes, we need to keep 377a”.
As some have pointed out, the Bible lists many other sins besides homosexuality, why aren’t they championing for the government to ban abortions or divorce or adultery? After all, the bible says that these are sins too.
Picture take from The Examiner
I came across this post on Facebook by a 24 year old gay Christian, Joel Joshua Gunawan, on his stand on religion and his sexuality. I find his views interesting, touching, and logical. I wish more people can be more tolerant and love those that they find difficult to. After all, it is easy to love the people close, but to love your “enemies” or people that disagree with you…. Well, that is something we have to strive to do.
On Being Gay and Christian
Plato often chides me in a soft voice, saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle”. But it so hard, sir. Perhaps to be kind is the hardest battle that I fight.
And often who is it hardest to be kind to, but oneself? Being both gay and Christian – often portrayed as the two opposing sides of an epic war – tears me apart. I wish I could choose one or the other, but the unkindness I do to myself is to choose the honesty that I cannot renounce either.
Being Gay and Christian
Growing up in an ordinary, loving, Christian family, there was hardly anything wrong with my childhood. It was a normal and blissful upbringing. My parents were always present, always loving towards each other and to me (and still are), I was brought up according to good Christian morals, and there was little want in the house. There was absolutely no gay figure in my childhood to influence me. Still, somehow, I turned out gay.
I noticed my sexual preference for boys even from kindergarten, an astonishingly young age, I know. When I was 9 or 10, a school teacher mentioned the word “gay” after watching me and a classmate horsing around, as boys do. I quickly connected the dots, and still remember praying for God to take such inclinations away from me. I am 24 now, and have never stopped praying for that. I remember praying so hard, so earnestly in that childlike faith. Every birthday, as I was asked to make a wish/prayer at the birthday cake, I would ask for only one thing – that God would take this away from me. I would sit alone in my bed on so many nights and cry to myself, thinking about the kind of life I have ahead of me, begging not to be sent to hell. I felt so filthy, so debauched, simply because I had those feelings. I was only a child. No 10 year old should have had to feel that way – so lost, so afraid, so confused, so alone. But such things happen in a fallen world.
I eventually came out to my parents at the age of 15. They were shocked and thought I was too young to be sure, but by then I had already thought so hard about it for years. I’d tried so hard to change – if I could have, I would have. I figured I should tell them while I was still young and (relatively) lovable, rather than wait until I was an adult man. Before coming out to them, I spent days on the internet reading stories of people who came out to their parents, many of whom were thrown out of their homes. I still remember the fear I had in my heart when I finally told them in tears. Thankfully, they responded in love and, even though they understandably still hold on to their Christian beliefs against homosexuality, they have never made me feel less for it. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many other people who have faced rejection from the one place they needed acceptance most.
And I tried to change – heck, of course I did. And this is something which really irks me – I often hear Christians flippantly say that gays can change their sexuality, and that it is just a matter of choice. I do not claim to know for sure whether people are born gay, and whether they can change. What I know for sure is that for as far as I can remember, I have tried as hard as I can to not be gay.
Who on earth would choose to be gay (and how do you do that anyway)? Gays are taunted, bullied, condemned, and rejected. Often, they have rejected themselves, hating themselves, many to the point of death. We have been rejected by society, by friends, by family, even by fellow homosexuals in such a very cruel circle. We have had to suppress everything within us, we have learnt to be ashamed of how we are so naturally inclined, we have been taught that we are less. We have spent countless nights unable to sleep, lying in bed, thinking about what a lonesome life we have predestined ahead of us. We have stared at straight couples, envied their freedom to love, devastated at the realization that we will never enjoy the blessing of simply being “normal”, to found a “normal” family, to eventually have grandchildren of our own in our old age.
And that is what we have always wanted – just to be normal. We have tried our best to be normal according to the standards of this world, but we just cannot. Heck, why can’t you understand that? And since we cannot be normal in that way, I think it only understandable that we strive to be accepted as normal just the way we are. We simply want to be like that boy and girl in the street, accepted, assimilated, loved and loving another. We simply want to be human.
And how much worse being gay and Christian, to know that you will never be able to love someone without being plagued by a deep sense of guilt for your entire life, knowing that the only reciprocal love you are capable of is one that God disapproves of. How I wish it were only a problem I could debate about and then wave away, as so many people do. There is absolutely nothing to gain from choosing to be gay. Why on earth would anyone say, hey, maybe I’ll try to be sexually attracted to men for a bit and see how exciting that may be. That’s ridiculous. I and millions of others would have made such a switch by now. Perhaps there might be a way to change – I do not know. But what I do know is that I have tried all my life, and if it is THAT difficult to change, then there certainly is something to be said about that sort of “choice”.
Theology and homosexuality
I have no issue with Christians maintaining a doctrine condemning homosexuality – the Bible seems to propose that. What I have a problem with is ignorance – both with regards to homosexuality, and with theology.
Firstly, on homosexuality. Christians display an astonishing lack of understanding concerning homosexuality – even while condemning it passionately. As described earlier, the fact that so many Christians flippantly insist that being gay is a mere choice angers me. It trivializes this massive wrestle I have had all my life with this thorn in the flesh – and not just mine, but the struggle of millions of other homosexuals who have tried, and tried, and tried, and tried, and tried to change.
It further angers me that Christians often speak of homosexuals as some sort of tiny deviant group who have chosen to be morally corrupt, like people who choose to dabble in witchcraft, for example. These Christians are completely oblivious to the fact that there are far more homosexuals in the world than they care to admit or realise. Estimates have ranged from 10%-20% of any general population, and that means there could be as many as half to one million gay people in Singapore. Or, closer to home, around 1000 homosexuals in a megachurch with a congregation of 10,000.
We are your sons and your daughters, your brothers and your sisters – often, we choose not to speak about our sexuality precisely because of this conscientious ignorance in the Church. For many of us, being gay is one of the biggest struggles of our lives, but we would rather not talk about it because of such an appalling lack of understanding towards homosexuality, and worse, a lack of interest to actually understand.
We have already experienced rejection in so many forms throughout our lives, so most of us would rather choose to pretend that the problem does not exist than to expose ourselves to the potential barrage of ignorant condemnation, whether well-meaning or not. We happen to have sexual attraction towards the “wrong” gender, and try as we might, we can’t seem to get rid of that. Whether that is right or wrong is one matter – the fact is, your choice to ignorantly treat homosexuals as a tiny minority who have chosen on volition to adopt some sort of niche abomination is an error that you need to correct. When people passionately fight against something they display such an immense lack of understanding towards, that fight is flawed from the start. When people claim to love someone, yet choose to be spectacularly ignorant and flippant about his struggles, it is difficult to trust the value of that sort of “love”.
Secondly, you also display a glaring lack of understanding towards Christian theology itself. Sure, many non-Christians have been misquoting the Bible without understanding it, for instance citing Old Testament dietary laws and symbolic prohibitions to mock the Law without understanding that the Doctrine of Supercession has rendered those laws dead. But that ought not be a mistake for you to make, you who purport to be lovers of the Word. For example, how many “religious” Christians I have met insist that mere homosexualtemptations are sin. I only wish they would understand what they are saying before speaking with such certainty about things they know so little about. The fact that so many of you continue to speak in an authoratative voice on a matter you evidently know too little about puts even Christian homosexuals off, much less homosexuals who (understandably) have an aversion towards Christianity to begin with. If you have a solution, tell us because most of us want to know. But if all that you have to say is “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!” or “I support the traditional family model!” (so do I) or “gay rights will destroy the family!” (how?), then you are continuing to mumble to yourself.
I will not claim to have an conclusive answer concerning the correctness/wrongness of homosexuality. However, I put it to you that although I once thought the matter was fixed, I’m now persuaded otherwise. I used to strongly believe that the Bible condemns homosexuality, never once condoning it, even in spite of my own personal struggles, since Truth does not change according to my personal preferences. Difficult as it is, I was, and still am, prepared to accept that.
However, the more I read the Bible and ask the difficult but critical questions, the more I come to see that the matter may be far from settled. The debate is out there in public, done to death, and I shall not attempt to replicate it, but suffice to summarize my current thoughts thus:
1. The Old Testament with its old laws have been superceded by the New Testament, Jesus being the High Priest of the New Covenant (see particularly, Hebrews 7-8).
2. The New Covenant is NOT synonymous with the New Testament (as I used to believe so myself). In the New Testament, we see the development of the New Covenant, and that is evident in the changing rules ranging from the Gospels (where Jesus said that “not one yod or tittle will disappear from the Law” and “whoever breaks the smallest of the Law and teaches others to do the same will be better off drowning himself” (Matthew 5:18-19)), to the Acts of the Apostles (where the apostles slowly adapted the dietary/customary rules of the Church to this New Covenant), to the epistles of Paul and the book of Hebrews which expound on the New Covenant.
3. So the exact parameters of this “New Covenant” is quite an uncertain matter. The Bible does not say “and these are the contents of the New Covenant: …”. The Church all through history and around the world has been debating it. Is it ok to eat meat sacrificed to idols? (see Acts 15:29, but see 1 Corinthians 10:28 which says that it is not, in itself, morally wrong) Is it ok for women to speak in church? (1 Corinthians 14:34 – which is not merely symbolic or cultural, but is crucially theological, the basis being that “it was woman who first sinned”: see 1 Timothy 2:12-15) Is it ok for women to wear jewellery? (1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3) If the 10 Commandment is the core of the law we should observe, then why do we not observe the Sabbath which is, by definition, Saturday?
4. Thus I think it is possible to see that the question of homosexuality is far from unanimously settled. I put it to you that the rules of the New Covenant are not “laws” to be followed to the letter, but analogies for our conscience. Paul wrote: “All things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial; all things are permissible for me, but not all things are constructive” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Just as dietary laws and laws prohibiting one from wearing certain materials have been understood to be merely analogous to deeper theological matters, so too the laws on gender. After all, gender really is but a temporary construct, and in Christ there is ultimately no male or female (Galatians 3:28). I am not saying that we should therefore descend into lawlessness – no, my point is that the law should serve a practical purpose, and symbolic laws should be understood that way, and ultimately it is our conscience which matters most. Just as we observe the Sabbath not strictly from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, but understand in it the principle of Rest, so too we can observe the law on marriage as one of love, commitment, and monogamy, rather than that of strict gender.
5. Of course that is all rather debatable, and I do not claim monopoly on understanding. All I wish to show here is that “the Bible says so!” is not necessarily a conclusive statement in the debate, and a Christian who truly reads the Bible will fear to say such a thing. I don’t know for sure what the Biblereally means, and perhaps I might be accused of trying to fit it to my interpretation. I don’t know. But what I do know is that unlike most of you, this is my life and not a mere point of argument. And to reconcile everything is a need for me, not a mere interest or passion.
Legislating against homosexuality
But let us ASSUME that the Bible does unequivocally condemn homosexuality. I would want to work to change my own lifestyle. In fact, I have been trying to do that all my life because despite my sexuality, 24 years of growing up in church have shown me the reality of God in ways I cannot explain away. I have seen friends healed miraculously, lives changed, and the work of God in my life and family in ways I cannot explain apart from the power of Christ. I wish I could explain them all away as mere coincidence or conspiracy as many do – I want to! – but I cannot lie to myself. In my heart of heart, I know that the Christian God is real, and I am willing to try to give up my lifestyle, even if I doubt my own strength to.
However, most of the gay community do not subscribe to Christianity. While I defend the Church’s right to proselytise and maintain its stand on homosexuality, I cannot defend its attempt to legislate against it. Do not get me wrong – as citizens of this nation, I completely support your right to do so. I reject the silly notion that “Separation of Church and State” means that politics must necessarily be informed by ONLY secular voices. After all, all opinions are informed by worldviews and philosophies, whether involving a deity or not. To insist that only those views involving none should be allowed to be aired in public discourse is contrary to the notion of secular. Indeed, as a secular multi-religious nation, secularism and religion are not incompatible – it simply means that people are not judged according to their religion or lack thereof. Just because a person’s opinion is founded in a particular religion does not disqualify it from being used to influence public policy.
However, while I defend your right to influence legislation against homosexuality, I disagree with it. After all, what benefit does it do, apart from creating even more animosity than already exists between the Church and homosexuals? Generally, gay people HATE Christianity. Section 377A of the Penal Code criminalizes consensual private sexual activity – what does that do for your cause? People are going to be gay regardless, and they are going to continue being so, even if they try their best not to be. What is criminalization going to change? Calling me a criminal is not going to make me love and marry a woman. Heck, I WANT to do it, even without 377A, but what prevents me from doing so is not something that can be changed by the law. And if your reason for criminalising homosexuality is that it is a moral wrong which harms the “traditional family unit”, then what is your excuse for not advocating the criminalisation of adultery and divorce too?
If the reason you call for 377A to be retained is your fear that gay rights may someday progress to the point where you might be prosecuted for condemning homosexuality, then shame on you! To protect YOURSELF from a possible future injustice, you are calling for injustices on others as a preventive measure. How selfish can that be? If you fear the eventual injustice that your freedom of expression may someday be infringed, then fight THAT injustice when it comes instead of placing a separate injustice on your fellow man. Moreover, if you are Christians as you so claim, “imitators of Christ”, then remember that Christ was willing to bear the Cross and every injustice He suffered in His ministry, like a sheep silent before its shearers (Isaiah 53:7). More than that, He has called you to do the same (Matthew 5:11). It does not mean that you become fools and let the world take advantage of you, but it does mean that your “righteous” causes should not be used to justify and disguise your desire for self-preservation.
Furthermore, homosexuality is but a small sin in Christianity. All such sins are ultimately forgivable, but there is one unpardonable sin – that of idolatry. In other words, the sin of idol-worship and beliefs in other gods (or none) is the biggest sin in Christianity. Yet Christians do not insist that all non-Christians be legally prohibited from doing so. We do not pray for Islam or Buddhism to be made illegal. While we profess and stand by the fact that idolatry is wrong and will lead to eternal damnation, we respect the God-given freedom that each man and woman has to make choices for themselves. While we assume the responsibility to “be the salt and light of the world” (Matthew 5:13) and to “teach the nations to obey” (Matthew 28:18) God, we recognise that teaching does not consist of, or involve, forcing. That is why Christians support religious freedom which, historically, had its origins in the Protestant Reformation itself. Why, then, must it be different for homosexuality?
Jesus never condoned sin. He never compromised on His beliefs on morality which were clear to all who knew Him as a Jewish teacher – and He frequently taught on those topics. The difference between Jesus and (many) Christians lies in their approach.
This is how Jesus treated the prostitute: He looked at her, and without condemnation, said “Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7.48-50). This is how Jesus treated the adulteress caught in the very act of adultery (imagine that): He defended her from her prosecutors by saying to them “let he without sin cast the first stone”, then turned to her and said, “I don’t condemn you. Just leave your life of sin.” (John 1.8-11). This is how Jesus treated those who chose not to believe in Him: to the young rich man who could not bring himself to change his lifestyle, Jesus spoke with and tried to persuade him, but ultimately respected his choice and his freewill, and let him go his way (Matthew 19.16-22). Compare that to how Christians treat homosexuals and those who make un-Christian choices today. Would Jesus have advocated for a law to criminalise homosexuality? I highly doubt it.
Jesus said He did not come to condemn sinners but to save them (John 3.17). And this is what He had to say to the chief priest of His day and the religious people who were so conformed to what they have been taught by men, who were so stuck in their personal prejudices and self-righteousness that they missed the whole point: “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you (Matthew 21.32)”.
So what am I writing all of this for? First, I just hope that Christians will seek to understand homosexuality before passing judgement of whatever kind on gay people. If we need anything, it is understanding, support, and love – not rejection, which we have faced all of our lives from every side. Second, I hope that Christians will seek to understand the Bible and what it says (and does not say) about homosexuality (and everything else) before using Bible quotes out of context and without qualification. Thirdly, I hope that non-Christians will be more understanding towards Christians as well. We all have a worldview (whether religious or secular), and Christians have every right to express their genuine beliefs, AND to use them to inform their stand on public policy, just as you have the right to use your non-religious beliefs to inform how the law should change. Debate, then, not mock. And think before you click that “like” button.
At the end of the day we are all human, wrestling with our own struggles daily, whether gay or Christian, both or neither. Most of us just want to be human without malice, and can do with as much support and love as we can get, not condemnation – whether of our persons, our religious beliefs, or our lifestyles.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a battle called “life” to fight today.