Thursday, 31 May 2012

Mountain of Ignorance

I kick off my climb of the mountain  of ignorance with this quote from an astronomer, Robert Jastrow:  "For scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."

I can imagine, quite cheekily, the trademark Dawkins firebrand's defiance and insisting the opposite: "...and waiting for the theologian while he pulls himself over the final rock is a band of scientists smiling and saying, "See I told you so."

Or a Buddhist, sweating himself up the mountain of ignorance, and finding "absolute nothingness."

For a militant jihadist, he'd be hollering up the same mountain. As he reaches for the grappling hook, he accidentally pulls the wrong one and goes off before he reaches the top.

Then, my mind goes to the plight of a nihilist, who having reached the top, breathed in the fresh mountain air, and then, with a jolly smile, plunges down.

How about an agnostic? Well he would stop mid-mountain and cry out, "I am not going further without any supporting evidence!"

You would find an old testament Jew at the bottom of the mountain, looking forlornly up and muttering, "I am still waiting."

Finally, I imagine a race up the mountain between a fundamentalist creationist and an atheist evolution scientist. When they reach the top, God greets them and says, "Didn't I told you guys so?"

Well, the above is just my weekend food for thought. Pardon me if I have stepped on anyone's dogmatic feet. Just jiving...

For me, at this moment, this quote is most apt: "The world is kinda like a spiritual kindergarten where all the bewildered infants are trying to spell God with an incomplete set of blocks."  Because, in the larger scheme of things, and in our infinite ignorance, aren't we all equal?

Cheers out! (just killing time...or wasting it...?)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

"Is it fair?" "Does it matter?"

Just this morning, I met a friend in court and we chat up. She told me about a case she is handling. It's a fatal accident case. The victim was a 19 year old lady. She was, needlessly to say, at the prime of her youth. She was a smart girl and the only child of a family who loved her dearly. She was a pillion rider in a motor car accident.

The facts seemed sketchy but what is clear is that the motorcar, which collided into the bike she was on, was driven by a drunk driver.  And this is the truly sad part. Embrace yourself.

The young lady had in her bag a little dog. Upon collision, the helmet, the lady and the dog were flung off at all directions. As the lady was lying motionless on the road, the dog struggled back to her to be by her side. I guess her dog was the last living thing she saw before she departed. She left behind her inconsolable parents and a loyal dog.

My friend told me she went to the victim's house (her parents just bought her a house) and cried when her parents told her that they had to give away the dog because they couldn't take it.  And this is the part of my letter that is relevant. Before we departed, my friend turned to me and asked pointblank, "Is it fair?" Before I could answer her, she'd left.

That question lingered on me like a dye-in-the-vein stain. "Is it fair?"  My spirit and mind went on a tailspin; the vortex of which is a bottomless pit. "Is it fair?" is a rhetorical question, that is, it is a question that one doesn't expect a corresponding answer. It is a chicken-and-the-egg question. It's like asking a bald fellow, "Why no hair?"

In the end, after searching for the answer from all conceivable theological and secular points of view, I believe it brings the questioner to where he or she first started off; the proverbial square one.

So, my answer to that question, "Is it fair?" is "Does it matter?" Seriously, does it matter? I know this sounds curt and unfeeling...heartless even. But does it matter that the victim was a young lady at the prime of her youth?  Does it matter that she is innocent? Does it matter that her life is cut-short when there may well be others more deserving of such a fate? You may ask: Why do I take this seemingly resigned stand?

When my friend asked me, "Is it fair?", I was at first fired up to answer her. I was going to tell her that the accident had a natural cause. And possibly a long chain of causation. Although I am not privy to all the facts, I hypothesize that the victim was riding home. She happened to be where she was when the accident happened, or else there wouldn't be an accident to speak about in the first place.

I also guessed that the drunk driver had a habit of drinking. Blame it on his genes? Then, he too happened to be where he was in order for the accident to happen. The entire accident happened in that way because of a naturalistic convergence of factors like those elements of nature that come together to form the perfect storm.

One can say that the accident in question could happen to anyone traveling on that day, at that time and on that specific location. But that won't be accurate. That unfortunate accident could only happen to that lady and that drunk driver and no one else. It happened because there was no other way or to no other people that it could happen to. If it were someone else taking either of their places, the choices made would have been different and the accident would have never happened the way it happened.

I know I sound like a broken record; and an old, outdated record at that. My above statement also seems tautological, that is, an endless repetition of idea without any added clarity. But that's my point.

And my point is this: things happen, good or bad, whether we like it or not, regardless of our protest or design, because that's how this world is wound up and we are just "a snowflake in an avalanche".

Here is one home experiment you can try out. Wind up a mechanized rabbit and then place it randomly on a table and see where it ends up. I can bet with you it ends up in a different spot, different angle, different direction each time you set it off. At times, it may even fall off the table and break into different parts. Each time, each outcome cannot be duplicated.

That simple experiment somewhat mirrors our own life in the larger scheme of events that either happens to us or happens past us. We practically have no control over them. It happens and it happens however way it happens. The beginning, I believe, was a big winding up which started a chain reaction and the rest is historical eventuality. I can't add any more clarity to that.

Carl Sagan once quipped, "If you want to make an apple pie, you'll have to first create the universe." My take from it is that you cannot view an event or an accident in isolation. They are all connected in the larger scheme of things. Like the butterfly effect, a fluttering of a butterfly's wing in a remote part of Africa may very well end up a tornado in New York.
Causes that leads to specific events, whether good or bad, are too multivariate for enumeration.

So the next time you want the "causes" of that mouth-watering apple pie, you might just have to trace back 13.7 billion years or even further! Just a stretch of a metaphor, if you don't mind. And mind you, it is also an exercise in futility. So, in the end, it really doesn't matter.

Now, going back to that question, "Is it fair?" I'd repeat, "It really doesn't matter."

As a Christian, I can tell you a hundred and one reasons why God "calvinistically" allowed it,  "armenistically"  permitted it, or "naturalistically" washed His hands over it. Or, for some religions, I can solemnly utter these three words, "it is fate."

But this back-and-forward theological tug of war is of little practical value because the raw reality remains unchanged: a life lost cannot be returned. As for the questions, "why must it be my daughter?" or "it's not fair, right?", they make for good coffee table talk but it brings the life no closer to her body.

Jesus was once asked a similar question and his reply can be summed up in these words: Look forward. Remember, the past is a prologue (an introduction or a lesson) to our future. Although i am in no position to fault a grieving soul when he bombards the object of his providence questions like "Why her?" "Why me?" "Is it fair?" "Don't you care?", I think when all the theological dust has settled and grief has taken a momentary leave, the best advice I can give is, "look forward."

Because life goes on, and the living has to live and the dead has to "die", looking forward tends to keep our focus on reasons to live on and looking back tends to keep our focus on reasons to give up.  Most importantly, isn't this the wish of our  loved ones who have gone before us? Surely, they want us to continue living because that would be our wish for them too should the situation be reversed.

I once read how a psychologist consoled a husband who recently lost his wife. He appeared inconsolable and the psychologist asked him, "What if the one who died was you instead of your wife?" That somehow got his attention and he replied, "No, no, if I would to go before her, she can't take it. Her world would collapse. That woman cannot handle it without me." Then, the psychologist turn to the grieving man and said, "Isn't it now for the best that she went before you?"

Let me end with what Einstein once said, "Time exists so that everything does not happen all at once." Maybe this was what God intended, time, that is. As another thought experiment, can you imagine a world where everything happens all at once. On an anthropomorphic level, imagine your birth is also your death. And on a cosmological level, imagine the command "let there be light" is immediately followed by the command "a new heaven and earth."

Although this is an imperfect thought experiment, I hope you see how meaningless, or incomprehensible, our lives can be.

Time is spread out so that there's a time for everything to happen at its time and not for everything to happen all at once. A time for birth. A time for celebration. A time for death. A time for grief. A time to overcome. A time to rejoice.

 So, is it fair? Looking forward, I don't think it matters anyhow. A better question, once the grieving process has come full circle, is, "What now then?" And mind you, the journey from "Is it fair?" to "What now then?" is a long, long, long one.

Cheers and have a victorious week ahead!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Right Balance of Light and Trauma

We must seek the right balance between light and the shadow of trauma. What is light? It's hope. It's belief. It's faith in a power greater than our collective humanity. What is "the shadow of trauma" then? It's trials that we go through. It's pain and suffering. Trials are inevitable and hope is indispensable. In a personal crisis, we must keep the right perspective by keeping the right balance of hope and trials, of faith and suffering.

By now, we should come to accept life's uncertainties. And that which is uncertain always strikes with a cold hand of certainty.  I guess this squares with the ironic saying, "Nothing is certain except death and taxes...and possibly, pain." Sorrow is a close cousin of pain and it is also inevitable.  Don't invite more pain in your life than is necessary. They say that sorrow is unavoidable, but misery is optional.

The misery that is unnecessarily generated by us, that worsens or perpetuates our life's trials, are the misery that comes with trying to control everything, expecting only good things, and blaming others for our own misfortune, that is, shifting the blame. The latter only perpetuates our pain unnecessarily.

Let's face it.There are many things we cannot control, especially when it involves a relation or a situation, or both.  Men (and women) will generally disappoint, even your dearest loved ones. Isn't it true that the difficulty of marriage is that you fall in love with a personality (a colorful one) but must live with a character?

Your blissful situation will, sooner or later, be shattered by a death, a financial misfortune, a sickness. Let me ask you: What is your expectation pegged to? Reality or your ego.

By now, you should be aware that your ego has a peculiar way of inflating and distorting reality.  Let me illustrate this with the fraction of man. A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator, the smaller the fraction and the smaller the chance of him coming out of a crisis unscathed.

You'd be sorely disappointed if your expectation is ego-pegged. The reality is this:  if your expectation is pegged to your ego, you are basically "Edging God Out" in your life. Alternatively, you will find yourself edged out of reality!

This brings me to the next logical point about traumas.  It is said that when you are no longer able to change your situation, you are then challenged to change yourself. Taking up this challenge will move you forward. Avoiding/denying this challenge will hold you back.  The best bet in life is owning up to your responsibility and moving forward with it.

I often tell my son to "light tomorrow with today." Don't darken your tomorrow with today. No doubt there's positive growth in a trauma or trial but it is not a given or an automatic entitlement. You have to fight for it. Your attitude counts and it counts a lot.

Many people refuse to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They choose to see only the darkness - groping, wallowing and lamenting as a result. If life is likened to cycling a bike, then seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is to keep cycling, finding your momentum of recovery, keeping hope and faith in balance, and being intrinsically inspired by the progress that is forward moving.

We all know that seeing only the darkness in a tunnel means that we stop riding our bike. And when we stop riding, we fall. That is the law of gravity as well as a fact of life. And the fact of life is in this quote: "In three words I can sum up what I have learned about life: it goes on!"

God has given us today to make a difference. Today is where we are alive to. The past is buried. The future is stillborn. The present is our only temporal workshop where our past and future converge; that is, where we can learn and use our past to shape our future.

The mantra to live by is this: Live in the present moment. Don't re-live your past and re-feel the pain. Neither pre-live the future and pre-feel the anxiety. The present is indeed a gift.

Imagine a genie grant you these two wishes in life and asks you to choose one, what will it be?  The two wishes are: Do you wish for a life that embraces unavoidable trials, whereby you persist through it with a positive spirit, with support of loved ones, praying for a breakthrough, hoping for the best, and ultimately learning from it and becoming better and stronger by it?

Or, do you wish to be given a green pill where upon ingesting it, all your painful memories magically disappear and you are immune from any future pain, thereby enabling you to cruise through life bereft of challenges, trials or trauma? Give it some thought, and be careful what you wish for, because it may just come true!

Here's another way to see it:  "If a butterfly had said no to struggling in a chrysalis, it would have forfeited it's future for an entombed fate." Seen in this light, isn't the choice a tad clearer?

To sum up, strive to achieve a healthy balance between light and the shadow of trauma. When the balance is right, you will embrace uncertainties and trials, you will have a reality-based expectation, you will treasure your today, making the most of it, and you will be an agent of positive change, taking full responsibility for it.  When such balance is achieved, it will yield only one result: post-traumatic growth.

 Let me leave you with this thought: When you are in your own shadow of trauma, remember that there is no shadow without light. In fact, for every shadow, light is nearby. So, turn not your eyes on the shadow, but upon the light.  Look for the first light that created this universe. And walk confidently towards it. And as the shadow retreats from behind you,  you will find your redeemer waiting.

For it is said, "O, where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord!"


Friday, 18 May 2012

An Atheist, a Philosopher and a Religious Teacher

The camera zooms in on three men trekking down a sandy road. They came upon what seems like a body fully covered by a huge canvass.  The three men - an atheist, a philosopher, and a religious teacher - speculated that the man must have died from the cold dry wind of the night before.

So, one of them started a dialogue with the rest.

Atheist:  What a way to die. No money. No success. Can't even afford a decent burial.

Teacher: I agree. Death has consumed him. But at least his happiness now lies in his rebirth. He can start his life for the second time and live it as if it was his last.

Philosopher: You speak as if know for sure that his next life will be happier than his first.

Teacher: Nothing is for sure in our life or in our rebirth. Only three things will lead to true happiness. They are knowledge, works and freedom from desires. In his next life, he must come to know his true identity, the essence of his being. His true self is authentic, infinite and imperishable. His true self is his soul, which is immortal. Once he knows this, he will then be able to work out his happiness. He must do good works, perform charity and live blamelessly. Attaining all these, he will be able to free himself from desires for the things of this world, for material satisfaction. He will then be one with his true self.

Atheist: Do you have any proof of this rebirth? You people talk too much about the unattainable. Why don't you take a reality check and examine the body. Where is his soul? Where is his true self? Weight him. Has his soul left him? What you see is all there is! He's dead and his death is the end of it. There's no rebirth. No true self. No more life.

Philosopher: Tell me my friend, what is happiness for you?

Atheist: Happiness? Well, I do not have the answer. Not yet maybe. But one thing I know for sure...happiness is not in chasing shadows, self-deluded dreams or hallucinations. I believe we create our own happiness. It starts with our mind and ends with our two hands.

Teacher: Then tell me, my confident friend, do you think that this man here died happy or sad?

Atheist: He? His death has nothing to do with me. He died and that's it. Hopefully, it's disposal with benefit the ecology.

Teacher: How about you? (turns to the Philosopher)

Philosopher: I believe that each of us is responsible for our own happiness.

Atheist: Amen to that...oops. I mean I can agree to that.

Philosopher: ...and one person's happiness is based on this simple principle...maximizing one's pleasure and minimizing one's pain. In other words, happiness equal pleasure minus pain.

Teacher: Mmm...interesting. Tell me more.

Philosopher: You see, to me, pleasure  is absolute. It's king. There is no higher order of happiness other than pleasure. The main guide to being happy is to seek to maximize your pleasure. By doing so, you minimize your pain.

Teacher: But isn't that a question disguised as an answer? What then is pleasure? How do you account for pleasure in sadism? Pleasure derived from seeing others hurt by your gratuitous cruelty.

Philosopher: Well, the pleasure in my definition cannot be divorced from the consequences arising from attaining it. Let me illustrate. I have the right to throw a punch but I have to ensure that it doesn't end up on your nose. The pleasure one seek is a responsible one. It is nobler and saner than the one sought by a masochist or sadist. It's pleasure with a conscience.

Atheist: I agree with you. I believe there's unbounded happiness in virtues, honor, beauty and order. An upright man is infinitely happier than a corrupt one.

Teacher: Mmm..pleasure with a conscience? Can we really trust a man's conscience? You see, some men never do evil so fully and cheerfully as when they are doing it out of a clear conscience.

Atheist: I see your point...they say there is one way to attain happiness in this terrestrial ball. Either to have a clear conscience or to have none at all. So, there's happiness whether you have or have not a clear conscience.

Teacher: Yes, it seems that way. How does that glitch fit into your pleasure-with-noble-consequences definition? Isn't one man's conscience is another man's contention? Or one man's nobility is another man's venality?

Philosopher: Well, men are selfish. They are born that way and most will probably die that way too. In fact, many mass murderers think that they are doing the world a favor by eradicating an entire village! Some people deserve death, so they think. But these are exceptions to the rule and rare ones in this civilized world we live in. As we evolve, and continue to evolve in knowledge and morals, we automatically seek those pleasures that are life-affirming and avoid those that are life-denying. In the end, my pleasure/pain equation evolves together with modernity and it's the best of the worse measurement of happiness.

Teacher:  Ok, even if I accept that, I still have a bone to pick...

Philosopher: I am waiting...

Teacher: Yes, I too believe in virtues. I believe in acts of charity, benevolence and devotion to a good cause like marriage and friendship. But enlighten me, how does the pleasure/pain equation work? What unit of measurement would you assign to pleasure and what unit to pain? How do you calculate whether a particular act or acts give more pleasure than pain?

Philosopher: That's not a fair question. What makes you happy does not necessarily make me happy. My pleasure/pain equation is more an exercise in the metaphorical rather than in metrics. Further, no one in his right mind goes around assigning and calculating every pleasure derived from his act in the same way that no musician worth his repute would be conscious of every beat and tempo in a piece of music he plays. It takes pleasure out of the act if one constantly performs such tedious mental calculations, don't you think?

Teacher: So, happiness is subjective, a personal experience, which differs from people to people, and circumstances to circumstances?

Philosopher: Yes.

Teacher: Indulge me with this last query...surely, mere pleasure, even those derived from acts of virtues and charity, cannot be the sole foundation of a worthy life?

Philosopher: Well, if you are talking about an afterlife as a life of some measure of substance, or a so-called worthy life, that's not my specialty. But I do believe that pleasure also takes into account of hope, faith and the general belief in things unseen. For example, the hope of getting to heaven is a legitimate form of pleasure in the same way as fear of being reborn from a prince living in a palace to a pauper begging for the next meal is a legitimate form of pain.

Atheist: Why do you even bother to place your hope in things unseen anyway? Don't you think you are adding too much dead weight or wishful thinking to the definition of happiness by deceiving yourself into believing in the mambo jumbo of heaven and hell, soul and spirit, demons and angels?

Teacher: Wait, didn't you say earlier that happiness starts with your mind and ends with your...hands?

Atheist: Yes, that's about sums up happiness for me.

Teacher: So, how do you deal with human suffering?

Atheist: Like I said, it's all about how you perceive it, suffering I mean. Surely you've heard of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter.

Philosopher: But aren't you living in denial?

Atheist: I don't think so. What I am sure is that happiness is about nurturing an attitude of mental indifference to whatever is beyond my control. I figure that life is difficult and to some, born to appalling circumstances, life is hell. So instead of sulking and bitching about it, I strive to embrace it - all the while keeping as open a mind as possible. In all events, the happiness is in the coping and growing from crisis and not in the wallowing and surrendering to it.

Philosopher: That's quite an enlightened approach. But, can you still say that when you are in the throes of suffering?

Atheist: Hey, I am an atheist and I thank god for that. People like us have no invisible means of support. We accept our fate. We make the most of it. If I have to go through pain and trauma, then so be it. How do you prepare for that? Why should one even bother to prepare for it? If it's not raining, I'm not going to lug a cumbersome umbrella along. I travel light...I don't want to be burdened by all those religious and existential baggage!

Teacher: (pointing to the canvass) Look at this man lying before us, do you think he had coped well? Do you think he had embraced death with honor and distinction?

Atheist: To be honest, I don't know. But I don't think so because it seems like he did not rise above his circumstances. It seems to me he died for nothing. A worthless death implies a worthless life.

Philosopher: So, what is a worthwhile life?

Teacher: Yes, what's a purposeful life? (the Atheist shrugged)

Just at this time, as the camera pans away, skyward, the canvass covering the body started to move. The three men were stunned into silence. A small head emerged from the canvass. Then came two tiny arms and legs.

Soon, a little child no taller than the dead man's knee toddled out of the canvass and ran to the teacher. The child was crying and shaking in fear and hunger.  That day, the three men did not utter a word to one another. They had realized that the man had died saving the child from the deadly cold wind.

They then each took turn to nurse and care for the child.

As the camera distances away, the scene ended with this afterword:

"You have not lived until you have done something for someone who can never repay you."

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Every Day's a Weekend!

Bear this in mind, "We are not enriched by what we possess, but we are enriched by what we can live without." This challenges our worldly definition of wealth or an enriched life. What is riches? Should the dying man with the most "toys"win? Are big cars, large mansions, and fat bank account the goals of life? Note this: Wealth is a means to an end, not the end itself. If the order is reverse, the anxiety has no end. It is often the case that the pursuit of happiness is the leading cause of unhappiness. This is because this pursuit is often a misguided pursuit of material possession.

People who have the least, love the most.  But having said this, this is the dilemma: poverty is no walk in the park! The uninspired, rudderless poor are miserable. And they are miserable all their life. They dream of riches, idolize it and will sacrifice anything for it. Poverty brings about a whole gamut of vices and discontentment.

Even the middle income are not spared. They may have a roof over their head, steady income and food on the table. But most of them are living lives of quiet desperation. Searching for that big break, tormented by work stress, and condemned to mediocrity. What's eating them up is the successes of their peers. Envy rots their souls. Their mind rebels against the status quo.

As one writer puts it, "the desire for success lubricates secret prostitution in the soul." How is the rich, poor and the middle income to find ultimate peace? How can they free themselves from the tyranny of envy and ambition and the curse of poverty? The struggle is never-ending. We deceive ourselves if we think that enough is enough.

Contentment in this world is a mirage to those whose eyes are earth bound and lusts are insatiable. Here's my ballast of hope: Embrace your Now. Keep hope afloat. Devote to meaning. Never lose your sense of wonder. Be curious and develop an appetite for learning. Be truly happy for the successes of others. Don't over-think or over-react.

Life is beautiful's in the eyes of your children, play with them, learn from them, teach them the right way, enjoy their company, do silly things with them...don't take life and disappointments too seriously, and don't take worry so literally. Get to know your spouse in new and inspiring ways. He or she is not Stones...they do respond to earnest probe and mutual discovery. Share with your Soulmate your hopes and dreams, your disappointments and frustrations. Seek Solace in your Spouse's arms and encourage each other with love and patience.

Note that happiness makes up for depth what it lacks in length. So, remember those happy moments in your past, for they shall be like soft cushions in your old age. Lastly, work can be fun. You don't need to change job; you just need to see it in a new perspective.

Remember, why look forward to the weekends and stay miserable during the weekdays. Odds are, you trade in 5 miserable weekdays for two quick weekends. Not a fair trade. Change your mindset and treat every weekday's night as if it is a weekend. Imagine that Monday night is a Friday night and Tuesday night is a Saturday night. Plan how you are going to enjoy with your loves ones on Monday or Tuesday night.

Isn't it just as exciting as the weekends if you change your perspective and see things differently? Sometimes, it is not having more but enjoying what you have that brings the ultimate joy in life.

Remember that you can live without many things without feeling miserable because life's not an endless striving to outdo others with bigger "toys". It is a steady and progressive building and enjoying of relationships that makes it all worthwhile.

Take that to the bank!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Homosexuality, What's Wrong?

Are homos hobos? Here, taking hobos to mean "vagrants or social outcasts". Well, for the religious, it seems that way. We Christians are well versed in the art of making people who are different from us feel welcome yet uncomfortable, accepted yet second-classed, and redeemed yet held in low esteem. Mind you, I am speaking from personal experience; most time, it's more personal than it's experienced.

Don't get me wrong. Our discrimination, in most circumstances, is not deliberate but it is still there, nuanced yet palpable. This partiality can be felt in the mainstream Christian environment, in the subtleties of our interactions, and in our body language. Because many Christians find it unnatural, it is therefore natural to feel unnatural about it, I guess.

In general, homosexuality is manifestly frowned upon because it is different. And as a human race, what is different is always differently treated. As such, this difference is conveniently translated into the age-old evolutionary struggle of the us-vs-them, the in-group-vs-the-out-group, and the clash of culture and subculture. In fact, quite predictably, a respected gay author and activist was once confronted by the public and was told outright that his love for his partner was no different from someone's lust for a sheep or goat! 

Now, this is the naked truth. To a mainstream, heterosexual Christian, the thought of making love with another of the same-sex is incomprehensible, if not reprehensible. But this is not so for the homosexual. He or she enjoys the sexual act, whether purely carnal or in the context of a bond of intimacy, and may find making love to the opposite sex highly unattractive, if not unnatural. To each his own, I know.

So, taken at first glance, shouldn't this be a case of "whatever floats your boat"? Shouldn't we let sleeping dogs lie; whoever they want to lie with? Why stir the "gay nest"? Why bother to stone, persecute and convert them? In any case, one's bedroom fetishes is really none of our business. Isn't love and tolerance the best religion, if not the most enduring and popular one? Note I wrote, "taken at first glance."

Alas, if you share the strict biblical view of Archbishop Peter Akinola, it is a loud and clear "No way, Hosea!" He once wrote this notable diatribe in the Church Times in July 2003: 

"Homosexuality is flagrant disobedience to God, which enables people to pervert God's ordained sexual expression with the opposite sex. In this way homosexuals have missed the mark; they have shown themselves to be trespassers of God's divine laws. The practice of homosexuality in our understanding of scripture is the enthronement of self-will and human weakness and a rejection of God's order and will...

The acceptance of homosexuality and lesbianism as normal is the triumph of disobedience, the enthronement of human pride over the will of God. God instituted marriage between man and woman, among other reasons for procreation. To set aside this divine arrangement in preference to self-centered perversion is an abuse of man's body just as much as lesbianism is,..." much for bridging the gap.

Ever wonder what would Jesus say to homosexuals if he had met them in his ministry? Would he pray over them? Would he rebuke them like the Pharisees? Or, would he allow them to sit with him while he shares parables with them? Or, would he just smile at them and nod politely as he passes them by? 

Well, Jesus' response is anyone's speculation because his teachings revealed little, if nothing, about his views on homosexuality. At least not directly. Neither did the ten commandments feature a biblical injunction which reads, "Thou shall not be a Homo." And, the last time I checked, amongst the seven things that God hates in Proverbs 6:16-19, being a homosexual is not one of them. 

But of course, Jesus did not directly preach against incest, bestiality and spousal abuse. Neither did he disapprove of spending long hours on video games to the detriment of one's mental health. There is a lot of things that Jesus did not preach about and such omissions do not automatically make them permissible. Although the ten commandments did not forbid homosexuality outright, avid Christians will be quick to point out the specific scriptures which condemn homosexuality in rather clear terms.

Before I deal with the scriptures and my view about them, i would like to set the record straight and come to the point. This is a preview of my conclusion for those who would like me to be forthright with them. It is best expressed in this statement: "Crucible of Unsolvedness". That's the essence of what I will try to convey and it relates specifically to the chasm between the scriptural prohibition and the same-sex issue. 

In addition, I recently chanced upon a wise phrase which I endorse fully. It is something I want to share with you as it is relevant to thinking and thinking about difficult and seemingly unfathomable issues like homosexuality.  Here goes, "Doubting everything and believing everything are two equally convenient solutions that guard us from having to think." The operative word for me here is "guard us from having to think." I think a lot of conflicts in life is the result of the lack of thought rather than the lack of will, patience and resolution. 

Bottom-line? There may be a solution that seems right to you, but if it is an extreme one, one which brooks no exceptions, qualifications, and moderation, then run from it. It's mostly a dead end to thinking; one-way stream leading to the mental dead sea. 

Resisting the easy road to label homosexuality as wrong or immoral, I would like to suspend all judgment and ask these questions about it: Is homosexuality natural? Is it a birth defect? Is it a psychological aberration? Is it a failure in moral character? Is a lifestyle choice? Is it a sin? I'll deal with these questions at different intervals of this letter.

Before I start off, here's a stripped down view of sexuality: a vagina means you are female and a penis means you are a male. Now, if it had been that simple, it would have been "garden of Eden" all over again where God created Adam and Eve and left it at that. No Steve or Evelyn to complicate matters. Not even a cross-dressing Chantelle, a hermaphrodite Jesse, or a transexual Priscilla to contaminate Adam's botanical gardens! 

(As an aside, I know it is tempting to jump in here and categorically state that had it not been for the fall, Adam would remain Adam and Eve would remain Eve. Sexuality would therefore be uncorrupted and incorruptible. So, blame it on humanity, so the gospel choir croons. Well, that's all fine on sacred papyrus. But the whole point is that the fall happened, the first couple was banished out of Eden, and God and humanity have since been trying to reconcile with each other. In this context, and more so, in our day and age, to blame everything on the fall would not give us much persuasive traction. It is like blaming a death row convict for being born out of wedlock. More relevantly, we have to deal with the issue as it unfolds in the here and now and not in the then and there).

But as the first human couple according to biblical tradition became fruitful and multiply, sexual variance, which includes sexual "mutants", gradually populate the earth. This is where our species gets more complex. 

From the wombs of mothers came sexual diversity beyond traditional, pigeon-hole and fixed classifications, that is, male and female. The world of reproductive variety is as diverse as the hidden world of human emotions and intentions. Nothing should be taken as black and white. Let me give you some real life examples. 

Homosexuality is not a recent invention. It existed way before Jesus roamed the earth. The Romans and Greeks have their share of same-sex lovers, companions and illicit romps. During the time of Abraham, sexuality is as psychedelically diverse as the garden of Avatar. 

The Biblical times had all kinds of erotic partnerships that would "system-crash" the closeted minds of today's conservative Christians. There are stories of incestuous relationships. Polygamy was part of the accepted norm. Offering daughters to men to be sexually abused was a form of hospitality-substitute (Judges 19:21). And adulterous affairs abound like locusts in a field. 

Our recent history fared no better. Here's one name you would find hard to repeat: Charles-Genevieve Louis-Auguste-Andre-Timothee d-Eon de Beaumont. Phew! Or d-Eon in short. 

Born in France in 1728, d-Eon lived 49 years as a man and 34 years as a woman. In all those gender-crossing years, d-Eon worked for the French government as an aristocrat, diplomat, soldier and a spy. d-Eon even earned the adulation of king Louis XV with this compliment, "You have served me just as well in women's clothing as you have in the clothes you are now wearing." 

d-Eon was so famous, or infamous, that people in the region started to bet on his gender. Is d-Eon a male or a female? Does d-Eon have a penis or a vagina? The bets went on a speculative frenzy. The London Stock Exchange alone garnered up two hundred thousand pounds! That's a lot of money in today's currency. 

Fearing for his life, d-Eon sought refuge with the French king. But as the speculation went wild, the king sent a letter to king George III of England declaring d-Eon as a "woman". This declaration caused a stir as lawsuits were filed against losing bettors and doctors were called in to testify. What calmed the unrest was when an English court ruled that d-Eon was a woman. d-Eon then made a declaration of her own, "I am what the hands of God have made me." 

After that, d-Eon spent the rest of her life living quietly with her female companion. When d-Eon died in 1810, five men who had known d-Eon were asked to examine the body and all five confirmed that d-Eon was "anatomically male"! Alas, what a terribly confused individual! 

Another real life personality is Abel Barbin. She was born a female and attended an all-girl boarding school. But the truth is that her gender was never that clear. Adopting the female name of Alexina, she in fact had undescended testicles and a small penis. Alexina then sexually morphed into a man and adopted the name "Abel". However, unable to make the transition, Abel committed suicide at age 30. 

Still another case comes in the name of Christine Jorgansen. He transformed from a man to a woman, and a very pretty one at that. One of Christine's quotes makes for bittersweet irony when she confessed to her parents, "Nature has made a mistake, which I have corrected, and I am now your daughter." 

This reminds me of a recent tale of a beautiful Canadian model who publicly admitted that she had a transgender surgery, and changed him from a man to a woman. She even applied to be one of the contestants of Ms Universe. She was initially disqualified based on gender but threatened to sue the organizers. The threat worked. She was allowed to participate in the supposedly gender-specific contest. 

After reading the above accounts of sexual diversity, I wonder: "What makes a fetus male or female? Is it as simple as a XX and a XY?" Actually, medical science on this field is quite muddled. The determinants of one's gender at birth is a fragile process. Sometimes the genes mutation and hormonal mix can go off the beaten path and produce a baby with its gender organ (penis or vagina) being incompatible with its sexual psychology (female or male orientation or attraction). 

As we have seen above, and many examples abound in this world, there are babies born with what is diagnosed as "hypogonadism". This is a condition of testosterone deficiency. And babies with this condition may grow up having difficulty in erection. They also have little sexual feelings. There is also a sexual disorder called "Hypospadias" with incompletely differentiated penises in baby boys. Still there are other congenital endocrinological disorder where babies are born with penises but are essentially female. 

It is pertinent to note that if the body fails to reach an optimal amount of estrogen in the brain at certain time in the womb, the child can grow up sexually undifferentiated. The recent medical controversy of DES (Diethylsyilbestrol) is a good example of how a baby's reproductive organs can be affected (or remain undifferentiated or defective) when pregnant mothers are administered with synthetic estrogens.

One must not forget about the phenomenon of human hermaphroditism or intersexed patients. This is a condition where a child has two sexual organs. Medical files have documented a seventeen years old child born with two undescended testicles and a genitalia that "resembled a vulva with a clitoridean organ instead of a penis." 

In fact, a leading John Hopkins psychologist in this field, Dr John Money, once conducted a series of psychological evaluations of sixty patients and concluded that one is to "abandon the unitary definition of sex as male and female." Dr Money identified "five prenatally determined variables of sex that hermaphroditic data had shown could be independent of one another...chromosomal sex, gonadal sex, internal and external morphological sex, hormonal sex and a sixth postnatal determinant, the sex of assignment and rearing." Wow, talk about the avatar of sexual diversity!

Essentially, medical experts have come to accept that the sex of the mind can be at odds with the sexual organ of the individual. Going back full circle, the sexual equation is not as simple as this: "vagina means girl" and "penis means boy". Psychologically speaking, it may not be the case of the penis or the vagina, or the underdevelopment of it, that determines one's sexual orientation and one's sexual attraction. So, judging a person's gender by one swift act of unzipping is as inappropriate as awarding a Nobel peace prize to Hitler for unifying post-war Germany. The tip of the iceberg is just that...a tip.

Sometimes a male baby with XY chromosomal makeup can turn up to have a more sexually nuanced psychological makeup. This could lead the child, as he or she grows up, to have homoerotic desires, cross-dressing fetishes, or transexual urges. This could happen prenatally or post-natally, or at different intervals. It could also happen via parental or social conditioning. The permutations are endless.

(At this juncture, I know it is easy to demonize homosexuality as a result of lifestyle choices by feeding oneself with pornography, immersing in a gay environment on one's own accord, and voluntarily experimenting with one's body in a morally unacceptable way. I know this is the elephant in the living room; unspoken, even dismissed, but seldom discreetly denied. However tolerant or understanding you are as a mature Christian, it is tempting to categorize same-sex relation as unnatural, unappealing, and even disgusting. The wedge is driven even deeper by one's ignorance of the fact of sexual diversity. As I'd said earlier, more reflection is needed in this often-muddled area. Sometimes we may mistake the effect for the cause or the cause for the effect).

So, after the preliminaries, let's return to some of the questions I'd asked earlier: Is homosexuality natural? Is it a birth defect? Is it a psychological aberration? In trying my best to answer them, I'll look at them via four lenses: Religion, Evolution, Biology and Culture. 

Let's do religion first. There are seven references in the old and new testaments that strictly prohibit, even condemn, homosexuality; specifically, male homosexual acts. Little is said about female homosexuality though. I will briefly deal with just four: Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:26, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and return to the famous couple, Adam and Eve. 

In Leviticus, the relevant extract is,"...And at man you shall not lie the lyings of women." This seems to be obvious enough. But some Bible scholars have come up to say that this verse prohibits anal sex only. You see the prohibition is for a man to lie with another man the same way as he would lie with a woman. And there is only two ways a man can lie with a woman: vaginally and anally. Since neither of the man engaging in homoerotic sex has a vagina to start with, the penis-vagina intercourse is a non-starter. So, we are left with anal intercourse between men. This verse therefore prohibits such act but not homosexuality. 

Well, this argument is clever. Following this interpretation, the homoerotic lovers would have to avoid - like a plague - anal intercourse, which I guess forms a penetratingly large part of their sexual repertoire (pun unintended). So, to get around this, some have argued that we are living in the new covenant and the verse is cultural-specific.

The logic goes something like this. Since nobody in the developed world ever gets stone for adultery or for youth rebellion, and tattoos and eating of crayfish are no longer considered taboo, and Paul had deemed all gastronomical delights as clean, many have proposed that the prohibition on anal penetration is accordingly lifted and the same is open for all who have a penchant for it (another pun unintended). Clever or just convenient? 

The next verse is, Romans 1:26. The catch phrases are " also abandoned natural relations with women, and were inflamed with lust for one another..." and " committed shameful acts with other men..." I will try to explain the rebuttals to this verse. 

The first part " also abandoned natural relations with women, and were inflamed with lust for one another" refers to a sexual relation of a reversed order of nature. Let me explain. In the Romans' culture, adult men played the dominant role when engaging in sex, whether with a woman or a man. So, "when men abandoned natural relations with women", the gay apologist interprets this as men taking on the "female role" instead of the "male role" when they are "inflamed with lust for another (man)". The scripture forbids man to take on the female role of passiveness and submission. And by doing so with the same-sex, they are reversing the order of nature. Looking at it this way, this scripture does not condemn homosexuality. It only prohibits men from adopting a female role when engaging in sex with his male partner. 

How does this apply here is a sexual quagmire. If this part of the scripture prohibits man from taking on a female role when engaging in sex with another man, scriptural-conscious gay men committing the act would be thrown into a bind. While lying naked on their bed, they would both have to play the dominant male roles! In all practical terms, they will be fighting with each other rather than engaging in a romantic roll in the hay. A little strain in language or interpretation here, don't you think?

Then comes the second part " committed shameful acts with other men..." Isn't this clear enough? Well, not if you can have your way. Gay defenders argue that this scripture prohibits pederasty, that is, adult male having sex with minor. It has nothing to do with homosexual adults in a consensual relationship. man's sex is another man's hex. 

Next is 1 Corinthians 6:1-11. It warns that homosexual offenders, among other sexual perversions, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Well, I'd expect a verse like this to have hammered the last nail in the same-sex coffin. But it's detractors argue that Paul was actually referring to male temple prostitutes and not genuine, loving homosexual partnerships. Love conquers all remember.

Lastly, we return to genesis, in the time of Adam and Eve. The most famous argument against homosexuality is this: If God had permitted it, He would have created Steve instead of Eve or Keanu Reefe. Just jesting.

Well, the gays have a rebuttal for you here too. Surprised? Some quarters have argued that genesis is not about homosexuality, but about loneliness. God was seeking a solution to Adam's loneliness. So, the moral of the story is companionship. Adam desired it and God created it. There is therefore no direct prohibition on homosexuality. Continuing this line of thought, I'd think that God should have created Adam and Steve along with a surrogate woman so as to borrow her womb just for purpose of reproduction and nothing else.

Another reasoning for Eve is that genesis is about etiology or the study of origin or causes. Therefore, God created Eve as a matter of originating events as we see them today. Like a Lego brick, God just started with two legos and out of it came diversity of life, including homosexuality. So, the story of Adam and Eve should not be taken as a prohibition of same-sex relations per se and to do so would be to put words into the mouth of God. Convincing? Well, I leave that one to you. 

After taking the above scriptures and its rebuttals all in, I can't help it but find the whole apologetic posturing an overkill, convenient and self-serving...with apology. 

But, whether the rebuttals are valid or not, I seriously do not think that mainstream Christians are going to accept them. As far as they are concerned, homosexuality is unnatural because it goes against the order of nature. Now let's proceed with the next topic.

How about evolution? Well, since homosexuality is anti-reproductive, I would expect it to be phrased out of circulation in a matter of course. You see, evolution requires active reproduction and homosexuality goes directly against it. So, from an evolutionary and quasi-creationist perspective, if God had created Adam and Steve, it would be a reproductive "emergency brake" for mankind at large. I would then expect the divine commandment to be adapted from "Be fruitful and multiply" to "Be fruitful and...never mind." 

But levity aside, I would not go so far as to outright conclude that homosexuality is unnatural in the larger scheme of things. In the tireless grind of evolution, everything that exists today, having survived extinction by staying ahead of the game, can be said to be natural; which may of course include homosexuality (since the latter is quite prevalent nowadays). Although the presence of same-sex pairing is still an evolutionary mystery, some experts postulate that the carrier of this "homosexual gene" is more active in sex and therefore the carrier tend to reproduce more offsprings. Ah, is this the so-called fitness of purpose argument? 

Let me elaborate. If the carrier of this homosexual gene happens to be a male, then he will end up a homosexual and this is bad for reproduction. He will not have any offspring and the gene will die with him. But if the carrier is a female, the latter tends to be more sexually driven and mates with men more regularly and actively. She would naturally have more offsprings. This social promiscuity, thanks to the homosexual gene, therefore compensates for the reproductive handicap of homosexuals. And so this theory goes some way to explain the persistence of homosexuality to this very day.

But having said all that, this theory, which some have labelled as "the horny sister hypothesis", is not widely accepted in the scientific circles. In the first place, no one can claim with enough empirical evidence that there is a homosexual gene that destined one sexual attraction in the future. It is more complicated than that. Therefore, debunking this theory would mean that homosexuality is not as natural as one would like to think; even in the larger scheme of the evolutionary grand theater. 

So, we are back to where we first started, that is: homosexuality, being anti-reproductive, and serving no evolutionary purpose of fitness, may not be natural. (In any case, in the language of evolution, I would say at best that the verdict is still out there on the issue of whether homosexuality is natural). 

Now we turn to biology. Is homosexuality natural in the world of biology? This is another puzzle of science. The first question to ask is, Is homosexuality a genetic disorder or a mutation that strayed from the order of form one would expect as normal. I think this one requires some explanation. Here goes. 

We exists because of the thousands of cell-based mutations or variations that take place since the time we are an embryo. Some mutations are on track to encode proteins that form the basic building blocks of our biological and physical self. But some mutations go astray and we end up less than normal, so to speak. 

While we do not consider babies with different skin color, facial features, and weight as abnormal, we do get a disturbing shock when out of the birth canal comes the following: a pair of twin conjoined at the hip or even the head, a child born with undeveloped limbs like stumps or multiple limbs, or a child with a parasitic twin attached to the body. One observer describes such an unfortunate deformity this way, "A monster is a being under heaven that provokes in the observer horror or astonishment by the incorrect form of it's member." 

Now, tweaking the question a little, I would rephrase it as such: Is homosexuality unnatural to the extent that it "provokes in the observer horror or astonishment by the incorrect form of it's member?" The answer to this is seldom clear since a baby with homosexual inclination is physically and visually as normal as the next baby in the other cot. 

Hypothetically, if the baby grows up and he falls in love with another man and they cohabit together, and engages in active sex, the question is: Is their same-sex relationship natural from a biological perspective? 

To answer this question, assuming that it can even be answered satisfactorily, the biologist has to trace the particular mutation that turns the baby into a homosexual adult. But the science in this field is still at its fancy stage. No expert can pinpoint the particular gene or genes, and the exact time and location, when an individual starts to develop a definitive homosexual identity. It only throws in more questions on the table than can be answered, like: what's the origin of one's sexual attraction to the same sex? Why does one develop homoerotic proclivity? At what age does such proclivity develop? 

My suspicion is that it may not even be a strictly biological or genetic determinant. The cause or origin of homosexuality is so complicated and multifarious that one cannot tell for sure whether it is genes, parental rearing, social environment, personal choices (bearing in mind that neuroscience are proposing that our free will is an illusion, that is, we have much less control of our choices than we are led to believe) or a combination of all, to varying degree, that inclines one to homosexuality. 

Even the American Psychological Association (APA) asserts that, "There are numerous theories about the origins of a person's sexual orientation; most scientists today agree that sexual orientation is most likely the result of a complex interaction of environmental, cognitive and biological factors. In most people, sexual orientation is shaped at an early age of 17." 

While one can opine that a hermaphrodite is unnatural to the extent that one does not expect a baby to have the sexual organs of both male and female, homosexuality is less manifestly clear. So, in the same way that evolution in my opinion cannot answer the question in the positive, that is, homosexuality is natural, the world of biology is equally stumped about it. 

I guess to the secular world, the question whether homosexuality is natural or not is a redundant concept. Homosexuality has co-existed with us for so long that the majority have come to accept it as part of the community or of nature. Because deeming it as unnatural carries with it such strong, prejudicial religious connotation, the secular world at large much prefers to adopt the mantra "live and let live" rather than embark on a crusade to demonize them or to view them as engaging in a sinful lifestyle which requires immediate renunciation and unilateral reformation. 

We are therefore left with culture. What does culture have to say about the nature of homosexuality? Is it natural? Well, that depends on the culture you are born in. If it is in some religious stronghold, you are better off packing up and scamper! But if I take culture in general and amend the word "natural" to "acceptable", then I guess in recent decades we can see a rising trend of acceptance of homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle not much different from divorced or single-parent families. I will single out two prominent trends leaning in this direction. 

First, we look at the psychiatrist's bible: Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM IV). In 1974, as a result of protest, the APA, on a vote of 60/40, decided to remove homosexuality as a listed mental disorder from subsequent DSM editions. I guess this is the beginning of the open trend towards greater understanding and acceptance of homosexuality. 

Some have argued that this removal was not motivated by scientific evidence but by politico-social pressure from the gay community. If you follow this line of reasoning, you would have to ask yourself this: What is the scientific evidence on homosexuality? Is it a mental disorder? Is it any more a mental disorder as a heterosexual performing anus intercourse with his wife? Or, a married couple engaging in the act of fellatio? (pardon my explicitness but some couples I know do engage in such acts...are they mad?) 

How about unfaithful heterosexuals who engage in sexual orgies, performing all kinds of sexual perversion the night before, and then getting themselves sober the next morning to sit in the presidential palace to run the country, making important decisions and taking photographs with babies and smiling for the camera? Can you now see how the science on mental disorder also fell short of providing a conclusive and reliable answer on the subject? Or is abnormal the new normal?

Second, history have shown us many notable public figures who were and are gay. They are currently leading an open lifestyle, adopting children and running for offices. We have MPs, academics, scientists, poets, composers, and even ordained Anglican priests. One of them is Roy Clements. 

Roy was a closeted gay for many years. He was a minister for 20 years, preaching to local congregation every Sunday and traveling the world on the Evangelical circuit. He is also author of books. Roy is married with kids. 

One night in 1999 he was exposed as a gay. He was let go in his ministry and his marriage was dissolved. His books were taken off the church book shelves and he was ostracized. He once gave an interview with a journalist, Stephen Bates, and the following short extract is relevant to our discussion on culture: 

"Evangelicals have not absorbed the idea that homosexuality is an identity, not a practice. They believe it is a sin just like murder. There is no doubt that they are out of touch with modern British culture. They are in their own backwater and they interpret that as being in a counterculture with the world." 

Well, it is tempting to blindly categorize Roy and others just like him as being wrong about their views and then expect them to repent from their ways. But is it that simple? Many genuine homosexuals have tried their best to change, seek counsel and therapy, undergo hormonal injection, practise strict abstinence, and even get married and start a family. But these genuine steps only made things worse for most of them. Of course we have heard of encouraging success gay-to-straight stories. But there are unfortunately others who took their own lives when the pressure became unbearable. Statistics have shows that 40% of gay teenagers had considered suicide and that is four times as many as straight teenagers. 

As the gay movement gets more vocal and open, and as they are coming out from hiding, demanding equal rights in the society, the society's views towards them have soften somewhat. The Church of England have accepted that homosexuality can be Christians and may even become priests. The church has also accepted that homosexual identity can be genetic. 

In fact, the most vocal and openly gay Bishop is Vicky Gene Robinson. His story is amazingly similar with Roy's. He too was married for 15 years to his college sweetheart and they have two daughters. He knew he was gay at seventh grade. But he fought his "nature" and was sincere in seeking treatment for it during his marriage. Unfortunately, his wife met someone else and the couple in 1985 separated and subsequently divorced. It was not until a couple of years later when Robinson met Andrew and they started to live together as a couple. Robinson has this to say about himself: 

"I am most eager to be a good bishop, not a gay bishop. I can do more for gay and lesbian people by doing my ministry well, by serving God and the people of New Hampshire." 

So, it is clear that our global culture is beginning to change. But still the resistance against such change is increasing in tandem. Whether this will have a happy ending will depend on how such polarity could be reconciled - Is it with greater understanding or with deepening the wedge that spills over into mindless and unnecessary conflict?

Many still regard homosexuality as a moral failing or a character flaw. Some argued that allowing homosexuality would open the floodgates of legitimizing other sexual perversions like bestiality, pedophilia and prostitution. But some careful reflection would reveal that bestiality, pedophilia and prostitution do not flourish because gays are coming out in the open. They may flourish notwithstanding it (but the verdict is still out there I guess).

Moreover, one should not forget that those who commit acts of bestiality and pedophilia are deeply disturbed individuals who are mentally deranged and it is not strictly a mental state that arises out of a culture of homosexuality. One should be looking for the real mental cause(s) of such criminal acts and also study the behavioral, psychological and neurobiological make up of such an individual regardless of his sexual orientations. Pinning the fault of a possible increase in all kinds of sexual perversions on the prevalence of homosexuals in a society is as flimsy a causal link as coming to the conclusion that it has been raining bullfrogs just because there are a few of them lying around after a rain storm. 

Here is where I shift gear a little for a rough landing. You will note that earlier I gave you a foretaste of my conclusion and it is captured in this statement: "Crucible of Unsolvedness". This irreconcilable gap is twofold: first, the mystery of the cause or origin of homosexuality and second, I am still unable to satisfactorily bridge scriptural prohibitions and the acceptance of homosexuality as natural. 

From what I have written so far, it is clear that science cannot solve the mystery of homosexuality. Religion can tell you that it is essentially against the order of nature. But what is natural in the first place? Evolution, in my view, cannot tell us what is the fitness value of homosexuality as to account for its survival to our day and age. Biology's final verdict is still out there as to it's causes. The gay gene is still as mysterious as the Turin Shroud. And the last time I checked, although our culture is opening up to the idea of homosexuality as people just like us, its acceptance by mainstream religions is still very much guarded.  

At best, it is a matter of tolerance and not widespread acceptance. Most conservative societies like Singapore still criminalize such act under section 377A of the penal code as it deems it as an "unnatural act". 

One science writer wrote, "Many people are unwilling to accept that the hands of God or Nature could have fashioned human beings whose sense of self is at war with their flesh or whose gender identity fall somewhere in between the poles of male and female." Can this ever squares with Psalms 19:1 which reads, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament tells of the works of God's hands"? Go figure.

As I come to a close of this letter, it is my sincerest hope that you have better understood the complexity of the issue at hand. If you adopt a "take-no-prisoner" religious approach, I believe that the twain shall never meet. The gulf is irreconcilable. You can pretend that you care but your body language will betray you. You can say that we should hate the sin and love the sinner but this is a near-impossible feat when the sin is clearly the sinner and the sinner is the sin. The two are essentially intertwined and indivisible. It is as incredulous as saying that one should "hate the Christ, and love the Christian." 

But I guess the best way to understand the issue on a soul-searching level is when the same thing happens to happen to your loved ones. 

When former Vice President Dick Cheney's daughter, Mary Cheney, came out in the open to admit that she is a lesbian, I can only imagine how it must have shook the very foundation of the family up. But what is most admirable is that the resilient father-daughter relationship took precedence over the dividing issue and good sense, I believe, won the day. 

In fact, Senator Edward paid this fitting tribute to them, "I think the vice president and his wife love their daughter. I think they love her very much. And you can't have anything but respect for the fact that they're willing to talk about the fact that they have a gay daughter, the fact that they embrace her. It's a wonderful thing. And there are millions of parents like that who love their children, who want their children to be happy." 

For the rest of us, who can only imagine how it feels like to suffer from this tormenting mismatch of one's sexual identity, and the pain of hiding it from the public for fear of being the target of ridicule and punishment, even unto death, I guess we should always seek greater understanding and empathy by resisting the religious itch to prejudice or condemn, as a reflex action.

That is why I think a reminder of this wise quote would be most appropriate: "Doubting everything and believing everything are two equally convenient solutions that guard us from having to think." It is hope that by internalizing this, we will develop an open mind to issues such as homosexuality - where the cut is not always so clear cut. Because, if it is for one reason and one reason alone, it should be this: If we keep an open mind about events in our life, we will discover that we often cringe (or regret) over decisions and actions made in blind allegiance to one extreme or another.

I guess when it comes to the thorny issue of homosexuality, it is the fruits of a life that we should look for instead of throwing the sapling out of the window without any thought. I think the life of the individual will reveal more about that person than his or her sexual orientation. I won't be surprised if the life of a homosexual, his deeds and his words, demonstrate more humanity and christlikeness than the life of a heterosexual Christian. 

I end with what the gay bishop Gene Robinson's ex-wife has to say about him. This statement was read out by their daughter during his consecration: 

"...We truly have honored the vows we said to love and honor each other...We have never made an important decision about our daughters without being in touch and doing it together...All of the special events that make for family were planned and carried out by both of us...Our lives together both married and divorced have been examples of how to deal with difficult decisions with grace, love, integrity and honor. He is worthy of your affirmation. His charisma will draw in many more people to the church than will leave due to his sexuality. He will be a truly great bishop." 

I believe there is a love greater than the foolish passion that often divides us and that love is the love that binds us together as imperfect human beings against a common foe. Let that common foe be bigotry. And let that love be the love of Christ when he gave himself up wholly for us without as much as a word of reservation, protest and judgment.  Cheerz!