Friday, 25 January 2013

Homophobia writ large

Hi guys. Pastor Benny from Cornerstone recently showed his support for Pastor Lawrence of FCBC on the issue of section 377A via a video by rallying his 3500 strong congregation to let out this victory chant in unison, “AS ONE!” They are basically standing against the repealing of section 377A which is coming up for a review before the Court. They are standing "AS ONE" with the churches in Singapore.

A friend, Joshua Woo, made an objective and fair observation about the whole saga and the same is impartially and deftly captured in his 4 points below:-

“How Cornerstone and FCBC interpret the current debate on whether to repeal 377A or not is not doing good to the society or the Church, methink.

They have come to see this as a "battle" for God. And I'm not sure if God wants this case to be his battle. While we are deciding over this matter, there are several theological considerations to bear in mind:

1) The Church is to be the salt and light in the world, and seeks the welfare of the city. So at certain times and on certain issues, it is taken for granted that the Church should be involved in the country's legislation. For eg. the criminalization of infanticide, which was common, through Christian influence in the Roman imperial court. So the question the Church needs to decide is to discern whether consensual-non-heterosexual-sex-between-adults is an act so sinfully intolerable that it should be criminalized like infanticide?

2) The demarcation between the Church and the world will never be clear until Christ's coming again. Hence the weed and wheat are existing together (Matt. 13). This is the Church condition. If the Church herself is not entirely pure and perfect in knowledge and conduct in this present age, then perhaps, this parable can serve as the guiding principle for co-existence not only among the worldly and the godly in the Church, but also between the Church and the world.

3) Notwithstanding the Church condition, our theological position on homosexuality must constantly be negotiated based primarily on our reading of the scriptures. We should recognize the main texts related to this matter and should not re-use defunct interpretation or irrelevant passages (eg. the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah is primarily homosexuality despite Eze. 16:49-50). To me, the main texts are Lev. 18, 20, 1 Cor. 6, and Rom. 1: vis-a-vis 1 Cor. 11:14.

4) How (1), (2), and (3) above be connected to each other. For example, if we have come to conclude from (3) that the homosexual act itself is sinful, then we have to link it to (1), whether is such act so sinfully intolerable that it should be criminalized even among the non-Christians? If so, then should the Church also advocate for the criminalization of all acts considered sinful, such as adultery and abortion? On the other hand, if our reading of scriptures conclude that homosexual act itself is NOT sinful, does that mean we should decriminalize it despite there are many acts that are not sinful but are crime such as jay-walking?

May God help us to discern over this issue.”

I have also added to the chorus of debate by pitching 2 views of mine below:-

View 1#

Good points, Josh. Especially impressed with point 4. My view is that homosexualtiy is a sin from a biblical perspective. No amount of whitewashing can whitewash those passages in New Testament away. Unless you use the bleach of cultural anachronism or accommodationism, then I guess polygamy and adultery should be embraced or soon-to-be embraced as "virtues of good standing".

Well, the church is the gatekeeper or custodian of our conscience. Their role is crucial in this society lest we are given to interpreting morality based on our whims and fancy and limited only by this proscription, "doing no harm to others." This is how private sessions of orgy is typically recognized and possibly justified.

Salt or light, or pepper or shake, the separation of the religion and state is something all sensible Christians would have to come to accept; if not now, at least soon. We live in a secular state in a secular age under a secular head. And I don't think it is at all advisable to go back to theocracy as the current scheme of things goes - at least not the ones defined by man and man alone because moralism only gives a hypocrite the excuse to be exalted.

Having said all that (and still having the feeling that I have not quite said enough), I think there is a balance between performing yoga-ism on God's words and living ascetically like the zealots of old. (Yoga-ism here means "making His word bend over backwards until breaking point to placate the changing world values”). This balance is difficult and at times, like walking on a skyrise tight-rope in your boxer shorts with the chilly wind blowing from below.

Let me just say this, "In matters of principle, stand like a rock. In matters of taste, swim with the current." Without sounding like a wanton libertine, maybe, when it comes to the issue of criminalizing homosexual acts, one should be prudent enough to swim with the cultural current? (This does not mean “swimming with the cultural alligators”. Circumspection and discernment are required at all times).

What I mean or hope to convey is this: maybe we try so hard to change from the outside-in (criminalize homosexuals) that we have overlooked the prospect of transforming from the inside-out (touch them with Christ's love by example). Cheers.

View 2#

Make no mistake, pastors Benny and Lawrence are in unity in loudness. They are making their voices heard. They are sounding the trumpets, hoping to weaken the Jericho walls of cultural changes.

I have no doubt that it is what we Christians are called to do, that is, be in the world, changing it, and not of the world, to be changed by it. But sometimes, as salt and light in this world, the salt masterly sprinkles and is not thrown at like brute butchers, and the light is softly leading, and not floodlights that shock others into the "deer in the headlights" stunt.

So, borrowing the robustness of the African-American shout, maybe I should holler back, "As What?" instead of "As One!" "As what" to me means "to what ends?" What do we hope to achieve by criminalizing homosexuals engaging in sex? Will we win them with this stand of rowdy unity? Will they see us as caring for their souls by our objection? Is the rabble-rousing session representative of christian voices that care or attention-seeking voices that snare? (because the last thing we want to achieve as Christians is to win the battle but lose the war).

I imagine a privately professing Christian homosexual surfing the net and happens to stumble upon the seemingly self-conceited video and praying, "God, shouldn't they be evangelizing to us and not seeking to criminalize us?"

I know section 377A only penalizes unnatural sex between homosexuals and homosexuals only (and heterosexuals should not cease to thank god that they are no longer under the yoke of punishment), and so, "no sex, no crime." But then, the question, "to what ends?" is no less relevant even in that context.

Actually I have a confession to make. My loved ones have been pestering me to give them my name and my wife's name and ic numbers to their church to petition against repealing S377A. We hesitated. We were seriously contemplating. But then, they sent us three reminders - one at 6:11 am in the morning. We then relented. We gave in. I gave in.

Upon reflection, I am not proud of that hasty decision. I regretted it. Don't get me wrong. My stand about homosexuality has not changed and I pray that my child doesn't come to me in the future expressing any of those orientations because as Christians, isn't sin always other people?

I regretted it because I see two ways to a solution: the right way and the popular way. And I chose the popular one. "Why not?" I asked myself since everybody is petitioning, especially my loved ones.

I am not saying that I will not come to the same choice. But I am just saying that maybe I needed more time. Maybe, I needed to do what the psalmist did in Psalms 46, "Be still, and know that I am God." Sometimes being still and know who is in charge sharpens the discernment and increases one’s spiritual attunement.

In addition, this whole saga concerns my homosexual friends and it is important to them. And what is important to them is equally important to me. And to decide on the count of popularity trivalizes all that is important to my homosexual friends. In fact, once in a while, we should sit still and consider this question: “Do we see our homosexual friends as people who are struggling for acceptance or people who are defeated in sin?” If it is the latter, then I guess God help us all.

Let me end with a recently demised named Mr Yamaguchi. He was a darn lucky survivor. When the first atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima, he survived it and ran off to Nagasaki. We all know the history. A few days later, they dropped it on Nagasaki. Yet, he survived and lived to a ripe old age of 93. He died in 2010.

This is what he said, "The only people who should be allowed to govern countries with nuclear weapons are mothers, those who are still breast-feeding their babies."

In our context, maybe the only people who should be allowed to govern the church are children (not literally of course); especially those who are always asking, seeking and finding as against the dogmatic and inflexible self-conceited assurance that is usually associated with adulthood.  

And because there aren't any straightforward answers to issues like this, maybe by taking the psalmist approach, this world would be a lot less loud. And being less loud, we may then be able to hear what the minority among us are trying to say. Cheers.

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