Sunday, 28 October 2018

377A - Phantom Menace 1

It is always good to see unity amongst the churches. Now, they have finally come up to take a stand against gay-sex law.

If those gays who felt marginalised and discriminated by 377A want to know what Christians as a whole feel, well the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) has spoken in no uncertain terms here.

They do not support the repeal of 377A and they believe “that the homosexual lifestyle is not only harmful for individuals, but also for families and society as a whole.”

That’s not all.

The NCCS - representing about 200 churches - “agrees with the 2014 ruling of Singapore’s apex court that Section 377A is constitutional and “supports the Government’s decision to retain it.””

Well, it is good to see the Churches and the government standing on common ground on this issue. Many Christians out there must be feeling a strong sense of unity with our elected officials in Parliament.

Reverend Dominic Yeo, chairman of the Alliance of the Pentecostal-Charismatic Churches of Singapore, said further that repealing 377A will have wider consequences as it “brings to question the legitimacy and morality of every act the Penal Code currently seems as an offence.”

He elaborated by saying: -

“When viewed in relation to Section 375 through 377C, Section 377A serves a broader purpose of setting a moral position with regard to sexual activities and relationships, and in turn strengthens the social fabric of society.”

NCCS echoes similar views when they said: -

“The repeal of Section 377A would result in the normalisation and promotion of this lifestyle (perverted homosexual lifestyle according to the Bible) which in turn would lead to undesirable moral and social consequences, a slippery slope as seen in some countries taking this step.”

And with that potential Pandora’s box shut tight to protect a clean and green city from such perversion, NCCS concluded with this prayer:-

“Above all, the council urges Christians to pray that God will protect the institutions of marriage and family because they are indispensable for the well-being of the future generation and the flourishing of our society.”

Lesson? Just one, searching one...

At this juncture, I am reminded of a Lutheran pastor’s poem during the Nazi rule. He wrote this searing reflection:-

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

I wonder whether this is what keeps Christians awake at night with regards to 377A?

Is it a case of if I do not speak out against the repealing of 377A, the homosexual lifestyle will crash the city gates and floodgate the city square?

If I do not speak out against the repealing of 377A, homosexual lifestyle will be normalised, promoted and encouraged with our children being inducted into such a perverted world?

If I do not speak out against the repealing of 377A, we suffer the consequences of the slippery slope as many other western countries with such liberal values have collectively experienced?

And if I do not speak out against the repealing of 377A, the institution of marriage and family and the well-being of our future generation and the flourishing of our society will be in danger or soon be endangered?

Alas, the church as a united body is clear about its causation relation.

They said (and it bears repeating): “The repeal of Section 377A would result in the normalisation and promotion of this lifestyle which in turn would lead to undesirable moral and social consequences, a slippery slope as seen in some countries taking this step.”

Thank God that He is using 377A to hold back the tsunamis of sin?

Now, I am a Christian and support traditional family structure where our children have the established benefits of the mutually empowering roles of a mother (nurturer of their soul) and a father (the protector of their well being). What one lacks, the other fulfills.

I too disagree with the homosexual lifestyle as written in the Bible.

But it is one thing to stand by my beliefs and it is quite another thing to conclude that 377A is the final or last-standing sentry guard to the opening of the Pandora’s box of sexual perversion and immorality, especially when we have other laws in place to ensure such conduct will not be condone, right? (Heterosexual or Homosexual alike).

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a post to encourage repeal or stay.

It is nevertheless a post to resist easy and convenient causation theories, and it earnestly seeks a deeper exploration of the issues about transforming society in a way that accords dignity, understanding and reconciliation to all and sundry, in particular, to those who are directly affected and struggling, but are seriously and equally bewildered by our actions.

As it stands, the society is divided by 99,400 signatures for “stay” and 37,600 signatures for repeal. And the division will go on with the latest challenge to 377A to the apex court by a disc jockey.

And just in case we think the government is on our side - no they are not. We never elected staunch moralists into parliament. We elected practical, efficient and largely live-and-let-live officials.

Morality in terms of the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality is quite fungible for them. They may have their personal, private views and stand, but as a collective, pragmatic and technocratic body, they change with time, move with the rolling moss and swim with the current for the greater good.

And when the signatures are just right as expressed through their respective constituencies, then it is high noon for a change or repeal for they are nevertheless still pragmatic men-in-white at heart.

When that time comes, then what? What becomes of our faith? Are we then left high and dry since our sacred 377A is beaten down by an unsympathetic government?

My fear is that we have lifted 377A to such lofty, hallowed and sacred heights that it risks becoming a symbol of our religious fight against the 37,600 signatories and also risks turning the same into “the golden calf”.

Of course, no sane Christian will say that they have idolised a section, but it is not so much the position that matters but the consequences thereafter.

You see, the day may never come for the signatories to repeal exceeding the signatories to stay, but should it come because countries (beyond our control) are changing (and our little red dot is pressured to do so for expediency, political and/or economic impetus), will we as Christians perceive it as we have lost the battle for what is right, what is good, what is pure, what is sound?

Will it then be one point for homosexuals and zero point for the church in this battle which may fast become a case of oneupmanship and not a case of lifting the lamb that was slain for all to reflect and change?

More pertinently, is our faith on a section inherited from our colonial masters or on a person who became the word to be sacrificed?

Is our love then based on a hatred set on a never-to-be-enforced legislation or based on an act done at Calvary?

And is our hope on joining hearts regardless of our differences or setting the divisive lines clear and deep so that we do not get our souls contaminated and our children confused?

Alas, there is surely much to think about here (about the deeper causes and effects of things that most times appear conclusive at the surface of things).

And I don’t think one declaration of unity by one section of the society will solve the issue for all sections of society - not that that is their intention of course, but intention or not, we may have overlooked the unintended consequences of our decisions and actions.

For things of such spiritual nature, I think we have to think more on a long term via the power of grace and not just in law’s terms. Cheerz.

377A - Phantom Menace 2

Hear, hear, now the Catholic (universal) voice has spoken. 

Archbishop William Goh sounded the clarion call by appealing to all Catholics far and wide to make a “conscientious decision” to reject the repeal of 377A. 

He added that “as individuals and responsible citizens, Catholics had an important role to play in voicing their views to the Government.”

As chief shepherd of the archdiocese, William Goh prayed that “we will not walk the slippery path of no return.”

Here is the overarching rationale and fear in the Christendom in the Archbishop’s own words: -

“Looking at the dire consequences for countries which normalised same-sex unions and the ramification that followed, may we not repeat the mistake that others have made!”

Well, to be honest, the Catholic Church’s stand and the Protestant Church’s stand have not changed. 

On this, there is surely a unity across the pre-Luther and post-Luther faith that is almost unshakeable and unbreakable.

But the chief shepherd of the universal faith did not stop there on the real risk of prying open the potential Pandora's box of cultural contamination, (in other words) the slippery slope that the churches have been warning its members about. 

He however went on with a plea which I found rather out-of-the-ordinary. 

At first, William Goh said that “he would not object to a repeal “if it were merely aimed at removing all potential criminal penalties against homosexuals.””

Obviously, that would be the result of a repeal. That is, there would not be any criminal penalties against homosexuals, just as there is no longer any criminal penalties against heterosexuals when 377 (without the “A”) was removed. 

The impression then (quite naturally) was that while heterosexuals can commit unnatural sex together (in the privacy of their own bedroom of course), the homosexuals cannot. 

377A was therefore reserved to criminally prosecute homosexuals. That was at least the intention of parliament when they did the deliberate amendment from 377 (without the “A”) to 377 (with the “A”). In another world, that “A” may just stand for “Antagonism”. 

However, when the government assured the homosexuals that they would remove the fangs from the viper section (that is, not to prosecute them should they perform unnatural sex in the privacy of their bedroom), 377A became an “uneasy compromise” in a cultural climate that is both fragile and inflammatory; possibly endangered. 

So, returning to the archbishop’s first stand that he would not object to a repeal if it were merely aimed at removing all potential criminal penalties against homosexuals, that is not even an issue since the government has already removed all potential criminal penalties against homosexuals when they pulled out its fangs. 

My concern is that it is no longer about penal sanctions anymore but an uneasy existential anxiety over a possible cultural floodgate should 377A be repealed. 

This fear has seriously shakened the foundation of the Christian faith from the protestants to the charismatics, and now the Catholics. 

And quite surprisingly, it appears like we are running to the government for help (or some assurances) with the archbishop’s next stand. 

He wrote: “However, until and unless Parliament puts in place a formulation that more perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the law, guaranteeing the protection of the rights of the majority who favour the traditional family, and that no further demands be made to legalise same-sex unions, same-sex adoption of babies, surrogacy, or to criminalises those who do not support the homosexual lifestyle, 

I am of the view that 377A should not be repealed under the present circumstances.”

He added: “This is because, by accepting homosexual acts as a social norm, the dreadful consequences for the stability of our families, the well-being of our children, and the risks to the common good will be long term and irreversible.”

Lesson? Just one. Are we barking up the wrong tree? 

I mean, repeal if you think it’s right, or stay it for the sake of your belief, or let sleeping dogs lie if you are getting tired of the seemingly endless tug-of-war between the religious and the non-religious on 377A, but issuing what seems like a transactional plea by asking Parliament to come up with a formulation that “no further demands be made to legalise same-sex unions, same-sex adoption of babies, surrogacy, to criminalises those who do not support the homosexual lifestyle” before the Catholic Church would agree to a repeal? 

Have the Church crossed the separation of state and religion line? 

Is this reminiscent of the Catholic Church sleeping with the enemy, thereby repeating the mistakes of their convoluted past with reigning kings, queens and aristocrats? 

Like in the days of old when the people of God cried out for a human king in place of their Creator, is the church then crying out for an alliance with the human government in place of the author and finisher of their faith?

I said this before and let me say it again, we live in a secular democracy with a pragmatic government who has made it crystal clear that whether 377A goes or stay would depend on the majority - believers or otherwise. 

Once the cultural sentiment of the land changes, or when it is expedient to do so for political or economic reasons, the government would repeal it at a legislature’s heartbeat. 

For this reason, my fear is that by relying on our government, or giving the appearance of doing so, have we inadvertently made 377A our faith canary in the Christendom coal mine?

All things thus seems to hinge on that canary not dropping dead at the whiff of the toxic fume coming from carnality’s poisoned well. 

Or worse, we may have unintentionally elevated that canary to such lofty heights that any fume that reeks of carnality’s toxicity would cause a moral pandemonium in the claustrophobic coal mine even though it may just be someone breaking wind. 

Ultimately, levity aside, my point is about giving more thought to the unintended consequences of our actions. 

Mind you, this is not an advocacy of stay or repeal, but a firm urging for more deliberation in our contemplation, and not to be blown from one extreme to the other just because other countries are sinking into a moral cesspool with their successful repeal. There is always more than meets the eye here. 

More relevantly, my overarching point is to never keep our eyes as believers away from the author and finisher of our faith, and never to run around in panic in the center of the storm when the one who calms the storm has never left us. Cheerz.

377A - Phantom Menace 3

When the three biggest monotheistic faiths come together in unity to publicly declare that they do not support the repeal of 377A, I think the die is cast.

Finally, LHL and Shanmugan have their majority, which they have been talking about. 

I dare say that 377A has indeed unified three seemingly irreconcilable faiths and symbolically represented more than half of the world’s population to stand for what is gender purity, the traditional family through the legal marriage of a man and a woman, and the social and moral values of society.

The Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association (Pergas) has made it clear that there are “worrying implications” such as the population issue if the gay lifestyle is legalised and normalised with the repeal of 377A. 

This is what Pergas said: “if Section 377A is to be repealed, it will further affect the population growth of this country, which we understand is a major concern of the Government.”

Pergas added: “This stand is based not only on religious grounds, but also due to our concern towards moral and social values that can affect the family institution as well as the fabric of society.”

Lesson? Just one. 

This has to be said: When people of faith come together, we witness great things done in the name of their God. 

Undoubtedly, everyone of them openly professes to represent purity, uprightness and the moral conscience of society. 

When they are not competing (whether overtly or covertly) on who’s omnipotence is truer, or true, period, the moral as well as social goals their religion espouses contribute positively and enduringly to our society. 

Many critics have written about the evils of religion, the wars they have created or supported directly or indirectly, the corruption and sexual scandals within the rank and file, and the hypocrisy of their leadership when they mix faith with politics, but I choose to believe that their existence has been a net positive gain for our globalised world. 

Alas, in a sea of absurdity, they are like the lighthouse guiding many to safe shores, shortcoming notwithstanding. 

But, if there is one thing that bugs me about religion until this day, it is well captured in these words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: -

"The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners." 

That is the real ”hot-button” issue today. 

When it is said that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free, I sincerely believe that one of the freedoms intended in that promise was to be set us free not only from the indictment of sin so that we can go forward and pursue righteousness, but also from the avoidance of the admission of sin so that we do not fall into the trap of being self-righteous. 

I think that was what Bonhoeffer meant when he said that “the pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.”

For this reason, religion may be a safe haven that purifies the sinners in their search for forgiveness and redemption and it may also be an exclusive club that disqualifies the sinners in their search for acceptance and community. 

The religious phenomenon is that when the religion gets bigger, the sinner in our leadership (or in us) tends to retreat from public view due to the immense pressure to put on a burnished image of invulnerability. 

The greater the number, the fame and the wealth, the further the sinner hides from the public eye. Sooner or later, it mutates quite unknowingly from the denial of self to the self resisting denial. 

Let me end with this narration. 

One day Charles Swindoll met his mentor Jim Peterson and he asked him, "How do you do it, Jim?" Under Jim's capable leadership, the ministry of the Navigators expanded greatly. Charles said, "Tell me the secret of ministering to people." 

He was expecting Jim to say "Always set the pace," or "Be strong no matter what," or "Model the truth and stand against the gale as it attackes you." But he got none of that. 

Jim just smiled and said, "Chuck, let people see the cracks in your life, and you'll be able to minister to them.

That brings me back to the divisive 377A. Needless to say, we must all stand for what is right, regardless of our religious affiliation. 

And in standing for what is right, we must never put what is right as a concept above human relationship as a way of connecting with them.

For most time, it is not our position that matters more, but our methods. 

And now that the religious faiths have made themselves crystal clear about their stand on 377A, the greater work to be carried out is to reach out to those deeply affected and profoundly confused (especially the young ones). 

For my prayer is that Lord, if we are wrong, make us willing to make amends. And if we are right, make us easy to live with. Amen. Cheerz.

377A - Phanton Menace 4

Oh dear, Tommy Koh used the “W” word. 

He said he believes that the Court of Appeal’s decision about 377A is wrong. “I hope that the Court of Appeal will overturn its 2014 decision if it is presented with an opportunity to do so.”

He cited his good friend, Prof Walter Woon, saying that there is a difference between a sin and a crime. 

This is the former Att-Gen’s view: “He said that many regard adultery and fornication as sinful but they are not criminal behaviour. He concluded that sodomy may be a sin but it should not be made a crime. He is also unhappy with the compromise of retaining 377A and not enforcing it because it brings the law into disrepute.”

If you need a summary of Tommy’s position, here they are: -

“First, the scientific evidence is that homosexuality is a normal and natural variation of human sexuality. It is not a mental disorder.

Second, Section 377A is an antiquated law, and not supported by science, and should be repealed.

Third, Singapore is a secular state. It is not a Christian or Muslim country. The leaders of those religions should respect the separation of state and religion and refrain from pressuring the Government to criminalise conduct which they consider sinful.

Fourth, the Court of Appeal should overturn its 2014 decision and declare 377A to be unconstitutional.”

It tempting to wonder at this point whether Tommy and/or Walter will be called to be expert witnesses (that is, constitutional law experts) for the coming challenge to 377A by a local DJ? 

Now, the society is clearly divided, if not already so. And we have 377A to thank. 

The irony is that 377A has united different religions, but it has also disunited those religious groups and the other groups that the various religions considered as sinners. 

If there were ever a time where sin had divided the people with such alacrity, it is this time with the aid of 377A. 

On one side, the gays are to be blamed. On the other side, the self-righteous believers are to be blamed. 

Any middle or common ground they might have is currently drowned out in this widening divide as it widens even further. 

Yes, there is an overarching goal for the believers when it comes to sodomy laws (which our state has enacted laws to criminalise those acts, for example, if people - hetero or homo - caught in public having sex or masturbating each other, they will be prosecuted. That much is how far our secular state would criminalise morality). 

But when it comes to enforceability of 377A, the state is not going to do anything when gays hold hands in public, kiss in public, and then retire to their private bedrooms to consummate their love for each other. 

That much the state is not going to criminalise. It is only morality as far as it is logical and practically feasible (and culturally acceptable). 

In the words of Justice Anthony Kennedy, when he deemed the Texas law criminalising sodomy was unconstitutional: -

“The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives. The state cannot demean or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime.”

But, be that as it may, the Christians and Catholics are worried that 377A will open the floodgates of promiscuity and moral perversion should that fang-less section be repealed (notwithstanding the other sections which of course do not differentiate whether you are gay or not). 

As it is, their concerns are genuine from their point of view. This is the long laundry list of the gay movement. 

The gays have agendas and they are fiercely political, economic and globally driven. Many top corporate leaders are gays. Some political heads openly announced their civil partnerships. 

And now, they are prosecuting the Christians for their stand against selling them cakes, officiating their wedding and reading the Bible in schools. 

And mind you, many have lost their jobs for taking a stand on their beliefs. That’s not just illegal, but criminal for the gays.

But, isn’t this worse in some middle eastern countries, and even China where the provincial officials in the name of harmony and order (and ungrounded paranoia) are burning crosses and shutting down underground churches? 

And let’s not talk about Christians being hunted down and murdered in the name of other religion in other religiously straitjacketed countries. 

Alas, with a twist of irony, isn’t it the strangest that of all the sexual perversions, chastity is the worst because in that name of purity, in the name of possessive fear, in the name of control, we are prepared to kill, steal and destroy to keep ourselves spiritually and religiously chaste (so to speak)?

But of course, I am deviating from the point. And my point is the looming Christian fear (whether we admit it or not) and the aggressive gay agenda (whether they admit it or not). 

On the believers’ side, we are afraid that we may be losing ground to the gays because they appear to be not just coming out of the closet, but making the world their closet. 

Now, let me just say that that is a reality I do not want my children or their children to live in. 

But my other concern is on the unintended consequences on two fronts, that is, the polarisation created by 377A at the current moment may result in the further deepening of the wedge and thereby sabotaging all our genuine efforts to reach out to them, and the unintended consequences on the other front concerning the growing anxiety (whether founded or otherwise) arising from a floodgate of immorality when 377A is out of the way, to make way for same-sex marriages, bestiality and paedophilia. 

How do we then strike a healthy and positive balance then? This is worth exploring...

In the end, we have to ask, is it a question of rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and rendering to God what belongs to God?

That is, should we just let the legislature do their job as they are elected to do, and let believers do their job as Christ had ordained us to do? 

Ultimately, we should also ask ourselves, is a dog without its teeth a better guardian and testimony of our faith than the one who was stripped of all to be hung on the Cross?

That answer is obvious I know, but sometimes, what is obvious becomes seemingly oblivious when we go from one extreme to the other. 

In other words, there is a palpable risk that this may turn from a question of faith thingy to a question of control and fear thingy? Is there more intolerance in our earnest drive to become more tolerant?

Here, as I end, I recall a saying that the world is like a global spiritual kindergarten and millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God (or right actions or purity) with a wrong set of blocks. 

Alas, it may just be the case here of the “bewildered infant syndrome” for this is not just an uneasy but fast becoming unhealthy compromise between the government, the believers and the gays.

In other words, this may just be too much of a knee-jerk-reactive plucking of the low hanging fruits, thereby leaving the more effective and enduring solutions still hanging untouched up there.

Just my thots. Cheerz.