Yeah, I know everyone’s sick of reading about the AWARE saga in Singapore. Me too. I thought it was all pretty futile and the whole blogosphere has gone nuts about it. See the massive number of blog posts on this one topic, with everyone dishing out their two cents on the matter.
In a nutshell, here’s what happened. Encouraged by their female mentor who was upset by the increasingly pro-lesbian agenda of AWARE, a bunch of females made an aggressive takeover of the female-focused civil society organization, kicking out the old guard overnight with a co-ordinated electoral strategy. Half the island goes nuts because the new guard refused to reveal their agenda, and the other half goes nuts because they’ve never understood what AWARE was about. Heated exchanges in the press, death threats, police reports and changing of locks ensue, and you can bet this is the most publicity AWARE has ever gotten in its two decades of existence.
Everyone has their idea on why the whole saga matters, but let’s face it, the raw nerve was touched when two camps fought over the issue of homosexuality.
This is an incredibly divisive issue, and nobody really likes to discuss it in public, no matter which country you’re in. But the fight came boiling out into the open and things were made worse when the church was dragged into it (most the new guard belong to the same church).
Now let’s get one thing straight first (no pun intended) – anyone who truly believes in Jesus Christ knows that God opposes homosexuality. The Bible states it several times, the clearest being 1 Corinthians 6:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
This decree by God upsets people to no end, be they Christians with gay friends or the whole gay community. As Christians, our dilemma when we work and play in the secular world is “how do we state our stand here to our friends and families? We don’t want to be criticised. We don’t want labels like homophobic or bigot.”.
After all, to state upfront that you do not support this sort of lifestyle immediately elicits two major responses from many people: You’re intolerant or you’re ignorant. Never mind that the majority of Singaporeans remain in the conservative camp and keep to themselves on such matters.
The churches here also mostly keep silent on the matter, leaving it to sermons on the pulpit and refusing to comment on the recent AWARE debacle. The last time a church openly stated its stand on this, it received a lot of backlash (but the church didn’t stand down).
The Gahmen too, has tried to divert attention from the religious and homosexual angle by stating the whole saga was more a matter of poor communication. Christian politicians have also kept silent to prevent fanning more flames.
But let’s call a spade a spade, and this is where the new exco of AWARE didn’t anticipate when they decided to bring our beliefs Bible into the secular space. They were stunned by the level of hostility brought upon them, and I must say getting a death threat was most unexpected by everyone, including myself.
I write this post for fellow believers, and will probably get flamed. But there are some things I really feel a need to speak out on with regards to our faith:
1. The Bible’s stand on many difficult issues is crystal clear – we need not be apologetic for it. But you don’t contest the world on its own terms because we have to detach ourselves from it. The secular world demands tolerance for all beliefs, otherwise Christians will have to spend a lot of time going after other religions.
The worst label people and fellow Christians can give a person is a “fundamentalist”, because it implies a dogged insistence on a skewed agenda. But believing and acting on the words of Christ do not make you a fundamentalist – it is when you reject all other points of view and refuse to listen to believers and non-believers alike that you become intolerant in the worst possible way.
This is one of the reasons why there are so many denominations of churches today and why I simply refuse to be called “Baptist”, “Methodist”, “Bible-Presbyterian”, “Anglican” or whatever. I’m just a Christian, and I believe in God’s Word, plain and simple. If you want to speak in tongues, fine, but I can’t. Doesn’t mean I won’t see you in Heaven, bro. In the past decade, I’ve seen a respected pastor kicked out of his own church he founded because he just became too dogmatic and refused to see it.
George Bush claimed he was a born-again Christian but created death and destruction of many Muslims through war and torture methods. What kind of role model is he for believers? Let God deal with the world as He sees fit, but we do good where we can. (Proverbs 3:27)
Tolerance is a virtue in itself, as it helps us to control our tongue from creating further damage. (I wish I can remember this on a daily basis!). I may not agree with the lifestyles of other people, but what better way of convincing them than trying to lead the life God asks me to?
2. Practice what you preach, but imposing your views on others is not the way to go. When I was young and didn’t believe in Christ, I was most upset by the “holy-moly” ACS classmates or teachers who insisted on telling me I was going to hell if I didn’t believe. It only increased my resistance to Christ because it was shoving doctrine down my throat. Only by God’s grace did I hear and understand his message when I was older.
AWARE’s new exco had a clear agenda from the start (as revealed by their internal emails that the press pounced upon) but refused to come clean during their aggressive takeover. As Christians, why should we be afraid to lay the facts down when asked what we are doing in the public space? What is upsetting now is that the new Exco keeps claiming it remains secular in its focus when all evidence as dragged up by the media points otherwise. This just puts the majority of Christians – who are always prime fodder for criticism and derision – in further bad light.
3. Why go to extremes?
Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 has the verse which sticks in my mind all the time and is very applicable in this instance.
Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself?
Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes
Was there a less abrasive way of stating the Bible’s stand on homosexuality than taking over a high-profile secular civil-society group? Look at the secular world today – it is drenched in love for materialism, for power, for money…not very different from the days of Sodom and Gomorrah actually. We grapple with the same sins and influences our forefathers did..the good fight continues daily in the physical and spiritual world.
But as Christian parents, our job is to guide our children through the inevitable morass of sin out there. NOT to block all incoming signals, but to teach them God’s ways.
I am not advocating inertia and passivity – but instructing our children in the way to go so they will not waver when they grow up. When was the last time you tried to tell another parent how to bring up his kid? Surely you would have been told to mind your own business.
The AWARE saga has been a public airing of poor public relations, poor people management and resulted in unnecessary hostile labelling of Christians in the public sphere. The society will be tainted for a long time by everyone’s poor handling of the crisis. Trials and tribulations are part of the package when you bear the cross, but what happens if the new exco failed to get its original message across?
If we were to be truly objective, all Christians are bigots in the eyes of the world because we reject the world utterly for what it is. We tolerate the world because we have to live through this physical stage as we look to an eternity with Christ. But then again, Jesus came down among the masses to spread his message, hung around prostitutes and hated tax-collectors, and showed those who would listen that God truly loved the world.
You can call a person a homophobic, which implies he fears gays. But no, Christians are not homophobic because we simply reject the lifestyle, not the person. Such hostile labels don’t help when they stick and is not rebutted against in a clear and honest manner.
My bottomline is – if we want to fight for what we believe in, how can we do it with love and not aggression? How can we get the respect and understanding of the secular world for the things we do? Honestly, only God has the answers and we need to ask for them.