|Anthony Yeo, God's Grace to us.|
The passing of Anthony Yeo on Saturday 20 June 2009 was a great lost to his family, friends and to those he loved and had loved him much. But the loss to the Christian church in Singapore will also be very significant because he was the voice of conscience, the voice of doubt when the church has been so sure of itself and its theological position to go outside of the church walls to come against the gay community. His was a voice of conscience of the church asking us difficult questions, about our motives and reasons. It is not wrong to have a position, but going much beyond to persecute and marginalized the gay community when the church had little to do or impacted by this community demands a very pertinent reason and beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt and a very strong reason. With him, goes the conscience of the church. It is not who would now speak for the Gay community, but who would speak for the church of Jesus Christ in a Christ like manner of humility and openness.
The Christian Post SG article on 24 June 2009 entitled “Counseling Pioneer Known for Embracing Homosexuals as People” is a reflection of the Christian church in Singapore that is obsessed by the issue of homosexuality and hence failed to reflect upon the passing of Anthony as a Christian Counselor of 35 years in Christian Counseling work. Rather, they could not forgive him, nor forget his role for the last 5 to 10 years to be associated with the Gay community. They tried to be nice and respectful by saying that he had embraced Homosexuals as a people when the actual fact that he went far further and had accepted them as no greater or lesser sinner than heterosexuals. He accepted them as “people” of individual worth and dignity and not judged them by their sexual orientation.
I am reminded of Jesus death at Calvary; they put up the banner stating “Jesus, the King of the Jews”. But Jesus was much more; He was also God, and their savior. So today we have our modern day Roman Soldiers putting up a banner “Anthony, a friend of homosexuals”. Anthony went further and treated Gays as individual people far beyond their sweeping condemnation and stigmatization of the “homosexual” label. When we label a people group, it is easier to take away their individual humanity, just as we blame certain races for perceived sins. For example, in the “Merchant of Venice”, Jews was considered as unscrupulous people. In Nazi Germany, Jews and Gays were collectively blamed for corrupting the nation and for all the economic hardship. Hence, labeling helps us to sooth our conscience and providing a self justification for persecuting an entire people group. It is the wearing of tinted glasses as not to see our blood stained hands.
It is easier to blame others, for the breakdown of our straight marriages. We dare not to cross the line, to know gays as people, because more doubt will come in just as doubt came into Anthony when he got to know more gay people. No more would they only be identified by their sexual orientation, but as individuals of dignity and worth whose lives, family, work, relationships, and spiritual journey are not much different than you and me. When we identify people narrowly to suit our agenda and purpose to condemn and to discriminate, we too will be judged likewise and be defined narrowly. It is better not to bear false witness against a people group, for we will suffer the same fate and more.
Anthony Yeo was God’s grace to the Church, and a church that do desperately need the grace of God to avoid judgment. When “Real Love Ministry” spoke at ACTS (part of the Anglican Cathedral), the congregation laughed when it was mockingly suggested that Gays have a taste too in selecting who they like – the perception being that gays are extremely promiscuous and that their relationships are solely based on sex and so they do not mind who they have sex with. When Rev Benny Hinn prophesied that God would destroy the Gay community in 1995 by “fire”, there was a loud applause. Rev Benny is a favorite of City Harvest Church, and I guess if he had said the same in Singapore, there would be a resounding applause as well. Anthony was God’s grace of caution against a church not to go beyond the point of grace for whilst God’s grace is new every morning, the law is cumulative and demands that all our sins as a church against the gay community be brought to account and not be forgotten. God’s point of Grace is coming closer and closer each day. We may preach grace, but do we abide by it. The Law will never pass away.
The notion of same sex marriages is extremely threatening to the church, not that it is a threat to straight marriages, but it represents a commitment of love and long term relationship something totally contrary to the notion of a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle indoctrinated by the Christian extremist. If their love and affections were like straight people apart from the orientation, then it undermines all the arguments of immorality and sin, which ultimately means that either the Christians had wrongly interpreted the bible (and therefore deserved God’s judgment for all that they have done against gays), or that the bible is wrong. Both scenarios are equally untenable. Deep inside the conscience of Christians, they know what is right and wrong, but their sin conscience demand that they continually condemned gays lest they be condemned instead.
Anthony was opposed to the sweeping condemnation that the acceptance of Gay people would somehow bring Singapore into a moral decadence and lead to the destruction of marriage. He reminded the church that in his 35 years of counseling, all the marriage related issues were by straight people. And, as straight people give birth to gay sons and daughters, does it mean it is the fault of the parents, ie if gay people are sinners intrinsically then their parents who bore them must be sinners too. As straight marriages bore gay children, it also follows that Adam and Eve bore gay children! As such it is in the mystery of God’s creation that most are born straight, and some born gay. When we come against gays, we come against God who created them as such. Despite our denials that “no one is born gay”, we do not admit that this implies that “no one is born straight”. If we say that straight parents are natural, but since they give birth to gay children, homosexuality must be natural as well.
Anthony was also against an attempt to call same sex orientation as a sin – especially with reference to Leviticus 18. He reminded the church that the 10 commandments – the Holy Grail of the Christian Church in Singapore with its commandments of “Thou shalt not….” did not mention gays contrary to the seriousness we make it out to be. If it is a sin like any other sin, then why do we make it an issue so important as to “cross the line ordained by God”. If it is indeed a sin, which we defined from the peculiarities of the OT religious laws in Leviticus 18:22, then why don’t we fully follow to these religious laws such as working on Sundays, or eating unclean animals. These laws have a religious context especially against idol worship which we have conveniently cherry picked to condemn gays – grossly out of context whilst not following the laws ourselves. If we study the bible closely, the 10 commandments did indirectly mention homosexuality, the 1 st commandment not to worship idols, for the straight religious worshipers chose out of their religious faith practice to perform same sex acts as part of their worship of these fertility gods to bless the land for they were farmers. It was not because they were all gay. Otherwise, there would be no Jewish nation, and no Christianity.
At the end, Anthony Yeo suffered much criticism for standing side by side with the Gay community. Not only was he condemned privately, he was criticized publicly. Former Anglican Archbishop Moses Tay in SG Post on 05 Nov 2008, warned that “At home, homosexuality activists are gaining ground in schools and child education. Anthony Yeo, Clinical Director of Counselling and Care Centre, taught students he was assigned to counsel that homosexuality is a biological condition, a student who attended his class told a local church ministry leader” [ Christian Post SG, “Homosexual Activism Rising in Singapore, Warn Christian Leaders”, Nov 05, 2008]. Therefore, Anthony Yeo, was labeled as “Homosexuality” activists – a antagonistic term created for those who called for a reasoned reflection. He was an activist indeed – an activist for Christ. At the end, he may have lost a lot of friends, but gained true friends in the gay community whom he loved, and whom loved him much in return.
Who is to speak for us? If we had asked Anthony, he would have smiled and counseled us out from our closets. Anthony has shown the way at a great cost for himself, though he didn’t need to – he supported us both privately and publicly, in letters to the editor, in public forums and counseling sessions. He was willing to pay the heavy price and loss of reputation, at the end for which the church could only remember him as friend of homosexuals. He may no longer be with us, but his lion heart of courage, will and tenacity though a “mouse”, will remain with us, bidding us to move on and fight the good fight till we are called to go Home to be with him in heaven. He stood up where few would stand up for us. It is perhaps time we stood up for ourselves. The seed that he planted in each of our hearts to fight and stand firm and not to flinch in adversity will be his ever lasting legacy together with his friendship and love for us that will be remembered through time. Let us live, and to live for Christ.
It's no longer I that liveth
He lives, He lives,