Free speech for religious extremist snipped

10 June 2009 – The Straits Times reported today that the Christian couple (Ong Kian Cheong, Dorothy Chan Hien Leng formerly from the Berean Christian Church) under trial for systematically handing out extreme religious tracks over the past decades has been sentenced to 8 weeks jail. There has been a quiet response from the Christian Community other than those in the same extremist conservative camp who calls the Government “hypocritical” for the sentence whilst allowing shows such as “Davinci Code” to be screened. However, such comparisons lack logic as the “Davinci Code” is a widely accepted movie in the Christian West and not an unsolicited letter/literature. Watching the movie requires a free will decision rather than advertised upon people to view something which he/she would strongly object religiously or otherwise. Naturally, such fringe groups are known to try to justify their religious arguments using little logic and dubious correlations. For example, the Focus on Family tried to confuse the love between two persons with a man having sex with dead people which is not relevant unless Christians Activist did not consider gays as living human beings. Perhaps they don’t. That is the advantage of labeling people – it takes away their individual humanity and dignity.

For many in the Liberal camp, there is much sympathy for the jailed couple even though gays are the frequent recipients in the Christian literature and through the church pulpit of strongly anti-gay rhetoric and half truths camouflaged in the name of religion. Not all the Chick publications were banned; those pertaining to gays are still legal. Whilst the call to Free Speech remains an important principal that should be protected and argued as to why the couple should not be jailed, whether it is right or wrong does depend on the context. For example, we may hold strong pacifist ideals, they may become untenable when faced with an enemy intend to kill. When the bible calls for judgment in the same way that we have judged it places the bar not only on principles but how we have treated others? In this case, how have the Christian Extremist used and control the media to propagate their anti-gay agenda for decades causing great harm without being taken into tasks!

Focus on the Family and CBN for example are very large media entities with a very loud voice and reach to influence the minds and will of society to be against gays to an extent that this condemnation has caused many gays to even take their own lives and significantly derail the basic rights and space for gays. Even in Singapore, their presence is felt through Christian Post SG, and the Church of Our Savior. Through the media, gays have been used by the religious extremist as a scapegoat for fund raising and to secure more following and expansion of their media empire. Free speech assumes that all else being equal when the smallest and least, the Gay community have very little voice. That is why, when Jesus came, He chose to speak for and live with the most despised in society, a strong statement that God’s love, grace and mercy surpassed the labels that we used to condemn those in minority so different from us. For the Gospel extends cross culture, across religion, and language expeditiously but finds its greatest challenge of accepting the minority classes within. Jesus asked the disciples to go to Samaria on the Gospel road to the World, but the apostles found it a challenge until persecution arose in Jerusalem. It was Phillip, a Hellenist Jew that broke the barrier to the Samaritans and to the Eunuch which finally overcame the spiritual and practical road blocks for the Gospel message to the nations because these two represented the most despised groups of people.

Gays are a people group within people groups existing in every single nation usually defined in terms of language, and culture and therefore may be the common factor for the Gospel evangelism. Perhaps, God will use the least when the mighty has failed to show that it is through God alone that all glory be given to Him. For example, in the Middle East, the few places where you can find Arabs and Jews mingling together and accepting each other is at the gay bars. Conversely, the only position that Christianity, Judaism and Islam have in common is not the cliché that “All religion is about love” but their anti-gay worldview. Religious extremism takes away people’s choices and liberty and imposes religious values and beliefs system with little regard to free will. We see this in Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore, a secular space must be imposed with clear boundaries in a multi-religious society as not to bring religion into the public and political space but to give others space to disagree and not imposed their religion aggressively upon others.

The Christian activists have in the US made the grace of God cheap and have become reckless in what they do in the name of Christianity. They are known for their hypocrisy, half truths, prosperity/love for money and anti-gay agenda instead of proclaiming God’s love in a self sacrificial way. They had not been particularly humble nor had sacrificed themselves and their lives for the Gospel sake, but chose to sacrifice gays as a sin offering to highlight their morality and self righteousness. They have been so politically powerful with a massive media control that their support helped to change the course of history in giving Bush a second term despite the war in Iraq. When we talked about “old money” few can fathom the hidden wealth of the church who once ruled 2/3 of Europe.

But the time will come, when the grace of God will be exhausted and the freedom Christians had to go into all the spaces in society to spread the gospel but instead we use for our anti-gay platform, will be curtailed. There is a space, an opening, a grace period, after which barriers will be raised because we have used our freedom to cause harm instead of proclaiming freedom. Choices and Liberty have become terms we used to make gays change to become ex-gays rather than giving people choices to accept the Gospel and having liberty over the bondage of the law in the Love and acceptance of Christ in their lives. We have preached law instead of grace, and these condemnations of the law we have preached are best epitomized by our movement against gays in all the states in America to ban Gay marriages on account of protecting our straight marriages which we have diminished through our straight divorces and promiscuity highlight by the hundreds of thousands of abortions. Alas, we assert that these all have to do with gays bringing the entire society across the line ordained by God! We could have spent the money to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, and for the poor, the sick and needy amongst us to extend the kingdom of God instead of expanding our own kingdom here on earth. We have forgotten that it is His kingdom and not our kingdom here in earth that must be exalted.

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