|Pink Dot 2011 attended by 10,000 people|
(John 13:34 NKJV) "A new commandment I give to you, that you love
one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.
The Pink Dot SG event on 18 June 2011 at Hong Lim Park in Singapore drew news attention with over 10,000 pink attired Singaporeans with a deep message of "Support the Freedom to Love". We are free to love and be loved. Even big businesses got into the act with the 5pm concert supported by Google.
Pink Dot started in June 2009 as Singapore's first outdoor, open-air, LGBT event at the Speakers corner, a place where mass gatherings are legally allowed. It was non political with a friendly message to gather and enjoy the Saturday afternoon as a picnic style event. More than 2,000 took part in 2009, then 4,000 in 2010, and 10,000 in the 2011 event. The attendance was by far the largest at the Park and filled the entire venue.
Pink Dot draws upon a message intended for mass support (Gay and Straight) rather than the more narrow messages of GLBT leaders such as addressing general overall injustices in the community, the lack of freedom of protest outside the presribed Hong Lim Park. Instead, it was targeted at making progress and driving a subtle message to the sub-conscience of Singapores that gays are no different like you and me with families, relationships, and aspirations.
The messaging was simple, heart tugging, and has wide appeal. It was not a protest, but serves to negate many of the negative images of the Christian Right against gays in Singapore. It's all about love, and nothing more.
It was targeted at the mainstream, encourages the involvement of straight people in contrast to the PLU targeted events such as Indignation held since Aug 2005 which was more focused on a variety of issues.
The message in Pink Dot was mild, light hearted with a notion that change is progresive and mainstream orientated. Wide support and media visibility resulted. Gains made are progressive, not instantaneous. We can't change the "sea of human rights" abuses over night but incrementally.
Martyn See tried to associate Dr Chee Soon Juan of the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) with pushing the political envelop such that public gatherings at Hong Lim Park are allowed under relaxed rules since 01 Sept 2008 by a simple registration with the National Parks. However, this assertion is rather dubious when Dr Chee stated that he was against the "Gay aggenda" during the general election which by default is a term used by the Christian Right to oppose even the very basic rights of gays such as decriminalization.
In 2007 during PM Lee's speech on the retention of 377A which criminalises same sex acts, a backlash was feared from the very large and politically influential Christian community if gays strongly seek basic rights.
"I should therefore say that as a matter of reality, that the more the gay activists push this agenda, the stronger will be the push back from conservative forces [Read Christians] in our society, as we are beginning to see already in this debate and over the last few weeks and months. And the result will be counter productive because it is going to lead to less space for the gay community in Singapore. So it is better to let the situation evolve gradually. " PM Lee in 2007
The approach therefore would be different from America where the Stonewall incident in June 1969 sparked a strong protest for freedom and equal rights. In Singapore, a non confrontational approach was established via the Pink Dot which gives little room or reason by Christians to react strongly.
Any reaction by the Christian Right was hampened in 2009 when Christian Fundamentalist from the Anglican Church of Our Saviour over played their hand by strongly pushing to control a secular organization in order to violate what little small space that the gay community had (Ironically, this organization called Aware was a liberal women's group rather than any particularly gay supporting organization). The public backfire to the underhand and immoral overtake of Aware were profound allowing the opportunity for Pink Dot to have happened in June 2009 without provoking an adverse response.
A year later in 2010, the public backdown of Pastor Rony Tan of Lighthouse Evangelism for ridiculing another major faith also meant that the anti-gay's Pastors attack on gays were also condemned. Hence, the freedom hitherto to raise their wild rethorics against gays were curtailed, and space was given for the Pink Dot to grow larger. It had nothing to do with Dr Chee Soo Juan of SDP.
In the meantime, the major surprise of Pastor Kong Hee of City Harvest Church (the giant mega church) being investigated for financial dealings meant a reflection on how aggressive the church as a whole should be in entering into, dominating or transforming the secular mountains of Media, Business, Arts, Education and Government. The Christian Church which had hitherto sent out their knights in armour from the church walls to conquer the world, had to recall their ground troops and draw back the bridge as their own walls were under stressed. Any agressive unprovoked rethoric against gays would have been seen by the public as an intrusion into the very limited secular space for gays on Hong Lim Park, when they had almost unlimited space to worship God every Sunday even with foreign preachers. Hence, their own absolute rights and freedom would be questioned.
This set the background for the success of Pink Dot 2011 with space given as the strong Christian Right movement had have to reign back their agressive attacks and rethoric whilst the General Election 2011 gave further impetus of the possibility of tangible change for the better and voices being heard.
There is a message also to the inclusive Christian churches in the Asian region whose theology in general is outside the mainstream of Christianity apart from their teachings of inclusion of GLBT people. Could our theology in general be hindering GLBT and straight people from coming to our churches? Could our inclusive theology result in us being exclusive to cater for all theological views yet not setting the marker at the mid point to attract people and support? The churches should exist to fit the space arising and not agressively extend a space which is not there.
A progressive or queer theology is often emphasised (to be consistent with the inclusion of GLBT peoples) which do not have a large following. Could we be an effective arm of outreach or agents of change with less than 100 attendance, and in some places of worship, even less than a dozen. We are like a small voice compared to the loud speaker of the smallest mega churches such as Church of Our Saviour with 4,000 in attendance. We can't even begin to have an effective dialogue based on equal terms.
The message of targeting the middle ground where the Christian Faith in Singapore are moving towards rather than specifically catering for all views. Is there room for Charismatic Evangelical churches who happen to be inclusive for GLBT peoples, whose faith traditions have a wider appeal. How do we do this without neglecting some of the Queer theology that has helped us to understand our faith, and relate to the marginalized as a people of faith? Do we keep as a small forgotten voice in the desert? or would people come to follow us like they have followed John the Baptist to the middle of the desert that they may find living waters!
The people will come, when we move by the Holy Spirit of God, and not necessarily dogmatic to the progressive, and queer theologies which will seldom capture a middle ground which is more becoming evangelical and charismatic. If 5% of Singapores were gay, and 10% are Christians, based on 4 million residence, there would be 20,000 gay christians more than even the Pink Dot. Even if only 10% attends the inclusive churches, this would be 2,000. The rainbow harvest field is large but there are few barns or labourers to bring them in.
As the secular movement of GLBT public acceptance grows in leaps and bounds, our inclusive churches must also find a mass appeal as not to be left as a foot note in history. The mainstream churches will change in time with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and and a good spanking, but the space and opportunity will be missed.