|Catholic and "Other Christians" Revival in Singapore|
Catholic and "Other Christians" Revival in Singapore
The Singapore Census of Population undertaken once every 10 years has just released its 2010 census. When compared to the last census in year 2000, a number of startling figures emerges that gives rise to a general concern of the increasing strength of Christianity in Singapore, willing to exercise their voice in all areas of the secular public life with incidents such as Aware, the Rony Tan incidents and the rising size of the mega churches occupying major landmarks such as Suntec, Expo, and One North.
Christianity is divided in the census into two groups, Catholics and "Other Christians".
The rise of Christianity is statistically significant indicating perhaps that the mega churches are the result of new converts and not stealing sheep from the existing churches:-
Total - Year 1980, 10% Year 2000, 14.6%, Year 2010, 18.3%,
Chinese Christians - Year 2000, 16.5%, Year 2010, 20.1%
Based on 3.7 million residents with 80% over 15 years of age, there are more than 100,000 "new" Christians (apart from Catholics) which can account for the numerical rise of the mega churches. This is not surprising, since the churches have grown significantly over this period, with CHC growing more than 21,000:-
CHC Overall Church Attendance (from CHC web site)
Dec 1999 - 7,042
Dec 2009 - 28,134
In the 2010 census (under table 53), under the Christian category, there were 219,133 Catholics, and 350,111 "other Christians". In the 2000 census (under table 41) there were 118,980 Catholics and 245,107 "Other Christians". Therefore we have a rise of 84% Catholics and 42% "Other Christians". The figures may have been skewed by a foreign population eg Philipino maids. When the 2010 figures were based on the Chinese population alone, there were 155,515 Catholics and 317,121 "Other Christians". The 2000 census showed that for the Chinese population there were 95,316 Catholics and 229,640 "Other Christians". ie there was an increase of 90,000 new Chinese "other Christians", and 60,000 "Catholics". Hence whilst there was a revival in Christianity amongst the "other Christians" with 40% growth, the percentage growth in Catholics is far higher at more than 60%.
As if the rate of growth in Christianity is not high enough, the Christian Post in Singapore lamented that revival was needed since the gay population was not totally subdued. In a posting on 07 May 2008, it reads "Christian Leaders: Homosexuality Shows Singapore Needs Revival" quoting from the likes of Rony Tan. Maybe they have ignored that the Catholics were growing faster than them, rather than blaming gays.
Despite the large overall percentage of growth, the trational mainline churches remained at a plateau. In the Christian Post article dated 10 Jan 2011, read "our membership is at a plateau: Methodist TRAC President". The Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup, President of the Trinity Annual Conference was reflecting that increase in membership howered between 1 and 3 percent in the last decade..The statistics actually reflects this lack of growth as the mega churches and the Catholic churches actually accounts for all the incredible growth.
Whilst Protestant Christians were lamenting on the need for revival because of gays, a more pertinent reason for revival may be that the Catholic Church is catching up to the Protestant Christians who are only afraid of a "gay" aggenda whilst not being at all perturbed by the practices of the Catholic churches. Perhaps two men having sex is so contrary to the religious indignation of the "other Christians" that they conveniently ignored the practices of the Catholic churches which hitherto has been considered as a affront to blibical Christianity.
With the rise of the "Catholics" and "Other Christians" in Singapore, it will be an increasing uphill battle to decriminalise Homosexuality in Singapore. Accounting for 20% of the voting public is surely a large enough electoral block as not to antagonise unnecesarrily. Ironically, the figures do hold some hope, for where the Catholics are a majority in the European and South American Countries, Homosexuality are essentially decriminalized. The Catholics appear to be less "fundamentalistic" than the "other Christians" apart from the Vatican and their Pope Ratzinger.
How do we a start and grow a gay affirmative Christianity? Perhaps gays are not looking for a church very much different from the churches they came from - they may be yearning for a mainstream form of christianity (that plays Hill Songs!) that is different only with respect to the acceptance of their sexual orientation. Perhaps it is not only having a consistent theology and sacraments with no surprises on Sunday from the pulpit preaching but also a community life centered around relationships, and a church building/center owned and run by the faith community which they can truly identify as theirs and call "Home" where they belong to.
But how could gay christians go back to a similar type of mainstream Christianity after all the harm being done to our Spirit and Soul! that put us in a closet that binds us through layers of religious construction. How could we be free when we continue to perpetuate the same religious systems that had bind us. Yet, most gay christians have left the church and don't even go to gay affirmative churches which are perhaps small, nomadic, and have no place that they owned and often full of unnecesarry relationships/theological conflicts that few would benefit from. There must be something more attractive to retain them above the disgust and condemnation that they had felt and received from the mainstream churches..
Should we go the Catholic way, having a well defined order of service and liturgy, a good three point orthodox unevenful bible message each week, a modern contemporary worship service and a second service with traditional hymns, a church building owned by the congregation, and an open door for gays to visit and just feel free to meet God and just to rest and be at Home. Maybe Gay Christians just want to find a home where they are accepted, find their belonging, where there is rest, peace, and communion with God and each other, and identification with Christ in a hostile world.
The Catholics had revival, why couldn't the gay affirmative churches have a revival! The way may not be to hound agressively like the mega churches but just to be there, having church buildings and closely knit faith communities in the heart of gay "ghettos", opening our doors, and having a familiar/consistent kind of theology complemented by a Queer theology which helps us to love and accept ourselves by peeling off the false layers of construction that had made up our lives. Liberation theology teaches us that our strength may lie in a closed knit community where there is much sharing and deep relationships, where the door - our homes/churches are always open day and night when hitherto the church has been closed the GLBT community. The rest is God's work!.