|Singapore's Archbishop stirring the witches’ cauldron.|
30 Nov 2009. The sermon by Archbishop John Chew at the Anglican Centenary celebrations was reported in the Straits Times article entitled “Unite against alternative values, Anglicans urged”. Bishop Chew is the secretary of the Anglican Global South, a breakaway grouping of conservative Anglican churches in the Anglican Communion seeking to oust the Episcopal Church in USA over the issue of Gay marriage. The Episcopal Church had desired to have a “live and let live” attitude, but this was considered such a big sin and a religious sacrilege against the church dogma as to necessitate a split or break in communion. The Anglican Global South is now stirring a dangerous brew in this part of the world.
In Singapore, the 30,000 strong Anglican community was urged to unite against what was deemed as an 'alternative', 'fringe' and 'fundamentalistic' values. It was later clarified this refers to the erosion of mainstream culture by homosexuality, rampant materialism and religious extremism. Traditional family values were deemed to be represented by the traditional family setting of a father, mother and children, and the need for procreation to counter the rise of alternative values. It was warned that the West has had to face the consequences of non-traditional family and 'alternative' cultures although the specific consequences were not defined.
The association of “alternative”, “fringe” and “fundamentalistic” to homosexuality, materialism, and religious extremism seems illogical at the first glance. How is materialism related to “fringe”, or religious extremism in Singapore related to “fundamentalistic” values per say. The hidden meaning was that the Anglican church is asked to be united against Homosexuals (and groupings such as Aware) which would explain the use of the terms “alternative”, “fringe”, and “fundamentalistic”. After the Aware saga, Gays are considered by the church as aggressive and fundamentalists with a “gay agenda” against mainstream norms and values, even though the fundamentalistic agitator was the Church of Our Savior. This is an attempt to group gays under the same basket concerning materialism and religious fundamentalist acts of terror all under moral values so that we can conveniently rationalize our condemnation against gays.
The argument by Christian Fundamentalist seems ingenious, to present themselves as mainstream, holding on to mainstream values, and portray gays as fringe and therefore against mainstream values. This seems to go against the fact that evangelical Christians only form 10% of the Singaporeans. The specific moral values were not mentioned and made vague. Could 5% of the population be a cause of such a grave concern or impact the traditional values of the remaining 95% straight people that warrants specific mention and focus for a church group?
What are biblical traditional values? When the bible talks about values, it is God centered, whether we worship the God of Israel, or alternative worship idols and engaged with the prostitutes. It has nothing to do with gays, then and today. There is little likelihood of gays impacting the mainstream values of the thousands of straight men seeking prostitutes in Geylang, the breakdown of straight divorces, and straight people going for abortions.
The main argument of the Christian Fundamentalist is that Traditional Family Values emanates from a traditional family structure, and therefore non-traditional family structure is against such values. However, family breakdowns are caused by the traditional families in their straight divorces, and straight people going for abortions. The abortion rate in Singapore by straight people is high over 12,000 births, and yet we blame it on gays. Not surprisingly, the church is defined by its hypocrisy.
The divorce rates of Singaporeans is high and increasing;-
Christian Fundamentalists blame gay marriages for the breakdown of families and warns that the West have paid this terrible price of allowing gays basic rights. However, the legalization of gay marriages had made no impact on the trend of family breakdowns in Europe. It made no difference, nor would it logically since it had nothing to do with straight people. Such arguments are purely fearful rhetoric and unbecoming of a Christian, which we have seen often in the proposition 8 battle in California. Surely, gays are not worth us losing our conscience and morality by making wild and false witness.
It is disappointing that the Anglican church after 100 years in Singapore would fail to focus and celebrate on God’s grace and mercy in Christ but instead claims a majority mandate, values, and moral right to come against the gay minority group. They have forgotten, they were once a minority and a “foreign” religion. In the bible, the first century church was careful not to align themselves with mainstream or Worldly values and culture. In reality, this has not changed much – the worship of various gods, and idols, the rampant prostitution, the neglect of the poor and the outcast, and gross greed and materialism. Instead of tackling the real issues with God’s love and grace, we put all the blame on the gay community.
The urgent call for proactive and united action by a church of 30,000 strong with all its power, wealth, and influence looks to be an overkill against the small gay minority who don’t even have their own organization, and represented by a few outspoken individuals. This sets a very dangerous road for stir up public sentiment based on emotive religious argument rather than giving space to all. The churches rhetoric against gays is reflection of the increasing religious self righteousness and pride in the Anglican Church. This is biblical for the religious Pharisees stirred up trouble against Jesus because He pointed out their self righteousness and indifference to the sufferings of fringe groups despite claiming to be moral and godly.
Where would the Anglican Church be in the next 100 years? There is much grace given to the church, even grace to change and be changed by God’s love. The church has changed over 100 years when Gays were actively persecuted and killed or sent to long prison terms. But this grace cannot last forever and the harm that we have caused – the law asking for justice and recompense cannot be so easily quenched by our cheap attitude towards grace however much we preach about it at Suntec.
Irrespective of the churches tortuous stance, gays are moving out of the closets in droves and the Government contented to live and let live for now. America will move with Europe sooner rather than later on Gay marriage, and Singapore must soon move along the same road if it were not to be left behind the port cities of Hong Kong and Shanghai. They are talking about Gay marriage whereas Singapore is finding herself at the starting mark on decriminalizing homosexuality. We can’t be claiming to be new, existing and innovative whilst maintaining an irrelevant Victorian era religiously motivated law. We may end up putting the entire Singapore in a historical closet to please the religious right who will never change anyway until Jesus comes back. By then, it may be too late.
Gay rights will come, not when society and the church is ready but for political and economic expediency, and downright logical sense and a basic human rights. Injustice can’t last forever, and God’s justice will move down like a rolling river down the mountain slope from heaven’s abode. Many will forget the issue just as nothing much happened after legalization in Britain, but surely there is justice and morality in God’s holy schemes where the ungodly would not be so easily let go for their evil deeds against the weak and defenseless, notwithstanding God’s amazing grace.
The fate of the Anglican Church is intertwined with the Gay community. The harm that is being done and sowed against gays will harm the church in the long run, as they find the same measures used against themselves in missions overseas and neighboring Islamic countries. Surely the church is more than about moral laws, structure or religious dogma, but about the revelation of The Christ, His Power, His Grace, Love and Mercy. Once the church is identified with hate and bigotry, we lose our miraculous power and anointing, righteousness and morality to represent God’s inclusive love through Jesus Christ, a voice lost amongst the claims of the multitude of world religions that they were the pathways to God. Jesus Christ was certainly no mainstream advocate for which He was ultimately crucified by popular consent. We can’t go on crucifying gays at the end of our pointed forks and still call ourselves Christians after Christ for another 100 years … or can’t we?