Power of a rainbow nation


In Saturday Straits Times dated 23 May 2009, in the article “Learn to Live with Diversity”, a quote from Entrepreneur and Innovation guru, Guy Kawaski once said:-

“Israel has five million people, six million entrepreneurs, and fifteen million opinions. Singapore has five million people, six entrepreneurs, and one opinion”.

Singapore was compared to Israel, a nation slightly bigger than Singapore comparable in population, but of a more mono cultural and religious nature. In Singapore, we have a very strong Christian Evangelical Movement which espouses strong adherence to the law, to the very Jewish religious laws that we are now comparing Singapore with. Yet, even with such strong religious conservatism from the same OT biblical reference, Israel chose as a nation in 1963, not to persecute gays, much like Singapore is now doing since 2003 after the declaration of PM Goh some 40 years later. In 1988, same sex acts were officially legal in Israel. Soon after in 1992, regulations prohibiting workplace discrimination solely based on sexual orientation was passed. Tel Aviv is said to be the Gay capital of the middle east.

Why did Israel have to decriminalize Homosexuality? For survival sake. When survival is at stake, we can’t afford to put 5% of the population in the closet just because of a religious opinion. All hands must be on deck when under attack. There was also the issue of justice. The Jews understood what it meant to be a minority, to be despised and discriminated on account of being different. Gays shared with the Jews in the terrible suffering and deaths in WWII Germany. How can God blessed the nation of Israel, if it perpetuates the same injustice and persecution which they have themselves suffered!. Unlike Singapore where 10% are Christians, in Israel, they are almost entirely Jewish and had to abide by the Jewish laws, yet made the exception of Gays because justice transcends religion and culture.

It is a fundamental issue of civil rights and social justice to give space and rights of existence. Otherwise, just like in Germany, the Nazi being the majority insisted to destroy the space for Jews by attempting to exterminate them. In a multi cultural and multi religious nation like Singapore, giving space to others ensures that the nation does not “cross the line”, nor allows religious extremism or the majority from taking over. Religious extremism is dangerous just like in the Aware Saga because who can argue if someone said “God said so”. It transcends common humanity, courtesy and rationality all in the name and demand of one’s religion. Religion must always be kept to a private and personnel level and not be ever allowed to “cross the line” to demand that others must follow our own personnel beliefs. The danger is that religion has a tendency to strongly impose beliefs upon others thus denying their free will to choose and all the time thinking that it is their God given right to do so. This was the case of Aware, and in the aftermath, the Christians are still no wiser and think they have a God ordained task to take over. At the Aware Saga, the Christian conservatives in Singapore have clearly crossed the line.

It is said that because of Homosexuality, Rome fell with reference to Paul’s comments on the Jews living in Jerusalem before his visit there. However, Paul was not commenting about gays amongst the Jews, he was challenging the religious credibility of the Judaist in Rome who has insisted on the Law and for Christians to abide by the law. He challenged their law mindedness saying that it is unnatural by reminding them that their straight ancestors claimed to abide by the law, yet it produced no righteousness but instead they crossed the line and worship idols to the extent of indulging in the same sex activities demanded by the Canaanites fertility Gods. Therefore the reference to homosexuality activity was in the context and demands of religious worship and not a sexual orientation. Why do we still claim that gays caused the downfall of Rome? Because the downfall happened after Christians took over control in 313AD when Constantine converted to Christianity hence became the defacto head of the church or the first Pope. To obtain religious credibility, a linkage was made up back to Apostle Peter even though Peter had resided in Jerusalem and was not called to Rome. When we mixed religious rule and Civil Government, we weakened the rule of law, common space and liberties, and reduce innovation as everything now must be based on the absolutes of the religion and not subject to reflection.

The Power of having a rainbow nation is therefore:-

a) Giving space for the different groups to contribute to the nation

b) Encouraging innovation by giving space to alternative views and reflections in contrast to the absolute views in the religious space based on laws which are written or cast in stones tablets which cannot be changed.

c) Ensuring basic civil rights and social justice and fair play from which the rule of law and the bedrock foundation of the nation must surely be based upon. Otherwise, the majority or a strong religious group will claim a right to impose on another group solely on account that they are bigger and more powerful, and based on their religion without any account of common fairness. Without the respect for the rule of law, there can be no basis for doing business, and integrity, rather we will descend to anarchy when the big fish will eat the smaller fish, with the smallest fish being the rainbow fish. The law must at the end protect the most vulnerable and despised from the whims of the majority and religion. Countries where injustice reigns will result in conflicts and end up destroying the economy such as in Burma.

d) Giving space for the various groups to contribute their unique gifts and talents to Singapore. If we were just straight conservative squares, then Singapore would be very stale without much hype and excitements. Gays bring about the city, a vibrant contribution to arts, design and fashion. They do jobs that most straight men would prefer not to do, in the services and beauty industry. Look at the hairstylist in the city, and many are gays. Gays bring so much vitality and revival to Singapore which otherwise would be sadly lacking. There are many doctors, lawyers, and Architects too, but not that many Scientists.

e) It guards against religious extreminism which has been the downfall of many nations. We can see such extremism being the downfall of countries such as Ceylon, Pakistan, India, Afganistan, Iran, and Iraq where much violence and wars are religiously motivated with little rationality.

f) A Rainbow nation preserves truth, righteousness and justice. Integrity, and honesty required for the good government and rule of a nation. When there is a prevailing culture to maintain intergrity, then everything is above board and there is accountability. When there is corruption, the economy suffers and suspicion enters the market place. Growth is curtailed and violence and rebellion becomes common.

Truth, righteousness and integrity is preserved by limiting the space for which religious and special interest groups could promote its opinions with half truths and rethoric. The issue with the anti-gay movement is that it requires much manipulation of facts, twisting of scientific reports, spreading half truths and fear. Their motto is that lies told often enough becomes truth. For example what does gay marriages have to do with straight marriages, nothing! but the opposition against gay marriages are said to be based on protecting the straight traditional marriages, never mind that this marriages are broken down by divorces and abortions and not that gays are stealing away the men as alleged by some churches such as New Creation.

The Senior Pastor there may have said it as a joke, but it is an example of how Christian leaders treat integrity very lightly when dealing with homosexuality. Therefore, having a nation which have a secular space with a firewall that limits groups bringing religion into the public space is necessary to protect the religion itself from being maligned by its own members in order to win over the point of view.

A cultural war as seen in United States is never good, because it undermines religion showing it to be inconsistent, and lack the necessary integrity expected of a major faith. Once the arguments are open to public examination, the religious rethoric and half truths cannot be easily hidden and will be exposed. We will be judged by the secular world.

g) A Rainbow Nation protects the Political space.

A rainbow nation with a strong firewall to prevent any religious group from overtaking the political parties such as happened to the the Repliblican party in the states for their own religious aggenda. Religion are best focused on inward spiritually rather than running a government which requires more unbiased and rational thinking. A religious group running a government would soon imposed religious rules on all the citizens thus limiting the religious freedoms of other groups. This has happened in many contries and results in the rights of minorities severely restricted and their full contribution to society limited. Mixing politics with religion is like lighting a fire in the summer bush resulting in a big wild fire that burns everything in its path resulting in adverse reactions from the minority groups facing injustice.

Hence, the move by Singapore to accept its rainbow citizens and affirmed them as citizens having equal rights and a sufficient space given to contribute to Singapore, enhances the secular space promoting growth, stability, and social harmony. When we cross the line, to give special rights to relgious group to impose their beliefs across the religion boundaries or for the religions to extend their influences far into other spaces, that the firewall rules must be imposed so that a cultural war will not result. It seems strange that Evangelical Christians who comprise of only 10% of the population can hijack the nation and popular opinion over the last three weeks of April 2009 indicating their very agressive nature and the strong influence in all sectors of community is very troubling indeed.

Unless the Government takes strong proactive action, this will be repeated over and over again as this religious group seeks to expand their spheres of influence as per their Christian aggenda so clearly presented in Transformation 2009 at Expo which ironically happened at the same weekend as the Aware EOGM.

In summary, for Singapore to become a great nation based on equality for all, based on a rule of justice, fair play, and freedom for all to contribute to the nation growth irrespective of our religion and sexual orientation, we should become a rainbow nation where diversity becomes our strenght as we allow space for each to contibute and exist and where if disagreements do occur, to live and let live.

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