I’ve been wanting to write about the AWARE saga for a long time. In fact, I’ve been wanting to write about a lot of things – not least the events relating to New Creation Church that’s been on the news recently. I can’t believe I’ve not written for over 6 months. I guess that’s the procrastinating me. I wanted to do at least two things with my blog and I’ve finally gotten down to doing these things. Next up is actually changing the theme and adding some widgets to this blog. I think I should be able to do this by this year :)
The AWARE saga has so thoroughly enthralled me because it has touched on so many issues that’s been so close to my heart for the past 10 years or so. Here are 5 things I want to say:
1) There is a great diversity of views among Christians. It’s important to note that this post is from the perspective of just one Christian. I don’t claim to represent the whole of Christianity. Nobody should. Nobody fully knows the truth and the true Christian position on every matter infallibly – only God who inspired the Scriptures. On fundamental and essential doctrines, we believe it by faith. On other matters and doctrines, it’s better for us to acknowledge that we’re not infallible in our interpretation of Scripture or view of what we think God wants us to do. No Church or Christian group or organisation – even the National Council of Churches of Singapore (NCCS) – should claim to be the true spokesperson of God. They can if they want to, and they often do so, but that’s just pure arrogance. All of us would like to think that God’s on our side. I like to think so too. But I know I may be wrong and thus nobody has to agree with me. Taking God out of the picture for a while, there’s a lot of diversity within Christianity simply because we’re not infallible. So don’t let any one person or group say that this is what Christians should do if they want to be good Christians or want to please God and all that nonsense. The issue is far too complex for simplistic solutions. We all have good intentions and we often have truth on our side. Whether it’s the full truth, I doubt it.
I’m writing my thoughts not because I want to tell every Christian how or what to believe. Rather, I write because I think I have some good things to say (it’ll be considered horrible and demonic to some I’m sure), but certainly I don’t claim to be infallible.
2) There are Christians who do not support Josie and gang. Perhaps my main reason for writing this post is to tell the world that there are Christians out there who are not like Josie and gang.
Before moving on with the rest of my post which is mostly about why I disagree with them, I want to say two things in support of them. Firstly, they ought to be congratulated for their courage. Now, courage to me is an amoral term. By saying they were courageous doesn’t mean I agree with them. It just means that I acknowledge that they had the guts to stand up for what they believe in. I happen to also believe that the way they stood up for what they believe was wrong. There’s a lot of talk about how they were “persecuted” during the EGM and in the media – both mainstream and non-mainstream ones. And this brings me to my second point. I do believe that the media was very biased against them. On the other hand, for Josie to say that she’s not sure why so many people are angry shows that she’s either very dishonest or really out of touch with reality. The media wasn’t fair, but I think Josie and gang deserved most of the flak they got, though not everything. Were they persecuted? I think it’s nice for their supporters to think that they were. But I think that’s stretching the use of the word too far – at least the Christian use of the word. Full marks to them if they were persecuted for doing what’s right. But I don’t agree what they did was right in the first place so I wouldn’t consider it persecution. Courageous they were. And yes, the media was biased against them. But they were not persecuted – at least not for doing good – in the Christian sense of the word.
So going back to my main point here. There are Christians who profoundly disagree with what they did. There are Christians out there who differ from Church of Our Saviour (COOS) and Cornerstone Community Church on their “official” attitude towards homosexuals. I stress “official” because it’s about the church leadership’s position, and not all the Christians who attend these churches. I believe the reason why a lot of the COOS emails and sermon videos were leaked onto the Net was because there were members there who didn’t agree with the church’s position and way of doing things. To me, it’s great to know that because we should never just blindly follow what our leaders say or tell us to do. We should never give so much respect to our leaders to think of them as infallible or as always leading us onto the correct path. For me, I respect Joseph Prince of New Creation, but I don’t think he’s perfect or agree with everything he says, as I’ve written in my blog. I accept what I see as the good (a lot of it) and reject things I don’t think is right. I’ve had some experience with Church of Our Saviour and I really like the church in many ways with regards to their physical and emotional healing ministry to heterosexuals – though I’m not too fond of their Choices ministry to homosexuals. But they are a great church with many positive things and I’m quite sure the same for Cornerstone. I’m not against these two churches. But I will state my profound disagreement with their attitude towards homosexuals and the stuff they’ve done to promote their agenda against homosexuals. (Yes, we all have agendas. If the gay has one, so do Christians).
It’s been very heartening for me is to see many Christians speaking out. I wanted to go to the AWARE EGM (eventually I didn’t) to speak out and let others know that being a Christian doesn’t mean we agree with the views or methods of Josie and gang. I’m glad to hear there were Christians out there (on the Net and in the EGM) speaking out to let the world know that Josie and gang are not representative of all Christians. I feel it’s important to speak out for the simple reason that I don’t want the world to get the wrong impression that Christians are all like that. I felt this same way during George Bush’s time as President. Many people thought then that all Christians supported George Bush when that was just plain wrong. And I thought it was right then to let the world know that Christians are not all like that. Not all Christians supported the wars, inhumane treatment of terrorists or are narrow-minded unilateralists.
Why bother speaking out on this issue? Why criticize other Christians and churches? Why not just be quiet even if you think other Christians are wrong? Wouldn’t it harm the unity of the Church to speak out? And, for goodness sake, isn’t it more loving just to keep quiet rather than criticize?
In this blog I’ve tried not to criticize other churches or Christians. That’s because I hate blogs who criticize every small little thing about other Churches or Christians. But if I do criticize, I try to do so in as objective a way as I can (and I know I’m not 100% objective and no one is). I’ve always had this belief that sometimes you can’t be on both sides. If you keep quiet because you don’t want to confront the side that oppresses, you end up allowing the oppression to continue and are doing harm to the oppressed side. If you think that by keeping quiet you’re being loving and gracious to the side that oppresses or does wrong, you have to realize that this act of “love” is actually doing harm to the side that is oppressed or wrong. So sometimes we can’t have it both ways.
For small matters, there’s no need to be so critical. But the AWARE saga was not a small matter. There were many people watching and there were many gays and others who may have been given the impression that Josie and gang represent true Christianity. I couldn’t just let this distorted representation of Christianity as a religion of judgement, condemnation and dishonesty go unanswered and that’s why I’ve written this post.
I speak out because the world needs to know that there are Christians who have a totally different view of God from Josie and gang. The world needs to know that God is first and foremost a God of love, grace, mercy and compassion, more than anything else. Jesus came to save the world, not to condemn it. The most defining characteristic of God is that of love and that’s what I want the world to know of God and Jesus Christ. And I want especially homosexuals and transexuals to know this. Jesus loves you… And if any Christian gives you the impression that God is a God of anger, condemnation and judgement, then please disregard what they say because I believe that God’s first word to you is not of judgement, but of love. And I would gladly invite you to attend church with me – a church where I believe you’re experience the wonderful love of Jesus Christ that will transform your life – and come to see and experience a different view of God than the one that is so often portrayed by Christians.
3) The issue of disagreement wasn’t really about one’s view of homosexuality. Yes, I have a more progressive and liberal view of homosexuality than most Christians. My view on homosexuality is free for all to read here (if you don’t want to read my four posts there, then just read this article written by another Christian which I mostly agree with). Many Christians would disagree with it and that’s fine. Nobody has to agree with it, but they have every right to be challenged by it. But my view is not the (extreme) liberal view. That’s the reason why I left Free Community Church (FCC) – although I’m quite supportive of a lot of what they are doing. They hold to a more liberal view than me. But I won’t deny that my view of homosexuality is more liberal than most Christians.
But let’s just discount my view of homosexuality because I don’t want Christians to say, “Oh, you’re just a liberal (or hold to a more liberal view than most Christians) and that’s why you disagree with Josie and gang.” Even if I held to a totally orthodox and conservative Christian view of homosexuality, I would still very much disagree with Josie and gang. I think many Christians who hold to an orthodox view of homosexuality were upset with what they did and the way they did it. Much disagreement had nothing to do with one’s theological view of homosexuality. And I think that’s why even Christians who may view homosexual acts as sinful and come from COOS were quite upset with Josie and gang. Why? Other Christians on the Net have already written about it. See especially Gwee Li Sui’s take here that has been making its rounds.
4) Christianity is primarily about love. My biggest disagreement with Josie and gang is not a theological one about homosexuality. It’s simply that, in my opinion, their actions do not represent the God of the Bible, nor the love that He is. To me, the most important thing in Christianity is the gospel of Jesus Christ – the cross of Jesus Christ. Everything has to be evaluated by that event. The whole of Christianity is about Jesus and Jesus dying to take our place. Paul refused to boast except in the cross of Jesus Christ (Gal. 6:14). The gospel and the cross of Jesus Christ is love exemplified. That’s what the whole of Christianity is about. But is that what the world sees that Christianity and Christians are all about? No!
Christianity has an image problem. And this is fueled by the kind of things that Josie and gang have done and said. This is actually the kind of thing you expect of conservative Christians in America. It’s nothing new in America. And that’s why young people view Christians as anti-gay, hypocritical, judgemental and not like the Jesus of the Bible. At least, I’m thankful that unbelievers know that Jesus, the Christian’s true leader, wasn’t about judgement!
To me, I think part of the problem stems from a misunderstanding of the Bible and a lack of depth in one’s understanding of the grace and love of God as demonstrated in Jesus Christ. There’s just too many theological issues related to all this. But the most important issue relating to all this is a really simple one. It’s about love. The whole Bible is all about the love of God. No, I’m sorry, but it’s not about the judgement of God. It’s not about a righteous and angry God who wants to judge sin. While these are legitimate messages of the Bible, it’s no way the primary message of the Bible. God’s innermost essence is that of love, not judgement.
And yet Christians in America (and slowly in Singapore too) are known more for what they are against, than what they are for. Jesus wasn’t known for what He was against, but what He was for. That’s why He attracted sinners to Him. If Jesus was known as a person who came to judge sin, the sinners wouldn’t dine with Him. If we get our focus correct – the focus on the love and grace of God – then we’ll talk more about God’s love and grace than speaking against homosexuality or abortion or euthanasia or whatever. Don’t get me wrong. I think those are legitimate issues to talk about. But when the Church is known more for her opposition against these things than our love and acceptance of all people because we have first been loved and accepted by God, then I think we’ve missed what the Bible is really all about and are misrepresenting our God of love.
Again, this isn’t about one’s theological view of homosexuality. You can be totally conservative on this area, yet act like Jesus would towards homosexuals.
Jesus did not seek to influence the political sphere so as to stop the sinful tide of the nation of Israel. He wasn’t interested in power, nor was He interested to let everyone know how angry His father was about their sins. He welcomed and accepted the prostitutes and tax collectors. He welcomed them and talked with them not to tell them how angry God will be with them and how judgement awaits them if they don’t stop sinning. No, he welcomed them to show them love so that love could transform them. He made sure that such sinners were accepted and loved. This is such a contrast. How do Christians treat gays? We can all go on about the fact that we love the sinner and hate the sin and hide behind such a theologically correct (in the conservative Christian’s opinion, as I’m putting myself in their shoes now) phrase, but just go out and ask gays and transsexuals whether they feel loved and accepted. Sorry, but I’m truly sick of hearing that phrase sprouted by conservative Christians because the assumption is that they’ve been loving the sinner when they so clearly have not. Homosexuals certainly do not feel their “love”. I’m sure Jesus who certainly acted in love in all He did would not treat homosexuals the way many conservative Christians treat them.
Jesus didn’t go to the adulterous woman to make her feel guilty and bring God’s judgement upon her. That’s not love. Jesus came to accept her and through his word of “no condemnation” gave her the power to “go and sin no more”. Love comes first, then transformation. Love transforms. Meanwhile, we Christians get it the other way round, just like the Pharisees. Jesus had his harshest words of judgement not for sinners, but for those who thought they were better than others and judged others. The way Jesus treated the adulterous woman, and not the way the pharisees treated her, is a model of how we’re to treat sinners .
When he said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”, it was sure to anger the Pharisees and those who were so focused on judgement and condemnation of sin. But Jesus was more concerned that his actions and statements welcomed sinners to Him, not scare them away. To me, that’s the litmus test. The way we act and speak is very important. If it causes gays and sinners to move further away from Christianity because they feel that we’re judging them, then we’re acting like the Pharisees. If it causes gays and sinners to be drawn towards us because of our love and acceptance of them, then we’re acting more like Jesus. We Christians can say that we love the sinner but hate the sin, but if the result of what we say and how we act puts sinners off, then we’re not acting in love like Jesus did.
5) Christians have a love of power; Jesus understood the power of His love. I had an argument with a friend who is the leader of one of the biggest Christian organizations in Singapore. He insisted that while Josie and gang made some mistakes, we Christians should stand against the gay activists who are promoting homosexuality. I disagreed that homosexuals wanted to promote homosexuality, saying that I believed they only wanted acceptance. And I still believe that now. I don’t think gays are out to make straights become gay the way that many straights want to see gays become straight. Maybe I’m wrong, but to me, it doesn’t really matter.
You see, the way I see it, love is the most powerful thing in the world. If the gays are well-organized and have an agenda to make the whole of Singapore gay or the whole world gay, then my response would just be to overwhelm them with the power of God’s love. No, I’m not going to fight power with power because that’s not how it works in God’s kingdom. If you want to defeat me and destroy my values, do that even if it means killing me, but I’ll still love you. And I’ll win you over to my side through my love. Ridiculous? Well, it sounds like the gospel of Jesus Christ…
Jesus didn’t use power to win over the world. He let the power of His love, the power of His death, transform the world. I think this is perhaps the most profound truth in the whole of this post. And this is so often lost among Christians. We love and crave political power so we can defeat the other side. So we can overcome the other side’s agenda. That’s why so many Christians called for Christians to attend the EGM – to show their power and strength. That’s why some Christians rallied other Christians against the decriminalization of homosexuality in Singapore.
We think the world’s power can transform the world. Jesus thought differently. He knew that the greatest power is the power of God’s love. Sometimes showing love means we let the world’s power overcome us. That didn’t matter to Jesus. We human beings like to fight for our “rights” and stand up for our “rights”. Jesus didn’t stand up for His right eventhough as God He had more rights than any of us! His agenda was love even unto death. There’s something more important than demanding our “rights”: to show love. Jesus let the power of His love – which involved letting the world’s power overcome Him to such an extent that he died – transform the world. But guess what? In the end, He won. You don’t win by power; you win by giving up power. You don’t win by asking others to serve you; you win by serving others. You don’t win by showing you are stronger; you win by suffering. You don’t win by coming first; you win by coming last. That’s the upside down kingdom of Jesus.
Putting another way, we want power to win the battle. The tragedy is that we end up losing the war because in the long run with all our “standing against the gay agenda” and “standing against the decriminalization of homosexuality”, we will fail to reach homosexuals with Christ’s love. Instead, like Jesus, we should learn to let go and show love even if it means losing the battle, for in the long run we would win the war, because love always wins out in the end. That’s the way the Kingdom of God works…