Pastoral Perspectives

Loving the Person, Opposing the Ideology

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV)

For the past three years, a battle of colours has been taking place in the month of June on our red dot of an island. In one corner is the Pink Dot event, an annual Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) advocacy event in which the attendees wear pink in support of their “freedom to love”. In the other corner is the Wear White campaign, an informal appeal by Lawrence Khong – the chairman of the Love Singapore network of churches – for Christians to wear white as a sign of solidarity against the spread of LGBT ideology. Both appeal to a certain idea of “love” as part of their message: Pink Dot touts the acceptance of LGBT persons and their relationships, while Wear White stresses the importance of traditional marriage and family in national stability. While the latter is now a predominantly Christian campaign opposed to the LGBT ideology, there are also some Christians who attend the former out of compassion for their LGBT friends and family members. This battle of colours is now a good case study for the discerning, loving Christian: how should one respond to the LGBT movement in Singapore?

To answer the question, an important distinction needs to be made, that is the distinction between the person and the ideology; the person is not the ideology. A person may possess same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, and genuinely believe that those subjective feelings are innate and unshakeable. This person would perhaps face pressure and/or ostracism in society because of such feelings. Christians should greatly empathise with and minister to such a person in compassion. But having such feelings and experiences is different from the ideology that has been established around them in order to interpret and explain such phenomena for the purposes of legitimising political and social action. Part of the ideology involves the reduction of gender, marriage, and moral norms to mere social constructs, and the enthronement of individualism and self-determination. These ideas have far reaching implications in society that go beyond mere social acceptance of LGBT persons and their practices. One such implication is the eventual eradication of any restriction to consensual sexual expression either inherited from religion or culture. Another implication would be the encouragement of children with some gender confusion to believe they are indeed transgender. Thus the LGBT ideology is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview, and potentially detrimental to the flourishing of society by undermining marriages and families.

The distinction between the person and the ideology cannot be overstressed. Christians who recognise that all persons are created in the image of God cannot reduce the sum total of a person to his/her ideological leanings. There is more to a person than that.

In response to the LGBT movement here, Christians here have a responsibility to respond in love, and this responsibility stems from the instruction by Jesus to love our neighbours. There is a need to challenge potentially harmful ideologies in the public square and provide an alternative rooted in the Gospel. This requires patient dialogue with persons having different points of view from ours, listening in empathy and seeking common ground. In any case, the Christian response requires much wisdom from above. A poorly timed belligerent call to arms by a symbolic show of solidarity can only portray Christians as being ungraciously antagonistic, harden resistance to dialogue, provide the media with sensational news fodder, and obscure the central mission of the Church, which is to proclaim the Gospel message. There can be no love in a head on show of strength.

But neither should Christians feel tempted to show their empathy for LGBT family members and friends by participating in events that serve an ideology incompatible with Christianity.  Doing so sends a signal of endorsement and approval, and serve only to stumble less mature Christians and non-Christians. There are other ways one could show love for them in word and deed than to stand in solidarity with their held ideology.

In the first chapter of his book We Cannot Be Silent, Albert Mohler Jr. describes the sexual revolution (which the LGBT movement is part of) as posing an unprecedented challenge to Christians in the West, especially in the United States. The tables have turned for the Church there. As with any revolution, traditional authorities are deposed. In this case, the Church is being thrown down from her moral high ground, and portrayed as purveyors of archaic and repressive ideas in the media; as far as sexual ethics is concerned, the Church is considered morally deficient. This is something that has already begun here. Nevertheless, may Christians continue to do what they are called to. Even if we are considered to be standing on the “wrong side of history” with regards to this challenge, let us continue to be faithful, proclaiming the truth in love. Christ has won the final victory, and the body of Christ has survived worse socio-political climates than those in the West now. We will persevere till Christ comes again, even if it means we do so not from a place of high esteem and privilege, but from under the feet of the spirit of the age.