Pastoral Perspectives

Pink Dot Event

For the past two weeks, our city was caught in a media firestorm of controversy surrounding the Pink Dot Event. This is an event organised by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community to champion the ‘freedom to love’, which is their tag line to emphasise the right to love whoever they choose to love, even if their lovers are of the same gender. To put it plainly, the rally is to promote the acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle. This is the sixth year that they have held the event and this year’s gathering brought together a record number of 26,000 people at Singapore’s Hong Lim Park. The movement has been gaining support judging from the initial attendance of 2,500 when it was first launched in 2009.

Running up to this year’s event, some religious leaders and groups had condemned it. Pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church (FCBC) had even asked the government to ban the event because it goes against the social and moral fabric of our society which embraces a family unit as one that comprises a man and a woman. An Islamic religious leader reiterated the same emphasis when he issued a call for Muslims to wear white (as against pink and also as a sign of purity) on the eve of Ramadan (which coincided with the Pink Dot event) to protest against homosexuality and to defend traditional family values. It was also no surprise that Pastor Khong and his congregation turned up for their church service the following day for a combined family worship all dressed in white. He wanted to lend support to the ‘Wear White’ campaign and join other like-minded people to defend what they believe is crucial to the health of the nation.

I would imagine some of us feeling rather confused over this whole issue because I know of Christians who do not think that there is anything wrong with homosexuality. Some of these Christians are practising homosexuals themselves and they have formed their own church right here in Singapore since they envisage that they will not be accepted in other churches. Then there are heterosexual Christians who do not see anything wrong with homosexuality and they even look with disdain on other Christians who take issue with it, labelling them as conservatives or traditionalists, in other words, backward in their mind set. I am very certain that there were Christians at the Pink Dot event, at least I know of a Christian acquaintance who posted his pictures on our Whatsapp chat group – pink ribbon on the wrist, pink tie, dog with pink fur (the creativity of humans knows no bounds). On the opposing side, we have Pastor Lawrence speaking so urgently against not just the event but the whole agenda behind it. Yet at the same time, there are Christians who do not approve of homosexuality but also do not approve of the way Pastor Lawrence brought his message across, which they deem to be too confrontational and lacking in Christ’s love.

At the international front, the trend is no less confusing. It does not help when some Christian communities in other countries are gaining momentum in their advocacy for same-sex marriages. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) started to ordain pastors with same-sex partners in 2011 and this year, at their General Assembly, they voted to recognise same-sex marriage as Christian and added in their constitution that marriage  can be a union of ‘two people’, not just ‘a man and a woman’. This means that in those states where gay marriages are recognised, the Presbyterian pastors now have the liberty to marry them. Thankfully, all is not lost with Presbyterianism in the States because the Presbyterian Church (America) which is a different denomination from PCUSA is still holding fast to biblical values.

The Bible is clear in its stand on homosexuality. In Genesis, before the Fall, God instituted marriage between husband and wife and they were told to be fruitful and multiply: ‘Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him…Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  (Genesis 2.18, 24) So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…” (Genesis 1.27-28)’ Right at the start, same-sex marriage was not in God’s blueprint for a family unit. In the Levitical laws, we read: ‘You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. (Leviticus 18.22) If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20.13)’ Then in the New Testament, the apostle Paul laid out the consequences of the depravity of humankind: ‘For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1.26-27)’ Paul made it explicit by pointing out that this penalty means being excluded from God’s kingdom: ‘Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practise homosexuality…will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6.9-10)’

I know I am merely listing down the different passages both in the OT and the NT that forbid homosexuality. Some revisionists (Christians who claim to have a revised understanding) have cleverly turned these same passages on their heads and through some mental and verbal gymnastics claim that the biblical authors were not talking about committed homosexual relationships, but rather abusive homosexual relationships involving pederasty, prostitution (sometimes as part of idolatrous rites) or rape. Their arguments can be dismantled but we don’t have the space here to deal with that. Gay Christians would also justify their lifestyle by pointing out that since Christ did not mention anything in any of the Gospels regarding homosexuality, He therefore condones it. But they have forgotten that Christ came to fulfil the Law and not to abolish it. (Matthew 5.17) Some even said that if people are born a homosexual, then what is natural for them is to enter into a same-sex marriage. It will be unnatural for them to enter into a heterosexual relationship. The scientific proof that people are born homosexuals is not conclusive. Even if it is, Christians must remember that with the Fall, we are borne sinners and part of the sinful nature that we inherit can manifest itself through homosexual inclinations just as it can manifest itself through lustful and philandering inclinations towards the opposite gender. All these are part of the flesh which must be crucified with Christ when we come to salvation. This is part of the process of denying self, starving self-indulgence and putting to death the old self. When I was in the UK, I came across a pastor who declared to the participants at a conference that he is a gay but not a practising one. He admitted that he has homosexual inclinations but he remains accountable to significant people who will help him not to stray. He also makes sure that he does not have one-on-one counselling sessions with a male so that he does not fall into temptation. He has set up a website to allow people like him to tell their stories, and to let others know that they do not have to sin even though they have homosexual tendencies.

What should our response be as Christians living in a pluralistic society with even people of our own siding with the LGBT community in the name of love? We need to know what the Bible has to say about homosexuality and not shy away from giving a biblical response. We do not need to be pharisaic in the way we respond but we must be able to express our convictions clearly and not be sheepish about them. We may even need to equip ourselves to engage those who are more sophisticated in their advocacy and speak truths into their fallacies. We can and must love the sinner and hate the sin. Jesus loved sinners and He loved to be in their company – tax collectors and prostitutes – but you can be sure that he spoke out against the greed of the tax collectors and the sexual immorality of the prostitutes. Didn’t he tell the woman caught in adultery to go and sin no more? We can befriend the gays. We do not need to shun them. We must show them love as we would show love to any other colleague or classmate, in both our words and actions. We must also be willing to welcome them into our church community but we will continue to preach the Word faithfully so if we are preaching on a text that speaks against homosexuality, we would preach it without qualms, praying that the Word of God will speak to the gays in our midst and turn them from their sins. This is really no different from us preaching against pride and lust and anger and self-centredness. The aim is still the same, that the people of God will come to repentance and allow the Spirit of God to do the work of transformation in our lives. It will really be a great milestone in the life of the church if people who have homosexual tendencies are open about it and request for the community to journey with them so that they can tread the narrow path of righteousness.

Shall we join Pastor Khong in publicly denouncing the pink dot event or wearing white as against pink to make a visible statement? I am divided. On one hand, I admire the courage and the passion these leaders have demonstrated in upholding biblical values and in not wanting to see the erosion of these values that are foundation to the health of a society. But I do wonder whether there is a better way around it so that others cannot accuse us of being confrontational and thereby contributing to the polarisation and fragmentation of society. Maybe Pastor Khong can submit a well written paper to defend our cause before the Prime Minister (I believe he has done so) and to encourage many more to do likewise (which he has also done). What really matters is the decision of our leaders, and if we can convince them to hold their ground, regardless pink dot or orange dot or whatever dot, we can continue to hold fast to what is pure and moral in the face of mounting pressures to do otherwise.