Pastoral Perspectives

The 377A Conundrum

The penal code 377A that criminalises gay sex has been the talk of the town lately and the possibility of it being repealed has brought about various responses, from those who are aghast even at the thought of it to those who feel a sense of jubilancy in finally seeing an archaic law potentially being removed.

Such a divide also exists among the Christians in Singapore.

Most Christians can agree that homosexual activity is a sin. The apostle Paul says, “26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 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)

But when it comes to the repeal of 377A, it is not so straight forward. There are those who want to retain it based on both non-religious and religious grounds.

On non-religious grounds, why do we want our people to die young? Based on Denmark and Norway statistics, those who engage in gay sex will have their lifespan shortened on average by 24 years. Such unnatural sex also causes fecal incontinence.

On religious grounds, Singapore is considered a religious society because 80% here say they have a religion. Besides the Bible, other religious scriptures also forbid homosexuality and gay sex.

Moreover, if 377A were to be repealed, it could start us down the slippery slope where we will see the LGBTQ activists lobbying for the legalisation of same-sex marriage, adoption of children by LBGTQ couples or family units, and eradication of gender distinctions in public spaces and activities.

Other concerns are the subversion of sex education in public schools, accusations by the LGBTQ community of harassment or wrongful discriminations, banning of counselling or any means of help to LGBTQ persons who wish to turn away from their lifestyles, and curtailing of religious freedom or freedom of conscience to teach, espouse and practise beliefs which may be viewed by others as disagreeable.

Even with 377A in place, when a counsellor in a school taught about the negative effects of gay sex or when an employer of a hotel turned down a gay couple’s request for a place to hold their wedding celebration, the counsellor was laid off from all duties pending investigation and the hotel had to come out to apologise to the couple only to be told that they were not interested anymore in holding their celebration there.

What do you think will happen if 377A were to be removed!

While some Christians are dead set on retaining 377A, encouraging people to sign a petition against the repeal and to even go to their MPs to register their concern, others are open for it to be repealed on the condition that safeguards are put in place first so that the traditional and biblical values of marriage between one man and one woman will not be further eroded.

However, not every Christian thinks alike. Some do not think that the repeal of 377A will necessarily cause the country to follow the path of the West and descend into moral decadency.

They personally know of good friends who are in the LGBTQ community and hear from them first hand of the pain they are experiencing and wonder how come the church cannot do more in showing LGBTQ persons love instead of hate.

They are of the opinion that religious beliefs should not dictate laws that relate to LGBTQ matters.

I quote one of them as saying, “In a multi-ethnic, multi-religious society like Singapore, we all have to be tolerant of the beliefs/identity of others, in order to maintain social harmony. Buddhists don’t advocate for the banning of beef, Muslims don’t advocate for banning of pork yet Christians are seen to be working towards constraining the freedom of others who do not subscribe to our beliefs.”

These Christians are not worried that the Church’s freedom to teach and live out the biblical portrait of marriage will be curtailed. Even if same-sex marriage is legally allowed, given the separation of state and religion in Singapore, the Church can still maintain its religious position on marriage and freely preach her beliefs about marriage to her members; she can still refuse to recognise same-sex marriage and in no way be pressurised to solemnise such marriages.

Just as the Church asks for the LGBTQ community to respect her religious stance, they strongly feel that the Church should also respect the boundaries in a secular state and not try to impose her beliefs on non-believers.

Therefore, they frown upon their brethren who are vehemently standing their ground on retaining 377A. They think that this will only put the Church in a negative light and perhaps even impede the spread of the Gospel.

I am not surprised that within our congregation, we have people belonging to both camps. Even in my own DG, we have shared our views openly and listen to each other with much patience and kindness and yes, our views differ.

Should we not accept each other’s views where the repeal of 377A is concerned? Let each act according to his or her own conscience. Those who are led to sign the petition or to see their MPs should go ahead and do so. Those who want to refrain from being so antagonistic should not be pressurised to do otherwise.

The last thing we want to see is for church members to start hating each other because of the differing stands we hold. It is not good for our testimony before the world.

What we should be united in doing is to protect the biblical definition of marriage within our churches – union of a man and a woman, ordered toward reproduction and the raising of godly children.

To do this, we must faithfully teach our members the ordinances of God, and to ground them in robust thinking about why God intended for marriage to be between husband and wife right from the start in Genesis.

This is so important especially for our young people who are not prepared to just do what they are told but also to understand the rationale behind it and that rationale must be based on the accurate interpretation of Scriptures.

We must create a safe space for our congregants to ask questions, share their views and engage in such conversations without being judged so that they can be more equipped to engage those outside the church on such hot-button topics.

What can the church do more to embrace LGBTQ persons in our midst? There are those who struggle with same-sex attraction but they want to deny self and take up their cross to follow Jesus. Can the church empathise with them, lend them support and keep them accountable so that they will triumph over their struggles?

Will we be courageous enough to speak the truth to LGBTQ persons who do not think homosexuality is a sin and find ways to engage them lovingly should they choose to worship with us even though they know we are not supportive of their lifestyle?

In the public space, is it wrong to graciously speak up and defend the biblical view of marriage if we want that to be the norm in Singapore even as the LGBTQ community continues to push for the normalisation of their lifestyle?

May the Lord grant us wisdom and love to navigate such a conundrum!

Rev Lee Kien Seng

August 7, 2022