I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. — Desmond Tutu
While the core of my opinion of homosexuality and the church hasn’t changed, my view of the public discourse surrounding homosexuality has shifted considerably over the last few years. I have always felt that what consenting adults do behind closed doors is between them and God, and neither the church nor the state has a right to legislate that.
Theologically, it seems to me that the church tends to operate from the assumption that homosexuality is a sin worse than all the other sins, which is doubly dangerous: if you believe that homosexuality is a sin (and I’m not sure it is my business to judge what sin is or isn’t, I barely know what it is myself. Adam and Eve ate a fruit they were told not to eat — a sin — and Abraham was on the verge of killing Isaac, which he was told to do — not a sin), you cannot possibly believe that it is worse than any other sin. As a result, I am not sure why the church has such a problem with gay people when it has no problem with everyone else, as if everyone else did not also sin. As if God had any phobias, as if anything we did could surprise Him.
I think that the hand-wringing over “tradition” and “marriage” is pointless, and it would be far more helpful if civil unions replaced marriage in secular public life, with “marriage” only being used in private religious contexts. If people privately want to recognise their union as a marriage in God’s eyes, then they should be free to do so, but from the state’s point of view every marriage should be a civil union. This, of course, is a more extreme position than necessary for progress towards equality, and developments in the last few years have made it clear that we are going the way of the same-sex marriage rather than of the opposite-sex civil union. At the end of the day, this is a minor detail in the grand scheme of things. I note it here for consistency's sake.
While I have always been sympathetic to the cause of LGBT rights, I’ve never felt that it was my battle to fight. In a way, I’ve never felt that I had a right to fight it. It seems silly to say it now, but I suppose it felt presumptuous to assume that my help was needed. What has changed this year is that, for the first time, I have felt that the Protestant Christian voice in Singapore has begun to presume to speak for me in a way that I am not comfortable with.
I am not comfortable with the idea that our “national values” involve the systematic oppression of a group of people whose “crime” I can’t even define, while these same “national values” tear apart families who disown their gay children, cause indescribable suffering to those forced to remain in the closet, and prevent what might very well be loving families from being formed.
I am not comfortable with the idea that we have a government that allows the descendant of an archaic 1534 law to stay on the books ostensibly for reasons of symbolism, promising not to prosecute anyone under it, conveniently neglecting to acknowledge the fact that as long as 377A is not repealed, there can be no progress with LGBT rights (which is surely the symbolism of the act in the first place). An entire community will remain discriminated against in real and tangible ways (ahem HDB), while they enjoy the “privilege” of not being prosecuted under a law that still considers them to be criminals.
Most of all, I am not comfortable with knowing that if I do not plant my flag, state my stand and claim my own voice, others who have stated their intention to be loud and vociferous in their opposition to Pink Dot and LGBT equality will claim to speak for me. To quote Archbishop Desmond Tutu for a second time:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
At the end of the day, I am not looking for arguments for or against, theological or social or political. This is not about who has the most logical argument or the most consistent theology. I like to think that I do not let institutional loyalties sway my own convictions, and I would sooner leave a church than pretend to subscribe to beliefs I cannot hold. (Don’t write to me saying “your pastor once said…” I know. There is no church in the world that can precisely match an individual’s personal theology; the question is, what is most fundamental to the theology and do I agree with it?)
In any case, it is not for a church functionary to decide whether or not to excommunicate me from my relationship with God for choosing to stand with the oppressed rather than the oppressors.
This is simply about obeying the dictates of my own conscience.
See you at Pink Dot this Saturday.