Friday, July 18, 2014

It's a deep dark secret but I'll tell all

I read online just a few days ago that Shanmugam tells a group of Muslims to be watchful of religiosity and I can't help remembering what Lee Kuan Yew wrote in his book in which he advised Muslims to be less rigorous in their religiosity (I'm paraphrasing here because I can't remember his exact words but they were something to this effect) and although I fully agree with both of them, I have to say that they should be saying the same thing (and perhaps with greater emphasis) to some extreme Christian churches. And I'm saying this as a devout Christian myself.

I know I'll be accused by some Christians of being a "traitor" but this is my own blog and Christianity has been my religion all my life and I have served the church ever since I was a toddler and I know I will love the Church and serve the Bride of Christ until I breathe my last. But there is a secret that all religious people carry with us and we do discuss it among ourselves but we normally would not talk about it to others. I will break that unspoken rule of silence and tell all here.

My religious perspective is rather wide-ranging: from a High Church Christian sacramental tradition to an evangelical tradition but what I say here is probably applicable to every religious tradition.

I have always believed in God who of course must be in Three Persons - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Any other expression or representation of God is anathema. I believed strongly and wholeheartedly in salvation only for those who accepted this particular God. Everyone else, regardless of his background would burn for all eternity in hell. That's what I used to believe. Now, you may think this is an extreme view of religion and only a minority of radicals believe in this but here's where you are wrong. In the Church today (even in my rather liberal church), anyone who does not accept that salvation belongs only to Christians (and they've got to be the "right" kind of Christians or "true Christians" as we would call ourselves) and all others to be consigned to perdition is usually accused of being a rank liberal, an atheist, a wolf in sheep's clothing or even an anti-Christ. Some clergymen in my church are liberal but they are careful never to express their view that non-believers need not be burned in hell for all eternity. If they so much as say that openly, you can be sure parishioners will give them hell. Many years ago, a clergyman in my church said that the spirit of God was alive in people of other religion as well and that immediately attracted a backlash from the congregation. The church had to hold a discussion session with the laity and subsequently, there was a statement made in the church bulletin to reaffirm the view that salvation belonged only to those who believed in Jesus. I would be concealing the truth if I didn't disclose the fact that I was one of the outraged parishioners.

When I was a Sunday School teacher, I was told how my church had to be careful in circumventing some government policies. My church runs schools which are required to comply with the directives of the Ministry of Education. I was told that a long time ago, there was a policy that when a classroom had enough students of any religion who wanted lessons on that religion to be taught, the school was obliged to conduct classes of that religion for the students. I was told that it was a tough time for the church then because they had to reshuffle students in the school so that there would not be enough students in one class who would be taking non-Christian religious lessons. Sometimes, they had to talk to the students to persuade them not to opt for religious lessons but to take a secular lesson in civics studies. That way, the schools of the church managed not to hold religious classes of other faiths.

I would be dishonest if I spoke as if I was totally disapproving of such a stand. I must confess that at that time, I actually felt relieved that the schools of my church did not have to offer lessons in a non-Christian religion. I was no different from most other Christians in Singapore and I honestly believed that a non-Christian religion was the surest path to eternal perdition. When we later prayed to God for his protection over the institutions of my church and to thank him that he had thwarted the influx of false beliefs into our schools, I was truly sincere in my prayer.

And then I got married and had kids of my own and the day came when my son entered Primary 1. Of course he was in the school of my church. The first day of school is always a trying time for kids and that school was no exception. But volunteers from the school chapel were prepared for this. The kids were all taken to the school hall and Christian parents were enlisted to help out. As a Christian, I naturally joined in to assist the church volunteers. What happened in the school hall was nothing less than an indoctrination session. Some boys cried because they were uncomfortable in a new environment but they were all told that whenever they felt fear, they should call on Jesus. To be fair, I don't think the adult volunteers only had indoctrination in mind. They probably wanted to comfort the boys and "running to Jesus" was something they were familiar with themselves.

All around the hall, church and parent volunteers gathered in groups of three to five to pray for the boys. I was in one of these groups and it's not surprising that we prayed that God would comfort the boys and lead them to accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. I was again sincere in my prayer because I really believed that these boys would burn in hell for ever if they died as non-Christians.

I have to say something about our sincerity. Many non-Christians think Christians are insincere when we try to get someone to join our faith. But that's not true. The volunteers who are so eager in converting the boys to the Christian faith are extremely sincere. They don't stand to benefit at all from all this. Their sole motivation is the love they have for the children and the belief that all these boys are heading for destruction if they don't accept Jesus as their Lord. As a very important person in that school told me when I attended the prayer sessions for fathers, he considers it his primary duty to bring the good news of Jesus to everyone in the school. Not just the pupils but also the teachers and staff. During the prayer sessions, special attention was always given to the Mother Tongue Language teachers because, as I was told, this group of teachers was the most resistant when it came to accepting the Christian faith.

If you believe with all your heart that everyone is going to be tortured for all eternity and they can escape the torture by merely accepting Jesus as their Lord, wouldn't you do all you can to try to get everyone to accept Jesus?  That's precisely what all these Christians are doing. It's wrong to say they are insincere. They genuinely want to save people from the hellfire they truly believe in. They really mean well.

Martyrdom has earned a bad reputation with the recent cases of Muslim terrorists blowing themselves up together with innocent people. But the idea of martyrdom in the Christian sense is different. Martyrs suffer for their faith by not renouncing Jesus even in the face of adversity and death. Martyrs spread the good news of Jesus to non-believers even when they have to risk bodily harm and death in doing so. In Christianity, martyrdom does not mean the killing or hurting of others. You don't even hurt a fly. The martyr is the only one who gets killed for his faith. He just dies for refusing to renounce Jesus or refusing to worship other gods or insisting on leading others to Jesus even if it's against the law. Yes, even if there is a law that you should not do that and it's punishable with death, a good Christian should be willing to preach his religion against the law and if he's caught and killed, he dies a martyr.

When I was still in primary school, I would read the newsletters from someone called Richard Wurmbrand. His newsletters were more a news report of Christian martyrs from all over the world, particularly those who suffered persecution and death in communist countries. My brother and I would be so moved by the newsletters that we would earnestly pray that we too would one day die as martyrs spreading the good news of Christ to those who were not Christians.

This brings me to my main point which people who are not of a monotheistic religion of Middle Eastern origin such as Christianity and Islam will find hard to understand. Many of us will stop at nothing to thrust the gospel down people's throats. Even if there is a law prohibiting proselytising, many committed Christians will flout the law even if the punishment is death because they would rather obey Christ's Great Commission than a man-made law. It's the same thing when it comes to Christian morality. We will do all we can to ensure that the whole world (if that is possible) conforms to the Christian standard of morality. The reason is simple. Christians believe that any act that is inconsistent with our idea of morality is deeply displeasing to God and pleasing God is what we have all been trained to do from the cradle. Even if the act is committed by a non-Christian, it's still offensive to God and if we can nip the act altogether in the bud, we are really serving God by pleasing him.

It is for this reason that I personally believe that it's very hard for a committed Christian to be objective in his dealings in this secular world. Whenever I read of controversial actions taken by someone in a position of authority (eg the recent library pulping of books that had a gay theme), I always wonder what the person's religion is and if I hear that he or she is a Christian, I'm afraid I will have serious misgivings about how objective his decision is and how much of it is in fact really influenced by his desire to please God.

Let me examine myself and not turn my attention to others. How objective am I? I'd like to think of myself as extremely objective. When I see mistakes (and there are many) in the Holy Bible, I will openly declare that there are mistakes. Many of the postings in this blog concern the inadequacy of my own religion and the flaws in my own holy book. While I can be very objective when I discuss issues in my blog, I don't think I'm all that objective when it comes to my personal life. But there is one huge difference between me and many pious Christians. I only apply my bigotry to myself and nobody else (not even my own children). For example, I'm totally opposed to gambling and have never gambled in my entire life, not even a single cent, but I'm not opposed to the building of casinos and having facilities for people to gamble. I'm absolutely opposed to divorce and I firmly believe that my marriage must be for life but I do not object to other people getting a divorce nor do I campaign for the abolition of divorces. I am dead opposed to abortion and if my wife had carried a foetus with a serious congenital disease or condition, I would be prepared to look after the child for the rest of his life and I would never contemplate an abortion but I have no problem with other people aborting their foetuses nor will I support a campaign to criminalise abortions.

But many Christians will say that I'm not a true believer because a true believer must believe in the goodness of God's laws and morality for all people and not just for themselves. And because I no longer believe in the idea of heaven and hell as accepted by most fundamentalist Christians, I look upon all acts of proselytising as embarrassingly intrusive.

But Middle Eastern religions of which Christianity is one are known to be notoriously divisive and tribal. As our Lord himself says, "He who is not with me is against me". You are either a follower of Christ or an enemy of Christ.

Some biblical verses can appear deceptively universal in its love and application. Many Christians will quote John 3:16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
However, what we often leave out from the quotation when we try to make our faith appealing to non-Christians is the line two verses later:
Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
Monotheistic religions are usually very clear in their warning against the worship of other gods. The First of the Ten Commandments is "Thou shalt have no other gods before me". This "we versus the rest of the world" mentality breeds tribalism and separatism which are perfectly fine in a society where everyone adheres to the same religion and is of the same religious "tribe" but in a multi-religious, globalised society such as the one we live in, it spells disaster if the liberals within the religion remain silent.

I firmly believe that the liberals in all religions should be more vocal. If the voice of liberals is not heard, the world will be drowned by the shrill and strident screams of fundamentalists.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Disloyal Heterosexual

Wow, I just received a sound rebuke for my "disloyalty to heterosexuality". Someone wrote to me to chide me for the past few postings I've made in which I take the side of the LGBT community in the persecutions they have suffered. This is what a reader of my blog wrote:

I see you are a family man, a follower of Jesus and a heterosexual. I ask you this Where is your loyalty? You have betrayed your wife, your children, your God and your heterosexuality by taking the side of faggots.

I thought of deleting the last word because it's so vile but I decided to leave it unaltered just to show the full extent of how deeply prejudiced he is. There's more to his abusive language but the rest of it is directed at his pet hate - the LGBT community. His language is a dead giveaway. Now I know what homophobes mean when they talk about the "gay agenda". They are the ones who have the "heterosexual agenda" and anybody who does not agree with them in persecuting the LGBT community is disloyal to the heterosexual agenda. Because they obviously have a wicked agenda of hate, they naturally accuse the LGBT community of having an agenda when there really is no such thing. The desire to live one's life without being insulted, persecuted or in some places, beaten up is not an agenda. It's a basic need.

NOTE: The writer also warned me not to publish his email but since I've betrayed my wife, children, God and heterosexuality, it won't hurt to betray him too. Besides, I'm not revealing his identity or email address and I've only published a small segment of his furious email. I will protect the identity of those who write to me not only because it's the decent thing to do but also because I want to make sure I don't deter these loony people from writing to me further. As I have said before, please write in. Don't worry if your email might sound angry and insane. The loonier the better. After I posted my blog article about the hate mail I received, I received absolutely nothing for a while. But you can't contain lunacy and I've started to receive again emails expressing dissatisfaction with my stand and I certainly don't want to stop the flow.

But the email set me thinking. What makes me so upset with homophobes? As the writer says in his email, it should not concern me. I thought about it and it became clear to me that this matter should concern me and everyone else. Homophobia should be all our collective concern just as sexism and racism should be even though I'm a man and I am a part of the majority ethnic group in my country.

There was a time when left-handed children were forced to write with their right hands. It was believed that you have to change a southpaw so that he could be "normal" like the rest of us. It was then commonly accepted that southpaws were less intelligent and were more prone to violence and crime. It's true that the world is a right-handed world. I've been told that it's virtually impossible for a southpaw to use scissors. That's because scissors are designed for the right hand and if you use them on your left hand, they just won't work.

Supposing there is a law against left-handedness and supposing our holy book is dead opposed to left-handedness. And we have preachers who declare that they don't hate the left-handed person; it's the sin of left-handedness that they hate and as long as the southpaw is willing to stop using his sinful left hand, we will embrace him with love and acceptance. True, he may be a little handicapped, but that's a small price to pay if you don't want to sin against the Lord and live an immoral life. And they liken left-handedness to paedophilia, bestiality, rape and murder (which is precisely what homophobes have said of homosexuality even in the comments to my various blog posts).

If you tell me that in such a scenario, you are not angry with anti-southpaws because you're right-handed and so are the rest in your family, then what does that make you out to be if not a hateful self-centred scoundrel?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

When Professionals Fail

It came as a complete surprise to me when I read online that a Singapore lawyer was found liable for an invalid will which he prepared for his client to execute.  Apparently, he did not know that a will required two witnesses. The judge found to his horror that this was not an oversight on the part of the lawyer but a shocking ignorance of the law. The judge wrote in his judgment, "Cheo's negligence here is not an instance of mere inadvertence or lapse of concentration but, more troublingly, stemmed from his ignorance of the statutory requirement that a will must be executed before at least two witnesses." How any lawyer can display ignorance over such a basic point of law is shocking to me. Even those of us who have never done probate matters are perfectly familiar with this fundamental requirement for a will.

But however ignorant or incompetent or negligent Cheo had been, he is infinitely more upright and proper than those professionals who harm their clients intentionally for financial gain. Years ago, over dinner with some anaesthetists, I was regaled with horror stories of surgeons who deliberately harmed their patients for just a few thousand dollars. A construction labourer's four fingers of one hand were lopped off by some industrial machine and this anaesthetist was in attendance with the hand surgeon. She asked the surgeon if he wanted to call for three other surgeons - each surgeon could then stitch a finger back to the hand. Time is of the essence in such a surgery, as any delay could result in the body rejecting the fingers. But the surgeon was adamant that he would do all four fingers, one at a time. The surgery proceeded and again the anaesthetist urged the surgeon to get his colleagues to stitch up the other fingers. He bluntly refused. According to the anaesthetist, in the end, only one finger was saved and the other fingers dropped off because too much time had lapsed. She said that the surgeon would be paid under the labourer's workmen's compensation policy - I can't remember the figure but it was something like just a few thousand dollars per finger. Even though the three fingers failed to attach to the hand, the fact that he operated on them meant that he could earn the fees for having performed the surgery.

This story was told to me a long time ago but the enormity of the surgeon's wickedness made it hard for me to ever forget it.

I have also been informed by an ophthalmologist friend who works in a public hospital that she has seen many cases of LASIK being performed wrongly on patients.  Many of these patients had gone to private eye surgeons who apparently told them that they were suitable for LASIK. Years after LASIK was performed on them, they develop serious conditions that could lead to blindness and some have turned blind. Many of them then seek a second opinion and some of them go to public hospitals. My friend would then write to the surgeons to ask for the pre-op scans which would show whether the patients' eyes were suitable for the LASIK procedure in the first place. In one case I heard from another friend, the private ophthalmologist replied that the pre-op scan results had gone missing!

I'm not saying that all doctors and surgeons in private practice are unscrupulous. There are many fine upright doctors in private practice who don't go about harming their patients or exposing them to unnecessary risks for filthy lucre. But there are many rotten apples too and they are not only surgeons even though I've only given examples of surgeons so far.

I will now turn my attention to those who are not surgeons. Oncologists come readily to mind. Surgery to a surgeon is chemotherapy to an oncologist. My best friend who died of cancer a few years ago went through the hands of many oncologists. Before he died, he told me something that turned out to be a piece of gem to another friend of mine.

He said that many oncologists would, at the drop of a hat, order chemotherapy for their patients. That's because there's money to be made in chemotherapy. It's the most lucrative part of an oncologist's job scope. It's like surgery to a surgeon. And you usually can't go wrong even if the chemotherapy is needless because who is to argue that a cancer patient doesn't need chemotherapy? But chemotherapy has a lot of horrendous side effects including the development of secondary cancer in other parts of the body. Of course if chemotherapy is useful in the healing of whatever cancer the patient has, he must go through with it. Nobody quarrels with that. But the latest studies seem to indicate that not all cancers respond well to chemotherapy. And there are cancers which seem to have a statistically higher chance of relapse when chemotherapy is administered.

But if you are an unscrupulous oncologist and knowing which side your bread is buttered, you aren't going to bother with new studies that suggest quite strongly that chemotherapy is not the way to go. You will want to stick to the old view and administer chemotherapy on every cancer patient.

Some years after my friend had died, I got a phone call from another friend whom I had not met for some time. She was crying when she called me up. She said she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and her oncologist (who was famous and highly respected) had scheduled her for chemotherapy. She felt she needed a second opinion.

I told her I had just the person for her. But I needed time to check the person's name so I promised to call her back and I immediately googled a name. You see, when my friend (the one who's died of cancer) told me about the most competent, most honest oncologist who was also a ministering angel (he was that effusive when he spoke of this doctor), I wasn't interested in her name. But I remember him speaking of her as "Dr Yap-Hwang" and he told me that her name was spelt in a funny way. So I googled her name and sure enough I found the person I was looking for - Dr Yap-Whang.  It's not "Hwang" but "Whang". I called my friend back and gave her the contact number.

Today, that friend of mine who had breast cancer is now in the best of health. She's also done a most exhaustive research into breast cancer and she tells me there are two kinds of breast cancer (it could be more but I only remember two). One kind requires chemotherapy while the other does not respond at all to chemotherapy. In fact chemotherapy would harm such a patient terribly. You have to use another method of treatment (which I don't remember now but if my memory isn't totally faulty, I think it's a kind of hormonal treatment). She said Dr Yap-Whang could have asked her to go for chemotherapy and she would have complied but instead of suggesting something that would have benefited her monetarily, Dr Yap-Whang did a test on her which confirmed that she had the kind of cancer that didn't require chemotherapy. She had read up so much on breast cancer that she knew all about the latest findings and she said Dr Yap-Whang really kept abreast with the latest developments in cancer research which she insisted her previous oncologist knew nothing about. To this day, she maintains that if she had gone for chemotherapy, she probably would have had a relapse.

Before I go on, let me assure my readers that the people whose names I give in this post eg Dr Yap-Whang, are people I do not know and who do not know me. This is not a sales pitch. I do not know Dr Yap-Whang from Adam and she doesn't know me and thank God for that because the day I know her will be the day I have cancer and am in need of a good oncologist who won't give me chemotherapy unnecessarily. I don't have cancer and I hope I don't ever have it and Dr Yap-Whang will forever be no more than just a funnily spelt name to me. But if you do have cancer and your oncologist has asked you to go for chemotherapy, surely it won't harm one bit if you sought a second opinion? I truly hope that when my time comes, Dr Yap-Whang will still be around and in practice.

So far I have only spoken of specialists, whether they are surgeons or physicians. What about GPs?

When it comes to a GP, my criteria are no different from my choice of a specialist or surgeon. I want a GP who is honest and competent and who does not have an obsessive love for money. The moment I suspect that a GP has an inordinate love for money, I will never see him or her for the rest of my life. I have an old-fashioned perspective of the job of a medical practitioner. To me, a medical practitioner must have as his primary objective the healing of diseases. This is how I judge a GP and I'm not saying my method is fool-proof but I think I'm right anyway.

If I see that a GP has veered from the path of healing diseases into a money-churning enterprise, I drop him or her completely out of my list of doctors. The greatest money-churning enterprise in medical field today is aesthetics. I have nothing against plastic surgeons - it's a valid discipline and I'm sure there are many competent and honest plastic surgeons. But I'm not so comfortable with a GP who turns his practice into an aesthetic business - and his clinic no longer sees coughing and feverish patients because he only has time to treat his patients with Botox and fillers injection or worse, he's busy with liposuction (a patient died in the hands of one such GP some years ago). Many of them have become glorified beauticians and their establishments (we can't call them clinics any more) are merely boutiques that market and sell facial creams which cost an arm and a leg and they have all kinds of packages and deals just like the combo meals you get at KFC.

But there are many GPs who are still true to their original calling and are noble medical practitioners.  I just saw one this morning.  Again, I don't know him and he doesn't know me. He probably won't recognise me even though he saw me this morning. He was first recommended to me by my wife who told me that he was doctor who was true to his medical calling. He used to treat her grandmother after she had a stroke.

A month ago, I tried my hand at a bit of gardening and I accidentally brushed my right leg against some bushes with rough leaves. I felt an itch on the side of my leg but I didn't think much of it. A few days later, that part of my leg itched but I didn't think it was serious.

Recently, I felt some itch again and this time, I saw that there were red marks on the surface of the skin which are almost imperceptible but they're there if you look close enough.

This morning, I went to Dr Tan Kok Soo's clinic very early to get a queue number. His clinic is notoriously popular and if you arrive after the doctor has come in, you will probably have to wait until after lunchtime to see him. I was at the clinic an hour before official opening time and I took a queue number. I was number 4. I went off for breakfast before returning to the clinic. No. 2 was being attended to when I got to the clinic. Soon the patient emerged from the consultation room. She was an elderly woman and she went to the cashier to collect her medicine.

"You don't have to pay," the cashier told her in Hokkien as she handed to her a bag containing her medication. The old woman repeated what she was told, "Don't have to pay?" The cashier nodded. She then told the cashier to thank the doctor for his kindness. You may think I was eavesdropping but then they were speaking quite loudly and I was seated quite close to them. I quickly reached for my phone and managed to take a photo of the old woman and the cashier (see pic on the right).

That really warmed the cockles of my heart. After having to listen to one story after another of unscrupulous doctors who would sacrifice their patients at the altar of Mammon, it is such a welcome change to see a compassionate doctor who really has the interest of his patients at heart.

It was soon my turn and Dr Tan was very professional. He examined my leg and explained to me that it was a fungal infection. He spoke about the nature of the broad-based anti-fungal cream he was prescribing and how often I should apply it. Now that I already had evidence of his compassion and generosity, it didn't surprise me in the least when I was told by the cashier to pay an amount that was even less than what I would have to pay if I had bought the same anti-fungal cream from a chemist and without the benefit of a consultation too.

I'm not saying that all doctors must charge as little as what Dr Tan Kok Soo charges or to waive their fees as Dr Tan did for the old woman. After all, there is a polyclinic not far from his clinic and patients who have no money can always go to the polyclinic which is a government-subsidised clinic for the poor. What I would like to see one day is a world where doctors will stop behaving like businessmen and more like the noble members of the medical profession whom they themselves once looked up to when they first joined medical school. The health and well-being of their patients must always be above their own selfish financial interest. Doing a botched-up hand surgery just to collect more fees and because a foreign construction labourer won't take legal action anyway is not just unethical; it's criminal. Subjecting patients to unnecessary surgery or chemotherapy because you want to collect your surgical fees or there's a lot of money to be made from chemotherapy is equally criminal. Turning your GP practice into a beautician's shop is disgraceful. I doubt very much whether there is any patient however feebleminded he may be who does not know the real reason why any GP would convert his clinic into a beauty salon.

I have said many times before that perhaps something should be done to make the medical profession less attractive to those who worship Mammon. But how do we effectively weed out money-grubbing folks from the profession? Not everyone is a Dr Yap-Whang or a Dr Tan Kok Soo. Perhaps there will never be an easy way out and we will always have in our midst those who care more about how much they can make than how their patients will fare. That's the reality of the world we live in.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Isn't the Bible anti-gay?

Recently, I received a flurry of emails and messages accusing me of spurning biblical teachings and God's "truths" just because I wrote this post in defence of a minority group. A few more reasonable Christians asked me politely what I understood specific verses in the Bible to mean. These are verses that are commonly seen as anti-gay. I've seen the arguments for both sides on the interpretation of these verses. Gay-friendly exegesis of the Bible will always differentiate the act condemned by the Bible from general homosexual activities while a homophobic interpretation will always identify any homosexual sex act as coming within the prohibition in these verses.

I have been asked by quite a few of my blog readers what stand I take and how I interpret these verses. I subscribe to neither view or to both views but before I am accused of being homophobic or gay-friendly (depending on which camp you are in), please hear me out and let me explain my position.

In this post, I want to show my readers that there is a totally different approach we can take. I believe that my approach is entirely consistent with that taken by Jesus himself whose name we bear and whose teaching we must follow if we consider ourselves (even if only culturally) Christians.

Let's be honest. The Bible says the darnedest things. If you don't accept this, I can only conclude that you either haven't read the Bible much or you just refuse to be honest about this. I don't want to go into the details of what God has been accused by the Bible of doing. If I accept the entire litany of crimes against humanity that the Bible claims God is guilty of, I would be making God out to be the world's greatest criminal and every church will be no different from that disgraceful Yasukuni shrine which houses emblems in honour of convicted war criminals. If you are a true Christian who has read the Bible, you will know what I'm talking about and you certainly won't dare to challenge me to list God's crimes against not just humanity but other creatures too. But if you are not a Christian and you don't know what incredibly immoral things the Bible has accused God of doing, forget what I've just said. This post is addressed and is only relevant to my fellow Christians who, I hope, will learn to have the moral courage to do what is right just as our Lord Jesus has done.

What is truly important for us Christians is to see how our Lord handles some of the Old Testament teachings. Did he just accept them as the Word of God, especially the nasty bits?

I will pick three examples and arrange them in order of increasing importance, ie, the last example is the most important one.

The first example is on divorce. The Pharisees come to Jesus one fine day and ask him if he accepts the divorce law as contained in the Law of Moses and written in the Old Testament of the Bible. The Law of Moses allows a man to unilaterally divorce his wife. They ask him for his thoughts on the matter. This is a sexist law of course so, let's see how Jesus deals with it. Jesus could have said, "Well, since it's in the Bible, the Word of God, I can't change my own words, can I?" But he doesn't say that. Instead he says this whole bunkum about divorce is in the Law because of the "hardness of your hearts". Jesus is saying (if I may paraphrase because I haven't got the Bible with me at the moment), "Sorry guys! You're stuck for life to the woman you've married. You can't divorce her and I don't give a damn what the Old Testament says and neither should you".

Jesus cursing the Pharisees

Now, I'm bringing up this example not because I think divorcees are all evil. Jesus was addressing the problem of his day. Men were sexist pigs in those days (some of us still are today) and they were getting rid of their wives every now and then by just relying on the sexist Old Testament law. What can Jesus possibly mean when he says there should be no divorce at all but divorces are allowed because of the "hardness" of their hearts? Does Jesus mean that God gave a wrong law just to accommodate evil people? Of course not. I think the best interpretation one can logically give to what Jesus is saying is that the law came about because of the hardness of people's hearts. In other words, divorce should not be a part of the law but people made it up because of their evil obstinacy. Whatever your take on this, Jesus is casting aside what's written in the Bible.

I've said earlier that I'm giving my three examples in the order of increasing importance. Let me move on to my second and more compelling example.

In the Old Testament, God makes it very clear that a person who commits adultery must be stoned to death. The Word of God allows for no exception.  In other words, if you have caught an adulterer or adulteress, he or she must be stoned to death and you can't even take time off to consult God to see if he will make an exception and allow him or her to be forgiven. It's straight to the gallows or rather, the stoning gallery with no reprieve.

Many apologists have tried to explain away John 8 where we read of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery as an instance of Jesus exercising his power, as God, to forgive the woman. They try very hard to conceal the fact that Jesus actually contravenes the Old Testament law that REQUIRES the woman to be stoned to death with no exception. When Jesus is asked by the Pharisees if the woman should be stoned to death according to the law of Moses, he simply replies that the person without sin should cast the first stone. Now, that's not in line with the law of Moses at all. In the millions of cases of people stoned to death for adultery throughout the bloody pages of Israelite history, those who cast the first stones knew perfectly well that they weren't without sin. Jesus is effectively saying that he doesn't agree with the Old Testament law.

My third and last example which should put the final nail in the coffin of the nasty bits of the Bible and which, I hope, will convince you that Jesus considers a lot of the Old Testament as nonsense has something to do with the Fourth Commandment and I will need to explain (again without the help of the Bible) to those who are not familiar with the Christian faith.

For some reason, the Old Testament writers have this obsession with the 7th day of the week. When they write about God's creation in Genesis, they have to stress that God did his creation work for 6 days and on the 7th day, God rested. This implies that this fascination for the 7th day or the Sabbath has been around even at the dawn of creation. The observance of the Sabbath day as a strict day of rest is required in the 4th Commandment and in Old Testament law, any failure to observe the Sabbath day rest is punished with, yes you have guessed it, death by stoning, God's preferred mode of execution.

The Old Testament even has a dreadfully cruel story about a poor man who was out picking firewood one cold winter's day when the other villagers caught him and guess what? It happened to be the Sabbath day and he was picking firewood on the Sabbath day! What an evil thing to do on God's holy Sabbath. They arrested him and brought him to God himself.

Just in case you think I've made up this story, let me quote it to you from the Bible itself, the online version of which I now have access to. I'll use the NIV which is the most popular version today. It's found in Numbers 15:32 onwards.
32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, 34 and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.’ 36 So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Now, this is an apologist's nightmare. As any Christian knows, a Christian apologist whose job it is to defend the faith will say the most ludicrous things to earn his bread. And even funnier is the fact that many of the faithful are willing to accept whatever rubbish the apologist says. Some apologists I've read have gone so far as to say that the man was stoned to death because he was a spy and gathering wood was just an excuse. That's a lie because the Word of God (which you can read for yourself above) doesn't say that. The Book of Revelation calls on God's curses for any person who adds to the Bible so similarly, I call upon God to curse any man who adds to this passage and if he's an apologist, he should receive a double portion of God's curses because he should know better than to violate the Word of God with his own words. The Word of God tells us that the man was stoned because he was gathering wood in the wilderness on the holy Sabbath day. We know how cold the wilderness can be at night but it's better to freeze than to go against the Fourth Commandment.

So, now that we know what the Bible says God's stand is with regard to the Sabbath, let's look at what Jesus has to say in the Holy Gospels. In St Mark's Gospel, we read that Jesus and his band of merry disciples were passing through grainfields when they began to pick up heads of grains to eat. The Pharisees remonstrated that Jesus was flouting the Sabbath day law. Let's look at how Jesus responded.

Before I go on, I should say something about some dishonest apologists whose books I've read. Many of them insist that Jesus and his merry men did not violate the Sabbath day law when they picked the grains to eat. That's of course a dreadful lie. Picking up grains from a grainfield is as much a violation of the Sabbath day law as picking up wood that we have just read in the book of Numbers.

Don't listen to these lying apologists. Listen to what Jesus himself said. Jesus didn't defend himself and his disciples by denying that he had flouted the Law of Moses.  That's because the truth is what Jesus and his disciples did was directly in contravention of the Fourth Commandment and the Old Testament law. Instead Jesus defended himself by saying it's ok to break the Sabbath. This is Jesus' answer to the Pharisees in Mark 2:25 onwards:
“Have you never read what David did when he was in need and he and his companions became hungry; 26 how he entered the house of God in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the consecrated bread, which is not lawful for anyone to eat except the priests, and he also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."
Jesus did not once declare that his action was not in contravention of the Sabbath law. It was. He explained that it was ok to break the Sabbath. And he said something revolutionary - the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

Now consider this for a minute. Would a person who says, "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath" command that a man who gathered wood on the Sabbath day be stoned to death? Obviously, Jesus was cocking a snook at the Old Testament law and the story of God commanding the death of a man who gathered wood on the Sabbath.

If Jesus could do that to God's law in the Old Testament, we who are followers of Jesus should learn to do that to the entire Bible whenever the Bible says the darnedest things. And the Bible does say the darnedest things sometimes.

You see, morality changes with time. What was moral or immoral at one time may very well be the opposite in today's world. The truth is the church is aware of this and the church does not follow the Bible all the time. But the church is usually not honest enough to say it openly especially to non-believers. Like the dishonest apologists, the church will come up with all kinds of excuses not to follow the Bible in areas where the Bible is telling us to be downright immoral.

I'll give an example. When I was a boy, I thought the ancient Romans were evil people when I read about how in Roman times, men from good families cut their hair short to show their intact ears. The reason for this is rather ghastly. In Roman times, slaves had a large hole bored into each ear and when a slave was freed by his master and became a freeman, he would grow long hair to cover his ears and the embarrassing evidence of his past as a slave. As a boy, I was repulsed by such cruelty until I discovered to my horror that this whole idea of boring a hole in the ear of a slave predates Roman history. It's actually the brainchild of the God of the Bible and if you read Exodus 21, you will know what I mean. God commanded that a slave's ears be bored with an awl.

Of course apologists will scramble with their lies to try to explain away this truth but if you are honest about it, slavery is really a holy institution of the God of the Bible.

Oh, you may say, that's all in the Old Testament. Surely the New Testament does not approve of slavery?

On the contrary, the New Testament continues to keep the hallowed institution of slavery very much alive. Even when Jesus tells his parables, he sometimes equates God to a slave-master who tortures his slaves. At no point does Jesus tell his disciples that slavery is wrong. St Paul, in his epistles, advises Christian slave-masters (yes, you read that correctly, Christian masters of slaves) not to be cruel to their slaves and warns the slaves to obey their masters. In his epistle to Philemon (which is a part of the New Testament and is therefore the inspired Holy Word of God), we learn that a slave runs away from his Christian master and Paul finds the slave and converts him to Christianity (as if the slave had a choice in the first place). In his epistle to Philemon who is a Christian owner of slaves, St Paul tells Philemon that the escaped slave is now a Christian and he has persuaded the slave to return to his former role as a slave in Philemon's household.

I have read what dishonest apologists say about this. They say that St Paul had no time to talk about slavery or to change the social order in the Roman times. That's rubbish. If St Paul actually believed it was bloody immoral of anyone to own a slave, he would have told Philemon to release all his slaves. Some apologists say the slaves needed to work as slaves to survive but again, that's rubbish. St Paul could have asked all Christian slave owners to turn their slaves into paid servants with a list of rights as free people. And any suggestion that St Paul was too busy to address his mind to slavery is again a blatant lie. In his epistle to the Corinthians, St Paul is very quick to punish a man with excommunication for having gone to bed with a woman. If he had time for such petty acts between two consenting adults, he must have had time to tell Christians not to own slaves if he really thought of it as immoral.

But kudos to the church that despite the strong biblical support for slavery, the church somehow decided that this hallowed institution of God as supported by both the Old Testament and the New Testament be looked upon today as a heinous sin. It speaks a lot of the goodness of the church to fly in the face of the Holy Bible in order to do what is right.  This is the kind of religion that Christ wants us to have. If the Bible is wrong, we should not be afraid to say it's wrong and to go against it. Christ did that to the Old Testament and surely he expects us to do the same to the entire Bible and the fact that the church today goes against slavery shows that we are doing precisely that.

Those who feel compelled by the Bible to denounce homosexuality or lesbianism must ask themselves honestly why they don't subscribe to slavery. If we are truly honest, we'll have to admit that slavery offends our sense of right and wrong but a denunciation of homosexuality doesn't affect us one bit because we're heterosexuals and we find homosexuality a bit repulsive anyway. We pick and choose what we like from the Bible.

I'm not asking my fellow Christians to suddenly change their stand on anything; they probably can't. I'm asking them to at least be honest with themselves and recognise how we are all motivated by our personal prejudices and preferences.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

MINDEF holds Pride Day Celebration!!!

Lately, homophobic and hate-filled people have generated a great deal of publicity and more people have become aware of the life and struggles of the average gay person, particularly if he lives in an oppressive and intolerant society. Apple Inc, in solidarity with and support of the LGBT community, just posted a video of its participation in the San Francisco Pride Day celebration.

"June 29, 2014 - Thousands of Apple employees and their families gathered to celebrate our unwavering commitment to equality and diversity."

As you can see in Apple's official video, thousands of their employees carrying rainbow flags marched in unity with many other participants in the San Francisco Pride Day on 29 June.

That's Apple Inc in the US.  What about companies in Singapore? Do they celebrate Pride Day? How about a Singtel Pride Day? I suppose you are going to say that's not going to happen in the next hundred years?

Now, let me tell you this. When I saw the Apple video, I was immediately reminded of what I saw 5 years ago. It was a hot day and as I was walking aimlessly in a shopping centre in Singapore. minding my own business, my attention was suddenly drawn to some loud music and dancing and I saw a gay and jolly celebration right in front of my eyes. I read a large banner that explained the reason for the celebration and I couldn't believe what I saw! I just had to reach into my bag for my camera and to assure myself that I was not seeing things. I'll let the photos do the talking. As you know, photos don't lie and I can vouch for the fact that these photos are genuine and have not been altered in any way.

Guess who organised the Pride Day fetivity? No, not Singtel. The organisers are arguably the most macho Ministry in the entire Cabinet. It's MINDEF itself! The Ministry of Defence saw fit to hold a MINDEF PRIDE DAY and mind you, this was as early as 2009 and some 5 years before Apple Inc participated in its first Pride Day celebration.

Take your time to look at each of these photos. Don't you think the dancing and festivity are lively and colourful enough to rival even San Francisco's Pride Day celebrations?

Next time, if you read the blogs of netizens that run down Singapore (as they usually do) and if you catch them denouncing Singapore for its conservative and homophobic stand, just show them these photos. I don't believe even the US Armed Forces hold a Pride Day celebration. That's how progressive and tolerant Singapore is. Like Apple Inc, we in Singapore celebrate our unwavering commitment to equality and diversity.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014


When I first read that Sir David Attenborough received hate mail from Christians some years ago for not giving credit to God for the natural world, I found it unbelievable. That Richard Dawkins received hate mail for writing his God Delusion is something I can understand but surely Christians can't hate Sir David Attenborough who is the most harmless person on earth. But hate is a funny emotion and I'm soon to learn that being tolerant and loving towards gays and lesbians or merely saying something in their defence as I did in this post in my blog is enough to generate hatred in my fellow followers of the world's greatest religion of love.
I think you are not a Christian. When you die, you will be in hell. You can't run away. You will scream every second forever. But I can't hear you cos I'll be in heaven singing songs about God. I will smile cos you ask for it. I say all this with love.

I really laughed when I read the last sentence. He or she said it in love. The writer did not leave behind his or her name and he signed off "In Jesus' love".

NOTE: I have copied and pasted in this post precisely what appears in each message sent to me. I make no editions of any kind.

This is one of the many hate messages that I've received for having written my earlier blog post in defence of the LGBT community. Some aren't all that funny and are rather predictable. Here's one.

You don't know Sodom and Gommorrah? You forget Bible? You don't know how to read? Word of God say homos must be killed with the stone. You bigger than God?

And I have next an email in a plaintive voice. This is quite common. But the writer of this email sounds unstable psychiatrically and he sees things that are not there.

I cried when I read your blog and I went to God. God gave me a vision and I saw you. I can see your face like you are standing in front of me. I have never met you but I know how you look. How is that possible if I don't have a vision from God?  You are a man very fat man and normal height and you look very sad. I don't know you but I can say what you look like. Please believe God's power. Then I heard a voice, a small voice. It's like the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I recognise the voice of God. God is saying you are deeply hurt. You are divorced and unhappy. How I know you are divorced? Please believe God's power. You are internal hurt. You are spiritual broken. God is saying, "Come back to me and I sure heal you."  You say all this because you are paining. But actually you love God. Come back.
I was tempted to show my wife this email and tell her that we've got to go get a divorce or God would be telling lies!  For the record, I'm not fat and I don't look sad and I am not divorced. I'm tempted to post some of the photos of myself I took in a nudist resort a couple of months ago just to prove that the voice in the writer's head is probably nothing more than a chemical imbalance in his brain. Interestingly, the God in his vision speaks Singlish just like the common man on the Chai Chee omnibus. "I sure heal you", says God. Now, that's bad Singlish and if God must speak in Singlish, he should at least get his Singlish grammar right. Singlish grammatical rules require "one" at the end of that sentence. "I sure heal you one" and "I sure heal you" by itself is elliptical.  See Ah Beng et al, "Singlish Grammar and Syntax - Die Die Must Read One".

It's funny how some people can write hate-filled emails and yet they think they are motivated by love. Religion can have that kind of effect on people.  Here's one example.

God is love. But God is also JUDGE. Evil people like murderers, thieves, robbers, gays, drunkards must be judged for their sins (1 Cornthians). When God sends people to hell, he does it out of love. If you go with the lawless, you will be judged this way also. Do you want to spend eternity in hell with fire and worms? If the answer is yes, I am happy for you. I will laugh when you cry because of the fire.  What you do is very dangerous. You make people think the Word of God is wrong. But you are wrong. Gays are wrong. All this modern ideas are wrong. Western thinking is wrong. In the end there is the fire.
Honestly, I'd rather be in "the fire" as he puts it than to spend all eternity with the likes of him.

If you recognise some of your emails in this post, please be assured that I will not disclose the names and email addresses of people who have written to me. I welcome emails and after reading them, I delete them to ensure privacy. What I have done above is merely to post a small segment of some of the emails anonymously. Your privacy is guaranteed when you write to me so please keep the emails coming.  And I don't mind if your emails sound loony.  In fact the loonier, the better.

This email just came in and I must post a short excerpt of it.

You ask us to show why homosexuality is wrong and you challenge us time and again. You want us to say it straight from the Bible and I can see where you are heading. It's easy to read you like an open book. One thing I can say of you is you don't hide your thoughts. I hate to say it but you are honest in the way of the world but not in the way of the Lord. Those who walk in the way of the Lord won't do what you do. You are really doing the opposite of evangelism. If someone shows you the verses against homosexuality, you will show commands to kill people for things that don't seem wrong to people today. You will say if we don't follow those commands today, why do we pick on the commands against gays? A non-Christian who reads what you write will think God is evil and the Bible is full of bad things. If you walk in the way of the Lord, you will not talk this way. Is it right to show non-believers all this? But I know what you will say. You will say truth is everything and you won't hide the truth from non-Christians. That's not Christian truth. Do you see other Christians talking about this truth? You think we don't know what the Bible says and only you know it? Quit kidding yourself. What's important to real Christians is to reach out to non-believers. That's no. 1. If you walk in the way of the Lord, you will know what I mean. But you don't. You bring up the Bible and challenge people to argue with you and if they do, you show everything in the Bible which should not be shown to non-Christians. You will burn in the hottest hell for this. There's a way out for you. Repent and delete all your anti-Christian blogs. You are now a very dangerous person but I think you can be a very effective Christian if only you take the side of Christianity. Humble yourself before God and the Bible. Imagine the many souls that can be saved if only you stop showing how wrong God is and how wrong the Bible is. Of course God and the Bible are right. They are holy. But you mustn't show things that will make people lose their faith. I know everything you know and I know more but I never say it out. If it doesn't edify, keep it quiet. Write good things about the Bible and make an altar call.
Wow! He has put it very well. A good Christian should not talk about those parts in the Bible that show how wrong the Bible is or how capricious and nasty God is. A good Christian keeps these things in the dark from non-believers so that they can be lured into the faith. If you show them these things, they will of course reject the faith. That's basically what the writer is saying. Good Lord! He makes Christianity seem like a scam!!!

As you can see, nobody gave me a single plausible argument in favour of their homophobic stand. They say gays are wrong, homosexuality is wrong, gay relationships are sinful but they are unable to justify their stand. I'll tell you why homosexuality is wrong. We happen to be straight. We are married and have families of our own. We aren't gay. So homosexuality must be wrong because what we are not is what we must condemn. That's homophobia in a nutshell.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why I Excoriate the Speak Good English Movement

I have never corrected anyone's language in my entire life. I see it as rude and discourteous to tell someone his speech or writing is shoddy and ungrammatical. The only people I have bothered to correct are my kids but that's my fatherly duty. But when I come across someone who arrogates to himself the right and authority to tell others that they are grammatically wrong, my hackles rise. If this self-appointed grammarian-wannabe is wrong, I will expose his error. I am sure you will agree that morally, I cannot be faulted for this.

I have written more than 20 blog articles about the shocking blunders made by Singapore's Speak Good English Movement. Most of the errors appear in two grammar books that the Movement published or had a hand in the publication. I have listed all the links in my blog on one page so that you can have easy access to them - just click here.

In an earlier blog post, I pointed out serious errors in the Movement's English lessons which appeared on their website. The same errors can be found in the Movement's grammar books.  If you want to read that earlier blog article, please click here.  But what I want to draw your attention to is this little excerpt from that earlier blog article:

Do you see how careful I was not to accuse the Movement falsely? I said I didn't think I was unkind if I held the Movement fully accountable for this mistake.

And I was certainly not unkind. This morning, like most Saturday mornings, I was listlessly surfing the net when I chanced upon a formal speech made by the Chairman of the Speak Good English Movement. I'm not in the habit of reading whole speeches on a Saturday morning and I didn't read the entire speech.  But my eyes happened to rest on this sentence and I spotted the same error that I had corrected months ago in the above excerpt. The Chairman was speaking about Singaporeans who could code-switch from Standard English to Singlish when in the company of Singlish speakers and then he wanted to relate a personal story. From my own observation, those who are not very comfortable with speaking grammatical English will usually expose their linguistic deficiencies when they attempt to recount a personal tale. The Movement's Chairman exhibited the same weakness when he told his personal story:
"I admit that I used to codeswitch when I spoke to those whom I thought cannot speak good English."            
For the full text of the speech, please click here.  NOTE: The link no longer works. The full speech now appears in this link: click here.

There are really two grammatical errors in that one sentence but I will just talk about the who/whom confusion.  The Chairman made precisely the same who/whom mistake as the writer of that incredibly flawed grammar book. What I wrote months ago in that excerpt to address the error of the writer of that grammar book is relevant and applicable to the Chairman's error. So when I said I would hold the Speak Good English Movement accountable for that error, I was not wrong at all. This is evidence that the Chairman of the Movement is himself in error on precisely the same grammatical point.

I'm writing this post for two reasons. A friend recently told me that I should be careful not to pick on off-the-cuff statements made by the Movement's committee members and if I wanted to criticise their language, I should look at their formal speeches.  This is a formal speech and it's also printed on their website. My other reason for writing this is to vindicate myself for having held the Movement accountable for the who/whom error in their grammar book. I was right to lay the blame at their door. And of course I hope this would put one more nail in the Movement's coffin.

I know a few of the people in the Movement and I'm not exaggerating when I say that they are really lovely people who are sincere in what they are doing. I have never questioned their goodness, selflessness, honour and integrity which are absolutely unimpeachable.  But I am firmly of the view, and I've said this many times before, that the Movement is not equipped to perform the Herculean task of being a watchdog over the nation's language. We don't need a watchdog in the first place.  Singaporeans speak and write very good English and from the evidence I have shown so far in more than 20 blog posts, many of us are probably far more knowledgeable about English grammar than even the key members of the Committee.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

On Homosexuality and Bastardy

Last week saw some tension between the gay and lesbian community and a group of religious people just as the gay community held their annual Pink Dot Day in celebration of their right to love. Some Christians, notably Lawrence Khong the pastor of Faith Community Baptist Church and his followers were dead opposed to the celebration on the basis that the Bible forbids homosexual unions. But of course, in multi-religious Singapore, you don't bring in the Bible when you oppose something forbidden by the Bible. You talk about broader issues like the family. Khong claimed he was lobbying for the sanctity of the family institution ie he was "pro-family" while he presumably looked upon the gay and lesbian community as "anti-family".

As a devout Christian and one who has served the church for as long as I can remember, I am of course aware of a number of my fellow Christians, particularly the conservative ones, who are opposed to the gay lifestyle. But the fact is most of us don't even think of homosexuality because it's so far removed from us.  Most of us have families of our own and if I have not met a friend for ages and I happen to bump into him one day, he will most likely ask me how many kids I have. It's the same with friends I'm familiar with. We don't talk about gays and their lifestyle any more than we would talk about heterosexuals and our lifestyle. Nobody talks about homosexuality, at least not in my circle. It's a non-issue.

It is for this reason that  I find it puzzling that Lawrence Khong is so different from the average heterosexual man; his mind is always revolving round the subject of homosexuality and his extreme opposition to it.

Last weekend, I saw many postings on Facebook on the Pink Dot celebration by my friends who are gay . What should be a joyous celebration for them turned out to be a little tense because of the opposition from Lawrence Khong. But I must confess that it didn't affect me much because I was not one of those who were going to the Pink Dot celebration. I could see how annoyingly unjust Lawrence Khong was, how lacking in love he was portraying himself to be but I have seen enough in this world so that I was not particularly disturbed by his display of hate. And of course it meant nothing to me. These things mean nothing to most of us because we are essentially selfish people and if an injustice does not affect us, we don't really bother.

But then I read some of the postings of my gay friends and I could see the bitterness they felt. Lawrence Khong's remarks reminded some of them of the playground bullying that they had suffered as kids and possibly, throughout most of their adolescent years.

A Muslim teacher told his followers to wear white to protest against the Pink Dot celebration where participants traditionally wear pink. Lawrence Khong seized the opportunity to ask his own followers to wear white in solidarity with the Muslim teacher. But of course the Muslim teacher ignored Khong totally. He was only addressing his own Muslim followers and he was not going to form an alliance with Khong whose idea of marriage and family is hugely different from his. But undeterred, Khong ordered his entire church to wear white the following day as a mark of protest against gays and lesbians. And his followers did just that on the Sunday following the Pink Dot celebration.

Lawrence Khong posing in white with his followers as a protest 
against homosexuality and the Pink Dot celebration.

It was only after I had read some of the posts of my gay friends that I understood how they felt. And I started thinking.  Most heterosexuals don't feel strongly about this incident because homosexuality is so rare and very few of us know how a gay person truly feels. However much we try to empathise with them, we can't really understand how they feel.

After some thought, I stumbled upon an excellent analogy that will help most of us to try to understand how unjust this opposition against homosexuality is. I will pick the analogy of illegitimacy or bastardy (as the King James Bible calls it).  This is a very good analogy and, I hope, one that Lawrence Khong will understand better because he has a grandson who is illegitimate.

The analogy is also not too far-fetched because there was a time when the world made life really difficult for illegitimate children and their families.

Before I begin, let me make it clear that I have nothing against illegitimate children. To me, an illegitimate child is no different from a child of happily married parents and is no different from a gay child or a child from gay parents. But the world used to be so opposed to illegitimate children that I can't even find a suitable word for them that does not have bad connotations. "Illegitimate" itself is a word fraught with judgment. "Bastards" which the Bible uses is much worse. "Children born out of wedlock" is a bit too long and does have a tinge of disapproval. Perhaps I should call such a child a "love child" which is the most neutral term available.

Now, the Bible has this to say about love children:

A bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; 
even to his tenth generation shall he not enter into the congregation of the LORD. (Dt 23:2)

The Word of God tells us that God cuts out the bastard. But that's not all. The Bible cuts out not just the bastard but his descendants up to the tenth generation!!!  Just think about that.

In a society where everyone enters the congregation of the Lord, to be cut out from it is unthinkable. And it's not even your fault for being born to unmarried parents. Nobody will marry you because the descendants up to the tenth generation cannot enter the congregation of the Lord.  Even in the New Testament, a person who is cast out of the faith is called a "bastard" as opposed to a child of God which is the term used for someone who is within the faith. See Heb 12:8.  This opposition to a love child pervades the entire Bible, both the Old and New Testaments.

Supposing a church decides to follow the Word of God literally and casts out all illegitimate children from their midst. Supposing many churches do that and these illegitimate children decide to hold a Grey Dot celebration to express love for one another and to celebrate their lives as love children.  Supposing Lawrence Khong protests and gets his entire church to wear t-shirts with a large B crossed out (as a symbol of saying NO! to bastardy).  How do you think you would feel if you were born of unwed parents?

Of course a church that excludes illegitimate children in multi-religious Singapore will not refer to Deuteronomy 32. They will probably say they are pro-family and bastardy is in fact anti-family. It encourages people to fornicate before marriage and this will tear at the fabric of society. But if we follow God's word and exclude bastards from the Congregation, potential fornicators will hesitate to do the deed because the consequences on their children are dire should they be born out of wedlock. So, an argument can be made that those who follow God's word on how to treat bastards are really pro-family and those who give any support to bastards are anti-family.

If it's very hard for me to find it in my heart to treat illegitimate children in this way or in any way less than legitimate children, it should be equally hard for me to treat the gay and lesbian community differently from heterosexuals.

To be fair to Lawrence Khong, he is exemplary in his love and devotion to his illegitimate grandson and you can't find a better grandfather to take over his role. He treats his daughter who is the unwed mother with the undying love of a doting father and she continues to be his partner in the magic shows that they stage. Yes, he is the pastor of his independent church but he's also a professional magician.  Both his daughter and grandson are well-accepted in his church and absolutely nobody discriminates against them.

What I find hard to understand is if Khong can be so charitable to his daughter who committed the sin of fornication (punishable with death by stoning in the Old Testament) and who gave birth to a bastard (who must be excluded from God's congregation if you follow the Word of God), why can't he extend the same love to our gay and lesbian friends?  I know Khong will say he loves everyone including gays but he just hates the lifestyle. But that's disingenuous.  How can you say you love the gay person but hate his lifestyle, especially when the lifestyle is intrinsically a part of his biological makeup and is his very essence and being?

It's easy for us to love our own families.  But Christian love is not a love that should only be confined to our immediate families. We who look to Jesus as our Lord should strive to extend our love a little more.