ST Online Forum: S'poreans need to be more historically conscious and reflective in debate on (Jul 21)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

July 21, 2007

S'poreans need to be more historically conscious and reflective in debate on

DR ANDY Ho's article, 'The homosexual debate: Let the religious have their

say too' (ST, July 19), takes the stance that religious arguments should be
permitted to enter into the realm of public and legal discourse, in a spirit
of 'friendliness' '.
This position is problematic. 'Friendliness' involves mutual courtesy, which
is not the stance taken by most right-wing religious groups when it comes to
the gay debate.

Is it possible for a gay person to sit down and have a discussion with a
conservative Christian who has labelled him as an 'abomination' ?

Two more crucial points need to be registered. Firstly, those religious
persons who are most vocal in their opposition to granting gay people any
social space have shouted down more moderate voices within their own
religious constituencies.

One might compare this to the radicalisation of Islam in the Middle East -
alternative views within the same religion are given no credence, and the
extreme position (that violence and terrorism are acceptable expressions of
'faith' in the case of radicalised Islam, and that homosexuality is a social
evil in this case) comes to be regarded as the benchmark of orthodoxy.

Religions in Singapore - Christianity in particular - thus need to be more
self-reflexive about how they have arrived at particular positions on social
issues. There is, after all, no agreement on the issue of homosexuality
within the global Anglican communion, yet the Singaporean Anglican
leadership is firmly on the conservative side.

If the prejudice of a small number of church leaders dictates the overall
position of their congregation, then should that prejudice be allowed to

Secondly, religions have been wrong on issues before. Global Christianity
has, in the past, drawn on scriptural passages to support the practice of
slavery. Churches, too, were silent on the issue and practice of apartheid.

History has much to teach us. Religions have long been complicit or even
active in the oppression of minority groups, especially when they are the
religions practised by a powerful majority. They gain much from doing so -
by identifying a minority group that they can pinpoint as 'sinful' or as
somehow 'other', they build group solidarity.

The same spirit that condoned racial exploitation today rears its ugly head
in condemning homosexuality.

Such voices should doubtless be allowed to participate in public discourse,
but Singaporeans need to be more historically conscious and reflective, when
it comes to trusting these voices.

Dominic Chua Kuan Hwee