ST Online Forum: Historical facts used to bolster argument should be used fully and accurately, not selectively (Jul 26)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

July 26, 2007

Historical facts used to bolster argument should be used fully and
accurately, not selectively

I REFER to Mr Dominic Chua's letter, 'S'poreans need to be more historically conscious and reflective in debate on homosexuality" (Online forum, July 21) In cautioning others to be 'more historically conscious and reflective" when it comes to trusting religious voices, one would expect the writer himself to live up to what he advocates. However, he fails in this as his own letter is lacking in historical awareness and reflection.

To support his argument that religions (especially Christianity) have been wrong on issues, the writer states that '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".

It is true that the Church has at times been complicit in failing to challenge slavery and apartheid but this stems from a failure to live up to the teachings of Jesus Christ, including the tenet that 'there is neither slave nor free", as all men are equal in God's sight.

However, when Christians do live up to the teachings of Christ, they bring liberty and blessing to society. If the writer wishes to invoke history as a basis for argument, he should at least provide a complete and accurate account of such events.

It is unfair and misleading to state that Christians have supported slavery and were silent on apartheid without mentioning the major role that Christians subsequently played in the abolition of slavery and apartheid. The historical record demonstrates that Christians like William Wilberforce
led the anti-slavery movement; in nearer times, Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu opposed apartheid, motivated by biblical teachings that oppose racism as, with the Fatherhood of God, comes the brotherhood of man.

History indeed has much to teach us and shows that religion has been, and can be, a powerful force for beneficial social reform. Like secular philosophies such as fascism and communism, religion can also be misused and bring human misery. Fair commentators would point this out.

Everyone is entitled to participate in public discourse, but where historical facts are relied on in public debate, these should be presented fully and accurately, not selectively. Otherwise, half-truths will distort and undermine public debate.

Mr Chua's call for Singaporeans to be more historically conscious, to know the facts and to fairly present the whole truth, is, as demonstrated by the deficiencies in his own article, clearly justified.

Soh Chai Lih (Miss)