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.
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.