Christians against AWARE Takeover!

April 29, 2009

This essay was credited with having helped to turn the tide against the Christian hijackers of AWARE, an established women’s advocacy group in Singapore. It first appeared as a Facebook note on 29 April 2009, mere days before the organisation’s Extraordinary General Meeting. The message was swifly reproduced on influential websites such as The Wayang Party, The Online Citizen, Sgpolitics.net, PLURALThe Singapore Daily, New Asia Republic, and numerous blogs: God in Cyberspace, Little People Press, Scholar at Large, Mathia Lee ~ Plans and Preoccupations, Mr Wang Says SoGarry BlogsChoosing My Own Adventure, etc. It was also cited in The Straits Times in “Churches Should Stay Out of AWARE Tussle” and “Should Faith-Driven Groups Take Over Secular Organisations?” It contributed to my mention in a notorious satirical video (WARNING: strong language!) at the time. On Facebook alone, the note has gathered the support of over 1,000 people to date. We all helped to save the day!

Christians in Singapore, listen! You should not be this conflicted about the AWARE debacle. It appears that a few churches have already taken the opportunity to preach on the issue of homosexuality from the pulpit. Some Christians have also been rattling on about it being time to make a stand and be counted for what one truly believes.

So this is me making a stand right here. I have been a Bible-believing Christian for 25 years now. I want first to acknowledge fellow believers who, like me, are shocked, angered, and saddened by the takeover and feel that their faith has been hijacked and their views ignored. I know that a lot of such affected Christians are out there. There is also another group which may not agree with the new team’s tactics but admires its fervour or sympathises with it for the heat it has been getting.

But, most of all, I want to address a crucial third party: Christian women who have been encouraged to stand up and be counted for their beliefs. I wish to appeal to their good sense in these last hours. You may be one of these and have even joined, or are planning to join, AWARE to help swing the votes in favour of the new ex-co on Saturday. Especially if I am describing you, please read on!

Yes, there are times when a Christian needs to make a courageous stand – but, in every event, always ask yourself: For what cause is this? What context does it serve? The current scenario is not one where we are being asked what our beliefs on certain issues are or whether Christianity and homosexuality are compatible or we are being mocked or discriminated against. It is a simple context where a group of well-meaning Christians infiltrated a secular organisation in order to be in a position to dictate their own values in its daily running. In this light, what a Christian may feel about issues like homosexuality is besides the point!

As a secular body, AWARE rightly cannot have a vision that treats women from different backgrounds through the outlook of just one religious system. Indeed, I dare say that an appropriate Christian response is to resist the actions of these Christians. Just as God gave every person free choice and the opportunity to believe, we ought to support the sanctity of this right for others to make up their own minds and live their own lives. Just as we do not force the Christian faith down someone’s throat against his or her will, we should not take over a non-religious organisation for the single purpose of making others unlike us behave as we believe. To do this would be a gross misapplication of the message of Jesus.

If you support the new ex-co’s actions, be aware that you are sending a string of possibly irreversible wrong signals to every Singaporean. Consider carefully whether you are willing to shoulder the responsibility of damages that would affect the longstanding good work of Christians in Singapore. Since the government has chosen not to be involved in the matter so far, whatever happens will be seen clearly by all as the response of particular sectors of society.

Here is my short list of obvious implications:

[1] Support the new ex-co, and you are effectively saying that you condone its quasi-corporate act of infiltration, with related strategies of secrecy, disinformation, moral coercion, and fear-mongering. You are saying that you support its less-than-Christian covert moves more than traditionally Christian ones like dialogue, open engagement, honesty, and clarity.

[2] Support the new ex-co, and we will go down a slippery road with wide-ranging repercussions for all. Don’t believe for a moment that the manoeuvring will stop here. What this invites others to see is that infiltration is the most effective way for small groups of like-minded individuals to seize power quickly — and where will this end? What is to stop any religious or ideological group from doing the same to any social institution at every level? In the long run, who do you think loses?

[3] Support the new ex-co, and you potentially make light of the freedom that is God’s gift to every human being. Against your best intentions, you may send out instead the message that we Christians think that we know better than everyone else and that we are willing to outflank, overpower, and overwhelm if we do not get our way.

[4] Support the new ex-co, and, if they stay and behave as predicted, you will be directly responsible for undoing the trust that many Christians have taken years to build with their non-Christian friends. This is a trust built on mutual respect. You will have made the Gospel of Christ more difficult to hear for years to come because people will think that they know what it is about. You will have created a new generation of Christ-haters.

This matter, in short, is not to be treated lightly. Jesus tells us all to be “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”. There are times to be passionate and helpful in a gungho way, but this is not the time. Christians can be wrong about many things too. So please, by all means, pray for the AWARE debacle to be resolved amicably and for Christians in AWARE, but do not, in the name of our common faith, go in blind support of other Christians because you are Christian!

Yours Truly,

Gwee Li Sui

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