A Christian Solution to the AWARE Conundrum

May 1, 2009

This essay, the sequel to “Christians Against AWARE Takeover!”, first appeared as a Facebook note early on May Day 2009, the eve of AWARE‘s Extraordinary General Meeting. It was promptly reproduced on influential websites such as The Wayang Party, The Online Citizen, Sgpolitics.net, and The Singapore Daily and blogs such as God in Cyberspace, Little People Press, Scholar at Large, Mathia Lee ~ Plans and Preoccupations, and New Asia Republic. This contributed to my mention in a notorious satirical video (WARNING: strong language!) at the time. The note was also mailed to AWARE’s executive committee then.

This is a follow-up to my earlier note. After posting it, I received — and am still receiving — words of thanks and encouragement from many Christians and people with different beliefs and opinions. The Christians specifically said that it was what they needed to hear or would have liked to get across themselves.

But I have also received less appreciative messages. Some of these charged me with having sown discord and embarrassed Christianity in front of non-believers. The irony did not escape me, but then I began to wonder whether I did make one too many assumptions. These comments were probably knee-jerk reactions, meaning that some Christians may actually not have thought it possible that other Christians, a whole lot of us, could be this appalled with the episode.

For this reason, as a brother-in-Christ, I feel that I need to believe that the new ex-co’s sadness over its negative reception and its willingness to heal the social rifts it caused are genuine. There has already been too much distrust, and somewhere trust has to re-begin. My appeal for non-support is not about humiliating or condemning any group of individuals on either side. Those who have hoped that I came out in strong condemnation of one, emailing me links to sex education and “the gay agenda”, or in clear support of the other, initially mistitling my view as “supporting the Old Guard”, know that I won’t.

This is not being wishy-washy; it is staying focussed. The simple disagreement is with a course of action pursued by a group of Christians that has caused suspicion between communities and fear within each. If everyone is to set aside his or her own fixation — gay, anti-gay, faith in practice, fundamentalism, etc. — and trace back to the source of our current unhappiness, he or she will see that it all started with a single fateful decision. One ought not then to doubt that these Christians intend good from their point of view, but one has every reason to doubt that things could be restored and relationships healed by going down the same road.

As the party involved is Christian, the most amicable solution may well also be the most obvious. In fact, how could we not have seen it? We Christians believe in a God who gives every person second chances in life. Every chance after the first two is still the second: that’s how gracious we believe He is! When one makes a mistake or realises that one has followed a bad choice, there is no shame in admitting wrong, so long as one is sincere about changing. The choice to turn back is never a Christian defeat; it is our triumph!

Indeed, paradoxically in this situation, one can also only move on, move forward, by going backwards to the point where the wrong choice was made and choose rightly this time. This is a versatile truth I learnt from C. S. Lewis a long time ago. If the new ex-co will, without contest, give up its seats for a more inclusive shape of leadership in AWARE, it will have regained, I dare say, the faith of many Singaporeans and the admiration and support of every Christian in full measure. These individuals can then go on to pursue in earnest their concern over homosexual teaching in schools and related issues with the right authorities. I want to believe that everyone in that later business will be cooperative and respect the eventual findings, whatever the outcome is.

If the AWARE Christians in current leadership and those gearing up to vote tomorrow will choose this infinitely less harmful route, they will have made us all who are Christians proud of them. Do consider the option seriously: it is as practical and as Christian as it can get. Realise that fellow believers like me who are outraged want peace too and have been praying for it. But, when it comes to making peace a reality, only specific individuals are able to effect it. The ball is in their court alone. We can all avoid a confrontation. We can stun the nation with one simple move that affirms love, faith, and hope, all at once.

Yours Truly,

Gwee Li Sui

This essay, credited with having helped to turn the tides against the Christian hijackers of AWARE, a women’s advocacy group in Singapore, first appeared as a Facebook note on 29 April 2009. It was swifly reproduced on influential websites such as The Wayang Party (now The Temasek Review), The Online Citizen, sgpolitics.net, PLURAL, and Singapore Daily and numerous blogs: God in Cyberspace, Scholar at Large, Mathia Lee ~ Plans and Preoccupations, Garry Blogs, and Choosing My Own Adventure, to name a few. 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?” On Facebook alone, it has gathered the support of over 1,000 people to date. We have all helped to save that day!

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