Saturday, April 25, 2009

Let's be AWARE... and use some common sense

I have been following the AWARE saga that has created more awareness (or maybe kaypoh-ness) in Singapore about women's issues in 2 weeks than probably in the past 2 years. I didn't intend to blog about it. Afterall, mine is not a political or civil rights blog.

But there's one thing about the whole ruckus that bothered me deeply on a personal level enough for me to put my fingers to the keyboard. This was succinctly summed up by a writer to today's Straits Times forum: "The tragedy is that two innocent groups will be the real losers: women and Christians." This is true no matter what the eventual outcome of this battle is. And even though I'm on the side of the old guard for many reasons, this alone would have been reason enough.

Because of what this group led by Thio Su Mien and Josie Lau has initiated, the image of women has suffered an irreparable rift. "You see? Women can't get along with each other!" seems to be the predominant sentiment. For over 20 years, AWARE and other advocacy groups have fought hard to empower women in a whole gamut of domains - education, work, marriage, relationships, etc. Now all these very important issues have been buried beneath the trivialisation of women and their cattiness.

As for Christianity, I'm sometimes amazed that when it comes to religion, even the most intelligent individual can display such a lack of common sense. The entire debate now seems to centre around whether AWARE is pro-gay. AWARE has already stated categorically it supports ALL women and that includes lesbians, that neutral-gay is not the same as pro-gay. But people are still nervous. And the idea that it goes out to "recruit" young girls to be lesbians? I mean, seriously!

Anyway, you've probably all read the debate and arguments flying about so I won't go into them. We can argue all we want, to me, I'm just vexed that Christianity is the loser. The new guard claims it is not doing this out of their Christian values but I don't buy it ("oh, we just all happen to come from the same church!" Come on.) But whether they are or not, that is beside the point. In the public's eye, they represent Christians. And unfortunately, their behaviour has been so far from godly that if their original intent was to "save" young girls, I'm afraid they have probably already pushed thousands of souls further away from God.

Yesterday, I wrote on my Facebook status in frustration: "Monica Lim is sick and tired of people invoking Christ's name and then engaging in deceit, hypocrisy and bullying. They're not doing themselves, others... and God any favours." Tolerance is not the same as compromise. AWARE is a secular organisation - it has every right to take a stand that is in accordance with its constitution, that all people should be treated equal, regardless of sexual inclination. Now, as a Christian, the Bible tells us homosexuality is wrong. We are free to believe that. But that doesn't entitle us to take over the runnings of a secular organisation that teaches otherwise just so we can change it to our liking. Common sense!

I will never claim to be the person closest to God. Some people may say I'm not as fervent as the next Christian because I don't go up the MRT and preach the gospel to anyone who happens to sit next to me. But here's what my common sense tells me: at the end of the day, Christianity is about saving the lost and loving thy neighbour. When we leave this earth, we will be judged by how well we've done both. And if by shoving the gospel into people's faces, you alienate them, make them hostile and turn them AWAY from Christ, I don't care how good your intentions are, you have failed. Common sense. Instead, I will try (the operative word being 'try') to live my life as sincere, honest and Christ-like as I possibly can and yes, I will try to love my neighbours in words and deeds (even though sometimes I feel like throttling them!)

Here's what Josie Lau and company have done - spout moral superiority, seize control using surprise tactics, spread propaganda, claim martyrdom. Sounds familiar? No, it's not Christianity at all. And I certainly do not want my children learning that as Christians, they have the right to impose their beliefs on others via under-handed tactics.

Let's love God, love our neighbour... and exercise some common sense.

*I know this is a controversial topic, these are my views on the implications of the saga. I will not publish any inflammatory or adversarial comments.


JJ said...

i hope that the new committee will NOT one day decide that only abused christian women will receive help from their organisation. or those who would convert to christianity.

AWARE must remain a secular organisation open to women of any race, language, religion and sexual orientation. - kjj

Alcovelet said...

I started off being neutral about this saga, but reading on, there are too many contradictions that stick out to make anyone feel sick. This "we don't know each other" statement must be a bald faced lie because of the remarkable fact that so many come from the same church. Yet, these "Christians" think it's ok to lie. The firing of the staff at Aware for insubordination is alright too, although Josie Lau herself defied DBS twice. All these "promoting homosexuality" talk is because Aware promotes tolerance?

Monica, this new group isn't about converting other people to their religious cause. It's about drawing a line in the sand to dictate to others what is "good" and what is "bad" (got backing by God, they claim), and then saying - "See how good I am? I'm willing to fight for these too. I'm SUPERIOR!!"

Sounds like the Taliban to me!

Alcovelet said...

Expanding on my last point, this whole thing has nothing to do with religion, so let's not give Christians a bad name. It's about human nature and the tendency towards egotism and superiority. The reality is, some people see a structure (or the possibility of a structure within an old organization) and go about exploiting it for their own selfish means. They're ruthless because they feel they can hang it on some righteous justification. Don't they know everyone can see right through them?

monlim said...

Ad: I hear your anger and I'm glad you can make the difference between Christianity and what some Christians claim to do for God. But many others won't be able to and they will just use this instance to label all Christians as intolerant and self-righteous. And they are as angry as you feel! That's where I feel sad.

ladybird said...

When it comes to religions, things usually turn v ugly and complicated. We should always be sensitive to people around us (esp to those with diff beliefs)and never impose our opinions onto others( which is also rude to do so). The image of Christianity will not be dampened just because of AWARE case as Singaporean are sensible enough to know what's right and what's not. Anyway, I enjoy reading your blog esp topics regarding parenting and education. After reading your view regarding AWARE, I am glad to find out tt you are a very pleasant Christian who people are comfortable to associate with. Keep up with the good work.

elan said...

Hi Mon,
I finally have to disagree with you on this one.Let me state that I do not know any of these ladies at all.

The new EXCO of AWARE never said they were running as Christans or that they were taking over for God or as Christians. They have stated that they know AWARE is a secular organisation and they simply wanted to turn it back on the middle ground and not in the pro-gay direction that it was heading to.
It was the old exco and their friends in the media who dug up these nuggets about them being Christians from the same church - whether to demonise the new exco, to try to force them out or for to sensationalise the story.
They come from a big church, I find it quite believable that they did not know each other before.
It is rather unfair to accuse them of lying without any proof. I have attended the same church with 500 members for 6 years and there are still many people that I do not know and have been recently surprised to find are even in my same profession!
I find it sad that the gay movement has so insidiously penetrated public consciousness that it is now so politically incorrect for Christians to state their belief that they feel homosexuality is wrong (even when many secular people and other religions feel the same way) that it has become a case of reverse discrimination against Christians.

Just because you are a Christian and pro-traditional family values, you are now discriminated against and not allowed to be in an exco of a feminist organisation?

monlim said...

Elan: It's fine to disagree, that's what healthy debate is all about!

Thanks for your views. I agree that it's fine to state your belief and be pro-family. My quarrel with the new exco is simply the way they went about it. If they had attended the meetings as members, raised their concerns, I'm pretty sure they would have had a lot of support on their side since I think most Singaporeans are still conservative on this matter. Then if there was disagreement and they stood for elections thereafter, nobody would fault the process.

But it was the way they took control, via secrecy and stealth tactics, that made their intentions suspect and go against the very values that they claim to stand for.

To me, the intent is critical here - whether it's to preserve the moral values of these young girls (remember there is still no proof that the old guard is pro-gay) or whether it's simply prejudice and homophobia. One is based on the doctrine of love and the other the doctrine of hate. Based on Thio Su Mien's dismissive remarks about lesbians so far, I strongly suspect it's the latter.

But one thing I personally don't support is this crusade against Josie Lau with cancelling DBS credit cards, etc. That's just mean and petty.

monlim said...

I hope people will be discerning when they read all kinds of claims on the internet. Always verify the source. For info, here's the latest reply by MOE regarding AWARE's sex education programme.

Anonymous said...

Mon, I read your MOE reply....but later I also read this:

Then as a parent, my concern magnified a thousand folds.


monlim said...

QX: Don't understand your first bit, I didn't write to MOE leh... I hear your concern. Personally, I feel that part of the problem is that homosexuality has been so taboo in our society that it is hard to take an impassive view of it (no matter which side we may be on).

I agree there may be people who are trying to sway society into being more accepting of gays purely for their own agendas, just as there are people who will try to sway sentiment against it because of prejudice. As mentioned in an earlier comment, as Christians, we have to be discerning as to whether people are championing causes motivated by love or by hate, because that makes all the difference.

As parents, we can't demonise an organisation because it holds secular values. Our children live in this world, these are the values they will be exposed to. That's why ultimately, it is our responsibility to teach our children on the Christian values we uphold.

As for the furor over the sex ed programme, I suspect parents sometimes want the school to raise their kids for them, ie you do the sex ed but in the way I want. For me, I think parents have a large part to play in sex ed and instil our own beliefs in our kids. And if we really don't like it, MOE has already said we are free to opt out.

Anyway, I think MOE has already said it will look at the allegations, so that's some action being taken there (and should have been the action to begin with, instead of this unnecessary fiasco).

Anonymous said...

Mon: Sorry to be unclear in my sentence. I mean I have read the MOE response link you have provided for us to understand the clarification that MOE has made on this CSE programme.

I also understand your point about the ugly fiasco which I also find it unnecessary but because of emotional views aroused by the media, most of us have lost the actual issues and focused on the usurping point. In any dispute as severe as this, no party is less guilty than the other in my opinion so I would prefer to remain "neutral" to their squabbles. And this neutral is truly neutral. LOL... In other words, at the end, whoever emerge the winner is totally immaterial to me.

However, I am keen to know how MOE can approve the CSE programme without pegging it to a value system programme. A value system can be independent of religion, eg. All schools have values pegged to their mission like responsibility etc and they are not based on religion. Before having a religion, I learn my value system from my school because my parents were busy trying to make ends meet at home with a busload of children.

While I totally agree that teaching values is a function of responsible parents, we cannot oversimplify the impact of education bodies as there is always a group of people who do not have the luxury of getting this from their parents like orphans, single-parent children, or simply children with irresponsible parents or uneducated parents. So what decision the school or MOE makes for the CSE programme is still important for this group of children.

Personally, given current content and approach for CSE, I will opt out for my child but I do not believe that many children have such a choice of home education in this subject so the programme has to be more responsibly delivered for the mass. Just my 2 cts as a parent only.

Also, I do not disagree with your views of the AWARE issue as you have made some valid points but I choose to defocus on that and look at the impact on my child instead which has a direct practical impact on me.
Hope I don't come across self-centred and not care about social issues in general :P


monlim said...

QX: We're parents mah, of course our concerns over our children always come first! Anyway, we can agree to disagree lah, isn't that what democracy is all about?

I'm sure enough parents have made noise to warrant action from MOE, maybe it could be solved by something as simple as making the language in the sex ed programme more conservative without being prescriptive on religious values. Or maybe cop out and say "with regards to this issue, go home and ask your parents" :P

monlim said...

QX: not sure if you have read this piece, it has been circulating. I think it's an excellent call of action to heal the rifts created by this whole saga and to re-focus on what is really important for both Christians and non-Christians.

Anonymous said...

Yes Mon I agree at this juncture, this is probably one of the best way to resolve this issue. In life, it is not always about obvious blatant victory. (Think they never read Sun Tze Art of war..LOL) Sometimes taking a step back in a stalmate situation looks more of a victorious winner than to war head-on. They also have to redeem themselves for acting impulsive and blur the visions of many. Hope they see the light if they are genuine in wanting to drive positive changes.

I personally subscribe to this fact that negative energy cannot drive positive changes.

Thanks for sharing more info. :)


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