Defunct Creakings of a Cog

A Response to Lim Yu-Beng’s “God’s will and State law: A dangerous mix”

I refer to the commetary which the actor Lim Yu-Beng wrote for the Today News located here in response to Pastor Khong’s statement to our former Prime Minister Goh Gheok Tong.

I find it astonishing that before he begins his consideration of Pastor Khong’s points he should disclaim debating “Pastor Kong’s interpretation of his religious beliefs”. In which part of the statement did Pastor Khong set forth an interpretation of his religious beliefs? Not a single word about his faith or religion was actually mentioned in that statement, except of freedom of religion.

Therefore to go on to say that, “I do, however, question his right to impose those interpretations on others through legislation.” is fallacious. He did not even give an interpretation of his religious beliefs in that statement, even less recommend the imposition of it on others through legislation.

Perhaps what Mr Lim is questioning Pastor Khong’s internal motives for making his statement.  But then again, how on earth is Mr Lim supposed to divine Pastor Khong’s motives? And even if Pastor Khong’s arguments are motivated by religious reasons, what exactly is wrong with that? Pastor Khong, for example, might believe that God institutes governments to restrain bodily violence, does it follow therefore that he has no right to argue for the crimininalisation of assaults and murders based on civic public reasons? To “impose” his belief upon murderers and thugs?

It is a logical fallacy to leap from Pastor Khong’s internal motives, to misreading his statements as a “religious interpretation”, to dismissing his actual arguments. Mr Lim should be engaging with Pastor Khong’s actual text, not reading his own meaning into it. This is a red herring and unnecessarily colours and misleads the readers into thinking that Pastor Khong’s entire statement was an exercise in theological argumentation when it is actually nothing of that sort.

Mr Lim’s further argument that “Nobody is making it compulsory for [Pastor Khong] to be gay. Why should he want it compulsory for others to be straight?” is once more a distortion of Pastor Khong’s words. Where did Pastor Khong said that legislations were making it compulsory for people to be gay? What Pastor Khong did say is that it leads to the taking away of the right of parents to how they want to educate their children in matters of sexual morality and the freedom to speak concerning one’s religious convictions about homosexuality. And examples of these in the West can be found via a simple Google search.

Why did Mr Lim go on to speculate as to “Perhaps Pastor Khong’s basis for the desire to stamp out homosexuality via legislation is the Biblical verses which list homosexuality as precluding entry into the Kingdom of God”, while completely ignoring what did Pastor Khong actually say about the family unit being foundational to society?

I continue to be amazed at the leaps of logic which Mr Lim makes, how on earth does the mere “use of LoveSingapore in order to further [Pastor Khong] views” lead to the impression that “Religious groups have the right to impose their will upon state legislature, at the expense of other groups.”? Isn’t it astounding that Mr Lim would see the mere airing of views to be equivalent to imposition of their will upon state legislature? Isn’t Mr Lim here simply confirming what Pastor Khong wrote about how activism for homosexuality would lead to a censure of views of those who disagree, because the mere airing of a contrary view is equivalent to an imposition of their will upon state legislature, and therefore is a no-no?

The following paragraphs about “religious groups” and “scriptural arguments”, etc, are once more fallacious and has nothing to do with what Pastor Khong actually said and his actual arguments about the arrangement of civic society around the family unit, etc. Hardly a religious argument. The only way Mr Lim can make his argument is to censure Pastor Khong’s motivations, as opposed to his public reasons and justifications, etc. But unless he wants to censure Pastor Khong’s conscience and internal thoughts (an even more dangerous territory to intrude!), I am at a loss as to what is the significance or point of these argument.

I wonder if Mr Lim realises the implications of what he is saying,

As a firm believer in multireligious, multicultural Singapore, my hope is for peaceful and happy coexistence. As ESM Goh says, people are free to stand by their own beliefs. Nobody has to believe the same thing in order to get along. We can celebrate our differences and cheer on one another’s growth along our own paths.

Mr Lim first says that “Nobody has to believe the same thing in order to get along.” Then he proceeds to “celebration” of differences,  “cheering” on one anther’s growth, etc. But what if, as Pastor Khong might believe, homosexual behaviour is precisely something to be discouraged, socially censured, or religiously condemned? Is Pastor Khong not allowed to habour his belief because it refuses to ‘celebrate’ and ‘cheer’ on what Mr Lim wants? Shall this new orthodoxy of political correctness be imposed on everyone whose beliefs constrains them from celebrating what Mr Lim wants to cheer on?

Ultimately, it is correct that we are a multireligious and multicultural society. However, already the path towards the censure of the freedom of religious adherents to hold to their beliefs, which is what Pastor Khong warned about, has already been mapped out. The mere expression of views is now equated with “imposition”, you can hold to your beliefs, as long as you affirm and celebrate and cheer what we want.

Is this not a short step towards censuring Pastor Khong, and those who likewise agree with him (religious or not), from expressing their “disapproval” of homosexual behaviour? The task of reconciling a multireligious and multicultural society, with its contradictory and conflicting beliefs and views, is not an easy one, but misrepresenting Pastor Khong’s views, as well as fantastic leaps of inference, is surely not the way to advance the discourse. Mr Lim should be interacting with Pastor Khong’s arguments about the family unit and the effects which the normalisation of homosexuality would have upon it, not misleading us with arguments about the Bible which Pastor Khong did not mention.

A much more helpful route would be to discuss and examine the history of the development of the institution of marriage, and the interaction between the religious and secular which leads it to its present form. I have done this at some length here, and I’ve compiled my other writings on the broader topics of homosexuality, marriage, etc, here.

Update: I’ve written a short reflection of what effect the repealing of 377A would have for Singapore, in particular our education system here.

13 comments on “A Response to Lim Yu-Beng’s “God’s will and State law: A dangerous mix”

  1. Chiew York Hun
    January 22, 2013

    You spoke a lot about logic, but common sense is what is sorely needed here. A pastor was speaking. A pastor was speaking from a pulpit. A pastor was speaking from a pulpit to his flock. You must be taking everyone for a fool if you say whatever Khong said had nothing to do with his religion. Then we might as well believe whatever Alex Au said had nothing to do with gay activism.
    Then you flip-flopped, going on to say there’s nothing wrong even if Khong’s speech was motivated by religious reasons, effectively making your first counter-argument irrelevant. But why the flip-flop? I can see no other reason but an attempt to disguise Khong’s views as secular to make them more palatable to non-Christian majority. If honesty is one of the virtues in Christian beliefs, then one should boldly admit that he spoke with religious conviction, he would gain respect even if others didn’t agree with him. (Isn’t there a story about a disciple not acknowledging Jesus in a time of crisis?)
    Now to the point on the criminalisation of assaults and murders. Just because a portion of one’s religious belief happens to agree with secular laws does not give religion the proficiency to interfere with secular laws. Secular laws are above religious beliefs. To say one is imposing his religious belief on murderers and thugs because secular laws criminalise them, is delusional. Secular laws will prosecute murders and thugs regardless what religion believes.
    Does a citizen have the right to air his views on social issues? Of course he does. But when a pastor airs his views from the pulpit and at the same time mobilising other church groups, with the intention of interfering secular affairs, he’s in fact doing more than airing his views. In this manner, he is no different from a politician airing his views during a rally.
    If one is simple minded, then yes he will read everything at face value. Fortunately, most of us are not. Are Khong’s statements a religious interpretation even though he didn’t say it out flatly? Definitely. All his statements were built on the premise that homosexuality is immoral and a sin, according to the Christian beliefs. Take that premise away, ALL his arguments will crumble. That is why Mr Lim said: “I am not here to debate Pastor Kong’s interpretation of his religious beliefs, nor should anybody.”
    I suspect Mr Lim was being polite when he didn’t want to engage Khong’s ridiculous allegations and merely dismissed them as ‘religious interpretations’. For I wouldn’t know how to do so without calling Khong a liar. How does repealing the law lead to negative social changes and destruction of families? Funny you didn’t see this as a leap of logic, perhaps you were making a leap of faith yourself. Religious beliefs need not be factual so people are allowed to believe in any superstitions they want. It’s only pragmatic not to engage someone on the ground of religious beliefs.
    Lastly, is it so hard to understand what Mr Lim said about: “Nobody has to believe the same thing in order to get along. We can celebrate our differences and cheer on one another’s growth along our own paths.”? Simply keep your religious beliefs in where they belong – the place of worship. The Christians don’t believe in many things, from abortion, adultery, gambling, homosexuality to Muslim god, Hindu god; but we don’t need a secular law to ban every one of those.

    • Rubati
      January 22, 2013

      First, it is simply not factually true that he is a pastor speaking “this his flock”. The statement is quite clear that he is addressing our former PM Goh.

      Secondly, I never said that “whatever Khong said had nothing to do with my religion.” You may not like logic, but I do at least ask that you have the courtesy to actually engage what I said instead of projecting alien meanings unto my text.

      Thirdly, I don’t understand where is the “flip-flop” you spoke about. A “flip-flop” is a change in statement, but I never changed my position that we don’t know what are Pastor Khong’s motives. And I even made a point to italics the “if” in “even if”. This is called a conditional or hypothetical. To say, “If it rains I will bring an umbrella”, is not to say that it is raining. Likewise to make an argument based on a hypothetical assumption is not to assert the assumption as true. I realise you hate logic, but I certainly hope that when it comes to judging people’s honestly, the bar for condemnation should be much higher than simple “common sense”.

      Again, I did not say that religion is given the “proficiency to interfere with secular laws”. I would appreciate it if you actually engaged what I said and not project your meanings into my text. What I said was the rhetorical question of, “does it follow therefore that he has no right to argue for the crimininalisation of assaults and murders BASED ON CIVIC PUBLIC REASONS?” Where is the “religion interfering” with secular law here? Whether “secular laws are above religious beliefs” is an entirely debatable question, one which I am not dealing with here.

      As to what a Pastor “intends” to do, again, I maintain that we do not know. And once more, I maintain that we cannot censure people’s thoughts and intentions.

      I don’t know what is this thing about being simple minded, but being complex minded doesn’t necessarily lead to the truth either. The truth is the truth whether discerned by the simple minded or the complex minded. But being complex minded does not therefore make something true. To prove something as true, that would require argumentation and, your much dreaded logic.

      Are Pastor Khong’s statement a religious interpretation? Definitely? Prove it. Show me which part of his statement did he invoke religion or faith to make his argument. His statements are built on the premise, etc. Where is this premise stated? Show it to me. And even if you take his premise of sin and immorality away, it does not follow that “ALL his arguments will crumble”, because his arguments are based on the family unit, etc. Which, like Mr Lim, you’ve not actually engaged.

      And I am not here defending Pastor Khong’s statement, merely refuting Mr Lim’s arguments. To see such a defense, I refer you to another post of mine.

      http://rationalityofaith.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/an-analysis-of-mark-siews-reply/

  2. Chiew York Hun
    January 22, 2013

    Context. Meanings are not derived not just from words but also in the context they are put in. Sure, the statements are addressed to Mr Goh, but they were also spoken from the pulpit, to treat it as if they were being delivered through a private email is just plain dishonest, even though factually correct.

    When words are put together, they may mean more than what they appear to be. “I lost some money. You were the only one near it.” – Even though I didn’t say you are a thief, the meaning is loud and clear. The same goes with whether you actually said Khong’s speech had a religious motivation. (Read:” Not a single word about his faith or religion was actually mentioned in that statement, except of freedom of religion.”)

    On the flip-flop part. You first disagreed that Khong’s speech had a religious undertone, which also carried an implied meaning that having a religious undertone is undesirable. Then later you flip-flop to “And even if Pastor Khong’s arguments are motivated by religious reasons, what exactly is wrong with that?” The line of argument is wrong: it’s like first defending yourself: “what proof do you have that I didn’t pay for the goods”, followed by “oh the goods are free anyway”. If the goods were really free, why did you have to defend yourself in the first place?

    Your original line reads: ” Pastor Khong, for example, might believe that God institutes governments to restrain bodily violence, does it follow therefore that he has no right to argue for the crimininalisation of assaults and murders based on civic public reasons? To “impose” his belief upon murderers and thugs?”
    Again, context. If he believes his God actually institutes the government, then his so-called ‘civic public reasons’ will inevitably be tainted with religious beliefs. In this particular example, it’s a coincidence that the true civic public reasons are not in conflict with his religious beliefs. But that will not always be the case. In such cases, any attempt to influence secular laws to conform to religious beliefs is deemed as ‘interfering’.

    As for logic, I don’t speak it. I apply it.

    So, about Khong’s arguments, let’s see what he said:
    (1) Examples from around the world have shown that the repeal of similar laws have led to negative social changes, especially the breakdown of the family as a basic building block and foundation of the society.
    (2) It takes away the rights of parents over what their children are taught in schools, especially sex education.
    (3) It attacks religious freedom and eventually denies free speech to those who, because of their moral convictions, uphold a different view from that championed by increasingly aggressive homosexual activists

    Now, imagine if the Bible had said: “Homosexuality is wonderful and God adores these few gifted ones.” Coming from a pastor who spoke from his pulpit, which the above arguments would make sense? Replace it with what the Bible actually says: “homosexuality is a sin and abomination.” Look again at his arguments, everything just click into place. Still insists there’s no religious influence? (And I don’t even want to go into the fact there isn’t a shred of truth in these 3 arguments of his.)

  3. X
    January 22, 2013

    Dear York Hun,

    There is nothing wrong with religious leaders of any religion speaking their mind on developments in the any country or state as long as it also concerns their religious beliefs.

    The constitution guarantees an individual’s right to free speech and not just a person’s secular speech. The constitutions also guarantee’s an individual’s right to practice his or her religious beliefs. Therefore, a person is guaranteed the right to speak of his or her beliefs, regardless of whether the beliefs stem from a religious or political source.

    If the above argument is reasonable and accepted, then there should be no disagreement on whether a pastor may speak on affairs of the state which are relevant to his religious beliefs. All the more so if its a matter of public interest where all Singaporeans are affected by.

    Naturally, the proponents of the repeal also have the right to speak and air their views on this matter. Mr Lim has done so, and the petition for repeal is also an act of free speech.

    In view of the above, I think all is equal between the proponents and opponents of the repeal.

    Thank you.

    • Chiew York Hun
      January 22, 2013

      Dear X

      I totally agree with what you said about free speech. What I want to address is how this power of free speech is being exercised, and whether there is an action element to the speech.

      Consider this, do you think it’s appropriate that a teacher or professor exercise his power of free speech to preach his religious beliefs or criticize the government to his students? It wouldn’t have been an issue if the pastor had simply reiterated that the Bible does not condone homosexuality to his congregation. Neither would it have been an issue if he had private council with a government officer to express his concerns.

      Moreover, there’s an action to his speech. He was mobilizing other church members behind his cause, in a attempt to influence public policy. A pastor’s duty is to the spiritual well being of his flocks, not deciding how the country should be run. It should also be noted that he has no expertise in legal matters.

      Yes, Mr Lim has also exercised his power of free speech, but it would have been very different if he had a 40,000 member fan club and his speech was directed at them. Don’t you think?

      • Rubati
        January 22, 2013

        “Consider this, do you think it’s appropriate that a teacher or professor exercise his power of free speech to preach his religious beliefs or criticize the government to his students?”

        Actually in university, our professors do criticise the government to us, etc, and we don’t think it is inappropriate at all. So I’m not sure what is the issue here…

        “A pastor’s duty is to the spiritual well being of his flocks, not deciding how the country should be run.”

        Well, what a pastor’s duty is surely a theological question, and I doubt very much those outside of the Christian faith is competent to decide what the duties of a Christian pastor are, e.g. to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass or simply to preach, etc.

      • Chiew York Hun
        January 23, 2013

        Dear Rubati

        I’m sorry you had such unprofessional professors who instead of imparting knowledge and honing the skill of his students to think critically, they spent time criticizing the government in class. Did your professors also tell you who you should vote for?

        So you didn’t think that was an issue at all. What about a Muslim teacher telling his impressionable students that Allah is the one true god and the rest are just superstitions? Or a pastor going into politics, telling his flocks that they should vote him into government, so it would truly be a God instituted government and the country would be run like a true Christian nation?

        Seriously no issues at all? Or are you reading my words but not my meaning again?

  4. Rubati
    January 22, 2013

    Who is treating it as if they were “delivered through a private email”? Accusations of dishonesty should be backed up with facts.

    And actually, I could propose a couple of alternative readings to your hypothetical case other than “Even though I didn’t say you are a thief, the meaning is loud and clear.” The statement could mean, therefore you could have seen where it dropped, therefore you could have known what happened to it, without necessarily being a thief, etc. So meanings aren’t always “loud and clear” and it helps to, erm, ask for clarifications.

    And I don’t understand your argument about “defending myself”. I merely pointed out several lines of deduction on the basis of various assumptions. As I said before, I would only have “flip-flop” if I changed my statement, which I clearly didn’t. There is a difference between the indicative case and the conditional case.

    I am not sure what on earth it means to speak of his “civil public reasons” being “tainted”. And given the uncertainty of this essentially metaphorical use of this word, that it will “inevitably” be so is what needs to be demonstrated, not assumed.

    Sure sometimes public civil reasons may come into conflict with his religious reasons, but when that happens then we will discuss it. For now, no attempt has been made to actually discuss his civic public reasons.

    ‘Now, imagine if the Bible had said: “Homosexuality is wonderful and God adores these few gifted ones.” Coming from a pastor who spoke from his pulpit, which the above arguments would make sense?’

    Actually, yes, the arguments would still make sense. The arguments are after all, independent of the Scriptural arguments.

    • Chiew York Hun
      January 22, 2013

      Hmmm, let get this established: are you the type who randomly picks something up and argues for the sake of arguing, or do you have a meaning to convey when you say something? Say when you comment that ‘the air-con is not cold enough’, are you just trying to state that for a fact with absolutely no intention of expressing the discomfort of feeling warm?

      Coming back to your statement: “First, it is simply not factually true that he is a pastor speaking “this his flock”. The statement is quite clear that he is addressing our former PM Goh.”
      I would imagine that to be a counter to my remark ” A pastor was speaking from a pulpit to his flock.” , to discredit my claim that under such a context anyone with common sense would not dissociate the religious undertone in his speech. So I got it all wrong? You actually were agreeing with me, the ‘not factually true’ comment meant nothing except to state a literal fact?

      If the Bible had said: “Homosexuality is wonderful and God adores these few gifted ones”, a pastor would lobby to make those adored by God criminals? And how does the argument that ‘negative social changes and destruction of families are caused by those who are wonderful and adored by God’ even fit in? Please, don’t just speak of logic, use it too.

      • Rubati
        January 23, 2013

        That such professors are “unprofessional”, is what needs to be proven, not simply assumed. And the university is the place where very sharply defined opinions clash and in the course of sharp disagreement and engagement we all learn, we would be very disappointed if the professor never had a stance nor did not attempt to convince us of it. Academic learning occurs in the cut and thrust of debate, not simply the conveyance of empirical facts. And personally, I would not mind the professors telling us to vote and justifying it, as long as they let us weigh their arguments and make up our own minds.

        I used to have discussions with my Muslim geography teacher in JC about Islam and predestination, etc. I obviously expect him to have his own opinion, as I should have my own. And as I pointed out, learning occurs in the clash of free opinions and ideas, etc.

        As for pastors going into politics, he has every right to do so as long as he obeys the electoral rules and participates in accordance to the law. So I’m not sure what is the issue here…

        And believe it or not, people can understand the situation perfectly fine, and yet arrive at different conclusions and interpretations, not everyone thinks the same way you know. :)

  5. Rubati
    January 23, 2013

    Hmmm, let get this established: are you the type who randomly picks something up and argues for the sake of arguing, or do you have a meaning to convey when you say something?

    It must be a great comfort to be able to so conveniently stereotype and “establish” people into various types, but I’m a little postmodern so I’ve no idea what “type” I am. And so to one says what one means or means what one says, as the writer E.M. Forster once puts it,

    “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?”

    The comment ‘the air-con is not cold enough’ doesn’t really necessarily lead to the “intention of expressing the discomfort of feeling warm”. It could be, it’s not cold enough to harden my clay work, it’s not cold enough for my plants, etc. Honestly, it is a hasty to leap to an interpretation and a little narrow to restrict it to one reading.

    As for “undertones”, those are subjective, and more often than not, exists merely in the eye of the beholder. In a public discourse, we can only engage in the public text, not the hidden undertones or intentions, etc.

    For the last paragraph, I’ve already given you the link, look it up. The “Bible” is a collection of various texts that says various things at various locations. Just as there exists pastors now who promote homosexuality despite “what the Bible says”, likewise the converse situation is also entirely possible.

  6. Pingback: A Collection of Writings on Sexuality, Homosexuality, Marriage, Philosophy and the Christian Faith | The Rationality of Faith

  7. Pingback: Sexuality, Marriage and Gays | The Rationality of Faith

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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