|Religious Right and Immorality and lawlessness
In the Journal of Religion and Society first appeared in the Times Online, Sep 2005, a Mr. Gregory Paul set out to test the assertion that religion makes people behave better in First world countries. The opposite was found to be true: 'In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator and anti-evolution correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, venereal diseases, teen pregnancy and abortion'. As the most religious country of the 18 surveyed, the US has the highest rates for teenage pregnancy. Could it be that the more religious a country is, the worse people behave in their private lives! The study seems to counter the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society or that religion is anything about love. Ironically, the Christian churches in Singapore are so afraid of becoming lawless and insisting on following the law. Yet, the more we try, could it be, the more immoral, lawless, and anti-gay hence "unchristian" we become and proven to be. If our faith is a biblical faith, then the opposite of abiding by the Law is not lawlessness, but faith in embracing and trusting that in God's grace, we may be a new creation, changed inwardly within our hearts to be more and more like Jesus, from glory to glory by having our eyes focussing on Christ, conscious of His redeeming grace and knowing that we are still loved and accepted in Christ, fall as we may and will in the future."
The definition of highly religious people with the absolute belief in God, take the bible literally, attends church regularly, strongly anti-evolution are not meaningful or logical if it is intended to refer to biblical Christianity. For such a narrow definition, takes reference almost entirely to the first 5 books of the bible – the Pentateuch or the Book of Moses. If religion is limited to thus, there is no need for Christ or the grace of God. However, we cannot blame the secular world for viewing Christianity as such because this has been the primary Christian witness seen through the likes Rev Dr Lonnie Latham, Ted Haggard, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Paul Crouch, Benny Hinn etc. who emphasized following God’s law which they themselves do not follow strictly. They talked about morality and following God’s laws yet their lives are hardly moral and we now have numbers showing that their “congregations” have much higher immorality than less “religious” peoples. And yet, they have the audacity to call Gays, “immoral”.
The “immoral” countries that have accepted Gay unions/marriages such as Belgium (2002), Denmark (1989), France (2000), Germany (2001), the Netherlands (2001), Switzerland, Iceland (1996), Norway (1993), Sweden (1989) have much lower abortion, homicide, sexual diseases than “moral” countries that have come against gays on moral grounds such as the United States and Poland. For example the homicide rate in United States is 6 times higher than Norway making a mockery of the biblical commandments. Does sin have a dominion over us under religion? Not that the peoples of Norway or Sweden is inherently any less sinful by nature than the Americans.
There is seemingly a religious revival in Singapore led by the Anglican, Methodist, City Harvest, and the National Council of Churches. Are they bringing Singapore to a moral disaster? For example, in Singapore, the City Harvest Church seems to be unduly law conscious emphasizing on the 10 commandments. They are also the anti-gay champions and “kicking out” gays from their churches. We are following the footsteps of the “immoral” Christian Right in America with regular dose of speakers from the states. We have also aligned ourselves with the Nigerian Anglican Church as part of the Global South. Hopefully we will not enter into the dire poverty and corruption, crime, and abuses so characterized this highly religious nation of Nigeria.
Religion defined by strict adherence to strict consciousness and adherence to religious laws appears to lead us to the greatest evil. Is this something new? it has been the message of the Gospel all along but that our inward religiosity refused to believe it? Sin will have dominion over us if we are law conscious even though we are sincere in our religious beliefs in God. That was what happened to the Jews and they ended up worshiping other gods for 2000 years and finally killing their very own Messiah, God sent them. Not a very good record you might say. So not surprisingly, Paul reminded the Jews in Rome how their adherence to the laws have made them extremely immoral with sin having dominion over them. Yet they refused to let go of Judaism even though Christ appeared in their midst. The Gentiles instead of the Jews took up the message of the Gospel after the Diaspora of Jerusalem. But God hasn’t forgotten the Jews and He is coming back to Jerusalem. This is the amazing grace of God.
“Laws are meant to be broken” The Law was given to show that man however religious could not abide in it to reach God. The more you try to follow the law and attempt to be “moral”, the more you fail and break the laws given. There is no way to be justified and be right with God through the Law of Moses. We need Christ to bear the consequences for our failure to follow the law through His death, and in His righteousness to be our morality. The Jewish history of two thousands prior to Jesus’ coming was a testament to it. The Law was given by God to highlight their need for a savior for men could not make the mark without help. The Law brings out our inherent sin nature not that the secular or humanistic society is any less sinful.
Jesus came because the religious adherence to the Law was not capable of saving men. If religion is based only on believing in God, taking the bible literally and regular attendance of church as in the case of the US and Poland, then we will be extremely law minded and anti-gay. If this kind of religion can make us sinless than there is no need for a better covenant in Jesus Christ. For those of us who are extremely pious, Jesus raises the bar much higher by extending the law not just to outward actions or deeds but the thoughts of our hearts. In Mat 22:37, Jesus spoke of the love commandment to the lawyer “" 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.', yet the intellectual lawyer standing in front of Jesus unknowingly failed to love God by denying Jesus. We sin by either commission or by omission, i.e. not following the will of God or simply not knowing the specific will of God in our everyday lives. . The more religious/law minded we are, the more cruel and anti-gay we become because in our self righteousness we condemn people such as gays whom we consider as immoral compared to us when we should be comparing to Jesus. We become gods where our self righteousness, our imagined morality, our rights, our humanity, take front stage, whether outwardly we claim be be secular or even "Christian". If sin or immorality is defined much wider as denying Christ and refuses to obey his will, than just actions of homicides, abortion, sexual diseases, etc defined by the comparitive study on religion, then all of us have greatly sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). The secular and humanistic societies would also fare very badly along with the US. God looks at our heart and how we treat His Son and not necesarrily our outward moral actions.
Singaporean culture is particularly prone to unquestioning obedience - “Must follow the Law what?” without actually questioning whether we are doing right, or even reading the scriptures in its entirety and in the correct context. In such environment, our intention to be innovative is but a delusion unless overseas talent is brought in. But more importantly, even though we called ourselves Christians or religious, we have given a poor testimony of Jesus Christ when we are law minded and as in Rom 2:24, result in the name of God being considered badly “or blasphemed” by the secular world. The negative impact is great, for Singapore is an “Antioch”, a channel for which the Gospel is spread to the neighboring Countries. It is in Singapore where world-class preachers come, seminars held, missions launched, and revival starts. At the end, the world, do not see the fact that our form of Christianity is not anywhere close to a biblical faith but blames our beliefs in one God, in the bible, and in creationism as the cause.
The Liberal Churches will again use this opportunity to re-iterate that we should not believe the bible literally, and that there are perhaps more than one way to heaven other than Christ. See how the secular/ humanistic peoples are more “godly” than professing Christians? They claimed Christianity after all is a journey and must change with times as if God and His unalienable ancient truths centers on them. In Luke 16:17, we are again reminded that the demands of the law for justice and righteousness must be fulfilled. i.e. just because God is love, does not mean He can override the requirements of the law for our sins to be punished. There will be a place called hell where those who do not accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior will spend eternity in torture. On the other hand, the blessings of abiding in the Mosaic Law will also never passed away. If indeed we truly accept Jesus death for us as “our death”, we are righteous in the sight of the law because Jesus is sinless and is able to fulfill in full requirements of the law hence receive the promised blessings of God. In other words, in Christ, in His mercy, we are spared from receiving punishment from our sins, instead, in His grace, we are destined to received the blessings from God. Hallelujah.
At the end of the day, the study on religion and morality shows that the anti-gay religious right whether in Singapore or US are just hypocrites. Focusing on a prosperity gospel, they gain much wealth many a times by milking the poor sheep. This was the case of the Pharisees who were filthy rich and powerful. Their tithes were precious spices, but God was not pleased. In the modern context, the tithes of the religious leaders for the “kingdom of God” can be hundreds of thousands because of their great wealth. Yet, God is not pleased because they are building up their own power base and kingdom and not God’s kingdom. God is not against paying tithes, but that there are much more important matters that just preaching a prosperity gospel and the church building fund. We may have our titanium churches, large expo halls, large city centered cathedrals, to fit tens of thousands, and have the best band and praise and worship, yet we have forgotten the injustice to the gay community by the community at large. Indeed, we became the champions against them urging the government to persecute them. By shutting the gates to the churches to Gays, we have shown little mercy or have faith to embrace God’s grace in Christ. We have extended little grace to the gay community and called them immoral when we ourselves have reverted to the law and soon sin will have dominion over us if we do not repent. We have made cheap, and so cheap, the grace of God and have forgotten His mercies. May God return us to the right path that the church may be a light to a fallen world and not an example of immorality.