Monday, August 31, 2009

Binding Religion?

Recently I came across posts which seem to be coming down hard on Christians in Singapore. One that caught my eye was the displeasure voiced by netizens on the suitability of the principal of a church-based junior college, Mrs Belinda Charles, to speak at a Christian conference.

It touched me because though Mrs Charles never actually taught me, she was the person who handed me my 'A' Level results many, many years ago. I don't recall her trying to convert anyone to any faith.

I penned the following letter to Straits Times, but it was never published. So I am reproducing the contents of the letter here.

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My Dutch friend Sheila once said, "Only in my car do I feel safe. Then I have the freedom to go any where."

Sheila’s freedom comes from all motorists, including herself, obeying the Highway Code, a set of rules. Imagine someone insisting on driving on the wrong side of the road "because it is my right".

Likewise when whole communities subscribed to the Ten Commandments they have found their freedom to worship, work (and rest), own property, live and love.

Sceptics have added an eleventh commandment: "Thou shall not be found out", played out in all its glory in the expenses scandal of the members of both Houses of Parliament in Britain.

Jesus’s own "new" commandment: Love your neighbour as yourself.

Clearly the young men in Britain who stab another love their neighbours little. Perhaps they love themselves even less*.

Having not related to a father, or watch a father relate as a husband and son, many such young men have no notion of family. When there is no sense of family honour, there is no sense of (family) shame.

When "churchianity" still provided the social glue in Britain people observed boundaries.

The welfare state – designed with good intentions to care for the orphaned and the widowed – has suffered a "mission creep" by removing the stigma of illegitimacy.

Where once women looked for husbands who could protect them and their children, and men looked for wives who would help support their careers, the decline of the church coupled with the expansion of the welfare state have led to the rise and rise of an underprivileged class.

On one hand people who do not believe in God champion "the survival of the fittest". On another they build a comprehensive counter-Darwinist system that "selects in" the weakest, encouraging those who are least able to look after themselves to procreate.

Britain is broken because the family (where one might "Honour your father and mother") is broken.

Take away the family and the young man who stabs another is no different from the City banker who gambles away someone else’s money. They cannot extrapolate, envisage, the consequences of their reckless actions (violence, greed, selfishness) on their "neighbours": sons and daughters, fathers and mothers.

Harriet Harman (British Deputy PM) asked if Lehman Brothers would be different if it were Lehman Sisters.

What if Lehman Brothers were "Lehman Brethren"?

Take away the freedom for people with religious convictions to comment on the state of society, and particularly the state of the family – whether these be as doctors, accountants or politicians, Christian or otherwise – one takes away the potential for ideas, suggestions and solutions on how society could be (re)built, improved and sustained.

Happy birthday, Singapore!


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Does religion bind us or does it free us? Do we wish to bind religion or free it?

*See this post as well.

Just for fun, read this.

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