Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reactions to Pastor Rony’s Comments

A member of my small group recently wrote a short response to the Rory Tan debacle, currently the centerstage of Singaporean social affairs. Its a balanced, well-thought out response from the Christian’s perspective, and with her permission I have reproduced it here.

Rebecca Tan, a NUS undergraduate

Having sat through a number of Christian-organised talks about other faiths, I have two suggestions:

1) If the aim of the talk is to educate your congregation about the other faith, then teach them respectfully about the basic tenets of that faith. Speaking respectfully about differing faiths doesn’t mean that you are purporting them. In fact, there may be certain aspects of other faiths that we (not of that faith) can learn from, such as the Muslims’ discipline in prayer and respect for their God, the Buddhists’ desire to do what is right etc.

2) If the aim of the talk is to evangelise to non-Christians, then speak about your faith. If the person is satisfied with their current faith, then there is little that you can do which will turn him away from that to another faith, apart from presenting what you believe in. Tearing down what he believes in and practises does nothing but engender disgust and anger.


But what actually stood out to me from this entire issue are two, perhaps peripheral, issues:

1) How quick people were to call this “sedition” and be supportive of the hauling up of Pastor Rony Tan by the ISD. In many other circumstances (like the situation of the racist teenagers on FB), the ISD involvement would be decried as undemocratic and too harsh. I’m not saying that what Pastor Rony said was right, but all of a sudden, many Netizens suddenly supported the ISD (and by extension, the ISA) when they hadn’t previously.

2) The conflation of race and religion. In all the news stories, the main issue that was reported was the need to maintain “racial harmony”. Maybe it’s me nitpicking, but I do think that there needs to be some accuracy here, because not all Chinese are Buddhists or Indians Hindu etc. If anything, such conflation leads to stereotyping and generalisations. We should really be careful about equating religion with race.


Its interesting — the general response I’ve been garnering from netizens’ responses is not that the ISD’s intervention had been too heavy-handed or overly publicized, but that insufficient action was taken. Looks like Blair was right. We’re really headed towards an age where the conflict will no longer be defined by ideological lines (e.g. democracy vs. communism in the Cold War), but by religious ones. And while the secularists won’t be very happy about this, well, pure secularism is pretty much a form of religion by itself.

Original Post by Alastair Su


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