In part 2 of this Supper Club interview, pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church talks about why he opposes calls to repeal Section 377A of the Penal Code, which bans homosexual sex, and how he became a pastor.
Q: I want to move on to Section 377A of the Penal Code. You are a very vocal opponent of calls to repeal the law, which bans homosexual sex. Why is this such an important issue for you?
First of all, I want to very clearly state that I don’t believe in discriminating against anybody in terms of the basic human rights. In fact, I just spent a whole day rehearsing with the dancers for my magic show, and more than half of them are living the homosexual lifestyle. It’s not a problem. They are good dancers, we use them. But I disagree with the lifestyle.
And there is a difference between loving people, including homosexuals, and allowing the homosexual lifestyle to become normalised in society. The reason I stand firm on asking that this law not be repealed is that Section 377A is a standard that is written down. The history of many countries tells us that if you remove it, the homosexual community is not going to stop there. They first ask for tolerance. Tolerance means: Don’t bully me, don’t make me a criminal. The minute you take that away, they will ask for acceptance, in the form of gay marriage. And then, before long, they will go for celebration of the lifestyle. I’m talking about the gay pride days all around the world. Then the next thing you know, they will persecute those who disagree with them, by labeling those disagreements as hate speech. We have seen that path. Singapore does not need to go that way. I do not believe this is good for any society. And I will stand firm because I love my nation very much.
This homosexual agenda is being pushed with great aggression. For example, inasmuch as they ask for tolerance, they are some of the most intolerant people that I have ever met. Anytime you disagree with them, you are said to be homophobic, you are said to have made hate speech. We do not say that they are heterophobic or Christophobic. We don’t engage in name-calling. But they do, all the time. Why can’t we argue on the merits of a case instead of slapping on labels?
Q: But you started out saying that you believe in basic human rights for homosexuals.
That human right is the right to employment, the right to education, the right to live as a normal citizens. But not the right to change the laws of society to normalise that agenda.
Q: But the law now says that a gay man may not have sex with another gay man in his bedroom. You don’t think that private consensual sex between two adults is a basic human right?
Behind that is a presupposition that says, anything that I do privately is none of anybody’s business. So what about consenting incestuous relationships? It’s against the law. What about taking drugs? It can be argued that it’s none of your business, since I take it in my home. I know people have different opinions. But in my view, there are certain things that are basically harmful to society. The homosexual lifestyle is not a normal lifestyle.
Q: But there are many other things that you would also believe are harmful to society that are currently not criminalised.
I believe prostitution is harmful to society.
Q: And you believe that adultery is harmful to society.
I believe it is. If I had been in a position to oppose the legalisation of prostitution or adultery when it was being done, I would have fought it with all my might. Adultery fractures the family.
Q: And you also believe that worshipping a God other than the Christian God is harmful to society?
No, no. Let’s draw the line between theology and code of conduct or ethics. I don’t think we should ever make a law that says: You’re not a Christian, you have committed a crime. That’s theology. And I do not go for that because I believe in a secular state.
Q: Do you agree that 377A should not be enforced?
I can live with that. But I feel like it should be there as a line, as a standard, as a benchmark that is drawn. The most basic thing is: This is not normal. The natural marriage between a man and a woman is normal.
Q: But a lot of homosexuals would tell you it is normal because they were born this way.
There is no proof at all. Zero proof, according to the researchers who have gone into this.
Q: I think they are divided about this, but I don’t think there is zero proof.
Well, I challenge the nation to do a study and lay out all the evidence. And I’m confident that the research as a whole will show you that that isn’t true. Every ex-homosexual is proof that people are not born this way. There are no ex-blacks, no ex-Chinese, but there are ex-homosexuals.
Q: There are such people in your church?
There are. I can have them come and tell you their stories.
Q: But there are a lot of homosexuals who have tried to get into heterosexual relationships and have been miserable.
There are many people who have tried not to lose their temper but they lose their tempers and they kill people. There are many people who have tried to get out of an immoral lifestyle because it gives them just no pleasure. We counsel them and they fail. So just because you fail to do it doesn’t mean you’re born this way.
Q: Do you think debates over gay rights are going to become very divisive in Singapore, like in America, where it’s part of what they call the Culture Wars?
I think so, but the answer lies with the government. Our government has kept a conservative stand so far. If they protect the conservatives, which surveys have shown are in the majority, then we will be fine. But if the conservatives find that the country is going in the wrong direction, then we will have to push back.
Q: There are some non-Christians who are concerned that Christians like yourself tend to bring religious values into the public sphere and impose them on non-religious people. What would you say to them?
I want to say that every Christian, every Hindu, every Buddhist, every atheist, every agnostic, is a theologian. We’re all religious. An atheist is very religious. He has a belief system. He believes there is no God. So every one of us brings into the public square his presuppositions. And Prime Minister (Lee Hsien Loong) has said (in his 2009 National Day rally) that it is natural for people to have views that are informed by religious beliefs. We are all integrated beings, after all.
Q: What about this idea of separating church and state, or separating religion and politics?
What does that mean? A non-religious person has every right to give his views about adultery and immorality and homosexuality. A Christian gives a view and you say: “Ah, you’re a Christian.” That’s not fair. I believe that if the church becomes a political party, that’s worrisome. But can a Christian run for office? Obviously. Of course, when we go into a certain environment, we play by the rules of that environment. I play polo and I play tennis. When I go into the tennis court I don’t bring my horse along. So when we go into the public sphere, we don’t make arguments like: “My Bible says this so you cannot do this.” Rather, we go on the basis of what is good for the nation. And I believe that defending the family is good for the nation.
Q: Would you enter politics, ever?
I’m 61 years old. I will influence this nation to the best of my ability. But I think I can have more influence as a religious leader because I don’t have to wait for the electorate to vote me in. I can speak with great freedom on what my personal conviction is.
Q: One of the key incidents in this debate about religion and politics was the Aware saga. You were not directly involved. What is your view on it?
The Aware saga took us all by surprise. Nothing like that has happened before. But in retrospect: One, they did not do anything illegal. What they did happens in clubs all the time. I don’t like this committee, I take you out. You go to some club annual general meetings, it’s like a war zone. Looking at the big picture, in the end, we did discover that there were elements in the materials that were used by the Aware people that promoted the homosexual lifestyle. So this group of people was correct in raising the alarm. As a result of that, the Ministry of Education could adjust their system of tendering (of sex education classes) to vendors. That was good, right? I mean, how do you like things to be sneaked up on your children without you knowing it? So I see them as a group of conscientious citizens who had concerns about what was being taught in schools.
Q: You were a former national polo player and you own four ponies. When did you pick up the game? What about it attracts you?
It started with a family vacation to Awana at Genting Highlands, one of our favourite destinations. One time we were there, we saw the riding school, and decided to take a few lessons. It occurred to me that it was a nice family sport. So we went back a couple of months later, and spent a whole week, with my three children, just riding, so we get some basics. We were so excited about it that when we came back to Singapore, we looked for a place to ride. And one of the better places is the Singapore Polo Club. After two years, being the competitive kind, I watched others fighting it out on the polo field, and I loved it. So I began to take polo lessons and before long, I was playing polo. It’s very addictive because, first of all, riding is fun. You can gallop up and down the field. Secondly, you need skill to control the ball with a mallet. Third, it’s a very thinking game. You need to size up your opponent. And it’s a very aggressive game. I love it. That’s how I get rid of my aggression, I guess – on the polo field.
Q: You were rebellious as a youth and you chain smoked. How did you decide to become a pastor?
I grew up in a church. And after a while, I realised that I’m not the churchy kind. I’m not like those who like to read a Bible and talk nice. I like to try out things. I’m basically a creative person. The dark side of creativity is rebellion, because creativity challenges status quo. So I’m always challenging: why this, why that. After I went to army, I just quit the church and smoked and fooled around, doing whatever I liked to do. Then I had a religious experience of God just speaking to me and convicting me of my sin and how empty my life was in spite of the fact that I thought I was having fun. I found a new level of freedom. My life was totally touched. Earlier on, when I was in Secondary Four, I was reading the Bible one night and I heard a voice that said: “I want you to be a pastor.” And I went: “Excuse me?” It was so real. It’s like God showed up in that place.
Q: You heard a voice, literally?
Yes, and I’m not crazy. I got on my knees as a 16-year-old boy and prayed: “God, if I give up my life, give up a good paying job, I don’t know what that is. But tonight, I have heard you, and my answer to you, God, is yes.” Then, my life went on. I rebelled for a while, even after that. But God showed me that I’m nobody. It is him who can change my life.
Q: What other projects are you working on right now?
I’m working on a new magic show. I believe it’s world class. I’m putting it up for three nights from September 20 to 22. I’m not selling tickets but inviting some of the top show buyers and potential sponsors of the region to come. I’m working on an Asian tour next year. I want to come back to Singapore in the year 2015. I’m already booked on the Esplanade to take this show, that has travelled Asia, back to celebrate with Singapore the 50th anniversary of our nation. It is a story about a father and a daughter and it is called Vision because it is about how our vision can be tainted because of prejudice, pains, hurts and past negative experiences, so that we don’t see what is real. The father and the daughter learn to see clearly as we listen to each other.
There is another project I’m working on with other churches. We are in a process of forming an organisation that defends the family. We want to do research that shows that a normal family consists of a man, a woman and children born out of that. That is the best for any society.