The below is an open letter sent by Nicholas Lim, founder and Facebook administrator of GLBT Voices Singapore to Pastor Lawrence Khong of Faith Community Baptist Church, in an attempt to reach out for a dialogue to bridge the differences between Mr Khong's flock and LGBT community.
Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Khong issued a statement on his public fanpage about the Orlando shooting and wrote, "if any of us Christians feel that they deserve to die because of their sin, we must think again. The Bible tells us that ALL of us deserve to die because of our sins. There is no reason for further alienation. Instead, this is a time for compassion, love, and healing."
While some thanked Mr Khong for his statement, many took to his page to comment on the glaring hypocrisy of his statement, given his well-known anti-LGBT stance in Singapore. For example, he is a vocal supporter of the wear white campaign, against the Pink Dot movement, even to the extent of saying the following in his sermon, "I want to pray that we will continue to wear white as long as there is pink, and we will wear white until the pink is gone, and even if the pink is gone we will continue to wear white,”
Below is the open letter to Mr Khong in full
Dear Mr Lawrence Khong,
I am writing to you in reply to your original Facebook post expressing sympathy and compassion for the forty-nine slain LGBT victims at the gay nightclub, Pulse in Orlando, Florida.
This is actually an extended reply; my original reply in the form of a Facebook post that shared yours, said “Thank you Lawrence Khong (FCBC) for acknowledging the attack on the LGBT community in Orlando. Thank you for saying that the community doesn't deserve alienation.Hopefully we can begin a dialogue, based on a mutual understanding that we are all human, deserving of love and compassion.”
Since the time of your first post, you have garnered a visceral reaction from various members of the LGBT community. I have yet to read what my fellow LGBT brothers and sisters have written but I can imagine the content and sentiment through the community page I manage - incredulous, harsh and steeped in anger. It must not have been a pleasant day for you. But my letter to you does not stem from pity so I hope you hear me out, another gay man writing to you, with an open heart.
I stand by my original reply to your first post. I sincerely thank you for the acknowledgement and for saying that the LGBT community does not deserve alienation. I am familiar with your stance on homosexuality so reading your words was a surprise. I chose to take it not with a pinch of salt, but with a pleasant and hopeful heart. In the midst of such senseless tragedy that has taken place halfway across the world, and the recent developments targeting the LGBT community here in Singapore, yes I read your words with hope. I stand by my reply when I say I hope that we may begin a dialogue.
I have not always regarded you, your wife or even your flock well. Over the last few years, your widely publicised beliefs on the issue of homosexuality in Singapore, as well as your opposition to the repeal of Section 377A of the Penal Code has not cast you in a good light with the LGBT community. Because of your beliefs, I viewed you no better than a persecutor of the LGBT community, a name to put alongside labels like “bigot” and “hate”. Over the years I have been part of the choral voices trying to shout you down in an effort to make ours heard so that we could appeal for change and acceptance. To put it bluntly, to us you were the Devil, the epitome of the schoolyard bully who taunted us with cruel names, the face of every ugly epithet spat at us and the figure of heart-crushing rejection from family members who chose a set of beliefs over familial love.
I humbly apologise for the names called and labels flung your way. As a member of a sexual minority group often misunderstood and silenced, I should have known better. I am sorry.
In your second post, you spoke about your beliefs. Please allow me to share some of my beliefs with you.
The first is that I am born this way and I should have the right to love another man who feels the same. Not the right to coerce, pressure or even forcibly rape. Not the right to sexually abuse a child, nor have carnal intercourse with an animal, which to me is simply abhorrent not just as a gay man but as a human being. I do not believe that my sexual orientation equals the viewing of all males as potential sex partners, much less my own brother. I simply believe that I am capable of a deep, abiding and committed love with another man. Whether it should be consecrated by God does not matter to me. I was born gay. I did not choose to be gay. I can choose a religion. I cannot choose on a whim which gender I love.
My second belief - that you have the right to your own beliefs and the way to lead your life as you deem fit. But my belief seemed to be at odds with yours because from my perspective, you seem to be influencing and imposing your beliefs onto mine. To my way of thinking, you cannot believe that I have the right to lead my own life, free from discrimination, prejudice and fear if you support the very law that sentences me to a criminal status simply because of my sexuality. Your belief seems to encroach onto a secular space, my world that has no intersection with yours. I do not ascribe to your beliefs but I do not mind, nor care because it is your space, your personal relationship with God. However your championing of the retention of S377A is prohibiting me from fully living my life in a secular country.
My third belief - that my being gay has no impact on your life whatsoever. None. What does who I love have anything to do with yours? I have no control over the media nor advertising industry but I do not think it relevant to share nor impose my life with yours. I do not wish to convert you, nor do I wish for your church to accept me. I do not mean to offend but your religion nor any other, do not hold any appeal to me. And that is not a crime, is it?
But your set of beliefs may goad someone who is of an unsound mind to have irreparable, irreversible damage to my life. Please do not mistake me; I am not laying the blame of the Orlando shooting nor any other hate crime in history as a sole result of religious beliefs. But it is an established fact that unscrupulous, dangerous individuals have no qualms in hijacking peaceable religious beliefs for their own desire to wreak havoc and cause harm.
Simply put, because of a misinterpretation of your type of beliefs, I may die. I may be murdered, attacked or maimed in the name of God taken wrongfully.
That used to sound alarmist but in the wake of the attack on Pulse, a gay nightclub filled with LGBT patrons turned murder victims, it is no longer a far-fetched scenario. It has happened. A confluence of wrongful beliefs has led to the loss of innocent lives based on their sexualities.
Where do we go from here? Are our differences so irreconcilable? I do not think so. Referring to your original post, I was heartened when you said that no LGBT person deserves to die. You said there is no reason for further alienation. I finally felt that we might be able to talk, to have a open, heartfelt dialogue. Because through your post, I finally got a glimmer that you do believe the same as I do - that in the wake of this senseless tragedy, “it is a time for compassion, love and healing.” Your words resonated with me.
Earlier this morning, as I discussed your original post with a friend, I commented that while it may seem disingenuous to those accustomed to your brand of beliefs, upon reflection it should not be much of a surprise. The fact that you are a community figure, a religious leader speaks volumes of your capacity for compassion and love. Again to my way of thinking, you have to have those qualities if people are to put their trust in you and follow as you lead. I do recognise that just like me, you do not agree that anyone, regardless of their sexual identity or religious beliefs, deserve to be murdered simply because.
I do feel strongly that on this very fundamental belief, we are united.
Yesterday, June 14th 2016, I had the humbling privilege of leading a candlelight vigil in honour of the slain victims. I wish I had the forethought to invite you and your flock down to join us. I wish I read your post earlier so that I could extend a sincere invitation, without any intention of compromising your beliefs or mine, so that we can stand in solidarity and send out a stronger message that no matter our beliefs, we are united in the face of hate.
Mr Khong, I believe you when you say you are not fueled by hatred. I no longer wish to feel anger towards you. As I said in my own speech during the vigil, "in times of tragedy, people come together in the name of love, not hate."
I wish you and your family continued good health and safety. And I look forward to hearing from you.