Thursday, March 31, 2011

I preached against homosexuality, but I was wrong

If only there were more people like him.

Taken from here.

A recent poll shows a huge shift in American attitudes toward gay marriage, from a 32 percent approval in 2004 to 53 percent today.

I am one of those people who changed their minds.

In 1989 when I was ordained as a minister to serve a small church in North Carolina, homosexuality was an invisible issue. Gay rights were barely on the radar of mainstream churches. The idea of an openly gay pastor was beyond the pale. 
 I knew there were "gay churches," of course, but I did not believe one could be a practicing homosexual and a Christian. The Bible was straightforward on this issue. It all seemed incredibly obvious to me.

But over the next five years, homosexuality not only became an issue -- it became The Issue. Sides were drawn, and those of us in the middle were pulled to either end. I was a biblical Christian, of the "hate the sin, love the sinner" crowd. And so it seemed clear that I could not fully accept, ordain and marry gays. If I was going to be forced to choose a side, that was mine.

The truth is, I was put out that this was an issue. Feeding the hungry, preaching the gospel, comforting the afflicted, standing up to racial intolerance -- these were the struggles I signed up for, not determining the morality of what adults did in their bedrooms.
But the debate would not go away. It came up, again and again, year after year, pushed by activists on either end. Each time, I grudgingly voted to hold the traditional line and limit the role of gays in the church. But I felt increasingly uncomfortable. What I believed was biblically correct began to feel less and less right in my heart.
While the church was fighting it out, I was going through my own battle. I moved to Alaska in 1996, but the debate followed me. And three major things happened which started to crack the wall of my complacency.

First, I had a long, online conversation with a gay Christian man who had wrestled with his sexuality and finally decided, as he put it, that God was more concerned with his pride than his sexuality. He was hesitant to talk about the subject when I first broached it, partially because every other pastor he'd talked to wanted to convert him. But in the end, he's the one who taught me. He surprised me by saying he did not know he was gay until he was in his early 20s. (He just thought he had an extraordinary respect for women.)

Next, a parishioner asked me to do an exorcism for him because he was gay. He had tried everything else he could think of -- therapy, prayer, will power, alcohol, support groups, marriage -- and nothing worked. It was a heartbreaking situation. As a minister I may have questioned the sinfulness of his actions, but I absolutely knew he was not demon-possessed. 



Then I met a woman whose husband had left her for another man. They were a clergy couple, serving a small-town church. She had every right to be angry and hurt, but I was awed by her grace. She told me he was the best minister she had ever known. (From his work record, I would agree.) He simply got to the point where he could no longer live the lie of his sexuality. Of course he had to leave the ministry once he came out. It must have been a hideous choice: Pretend to be something he was not, or leave his calling because of the person he loved. 


These experiences shook my worldview. It became clear to me that none of these men had chosen to be gay, just as I had never chosen to be heterosexual. How could I condemn someone for something that was really not their fault? Meanwhile, I was experiencing the slow disintegration of my own marriage. Needless to say, it was hard for me to condemn anyone else for their relationships when mine was in such bad shape. I began moving closer to the center. If homosexuality was a "sin," I wanted to add an asterisk to it.

Toward the end of my parish ministry, I was approached by five individuals who demanded that I do a sermon to come out strong against any acceptance of gays and lesbians in the church. They wanted to hear what the Bible said on the issue. The funny thing was, all five of them were divorced and remarried. Had I done a sermon on what the Bible said about divorce, every one of them would have left the church in a huff.

I did that sermon, however, and it was not my best hour as a Minister of Word and Sacrament. In my research, I found that the Bible was more nuanced about the issue than I previously believed, and I tried to convey that, but ultimately I still came out against acceptance of homosexuality. Now, I wish I'd been more upfront about how my own views were transforming, but I took a back-door approach to the subject. I talked about all the sins according to the Bible, and said if we were going to start throwing out sinners from our church, I wanted to start with the gossips.

Looking back, I see how much my own opinions had been formed by the fact that I was representing a split congregation. Our church, like so many, was divided. And while the people who believed it should be accepted were not going to leave if we maintained a position of non-acceptance, those who felt it was a sin would bolt in a heartbeat if we ever allowed gay clergy or gay marriage. If they bolted, half our budget would go out the door. I knew the issue could tear the church apart. What I didn't realize was how it could tear apart the people in the church as well.

Every year we send young people to our national meeting as youth delegates. In a year when gay ordination was going to be discussed (again), I sat down with our selected delegate to share some of my own thoughts on the topic. Later, the person declined the position. I was given reasons, but none of them made any real sense until I learned, many years later, that the person had come out of the closet. What had I said back then? I couldn't remember exactly, but I am pretty sure it boiled down to the idea that there was no place for homosexuals in our church.

In 2005 I left the parish ministry to work as a hospital chaplain. Part of the reason for leaving was my separation. But also, I was tired of trying to live up to standards that I did not fully agree with.
With distance, I could see the mean-spirited nature of the anti-gay movement, and the naked way large Christian organizations used the "gay threat" to raise money. Free from the constraints of a congregation, I could spend more time actually looking at the biblical texts that deal with homosexuality, and I was surprised to find they were not as clear as I had supposed they were. At this point, I have done a 180 on the topic. And I believe it's a change for the good.

So why had we singled out homosexuality as a litmus test for True Christianity in the first place? Why had it become such a lightning rod for self-righteousness?

One reason, I think, is that it's easy to condemn homosexuality if you are not gay. It is much harder than condemning pride, or lust or greed, things that most practicing Christians have struggled with. It is all too easy to make homosexuality about "those people," and not me. If I were to judge someone for their inflated sense of pride, or their tendency to worship various cultural idols, I would feel some personal stake, some cringe of self-judgment. Not so with homosexuality. 





Now I am wondering why, if two gay people want to commit their lives to one another, they should ever be denied that chance. No church or pastor should be forced to perform those ceremonies, and they can choose not to recognize gay marriage for their adherents. But the constitution of the Presbyterian Church does not explicitly forbid a pastor from being a thief, a murderer, or an egotistical jerk. It is not designed to do these things. It does prohibit a gay person from becoming a pastor. All I can ask is: Why?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Are you ready for a relationship?

A lot of people want to be in a relationship. They desire and dream about it. It seems nice to have somebody to be there for you, to love and take good care of you. To cuddle and hold hands in the park. All very sweet and dandy.

But a relationship is not just about enjoying all those. There is more to it and there is hard work involved. There is also giving, not just taking.

As such, some people are just not ready for a relationship. And you can't blame them.

I just finished reading a book called Will Grayson, Will Grayson which was also reviewed in last week's The Star. It is about two teenagers with the same name of Will Grayson. One is straight and the other is not. The gay one has depression and doesn't believe that he deserves to be loved and have good things happen to him.

Of course, when you have such thoughts in your head and have a boyfriend who is very optimistic and sees the good in everybody, it is a recipe for disaster and much drama. Will Grayson doesn't understand what the boyfriend sees in him and the boyfriend has to constantly remind him that he is a wonderful person who can't see that in himself.

The point that I am trying to say is just that some people are not ready for a relationship and the other party have to accept it. The other party could also choose to ignore that fact and be patient with this issue or somehow work together towards resolving it.

Worse is that person does not know he is not ready and keeps on looking for a partner but it only leads to doomed affairs and breakups.

I suppose this happens more often when one is younger and doesn't know what he wants yet. There might still be issues with self identity, confidence, maturity, lack of understanding, depression etc. I believe this could be one reason why relationships when we are younger doesn't last very long.

Once you have overcome whatever obstacle that prevents you from forming a relationship, you are all set and ready for one!

Monday, November 08, 2010

Japanese dinner

My parents have been frequenting this Japanese restaurant at Centrepoint for the past month or so. The place is called U-Yen. It's buffet style, but they have ala-carte too.

I thought the buffet was not too bad for the price they charge. It's RM50 per person and they have oysters, sushi, tempura and other cooked food.

What I had on Sunday were ala-carte.

Oysters in lemon juice with fish flakes on top


Prawn salad. All the prawns are underneath the greens

Salmon and butterfish salad. The butterfish were very sweet.

Grilled duck. These were delicious too.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Home sweet home

Almost six months since I last updated. Guess I was too lazy and didn't have any inspiration to write.

This year really passed by quick. It's less than 2 months to 2011 and the big 3-0 for me. I really don't know where all the days and weeks went. Mostly work, study, watch movies.

But I think this year I spent most of my time at work. Seems more than the previous years. I was distracted at work for 2-3 months and my work performance suffered. Probably that explained the additional effort to do the same amount of work.

Also, I skipped my Phuket trip and only went to Yogyakarta in September.

Major changes for the past few months was my moving to a new place. I'm in Bishan now as JJ is happily enjoying retirement LOL

I'm glad that my exam is finally over. I haven't watched a movie in two months and I just have to break the drought. I watched Red at 1115pm on Thursday. It was funny, implausible and yet totally enjoyable. Highly recommended.

On a more serious note, I had feelings of missing home. Miss the warmth and closeness of family, friends and the bf. I miss the home-cooked food. Perhaps the idea of going home for good has grown stronger and deeper as I realized that I have been devoting more time to work.

Ultimately, life is all about people and relationships, not work.

Granted, I enjoy working with my colleagues. Some have become really good friends and I will definitely miss them when I go back to KL.

Home will always be home.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Home sweet home - May

I was back in KL last weekend after a three month absence. Home is still home, no matter how bad the things are.

Somehow I managed to meet Nyk everyday. First, it was a friend's birthday dinner at Fukuharu. The food is quite good for the kind of price they charge. The excellent service and great ambiance that really enhanced the whole dinner experience. Definitely recommended and we will definitely go back again next time!

The next day was swimming at my condo's pool, followed by siew pau. I taught him how to swim properly with his legs and some unintentional touching ensued.

I also watched Ip Man 2 for the second time. This time was with my family, as I had already watched it in Singapore with my god brother. Still enjoyable, but a third time will be overkill.

This trip back was pretty short and I didn't have the chance to meet anyone else. Oh well. But I am planning to come back a little more frequent than every 3 months! I miss my family, the food and most of all, my dearest boyfie!


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

9 Reasons Straight Men Should Be Gay

Found this article here. Quite funny, but at the same time very true from a straight guy's point of view. Some points are pretty lame though e.g. no 2 and 5.

Enjoy!

9 Good Reasons Straight Men Should Explore Homosexuality
Fellow frustrated heterosexual males: are you tired of being alone? Sick of hearing "there are plenty of fish in the sea"? Well, up to now, we’ve only ever considered half the fish that are even out there, haven't we? What about the other half? What about the fish that are gay?

If there's a little gay in all of us, then here are nine good reasons why letting that flag fly could work if your hetero single life is in the dumps. Get ready to open your mind, among other things, to new horizons.

1. Attract More Women
This may seem counter intuitive given that we’ll now be having sex with men, but hear me out: it’s a scientific fact that women like gay guys.

Women love that whole “hard to get” attitude and what’s harder to get than a gay guy?

Oh, and there’s the whole "since we're gay, we'll understand women". Not because we’ll be more like women but because we’ll actually be listening to them rather than trying to figure out how to get in their pants.

So “hard to get” plus being more understanding will equal more women if we decide to swing back. Back-up plans, my friend, is the name of this game.

2. Run Hollywood
We all know it's hard to make it down in Hollywood because it’s difficult to find an "in".

Well, according to this old guy I met while in the swamps of Georgia “Jews and gays run Hollywood.”

Well we might not be Jewish, but we could possibly be gay if we tried it and liked it - and that transition takes a LOT less reading. Plus, those of us who are Jewish will suddenly have TWO avenues to pursue in our pop culture domination. Think about it.

3. Double Your Wardrobe
When we move in with our new lover we’ll immediately have access to a whole new closet full of clothes (and according to Queer Eye it'll all be trendy and fashionable).

So if you’ve been putting off buying a new pack of underwear, just consider what kind of money you could save by going gay and moving in with a dude you share more than just a bathroom with.

4. Be Funnier
Gay guys are naturally funnier. What might get YOU slapped will just make everyone think a gay guy's "sassy".

If we become gay, then we can be guaranteed an increase of at least two humor points (which would help this particular column) as well as a FIFTY percent increase in invites to cocktail parties. That’s just simple math, folks.

5. Make New Friends
Being gay is going to throw us into a whole new social network. The great thing about being gay right now is that the LGBT community is being persecuted by right-wingers over the marriage and military issues.

“But that’s not great at all!” - You, just now.

Wrong! Uniting against persecution has always formed the strongest bonds between people. Becoming gay will provide us with friendships that just might be the strongest we’ll ever know.

6. No Unwanted Pregnancies
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. We can have all the sex we want and never have to worry about the dreaded unwanted child down the line. Ok, sometimes you'll have some other serious shit to worry about in regards to sex, but screaming babies won't be one of 'em.

When we’re finally ready for children, we’ll just adopt like those guys on “Modern Family.”

7. Get in Better Shape
Let’s face it, gay dudes are in much better shape than we are. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I had a friend who came out and had rock hard abs only six weeks later. Dudes just have really high standards and it's really hard to please us. Just ask any girl that reads Cosmo.

The pressure of having to please dudes is WAY better than any workout system you'll find on TV.

8. Have More Fun at Concerts
There’s something about being a proud gay man that strips down social barriers far more than being a repressed straight man does.

Being gay will mean we can get way more excited when our favorite band takes the stage, so much that we can belt out that scream we want to yell instead of just cheering, clapping over our heads and looking around for the nearest girl to "protect".

This will allow us to just tune out the world, DANCE (for a change) and have way more fun than we have ever had before at our favorite concerts.

9. Even Playing Field
When you're gay, your partner will never, ever withhold sex as a punishment or use sex as a weapon.

There is no sex as a bargaining ploy to get something else. And oral sex is also never an issue. It's not for "special occasions" It is just a given.

According to my gay friend Eric: "gay men are easy. You won't need to take them on a bunch of expensive dates to get some action. For gay guys, sex is like a handshake, and the "getting to know you" part comes afterwards. As it should be...

...They just like sex as much as we do and want it just as often..." and that in of itself, friends, is the king of reasons to give switching teams a try.

Batter up!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rings

I bought a pair of rings for Nyk and myself last month. I find that it is unique as I have never come across red stainless steel rings. Usually they come in black.

Nyk was in town over the weekend and I thought I would bring him for dim sum at Crystal Jade. The previous time that I was there, my colleagues and I enjoyed the food. But he didn't quite like the taste of the siew mai, wu kok and pork ribs. I think the only thing he found decent was the chicken feet and siew loong pau.

As the waitress passed the bill back to me, she noticed our matching rings. This was what transpired in Mandarin:
Waitress: Wah, your rings very nice hor. Matching some more!
Me: Errr .... yeah, they are quite unique which was why I bought them.
Waitress: Yeah, very unique. What are those patterns on the rings? Do they mean anything?
Nyk: They are Tibetan inscriptions.
Waitress: (to another waitress standing nearby) Hey. Come and see. Aren't the rings beautiful? Matching some more.
Other waitress: Yeah, it is quite nice.
(I was getting a bit embarrassed by the attention)
Waitress: Where did you buy them?
Me: I bought it online.
Waitress: You mean from the internet? Is it expensive?
Me: About 40 dollars.
Waitress: Wah, not cheap le. What are they made of?
Nyk: Stainless steel.
Waitress: Oooh ....
Me: I think we have to go now ....
Waitress: Sure sure. Thank you. Please come again.

That was really unexpected. I wonder if it was all because I had my head on Nyk's shoulder 10 minutes before I paid for the bill LOLL

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pink feathers flock together

My colleagues sometimes ask me whether I think their friends are gay or not and I will go through that guy's friends list to determine his sexuality.

Obviously this is not a foolproof way to tell but I think it is pretty accurate. Logically speaking, how many gay friends would a straight guy have? I would say none or at most zero.

Unless that guy happens to work in the creative industry like fashion or hairdressing.

So when I found this article, its findings are not surprising. To cater for someone who doesn't like reading long articles, these are the key paragraphs.

Using data from the social network Facebook, they made a striking discovery: just by looking at a person’s online friends, they could predict whether the person was gay. They did this with a software program that looked at the gender and sexuality of a person’s friends and, using statistical analysis, made a prediction.

The two students had no way of checking all of their predictions, but based on their own knowledge outside the Facebook world, their computer program appeared quite accurate for men, they said. People may be effectively “outing” themselves just by the virtual company they keep.

The idea behind the MIT work, done in 2007, is as old as the adage that birds of a feather flock together. For years, sociologists have known of the “homophily principle” - the tendency for similar people to group together. People of one race tend to have spouses, confidants, and friends of the same race, for example. Jernigan and Mistree downloaded data from the Facebook network, choosing as their sample people who had joined the MIT network and were in the classes 2007-2011 or graduate students. They were interested in three things people frequently fill in on their social network profile: their gender, a category called “interested in” that they took to denote sexuality, and their friend links.

Of course, this is not an excuse to go "unfriending" all your gay friends. It's just to let you be aware that this it is possible to be outed this way, but still it is pure speculation on their part. There's no way to be sure unless it is from the horse's mouth.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Youngest Headmaster in the World

This is one the most inspirational stories I have ever heard. Babar Ali really has my utmost admiration and respect. May he continue with his wonderful work and bring change to his community and the world.

From the BBC:
At 16 years old, Babar Ali must be the youngest headmaster in the world. He's a teenager who is in charge of teaching hundreds of students in his family's backyard, where he runs classes for poor children from his village.

The story of this young man from Murshidabad in West Bengal is a remarkable tale of the desire to learn amid the direst poverty.

Babar Ali's day starts early. He wakes, pitches in with the household chores, then jumps on an auto-rickshaw which takes him part of the 10km (six mile) ride to the Raj Govinda school. The last couple of kilometres he has to walk.

The school is the best in this part of West Bengal. There are hundreds of students, boys and girls. The classrooms are neat, if bare. But there are desks, chairs, a blackboard, and the teachers are all dedicated and well-qualified.

As the class 12 roll-call is taken, Babar Ali is seated in the middle in the front row. He's a tall, slim, gangly teenager, studious and smart in his blue and white uniform. He takes his notes carefully. He is the model student.

Babar Ali is the first member of his family ever to get a proper education.

"It's not easy for me to come to school because I live so far away," he says, "but the teachers are good and I love learning. And my parents believe I must get the best education possible that's why I am here."

Raj Govinda school is government-run so it is free, all Babar Ali has to pay for is his uniform, his books and the rickshaw ride to get there. But still that means his family has to find around 1,800 rupees a year ($40, £25) to send him to school. In this part of West Bengal that is a lot of money. Many poor families simply can't afford to send their children to school, even when it is free.

Chumki Hajra is one who has never been to school. She is 14 years old and lives in a tiny shack with her grandmother. Their home is simple A-frame supporting a thatched roof next to the rice paddies and coconut palms at the edge of the village. Inside the hut there is just room for a bed and a few possessions.

Every morning, instead of going to school, she scrubs the dishes and cleans the homes of her neighbours. She's done this ever since she was five. For her work she earns just 200 rupees a month ($5, £3). It's not much, but it's money her family desperately needs. And it means that she has to work as a servant everyday in the village.

"My father is handicapped and can't work," Chumki tells me as she scrubs a pot. "We need the money. If I don't work, we can't survive as a family. So I have no choice but to do this job."

But Chumki is now getting an education, thanks to Babar Ali. The 16-year-old has made it his mission to help Chumki and hundreds of other poor children in his village. The minute his lessons are over at Raj Govinda school, Babar Ali doesn't stop to play, he heads off to share what he's learnt with other children from his village.

At four o'clock every afternoon after Babar Ali gets back to his family home a bell summons children to his house. They flood through the gate into the yard behind his house, where Babar Ali now acts as headmaster of his own, unofficial school.

Lined up in his back yard the children sing the national anthem. Standing on a podium, Babar Ali lectures them about discipline, then study begins.

Babar Ali gives lessons just the way he has heard them from his teachers. Some children are seated in the mud, others on rickety benches under a rough, homemade shelter. The family chickens scratch around nearby. In every corner of the yard are groups of children studying hard.

Babar Ali was just nine when he began teaching a few friends as a game. They were all eager to know what he learnt in school every morning and he liked playing at being their teacher.

Now his afternoon school has 800 students, all from poor families, all taught for free. Most of the girls come here after working, like Chumki, as domestic helps in the village, and the boys after they have finished their day's work labouring in the fields.

"In the beginning I was just play-acting, teaching my friends," Babar Ali says, "but then I realised these children will never learn to read and write if they don't have proper lessons. It's my duty to educate them, to help our country build a better future."

Including Babar Ali there are now 10 teachers at the school, all, like him are students at school or college, who give their time voluntarily. Babar Ali doesn't charge for anything, even books and food are given free, funded by donations. It means even the poorest can come here.

"Our area is economically deprived," he says. "Without this school many kids wouldn't get an education, they'd never even be literate."

Seated on a rough bench squeezed in with about a dozen other girls, Chumki Hajra is busy scribbling notes.

Her dedication to learning is incredible to see. Every day she works in homes in the village from six in the morning until half past two in the afternoon, then she heads to Babar Ali's school. At seven every evening she heads back to do more cleaning work.

Chumki's dream is to one day become a nurse, and Babar Ali's classes might just make it possible.

The school has been recognised by the local authorities, it has helped increase literacy rates in the area, and Babar Ali has won awards for his work.

The youngest children are just four or five, and they are all squeezed in to a tiny veranda. There are just a couple of bare electric bulbs to give light as lessons stretch into the evening, and only if there is electricity.

And then the monsoon rain begins. Huge drops fall as the children scurry for cover, slipping in the mud. They crowd under a piece of plastic sheeting. Babar Ali shouts an order. Lessons are cancelled for the afternoon otherwise everyone will be soaked. Having no classrooms means lessons are at the mercy of the elements.

The children climb onto the porch of a nearby shop as the rain pours down. Then they hurry home through the downpour. Tomorrow they'll be back though. Eight hundred poor children, unable to afford an education, but hungry for anything they can learn at Babar Ali's school.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The rabbit and the tortoise

So my housemate got attached. With Bunny.

Finally.

Seriously I was thinking like it was not going to happen anytime soon. Or even proceed anywhere.

If I were him, I would be celebrating my third month anniversary by now.

But then that's just me. I can't stand it when things are moving so slowly. If I like someone I would have made my move.

Carpe diem.

Of course, I have had my fair share of rejections. But no pain no gain.

As I said, that's just me. My meat is someone's else poison.

Still, I get to claim some credit on how things have worked out. LOL.

Anyway, best of luck to the both of them. It's always good when my friends get a partner in their life. They make a great couple because they are very similar in so many ways.

P/S In case someone gets offended by the title post, it's because I think it's quite catchy. One can look at it in a positive way. Think proverbs.