Monday, April 25, 2005

Story time

I got this in my email today. I have received it before quite some time back. It’s a good story and I would like to share it here.

I am a mother of three (ages 14, 12, 3) and have recently completed my college degree. The last class I had to take was Sociology. The teacher was absolutely inspiring with the qualities that I wish every human being had been graced with. Her last project of the term was called "Smile." The class was asked to go out and smile at three people and document their reactions.

I am a very friendly person and always smile at everyone and say hello anyway, so, I thought this would be a piece of cake, literally. Soon after we were assigned the project, my husband, youngest son, and I went out to McDonald's one crisp March morning. It was just our way of sharing special playtime with our son.

We were standing in line, waiting to be served, when all of a sudden everyone around us began to back away, and then even my husband did. I did not move an inch... an overwhelming feeling of panic welled up inside of me as I turned to see why they had moved.

As I turned around I smelled a horrible "dirty body" smell, and there standing behind me were two poor homeless men. As I looked down at the short gentleman, close to me, he was "smiling". His beautiful sky blue eyes were full of God's Light as he searched for acceptance. He said, "Good day" as he counted the few coins he had been clutching. The second man fumbled with his hands as he stood behind his friend.

I realized the second man was mentally challenged and the blue-eyed gentleman was his salvation. I held my tears as I stood there with them. The young lady at the counter asked him what they wanted.

He said, "Coffee is all Miss" because that was all they could afford. (If they wanted to sit in the restaurant and warm up, they had to buy something. He just wanted to be warm).

Then I really felt it - the compulsion was so great I almost reached out and embraced the little man with the blue eyes. That is when I noticed all eyes in the restaurant were set on me, judging my every action. I smiled and asked the young lady behind the counter to give me two more breakfast meals on a separate tray. I then walked around the corner to the table that the men had chosen as a resting spot. I put the tray on the table and laid my hand on the blue-eyed gentleman's cold hand. He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes, and said, "Thank you." I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, "Don’t mention it. Just doing my bit for a fellow human being. Have a good day.”

I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, "I am so proud of you, honey. That is why I married you, your compassion towards others knows no bounds.” We held hands for a moment. We looked at the two men and I realised how powerful and significant a simple act of kindness could be.

That day showed me the need to make the first move towards helping others. I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand. I turned in "my project" and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, "Can I share this?"

I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read and that is when I knew that we as human beings and being part of a shared existence on Earth, have a need to heal people and to be healed. In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald's, my husband, son, instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student. I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn: unconditional acceptance. Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to love people and use things, not love things and use people.


Now, isn’t that an inspiring story? In our brief existence, whereby we will all die one day, I feel it is only right and appropriate to make our and other people’s time here a little better and more joyous. I believe that people are inherently good, and given the opportunity, we would help others.

I don’t like to suffer, and I am certain no one does. Even seeing others suffer is enough to elicit a scintilla of compassion. It is only natural and instinctive, just like we smile when we feel happy. It is a pretty simple notion.

If you have read that story before, I am sure you would have noticed that it was different. Yup, I actually changed it a little. I changed the last four paragraphs. Below is the actual version.

.... I leaned over, began to pat his hand and said, "I did not do this for you. God is here working through me to give you hope."

I started to cry as I walked away to join my husband and son. When I sat down my husband smiled at me and said, "That is why God gave you to me, Honey, to give me hope." We held hands for a moment and at that time, we knew that only because of the Grace that we had been given were we able to give.

We are not church goers, but we are believers. That day showed me the pure Light of God's sweet love. I returned to college, on the last evening of class, with this story in hand. I turned in "my project" and the instructor read it. Then she looked up at me and said, "Can I share this?"

I slowly nodded as she got the attention of the class. She began to read and that is when I knew that we as human beings and being part of God share this need to heal people and to be healed. In my own way I had touched the people at McDonald's, my husband, son, instructor, and every soul that shared the classroom on the last night I spent as a college student. I graduated with one of the biggest lessons I would ever learn: unconditional accceptance. Much love and compassion is sent to each and every person who may read this and learn how to love people and use things, not love things and use people.


According to this, the writer seemed to be implying that she wouldn’t have done it if not for God. Apparently, God was working through her by controlling her actions (leaning over and patting the man’s hand). God also whispered earlier in her ear to buy them a meal.

But God didn’t whisper to the others. So should the two men feel hopeful and loved, as only person showed compassion? Let’s assume that there were ten other people. Which meant the other ten were cold-hearted. The world is still a pretty bad place to live in, as there are more selfish people than good ones.

The moral of the story is that if it wasn’t for God, the writer wouldn’t have done what she did. She would have reacted like the others. She would have pretended that the two men weren’t there and they didn’t need anything from her.

And what if she did? Or it is just unfathomable that if it weren’t God, she wouldn’t have bought them meals?

Also, is it not possible that everyone who was there ignored the two homeless men? What can we conclude then? That God didn’t want to give the men hope?

My point is that, we should take responsibility for our actions. Ever heard of the word called free will? The writer could have help or didn’t or the others could have help or didn’t, it’s all human behaviour, which is shaped by various factors such as upbringing, education, genes, family and friends, etc.

Why bring God unthinkingly and also unfairly into our actions all the time? Doesn’t he have other more important things to do, like defeating the angel of darkness or something?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A little mistake

I had to work yesterday. After work, I had agreed to go for a friend’s Buddhist society activities. My friend A, informed me that it was based on treasure hunt and survival games concept, with the objective of learning about life’s lessons. It sounded interesting, which was why I agreed to go. Three of my university friends came along too.

It was scheduled to start at 4pm. When we arrived, it was obvious that something was not quite right. It seemed that everyone else was younger than us, some very much younger. Anyhow, since we were already there, we might as well join in the fun and enjoy ourselves. Which we did.

Though it was called treasure hunt cum survival games, it was actually more like station games. We had to move from one place to another to play games and earn points. There was a find-the-words puzzle, pop quiz, ten-person-nine-legged-race and so on. The most challenging one would be the one where we have to wrap an egg with straws or paper. The objective was to make sure the egg doesn’t break when dropped from four feet.

It ended about half past six and everyone proceeded to the canteen for dinner. While talking to one of our fellow teammates, I found out that the day’s program was meant for students. That explained the presence of the younger participants (and the lack of potential dates ;P). He also said that there was something similar for working adults, which was held a fortnight ago. Seemed like A got the wrong information then.

Oh well, though we were a little disappointed, we still stayed on till eight thirty. My friend A gave us a book each, called “A Piece of Mirror”. It was written by the president of Soka Gakai, Daisaku Ikeda.

I have browsed through it. It is a compilation of Ikeda’s writings on various subjects such as love, happiness, death, human spirit and so on.

Definitely a worthwhile read.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Do you like being gay?

I came across this question a few days back. Also, I am sure you are tired about me going on and on about religion. So, here is something different.

Who I am now is a culmination of 24 years of experience. I can look at this fact positively or negatively. The choices and the decision I made and those I did not, are things which cannot be changed. I am happy at where I am now, but I feel there is still room for improvement.

Not too long ago, I finished reading Mitch Albom’s Tuesdays with Morrie. Morrie was someone who was dying from a disease called ALS and he had about six months to live. Having lived a life filled with love and meaningful human relationships and with death imminent, he had time to reflect and ponder on the important things in life. One of the questions that he was asked was why the obsession with youth in today’s society.

His reply was, he embraced aging. As people grow older, they don’t just age but they also learned from experiences and mistakes. To him, people who wished they were young again had squandered their youth and wanted to do things differently. Morrie said that he wouldn’t want to go back to his younger days when he was not wise to the ways of the world and easily influenced by media and society’s messages. The days when he didn’t know what are the important things in life.

I agree with Morrie. I wouldn’t want to go back to my high school days when I felt there was no one else like me. When I had a crush on my best friend. When I had the feeling that who I am was wrong and it was some sort of punishment. Who I am now is a better version (though this is debatable, according to Hume). There are still some insecurities, but I am definitely more confident. I have come to accept who I am as one of Creation’s intention and not an aberration.

Besides, even though being gay is indeed more difficult, it has its benefits (this is where my superiority complex kicks in ;P). The most obvious difference is that the way gay people see things. Our perception and understanding of people and the world is different. As for myself, I appreciate the differences and diversity of people. I understand that people have different likes and dislikes, and I respect their opinion even though I may not agree with them.

I also understand that labels are just a convenient and lazy way to know someone, without actually understanding them. Homosexuals, transsexuals, heterosexuals, Malays, Chinese, Christians, Americans, etc, these are all just generalisations of a group of people. I mean, how can hundreds of thousands of people think and behave alike? Which is why I always insist that people back up their claims with more than just statements and asking them to be certain of what they said.

Moreover, gay people tend to question things, don’t we? I mean I can’t just accept something as it is, especially when others say that’s how it has always been done or that that is the norm. But if asked, they wouldn’t know the reason behind it. As a personal example, religion.

I don’t profess to any theistic religion, exacerbated by the strong condemnation on homosexuality. I question the rationale behind such dogmas and I extend the same scrutinization to other aspects as well, such as the authenticity of so-called miracles. When we were younger, we depend on our parents to make decisions for us. To a significant extent, people seldom question what they have come to accept while growing up. Usually, there was never a need to. Things like dating, marriage and gender roles. My whole point is that, I don’t accept things as they are, more so when something has the backing of the majority. Indirectly, I think I have hone good critical thinking skills.

Another thing is the whole Mars and Venus and battle of the sexes; it is just mind boggling that men always claim they don’t understand women. The way I see it is that it’s partly biology and mostly social conditioning. How men’s brains are wired plus the effects of the environment they grew up in. Men usually aren’t interested in reading about themselves, only the opposite sex. Even so, I think that their interest would be quite superficial like dating and not something deeper like behavioural or biological. When you can understand yourself, you will then inadvertently understand others too.

In my case, I am curious about myself. And I read to find out more. Now, I understand why males find homosexuality repulsive, why we have tunnel vision as opposed to broad vision, why guys are usually good at parking (visual-spatial capabilities), how guys typically cope with insecurities and fears, why they find it harder to mutitask and lastly, why some guys are plain dumb (males have IQs with a slightly flatter distribution curve). And the way women behave and deal with all these, are different.

I also feel that some of the society’s expectations on males are stifling, especially gender roles. Things like not to cry as to not appear weak, have to look physically tough or masculine, talk with minimal or no gestures at all, cannot be touchy feely, etc. As for myself, I am comfortable giving comments on good-looking guys, I know what beauty and skincare products are in the market (even if I don’t buy them) and I don’t have to pretend to like cars and football (some guys do feign interest for the sake of fitting in).

How good can life get, when being gay allows us to be more in touch with our emotions and expressive? I mean, why should we control our behaviour or be mindful of society’s standards of gender roles all the time? Even if straight guys don’t mind putting up with it or it’s no sweat to them, isn’t ironic that some straight women say that gays make better boyfriends and husbands?

Come to think of it, I might be wrong. There is a breed of men known as metrosexuals who are becoming more common. Still, I read somewhere that women are complaining they can’t find real men anymore. Before this, women complained that a lot of men were insensitive, macho and not in touch with their feminine side. With the metrosexual, women seemed to miss the good old days as the metrosexual is seen as the less masculine version of a man, who might be even more in touch with his feminine side than a woman is. I would think that these comments came from the high-flying and corporate-climbing career women, who have more attributes commonly associated with men. My view is that one woman’s meat is another woman’s poison.

In short, I like being gay. Even if I was given a chance to change, I will choose not to. Why, I even deem a straight life to be boring. How likely is someone to be different, and to what extent is the difference, if he is always surrounded by the same cultural, societal and thinking patterns which are practised by almost everyone he knows?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Waxing lyrical about philosophy

It is indeed fortunate that tomorrow is a public holiday. A break is always nice.

Yesterday, one of my colleagues went to watch Life Sdn Bhd 3 at the Actors Studio, Bangsar. It was the opening night yesterday, and I had actually planned earlier this month to go watch it. Anyway, it ain't gonna happen. The colleague pretty much enjoyed it, and she also felt inspired. After all, that was her first play she attended. I think I’ll most probably give this a skip, as I have plans on Saturday and I prefer to rest at home on Sunday.

For the past week or so, I have been pretty busy reading. It’s all due to Sam’s influence that I am reading philosophy and writings of famous people in the past. He has read a lot on this subject and on religion as well, and according to him, that’s how he settled for Christianity. He has tried to convince me likewise. However, I beg to differ. As Thomas Paine said, “I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine.”

I have been reading Mark Twain’s satire “Letters from The Earth”, Bertrand Russell’s “Why I am not a Christian”, Robert Ingersoll’s “Why I am an agnostic” and Thomas Paine’s “The Age of Reason”. I may be biased in my choice of reading material, as all these writers are either agnostic or deist. However, the way I see it is that this is my way of exploring spirituality and to come to a conclusion on my own. I am open to pro-Christianity writings, and one of colleagues has suggested Thomas Aquinas.

As all these writers were from the West, they obviously had not much exposure to other religions besides Christianity. To them, the religion has so many inconsistencies and inaccuracies, it is indeed a wonder that Christianity manage to survive till this day. I attribute that as a result of organised religion.

One of Thomas Paine’s contention against the Christian religion is the argument that, after Satan liberated himself from the pit (he was confined there after being defeated by God), he seemed to have taken on powers as much as God himself. This is because the Devil is said to be everywhere (omnipresent) and tempting everyone to indulge in sin. People do blame everything that goes wrong on the work of the Devil, don't they? The question is, how could he have done that as he is only an angel and angels should have less power than God. From an angel, he became the God of Darkness and Evil. Also, notice the similarity between this and the Greek mythology of Zeus and his many children, who were lesser gods.

In addition, If God had really wanted to tell us about his Word and wanted to spread the good news to the whole world, surely he would have chosen someone who could speak hundreds of languages, whereas Jesus spoke only Hebrew? God is unchanging and eternal, so why should His words be open to interpretation? Even in it’s original Hebrew language, there are differences in opinion on what some of the words meant. For an example, please refer here. Everyone knows that in translation, very seldom can the original meaning be transferred to the translation and meanings are often lost. As there is no universal language, which everyone understands, how can Christ claim that he brings the word of God to all?

Furthermore, how can a loving God condemned a person to eternal punishment, just because he or she does not believe in Christ? If that is the case, one billion of Chinese will be going to Hell. How reasonable is that?

The concept of redemption, whereby man may be delivered from sin and its consequences by the sacrifice allegedly made by Jesus Christ, has made it possible for the church to sell redemption letters in the Middle Ages to so-called sinners and they made a huge profit out of it. That concept just feels wrong and counter-intuitive. Someone else takes the responsibility for another’s actions. We are supposed to believe that God came in human form to earth, make a big drama to show that he loves us and then die in an equally spectacular way. If Christ died for our sins, shouldn't we back in God's graces now or that man has returned to his original sinless state?

Another point is that if Jesus is Son of God, why weren’t the scriptures written in his time, when he was still alive? All the gospels were written after he died. Perhaps the writers felt that it was more credible then. Also, all the miracles that supposedly happened were witness by a few people only. For example, when he arose from the dead and ascended to heaven, there were less than ten persons who saw it. Anything is a miracle, if we do not the principles behind it. The formation of a rainbow would be considered a miracle too, if we do not know about light refraction.

Sin. That is the one word that Christianity always talks about. Because of the original sin (eating the apple), we as descendants of Adam have to suffer pain and evil in this world. Apparently, God believes in sin being passed down and remembers it all the time as He holds generations of humankind accountable. Nope, there’s no such thing as forgiving. So, if someone did wrong to another person, let’s say the husband ran off with another woman, we shall punish their children, and their children’s children. Makes so much sense, doesn’t it?

I strongly recommend that whoever that is searching for answers to read those writings. I have included the links on the right. Whether you are searching for something to believe in or contemplating leaving a religion or perhaps you have some free time, the thinking and ideas of those men are indeed worth reading. It goes to show that most of our questions on existence have been, and still are, being discussed and dissected.

Monday, April 18, 2005


The weekend seemed to have passed by pretty quickly for me. Saturday was mostly spent at home studying, as my exam is about a month away. I managed to get some revision done, so it was not too bad.

Before I continue, I would like to make a disclaimer. The following are my views and is not intended to offend anyone, especially the Christians. You are welcome to continue reading or to leave the page right now.

On Sunday, I had agreed to go for an activity, which involved some sort of contribution to society. My colleague told us that we were supposed to go out to the streets and distribute food to the homeless, poor, vagrants, addicts, etc. The place is located in Old Town; it’s a yellow house on a corner lot. They called themselves Street Ministry, whereby the purpose is to reached out to the people on the streets and show them God’s love; to bring them the message of Jesus and that they are still cared for and not neglected. The place is run by someone named Steve. As I found out later, he himself was a former drug addict and had been in and out of prison a number of times, till he found God’s love and that changed his life.

As you would have known by now, I am not a Christian. I have nothing against the religion, but it’s just the way the followers are doing their bidding, or as they call it “God’s work”. When I arrived there with my colleague, one of the first things I was asked was, am I a Christian? Fine, perhaps Steve wanted to know which church I attended. By the way, this Street Ministry is, in a way, under the auspices of Damansara Utama Methodist Church. I don’t think I was overly sensitive, but I was put off by his strong Christian message about Jesus’s love. While he was explaining about the things they do, I kept feeling that he was directly addressing me and trying somehow to convert me.

I agree to a certain extent that these people are doing a good job and helping our fellow men and women. But why is it always done in the name of God? Before we started to pack the foods to be distributed, they said a prayer. Before we went out to distribute, they said another prayer. Both times, it was to bless the food and the hands that received the food. Can’t we be doing this out of compassion for fellow humankind? Why must it that this act is to show God’s love instead, and not our love?

Everything, every act, every result, that is good is attributed to God, and so is everything bad. How is God helping anyway? By paying the food, building the house or recruiting more people to help? When something proceeded smoothly, why it that God is given thanks and not because of proper planning? When do humans ever take accountability? If that is the case, are we not responsible for what we do? Then for what purpose is the concept of heaven and hell, where humans are rewarded or punished for what they did, since we are not responsible?

The people on the streets are there because of a multitude of reasons, all of which are human causes. Poverty, lack of education, lack of strong morals, abandonment by family members, etc. God did not cause all these. I quote from Epicurus, a Greek philosopher

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

Furthermore, Steve also tries to spread the message of Jesus. I supposed he was saved, and he wanted to share the good news about his saviour. The intention may be good (and I have come across many who try to spread the word of Christ at whatever opportunity that they have), and they are following what is said in the Bible, which is to spread the Gospels.

However, I feel this kind of thinking breeds narrow-mindedness, whereby they feel that they are right and all other beliefs are inferior. Because they truly believe that the Bible is the word of God, they don’t seem to respect diversity in beliefs, thinking that God must be on their side, sometimes verging on fanaticism. I remember reading somewhere, supposedly said in jest by some aborigines, “Initially, they had the Book and we had the land. Now, we have the Book and they have the land.”

My belief is to love others and do what is right, to make the things around me better. To quote Thomas Paine, “I believe that religion consists not in believing or disbelieving, but in doing justice, loving mercy and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy”. You might then ask, how do I know what is right? Any one would know what is right or wrong, if he has grown up with proper guidance from parents, attended school and basically has interacted with fellow human beings.

I don’t have to be a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist to do good and help others. I am doing it for the sake of doing, to help my fellow humankind. Why? Because in the short time we spend on this Earth, to quote Einstein, “everything we do and think is concerned with the satisfaction of deeply felt needs and the assuagement of pain”. Everyone will die one day, so why not make my life, and the lives of people around me, better in any way that I can. I don’t expect to get anything in return, but the satisfaction of having done something good. The feeling of helping others, especially if I have been there myself, is truly invigorating. I suppose this is what others go through, cancer survivors or people with AIDS, the need to share their stories and to help others who are suffering.

No doubt Christianity and other organised religion have done good and improved society’s welfare. But to think that Christianity is the only way or to do something to show that God really cares, with the intention of converting others, I don’t think that it should be done that way.

There has to be respect for other people’s beliefs and disbeliefs.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Busy Saturday

I had an eventful Saturday. Some university friends organised a karaoke session at Red Box, the Curve. There were seven of us and we booked the lunch slot, which offers off-peak rates. I didn’t know the rates are that low, which would probably explain why all the rooms were booked in advance and fully taken.

Well, I had fun. I am not a good singer; I was even laughed at. Yup, I sing like my best friend just died. No sense of tone or pitch whatsoever. But what the heck, it was all good-natured fun. We sang till 2pm, and then went for a cuppa at Starbucks.

The whole purpose I was around the Bandar Utama area was because I was supposed to meet up with my Mount Kinabalu hike teammates later. I don’t usually come here. Anyway, the meet up was to be held at someone’s house in SS23 and it was supposed to be a potluck dinner. As I had another four hours to kill, I asked a friend to come along for a movie. Of all the movies available, I had the unfortunate luck to have chosen The Eye 10. Let me tell you, it is the silliest film ever to be made by the Pang brothers, of The Eye fame. The movie was nonsensical, and there were hardly any scares. I just wished that all the characters would die swiftly; they were extremely lacking a lot of grey cells. All the main characters did die towards the end of the movie though. I should have known how silly the movie would be, when the audience were laughing within the first three minutes of a supposedly horror movie.

After the movie, I grabbed some sushi and waited for my friend to come pick me up to go to SS23. His name is Lex. He gives tuition classes on weekends, and he has a class from five to seven. So I hanged around in One Utama for about 45 minutes. Bumped into a friend who was with his girlfriend, and also two other friends from high school.

For the potluck, Lex and I decided to ta pau some fried rice and noodles. We spent about 10 minutes looking for the location of the house, even though I have the directions with me. Thanks to Lex, who ignored my directions and said it was easy to find the address.

In the house, there were five other people; four who are going for the hike and one who was there to tell us his experience of climbing Mount Kinabalu. They were all nice people. Especially the one who shared his experience, Stan. He happened to have just come back from KK and he brought back some brochures. The way he described his experience was funny and the tips he gave were useful, like bringing a helmet torch instead of a handheld one, how to pace ourselves and not to climb in haste (the objective is to reach the summit, not to be the fastest), how coming down was kinda scary because that’s when you realised how steep the mountain is, etc. Basically we were all excited and can’t wait till June. It was a relief also when Stan said that we don’t have to be really fit, just relatively fit will do. Which is good, though I am pretty sure I am better than relatively fit. Nevertheless, we still plan to do some stamina and endurance training starting next weekend.

That’s when something annoying happened. As Lex has tuition classes on weekend, I asked what time is his morning lesson. He said don’t worry, he can arrange his schedule. But he didn’t seem too happy that I asked. I didn’t give it a second thought then.

Later, when it was almost ten, I was feeling a bit tired as I had been out since morning. As such, I was thinking of going home. As he has tuition tomorrow morning, so I asked again what time is his morning tuition. I am sure that I asked in a soft tone, but the response I got was an angry one. He said don’t ask and he will tell in the car later. It was obvious that he was pissed.

Anyway, we made our move when it seemed that that was all for the meet up. In the car, he explained his reasons for his reactions earlier. Reason: I don’t want others to know about my personal life. I was like, huh? Since when did giving tuition become a personal thing. It’s not like I asked him how many siblings he has, or which school he attended, or even what’s his favourite food. Besides, I asked in a low tone and he could have whispered his answer back to me. I was really perplexed and felt like giving him a punch. Looking back, I wondered how I could have put up with his paranoia when we together. Actually, I didn’t, just that it was more bearable then. I am glad that we broke up when we did.

But that was not the end of it. He continued to complain about the age of the other climbers. Lex said that he expected younger people or people of our age. So what if they are at least 30? He accused me of knowing earlier and not warning him. He also asked that didn’t I know that he doesn’t meet people older than 30. This conversation (if it was a conversation) was beginning to get on my nerves. First of all, age is a non-issue to me. I didn’t know earlier how old they would be. Moreover they seemed like nice and friendly people and I had a feeling they would make good company for the hike. If he had wanted people of similar ages, then he should have organised his own hike. (For the hike, one of them arranged for everything, from the flight to accommodation. I just had to pay. Obviously, I am not complaining about this hassle-free arrangement.) Do you know what he said? He probably should. How inane can you get?

Anyway, I was not in the mood to continue this further, so I changed the subject. We moved to more pleasant topics. When we were nearing my house, he admitted he was being bitchy for now and he would still go for the hike. I was slightly disappointed that he did not pull out (just being mean here) and I made him promise to not bitch anymore, if he wanted to share a room with me. Which he did.

So that was how my Saturday went.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

More grouses on the scriptures

There is some debate about homosexual tendencies and homosexual activities. For example, being a homosexual is not a sin, but committing the act of homosexuality is a sin. This needs some consideration; it is certainly not a sin to be a heterosexual (it is God’s design!) but you can sin in the heterosexual realm. In addition, to say that one is a victim of any of the above removes any hope of change in the future. Yet the Bible teaches otherwise, and many homosexuals have come to Christ and changed their lifestyle!

The above was taken from this website. One R.K. Harrison was also quoted as saying that “Patristic (church fathers) references, like scriptural ones, were directed, however, to the practice of homosexuality, not the desire itself. There was no condemnation of the person who kept his propensity in check, Christian judgment instead being imposed strictly on those who yielded to its pressures.”

Now, this is an interesting way to look at it. I could probably live with not having sex. It would entail lots of determination and determined. Men just aren’t born to be celibate. It’s in their software that they propagate their genes as far and as wide as possible. However, in the Bible, it is said that marriage is For fear of fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband (Corinthians 7:2).

In other words, a married couple is not allowed to have sex with other people. Can they have sex between themselves? Obviously they can. They are supposed to have sex with each other and be sexually satisfied so that they won’t seek gratification outside of marriage. If they are not sexually appeased, there chances of adultery and affairs are much higher.

Now, let’s assume that a married couple are not supposed to have sex. Meaning sex other than for the purpose of procreation. After all, the Bible did say to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth”. If the phrase were to be taken literally, that would mean that couples couldn’t have sex for fun, to bring intimacy into the relationship, to improve the relationship or to bring husband and wife closer together or just for the sake of having sex. Sex is only for having babies. Sex must be "fruitful", which means it must have conception. Actually, there are some who do believe that sex is only for procreation (click here). Which means it just a process with an end result in mind and it is certainly not considered to be a loving act between two loving people.

If that’s the case, I wonder how can they stay together for long? Especially in the early years of the marriage. True, sex isn’t the most important thing in a relationship, but it is still important. Maybe they are just expected to share the same bed at night, cuddle and hug, have mutual masturbation, and perhaps some sex toys are involved. They could also kiss, but can’t be too passionate because that might lead to something else. They can also do the household chores together, spend time with the kids, go to the cinema and the beach. They can do everything except have sex.

Still with me so far with this assumption? What do you think? Will marriage now be extremely dull or exciting? I can just imagine the queue at the Registrar of Marriage getting longer. The point being that even with matrimonial laws and society’s role in supporting marriage, divorce rates are high. With no such support for same-sex couples, it is already bad. No sex will make things worse, if this line of thought were to apply. Or more likely, this is what the anti-homosexual side is saying, so that gays and lesbians will give up their so-called sinful lifestyle and get married and have kids.

The contention that you can be gay, but you can’t do the “gay” stuff smacks of hypocrisy. It’s like someone who wants to be a writer. He knows that he is born to be a writer. This person has a wide vocabulary, vivid imagination, captivating storytelling style and good prose. And whatever else that a great writer is supposed to have. But wait, he can’t put his stories on paper. No sir, he is not supposed to write them down in words or type it out. He can be a writer, but he can’t physically express his love for writing. He can’t have the joy of seeing his works in print. How ludicrous is that!

Also, the conservatives often use the claim that God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Well, God created humans with two legs, two arms, two eyes, etc. What about people who are born deformed or some other defects? Some are blind, some has only one limb, and there are many other combinations of defects. Likewise, male and female are the extremes, and there is everything else in between like homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals and hermaphrodites. My view is that male and female are just for biological and reproductive purposes and for the genetic edge (healthier gene pool) in propagating the human species.

Furthermore, there is a whole lot of debate on the Greek words used in the Bible, in verses which supposedly mentions homosexuality. The words are arsenokoitai and malakos, which were used in Corinthians 6:9, King James Version (the Bible has many versions, the one most commonly referred to is King James and some even say the most reliable).

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Arsenokoitai and malakos were translated into effeminate and abusers of themselves with mankind respectively. As there are many versions of the Bible, these two words are sometimes translated into homosexual, sexual pervert and sodomite. This mistranslation apparently started only in the early 20th century. According to researchers, that two Greek words were rarely used in ancient times, and no one knows exactly what they mean. Some tried to understand the words literally; others looked at the context used, which explains why there are so many variations. Of course, both sides of the homosexual debate have their own justifications.

Someone once said that, everything can be justified and reasons can be found, once we have decided on something.

You must be thinking why am I going on and on about scriptures. Somehow, I found the arguments given by both sides interesting. Obviously, I have my own agenda and I would be on the pro-homosexual side. Come to think of it, if homosexuality were a sin, like adultery, stealing, murder and fornication, why didn’t the writers be more specific, rather than using such obscure words, which were not found in other parts of the scripture. In fact, the word homosexual was only coined in the late 1800’s. There was no word used to describe homosexuality in Greek.

I may be biased, but I certainly can’t see how a loving relationship between two people can be deemed sinful. To end, I quote the Bible, Romans 13:8-10,

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,”and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (New International Version)

Love is, the most important thing after all.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The Bible debate

Allow me to vent my frustrations for a while.

I don’t mind helping my colleagues with their work when they are not around. But you must give me specific instructions or objectives. I can’t prepare something if are not even sure of what you want. Worse still, I have to find out all the background information and whatever outstanding issues there are within TWO days. I probably wouldn’t complain so much if I have given more time (I would still make a fuss anyway, but not so much) Sometimes, I think my superiors think that I am a mind reader or something, to come out with something which they themselves have no inkling whatsoever.

Back to personal issues. Truth be told, I don’t have any. If you recall, I was writing about Sam in my previous blog. I have no feelings towards him now. How did that changed so fast, in less than a week? I don’t have the answer, but probably it’s due to the Christianity research I have been doing. Sam is a devout Christian and he believes homosexuality is a sin, which he must avoid. He made the conscious decision of not having relationships for the rest of his life; he does not plan to get married either.

When I asked why the thinks as such, he showed this passage from the Bible, Romans 1:26-27 :

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in
their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

I have been looking at both sides of the argument, one side which claims that God made it clear that homosexuality is wrong and the other side claims otherwise. Both sides of the fence made interesting reads. I don’t profess to be unbiased, but I would go for the argument, which says that homosexuality is not a sin.

Before I did any research on this verse, my initial understanding of it is that it applies to the heterosexual population. For them, natural would be men with women and vice versa. So if they were to “leave” the natural use of women, surely it is against their nature for that is not their sexual orientation. Just as it would be “unnatural” for me to engage in sexual intercourse with a woman. Another thing I couldn’t understand is, how could men just lust for men, if they had not earlier? Sexual orientation can’t be changed as easily as changing one’s clothes. Which means that the people referred to weren’t homosexuals in the first place.

I’ll present both sides of the argument. First, the conservative religious view. A person called Jay Adams, said, “One is not a homosexual constitutionally any more than one is an adulterer constitutionally. Homosexuality is not considered to be a condition, but an act. It is viewed as a sinful practice which can become a way of life. The homosexual act, like the act of adultery, is the reason for calling one a homosexual (of course, one may commit homosexual sins of the heart, just as one can commit heterosexual sins of the heart. He may lust after a man in his heart as another may lust after a woman). But precisely because homosexuality, like adultery, is learned behavior into which men with sinful natures are prone to wander, homosexuality can be forgiven in Christ, and the pattern can be abandoned and in its place proper patterns can be reestablished by the Holy Spirit.” Click here for the original text.

Mostly, this side contends that homosexuality is a predisposition, just as people who have predisposition to be alcoholics, violent, etc. All these can be changed if one were to ask for help from society or religion. Obviously, most if not all who argue along this line are heterosexuals. They don’t see homosexuality as a different yet acceptable sexual orientation, just like being right or left handed. But rather, it is seen as a condition which can be changed, or an act which can be abstained or even a desire which should be overcome. Like a bad habit which could be stopped anytime, but homosexuals just don't want to. Probably no one has asked them to changed their heterosexuality and experience for themselves how “easy” it is to change.

Moving on to the other side of the fence, we are asked to look at the whole chapter and not just verse 26-27. Romans was written by Paul as a letter. In the earlier verses, Romans 1:20-25:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were they thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

The argument goes that Paul was referring to idolatry This is because the people at that time worship other things or creatures as God, instead of the true Creator and their rituals involved homosexual acts. Furthermore, this argument is supported by the phrase “For this reason” in the earlier verse in Romans 26. So, it is because of idolatry that God gave them up vile passions. God gave up and let them do whatever they want. To quote Furnish, “Paul presents “sexual immoralities among those vices to which the pagans have been led by their own idolatry: lustful impurity and the degradations of their bodies (1:24), and ‘dishonorable passions’ as evidenced by homosexual intercourse (1:26-27). In this connection he too can speak of the Gentiles having received ‘the due penalty for their error’ (1:27).” Thus, “homosexual intercourse” is a “dishonorable passion” which is the consequence of idolatry. Second, Paul adopts his culture’s view of homosexuality (as expressed, e.g., in Seneca, Dio Chrysostom, and Philo) as a “freely chosen” behavior, driven by insatiable shameful lust, and against the natural order.”

Furnish concludes that: “We must remember that it was the more degraded and exploitive forms of pederasty that the Apostle and his contemporaries had in view when they condemned homosexual practice.”

Thus, Furnish (and many other commentators, including Brooten) insists: both in 1:26 (about women) and 1:27 (about men) Paul did not speak about what today we call “homosexuality” or “homoeroticism.” He spoke of degrading, violent, abusive relationships. The original text is found here.

There are many more arguments on both sides regarding other verses which referred to homosexuality. My view is that I don’t see how a loving relationship between two people, of whatever sex, is deemed wrong.

I always thought that everyone is born as a white sheet, the tabula rasa school of thought, until I was corrected by Sam. Humans are born, to use a computer jargon, pre-formatted. People have an inherent sense of what is right and wrong. For examples, small children when telling a lie for the very first time, would feel guilty. They knew it deep down inside. A mother will readily attest that her child has a personality right from the moment he or she was born. Ask any gay what it feels like to kiss another, he would answer it felt right and natural, not wrong and sinful.

As such, we can say that we are all racist, sexist, bigots etc right from the very beginning. These characteristics are hard-wired into the brain. True, we know we shouldn’t be like that, and society does not encourage this kind of behaviour. What about homosexuality then? Humans crave for love and for someone to share their lives. So what if the other person is of the same sex? Is it so wrong? It’s human nature to love and be loved. Something so basic, a need so simple, a desire that is so natural, yet society made a big fuss about it and calling it sinful. The hets can do it, why not the homos?

I know, I know, life is unfair. But why make your life more miserable by renouncing an inherent trait and struggling with the consequences of the decision?