Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A matter of (personal) faith

I was surprised the local channel was covering the news US evangelist Franklin Graham, was coming to Hong Kong to hold events. Today he was giving a press conference and handing out school supplies to a poor area in Hong Kong. I'm sure many of friends will be going to these events being devout Christians.

I'm quite ambivalent towards the topic of evangelism. It's good to talk about your faith to other people whether they are atheist or believe in a different religion. It gives them an idea how your religion works, since I always believe ignorance leads to hate and discrimination. If convert you them to your religion, the better.

Yet I start to draw the line when people start to 'impose' their religious views on people who don't want to hear about it. Some people are happy not believing in God or a particular religion, which is fine by me. They are plenty of good people in the world who are not Christian, Muslim or any other religion who are living content lives and performing good deeds.

There are also people who start to take their religious doctrine a little too seriously or distort the views of the Bible. If you start to say you view on something is based on the fact "It is in the Bible", I think you are on mushy foundations. I remember one former friend (Dora Tai) would not have pre-marital sex on the basis "It is in the Bible." If she said that her relationship with her boyfriend would be better if they did not engage in any nookie before the big day, I would accept her views and moved on. However just because "It is in the Bible" is bordering on blind contempt for me. I'm sure many young ladies in Hong Kong feel the same way, that pre-marital sex is bad because "It is in the Bible".

Before people start to write in and say I'm a Bible basher who hates all Christians and has no basis on his views regarding Christianity, let me just iterate I'm a Christian - Protestant/Anglican to be more precise. I do believe there is one God and Jesus Christ came to die for our sins. I must admit I have not been to church for quite a while - nearly four years - because of my schedule but primarily because of my depression and my faith have not been compatible.

Yet I don't believe the Bible is totally the word of God - it is interpretation of his word from his disciples which have been distorted over many millennia. Think of the game 'Chinese Whispers' and you know why I think that. I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. I don't believe animals have no souls (one fact sprung on me by Dora and one I absolutely don't believe). I do believe live is precious and I would not give my permission to an abortion but I do believe it is a woman's right to choose. I don't believe in euthanasia but I believe it is right for a person to choose whether or not he/she should die. I do not believe in imposing my religious views on other people, which is why I abhor when conservative politicians who use the Bible as their basis for their political stance start to implement these views on their constituents, whether or not they believe in that religion.

For those who believe the Bible as the only word, I like to give you a scene from one of my favourite shows of all time "The West Wing" (Season 2, Episode 3 - The Midterms). In this scene, the President meets a religious radio show host:
President Josiah Bartlet: I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
President Josiah Bartlet: Yes it does. Leviticus.
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: 18:22.
President Josiah Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you? One last thing: while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits.

I don't mind if you are religious or not. Just don't impose your views on me. They are YOUR views, not mine. I still believe faith is personal and cannot be passed on.

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