Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Being sensitive to our over-sensitivity

When I read about the news of another Christian Pastor in Singapore apologizing for insensitive comments, my first instinct was to look out for what I thought was now becoming the omnipresent hidden hand of the Thios (Would you blame me, considering the rather recent surreptitious overtaking of AWARE and clandestine near-launch of SingaNews?)

The debate over whether Pastor Rony’s comments were deplorable is not contested. They are indeed insensitive and to feign ignorance of its possible reading by other parties would be disingenuous. Naturally netters are up in arms. (see here and here)

That being said, I began wondering if we have all become victims of our own prejudices when we react to highly charged issues of race and religion. It is almost as if we have been inbuilt with this unbearable urge to be politically correct and take offense at the slightest gibe.

Have we – in the pursuit of sensitivity – become too sensitive in the process?

As I have argued in an earlier article on SingNews, it is not just a simple polemic battle between pro-homosexual and pro-heterosexual camps. In this case, it too should not become a Christians versus the Buddhists as once again we will ignore the real bone of contention; the surfacing of hidden agendas.

With AWARE there was a clear hidden hand and the same can be said for SingaNews. So the real question here is what was Pastor Rony’s intent?

Netters have been fast to draw comparisons with Pastor Rony’s case and the Christian couple what was charged under the sedition act for mailing banned Chick Publications' material. The natural question for this comparison is why were the two charged for sedition while Pastor Rony escapes with the proverbial slap on the wrist?

As with the hidden hand argument, it really boils down to the intent of the actions rather than the magnitude of the repercussions.

While you could argue over the offensiveness of the tracts (the object), their act of distributing them directly to Muslims (the action) signaled the couple's clear intent to proselytise via religious denigration.

Pastor Rony probably intended to use the ex-Buddhist testimonials (the object) as a ‘positive’ example for his flock to perhaps convert their Buddhist friends, but the mass distribution of the video (the action) was done by a third party.

Hence you could argue that while both objects reek of intolerance, the actions taken to spread that message were clearly different. Perhaps that was taken into account as well; leading ISD to step in instead of the police.

Alas, the optimistic contrarian in me wants to believe that actions taken against both cases were unnececesary. But the pessimistic realist voice says otherwise. That said and done, are we done with this sorry state of affairs or will it be settled with a “sorry” or two or maybe three. Or is sorry simply not enough, “still must explain”?

What is your reaction to the insensitive remarks made by Pastor Rony Tan?
05:55 AM Feb 10, 2010
Deputy PM and Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng:

What Pastor Rony Tan said and did at his evangelism sharing sessions was clearly offensive to Buddhists and Taoists. In fact, it has angered even Singaporeans who are not Buddhists and Taoists.

I am glad to note that Pastor Tan has realised his mistake and has met up with the Buddhist and Taoist leaders today to personally apologise for his actions.

This is the right thing to do.

I am also heartened to learn that the Buddhist and Taoist leaders, while understandably upset with the incident, have accepted Pastor Tan's apology and have urged restraint on the part of their religious communities.

This is also the right thing to do.

When there is a problem, we must resolve it rationally and constructively.

The Government cannot allow anyone to exploit and escalate any issue to whip up emotions and tensions on the ground between our ethnic and religious communities.

Mutual respect, tolerance and restraint are critical to maintaining communal peace and harmony in our multi-ethnic, multi-religious society.

Religious leaders especially, must lead and set the right example in this regard.

While each of us is free to propagate our religious beliefs, it must never be by way of insulting or denigrating the religious beliefs of others.

This is a fundamental OB marker that we must all steer by in Singapore."

Why were the three youngsters on Facebook treated differently from Pastor Rony Tan?
Deputy PM & Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng: It is a very serious matter if anyone were to be hauled up and investigated by ISD. It is not less serious than getting investigated by the Police.

I assure you that it is not.

The bottom-line in such cases is that we must ensure that the OB markers are clear and that transgressions are dealt with in a balanced and professional manner. Our agencies must be allowed to exercise their professional judgment on how best to achieve this outcome.

In the case of the Facebook incident, a complaint was made to the Police of an offence. The Police are investigating it and will refer it to the Attorney-Gerneral's Chambers who in turn will determine the appropriate conclusion to the matter.

We should let this Police investigation take place without interference or prejudging or speculating what that outcome will be or should be.

URL http://www.todayonline.com/Hotnews/EDC100210-0000104/What-is-your-reaction-to-the-insensitive-remarks-made-by-Pastor-Rony-Tan
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Xtrocious said...

I may be wrong but I don't think that the videos were initially distributed by third party.

Instead, these videos were taken intentionally by the church and then put up on the church's website...

This already shows that there was intent in the first place to spread the mistruths against Buddhism and Taoism.

Gabriel Sim said...

The videos were taken by the church and published on their website. It was the subsequent uploading of the videos in youtube that caused the stir and triggered the viral spread of it.

As for his intent, i tend to believe that his, and his church's, intent was to reinforce Christian values that run counter to Buddhism and Taoism.

His offensive is the clumsy denigration of another faith in justification of his own. He is therefore not without fault nor can anyone argue as such.