Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A/(S)hamed But Forgiven (Concluding Thoughts to 'Hidden Cameras')

It's surely safe to conclude that Elizabeth Wong was a victim of political manipulation. Against such tactics, all should take a firm stand. The body (both male and female) cannot - in Jojo Fung's words - be a battleground for political power. Part and parcel of a life lived abundantly has to be the sacralisation and guarding of personal privacy against malicious forces.

Having said that, even Wong's most ardent defenders cannot deny the partisan influences on their views and outrage. Hence, the absence of a similar intensity when condemning (if at all) those who filmed Chua Soi Lek in secret.

Whilst I personally don't think there's anything immoral preferring one political party over another (to me it's like preferring Manchester United over Chelsea - a deeply passionate affair, I know), I think too often the selectivity of our judgments betray the unevenness of our standards, easily inviting the arbitrary.

Secondly, the Wong affair further establishes the permeability of that hairline between public and private life. For someone of Wong's stature, this incident was a painful reminder that private life for high-profile individuals is a function of what the media does not know i.e. everything is potentially public. The cost of political status is a reduction of the private into the public sphere, from nothing so burdensome as a cam's click.

In light of this, barring the presence of photographs, the mere fact that Wong had a relationship with a married Muslim man constitute a ticking political PR bomb (not least in a place like Malaysia!). At the risk of sounding a hundred degrees below zero, PKR and Wong herself should've been more careful (or did they doubt such tactics may be employed?).

Thirdly, consistency requires me to say that if I've got a problem with my daughter (who professes Christ as Lord) seeing a married Muslim, then I can't say I'll be happily disinterested if my MP with a like profession is doing likewise. What I'm saying is that Jesus' firm (albeit tender-hearted and mercy-filled) admonishment, "Go and sin no more", is a consideration my conscience ignores in vain.

Is the idea of absolutes in sexuality taboo in our time and age? Are Biblically-oriented sexual norms anachronistic? I would imagine, given the pervasiveness of hidden cams, the volatility of the human creature (this 'mortal coil', all credit to Sharon Bong for this Shakespearean dash) and the importance of human dignity, sexual absolutes become all the more absolutely critical.

Elizabeth Wong was wronged - let's be clear on that. And yet there would've been no problem at all had that particular relationship not existed or another less questionable one been in place. Consider: Nobody (with a clear political motive) condemned the photographs per se. It was the illicitness implied by the pictures which called forth the storm.

Has her body been used as a pawn on a devious chess game? Yes. Those who cast stones (and even those who cast at the casters) need to look at the mirror of their own hearts. But, more than ever, so does Wong herself - and anyone seeking a healthy sexuality in (possibly) the wrong places. (Notice that the idea of a 'wrong' presupposes an exclusive kind of rightness, but if all forms of sexuality are right this implies no chance of trespass - which in turn renders all manner of trespass dangerously possible).

Following on this Christian perspective (and yes I know I've betrayed my norms), the key to enriching the public/private divide remains, if I may humbly submit, with that good'ol Biblical notion of love. As with the New Testament case-study on eating food sacrificed to idols (see 1 Corinthians 8), the private practice of eating has to be subordinated to the public concern with ensuring that our brothers 'do not stumble'.

For all potential Eli Wongs' (and this would include leaders of all stripes), this could be worth bearing in mind. It's not entirely about what we want to do with our lives; it's also of how those who love us and need us are nurtured by the way our lives are conducted.

Morality (public and private) must be determined by a godly agape care for one another. The community treats the individual lovingly, the individual behaves/responds in kind and the synergy escalates and, like the spirit all round, thrives.

When an individual loves only himself and values his freedom over the sensitivities of the people, immorality - almost by definition - is slowly birthed. But when a community, via its leaders, decides to tightly fortress the proclivities and desires of men and women, seeking its gains to the extent of the welfare of individuals, then fascism reigns.

(Having said this, one wonders if it's meaningful to speak of a community gone overboard with policing/control without highlighting the autocratic tendencies of key individual leaders. Doesn't the immorality of the many boil down to that of the few?)

I wish to end by saying, that in true Christian community fashion, we need to reach out to victims like Wong, restore them back to unashamed wholeness and by doing so tell those still holding stones that we are a forgiven and forgiving people on account of a cruci-shamed Forgiver God not shy to call us His friends.

Hence, we're once ashamed but never more.

No comments: